The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will deregulate corn engineered to produce alpha-amylase, a common enzyme that breaks down starch into sugar.
The corn is produced by Syngenta Seeds, Inc.
“APHIS conducted a plant pest risk assessment and found this line of corn does not pose a plant pest risk, and should no longer be subject to regulation by APHIS,” said Michael Gregoire, deputy administrator for APHIS’ biotechnology regulatory services.
Syngenta Seeds requested in 2005 that APHIS grant nonregulated status to the company’s alpha-amylase corn, which APHIS has regulated since 2002.
In 2007, the corn passed a U.S. Food and Drug Administration food/feed safety consultation. In 2008, APHIS prepared a plant pest risk assessment as required by the Plant Protection Act and an environmental assessment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. APHIS received more than 13,000 comments on the two assessments.
In making the decision, APHIS said it recognizes that certain food producers – especially millers and food processers – have concerns about the potential effects of the deregulated corn.
“We are pleased that these segments of industry continue to dialogue with Syngenta on research and testing efforts, and encourage these parties to continue their efforts to resolve the issues that remain,” APHIS said in a statement.
Syngenta has formed an industry advisory council to review the “closed-loop system” the company has in place for the amylase corn. The USDA will participate on the council.
Last month the Environmental Protection Agency raised the amount of ethanol permitted for use in cars and light trucks built in 2001 or later, to 15 percent.
Advocates for ethanol, such as the trade group Growth Energy, argue that it is renewable and reduces tailpipe emissions. But environmentalists say growing and using ethanol is likely to raise food prices and worsen pollution. The Department of Energy says that on a life-cycle basis, ethanol produces 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.