Corn-based ethanol has fallen from favor in the past year amid reports that corn ethanol has a heavier carbon footprint than originally thought. Now a new debate looms over whether the U.S. should allow genetically altered corn to be grown for use as biofuel.
The Union of Concerned Scientists says no, arguing that genetically modified corn will inevitably mix with and contaminate corn grown for food products. Syngenta, a multi-national company that has readied a new genetically modified corn intended for ethanol production, has already applied for permission to sell its corn seed in the U.S., telling officials that it would control where the crops are grown so the GMO corn would not mix with the food supply.
Their newly developed “Corn Amylase” contains a protein that breaks down corn starch under high temperatures and could reduce the cost of ethanol production. The new protein has not been present in the food system, and would not have to be approved for human consumption.
If Syngenta’s voluntary methods of keeping the corn out of the food supply fail, people could be unwittingly exposed to the new protein, which is derived from organisms living near hot sea vents.
For these reasons, the Union of Concerned Scientists has urged the USDA to ban outdoor production of the new corn, as well as “any other food crop genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical or industrial substances.”
ABC7 February 10, 2009