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EPA Recommends More Tests Before Permit for Bacteria Test

March 29, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Environmental Protection Agency says that before Monsanto Corp. can field test a genetically engineered bacteria, the company will have to conduct additional experiments.

Monsanto wants to test a bacteria in a field near St. Charles, Mo., that has been genetically designed to protect corn from root pests.

The company already submitted test results to the government for the proposed product.

But Friday, EPA released a report to a committee of its Pesticide Scientific Advisory Panel detailing what it said were shortcomings in Monsanto’s tests.

Monsanto has requested an experimental use permit for Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria into which a gene from another bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, is inserted. The inserted gene would direct the organism to make a toxin that kills certain rootworms.

The altered bacteria would coat corn seeds when planted.

There was no answer at the company’s Washington office or its public relations office in St. Louis late Friday afternoon.

EPA scientists said the company had submitted convincing evidence that the inserted gene could not move from P. fluorescens to other organisms, and the organism would not endanger birds and mammals.

But toxicity tests on honeybee larvae, mosquito larvae, milkweed bugs, aquatic insects and some crustaceans were inconclusive, often because the tests did not last long enough, EPA said.

Also, agency scientists said tests on butterfly larvae should be expanded and tests on mollusks should be conducted. The scientists said they had not decided whether fish should be tested.

P. fluorescens is found by the millions on the leaves of many plants. It is the species Advanced Genetic Sciences of Oakland, Calif. wants to test with a deleted gene to protect flowering plants such as strawberries from frost.

The Scientific Advisory Panel committee is to review the agency’s decision to request more tests at a meeting April 22.

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