German Cows

What’s being called “mysterious cattle deaths” in Hesse, Germany, has led to criminal charges filed against Switzerland-based multinational biotech company, Syngenta, for allegedly covering up animals’ deaths recorded in trials that resulted from the ingestion of the company’s genetically modified Bt176 corn variety.

Farmer Gottfried Gloeckner filed the charges after losing a civil lawsuit in 2007 against Syngenta for the loss of some of his herd between 2000 and 2002, when he introduced the company’s genetically modified corn into the animals’ diets. According to the organization GM Watch, the latest criminal charges filed by Gloeckner suggest that Syngenta’s director, Hans-Theo Jachmann, was aware of the livestock trials of the Bt176 corn conducted by the company that caused a number of cow deaths in 1996 and led Syngenta to stop further testing of the product. By law, Syngenta should have disclosed the deaths to appropriate authorities as “unexpected occurrences,” claims Gloeckner, which did not happen, and had it, he could have prevented the loss of 65 of his cows and more than $600,000 in revenues. Syngenta did not disclose this information during the civil suit, and, claims Gloeckner, the company even testified to being “unaware” of any risks associated with the Bt176 corn. Gloeckner says the information was deliberately withheld.

Bt corn is genetically engineered to be resistant to pesticides and insects with the introduction of the Bt toxin Bacillus thuringiensis into the plant’s genome, making it toxic to certain insects and technically turning the seeds and the mature plants into pesticides themselves.

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Image: JelleS