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9-Misc: BIO's GE crop moratorium hot issue in Iowa election campaign

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TITLE:  Biotech Rule Roils Iowa Campaign
SOURCE: Washinghton Post, USA, by Justin Gillis
DATE:   Oct 31, 2002

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Biotech Rule Roils Iowa Campaign

Leaders of the Biotechnology Industry Organization thought they were 
defusing a controversy, not starting one, when they announced a plan to 
limit the growing areas for new genetically manipulated crops designed to 
produce pharmaceutical and industrial compounds.

But the policy, which the Washington trade group disclosed last week, has 
provoked a furious response in Iowa, where Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) is locked 
in a tight reelection battle with Republican challenger Doug Gross. The 
policy would prohibit plantings in Iowa of certain corn varieties. With 
Iowa farmers fearing the loss of what some see as a potential economic 
boon, the candidates are competing to denounce the BIO policy.

Gross accused Vilsack of allowing Iowa to be "redlined" by the biotech 
industry. Vilsack, one of the strongest supporters of biotechnology among 
the nation's governors, appealed to BIO to reverse its ban. "I am concerned 
that you are trying to shut the door on our farmers to keep them from 
competing in this new endeavor," the governor said in a letter.

BIO member companies adopted the policy in response to intense pressure 
from the nation's food processors and related groups. They are concerned 
that industrial or pharmaceutical proteins grown in modified corn varieties 
could wind up contaminating the food supply, sparking costly recalls. BIO's 
voluntary moratorium applies throughout the Midwest corn belt and the 
Canadian prairie, but only in Iowa has it spurred significant debate.

Lisa Dry, a spokeswoman for BIO, said the group appreciates Vilsack's 
strong support of the biotech industry but it isn't budging.

"We believe that science and the federal regulations will allow us, at some 
point in the future when we have a track record established, to produce 
these crops wherever there are suitable conditions, including in Iowa," Dry 
said yesterday. "But at this time we cannot do that."


Staff writer Dana Milbank contributed to this report.


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