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2-Plants: FDA orders destruction of GE contaminated soy beans

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

SOURCE: Associated Press/New York Times
        Edited and sent by Agnet, Canada
DATE:   Nov 12, 2002

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Lester
Crawford was cited as saying that the government will order Prodigene Inc, a
biotechnology company, to destroy 500,000 bushels of soybeans rather than sell
them for food because they were contaminated with genetically engineered
corn once grown in the same field. None of the soybeans made it into the food

The College Station, Texas-based company was quoted as saying in a statement
late Tuesday that, "Prodigene is working out the terms of a program to
enhance our compliance and to ensure the safest and most responsible manufacturing
processes. As with any new industry and new regulatory program, we can
always do better. ... We intend to, now and in the future." The soybeans were
estimated to be worth several million dollars.

The stories say that the announcement comes just weeks after Prodigene
joined several biotech companies in agreeing not to grow genetically engineered
corn intended for drug development in places where it could contaminate
neighboring fields planted with crops for human consumption. It also comes after a
massive recall two years ago when the StarLink brand of genetically engineered
corn, approved solely for animal feed, turned up in taco shells.

The stories add that the Prodigene problem announced Tuesday is markedly
different -- most notably in that regulators caught the contamination before the
soybeans ever made it to market, Crawford said. Prodigene is attempting to
grow different medications, from hepatitis B vaccine to an insulin-making
enzyme, inside the kernels of genetically modified corn. It planted a test field
in the Midwest, but the crop failed. So, Crawford was cited as saying,
Prodigene plowed over the field and later planted regular soybeans intended for

Prodigene recently harvested the soybeans and discovered a few corn stalks
mixed in -- up to 65 grams of stalks in 500,000 bushels of soybeans, Crawford
said. Agriculture Department inspectors were on hand and notified the FDA,
which on Monday impounded the crop.

The amount of contamination "wouldn't be a threat to public health, but
nonetheless it wasn't supposed to be there," Crawford said. Cindy Smith, acting
deputy administrator for biotechnology regulatory services in the branch of
the Agriculture Department that handles such matters, was quoted as saying,
"Our primary concern is to make sure that nothing has entered the food or feed
supply, and we're very confident about that."

That whole amount, worth about $2.7 million, may now have to be destroyed,
she said, adding that ProdiGene could face fines or penalties for not
fulfilling terms of its permit requiring it to monitor its test plot carefully the
following year. The company might also have to reimburse farmers and the grain
elevator for their losses, she said.


Hartmut Meyer       from Nov 11 - Nov 17
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