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6-Regulation: Biotech companies agree to stricter rules on Biotech corn

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Biotech companies agree to stricter rules on Biotech corn
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   Nov 20, 2002

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Biotech companies agree to stricter rules on Biotech corn

WASHINGTON - U.S. biotech companies, along with the Environmental 
Protection Agency, said they agreed to prohibit U.S. producers from growing 
certain gene-spliced corn if they fail to comply with government 
regulations two years in a row.

Under the agreement, farmers growing Bt corn must plant within a half-mile 
at least 20 percent of traditional varieties. Some biotech producers in the 
South must plant at least 50 percent non-Bt corn.

A spokeswoman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization said the 
requirements were to prevent insect resistance, an issue some 
environmentalists have used to campaign against the technology.

Bt corn has spliced into its genes a natural soil bacterium, bacillus 
thuringiensis, that kills corn borers. About 22 percent of U.S. corn seeded 
this year was of the Bt variety, up from 18 percent last year.

National Corn Growers Association President Fred Yoder said the agreement 
was "the best way to protect against resistance and keep Bt products 

Growers who were found in violation will be issued a warning and must make 
the necessary changes to comply during the next growing season, the biotech 
group said.

Bt corn growers were also required to sign a stewardship agreement before 
obtaining their seed for the year. Industry groups will pay for an annual 
survey, conducted by a third party, to monitor compliance.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  GM crop mishaps unite friends and foes
SOURCE: New Scientist, UK, by Philip Cohen
DATE:   Nov 18, 2002

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GM crop mishaps unite friends and foes

Friends and foes of the use of genetic engineering in US agriculture have 
united in criticising two accidents in which a food crop was contaminated 
by a crop from the previous year designed to yield pharmaceutical products.

The US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration 
announced last week that they had found such genetically modified corn 
growing in two soybean plots in the states of Iowa and Nebraska.

The GM corn had germinated from seeds left from 2001 plantings by the Texas-
based company ProdiGene. The company was required to screen and remove 
these plants as part of its government permit.

A number of interested parties have now stepped up their calls for more 
safeguards to prevent drug-laced crops from ending up on the dinner table.

"This is a failure at an elementary level," says Jane Rissler of the Union 
of Concerned Scientists in Washington, DC. "They couldn't distinguish corn 
from soybeans and remove them from a field. That's like failing nursery 

Down on the pharm

In July, New Scientist reported warnings from Rissler and other GM 
watchdogs that the US government rules for growing "pharmed" crops were far 
too lax (Print edition, 6 July, p 4).

The genes in the ProdiGene corn are a company secret, and the company had 
not supplied a comment before publication. But ProdiGene's website says its 
plants produce a variety of vaccines and human therapeutic proteins and 
industrial enzymes.

To prevent any spread of the altered corn or its genes, the US government 
has ordered that 155 acres of surrounding corn be burned and that a half 
million bushels of soybean harvested with the GM corn be quarantined. The 
US Food and Drug Administration may order its destruction. The cost of the 
action is estimated to total nearly $3 million. ProdiGene also faces heavy 
fines and possible criminal penalties for the blunder.

Ripple effect

Even longtime advocates of plant biotechnology are worried. Politically 
influential food industry associations, such as the Grocery Manufacturers 
of America, were already quietly pushing for pharming to be restricted to 
using non-food crops.

Following the ProdiGene incident, they are speaking up. "Incidents like 
these can have ripple effects," says GMA spokesperson Stephanie Childs. "We 
don't want to lose international markets because we can't assure the safety 
and integrity of the food supply."

USDA spokesperson Ed Curlett says his agency will learn from the incident 
and decide whether current rules need to be tightened. "But the system 
seems to have worked," he says. "We caught this crop before it entered the 
animal or human food chain."

CropGen, a pro-GM group based in the UK, agrees that the incident showed 
the effectiveness of monitoring, but called the failure of ProdiGene to 
ensure that no GM corn persisted in the field "inexcusable".

However, Norman Ellstrand, a plant geneticist at the University of 
California, Riverside, says the US government was also lucky. "What if the 
GM corn had come up inside a corn field, instead of a soybean field?" he 
asks. "It could have cross pollinated and you'd have no idea where it was."


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