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6-Regulation: Colorado groups demand moratorium on GE pharma crops



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

TITLE:  Protesters urge Owens to block 'biopharms'
SOURCE: Denver Post, USA
DATE:   May 13, 2003

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Colorado: Protesters urge Owens to block 'biopharms'

Fears that the first pharmaceutical cornfield is about to be planted in
Colorado brought farmers and environmentalists out Monday to protest the
genetically engineered crops and to urge Gov. Bill Owens to declare a
moratorium on "biopharming" until proven safe.

"Colorado farmers have spent generations developing their crops and
fields to provide the public with safe, healthy food," Jennifer Kemp of
the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union said at a Capitol news conference. "We
need to ensure that these investments are safe."

Environmentalists said that while there is no evidence that people have
been directly harmed by biocrops, not enough testing has been done.

The governor had no comment. He also declined to meet with the protesters.

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Agriculture said the state
plans to carefully review the application from the French firm Meristem
Therapeutics. Jim Miller said the state has 30 days to analyze Meristem's
request to grow 30 acres of genetically altered corn in Phillips County
in northeastern Colorado. Scientists from the University of Colorado and
Colorado State University have been asked to participate in the permit
review process, he said.

Miller said that while the U.S. Department of Agriculture has given
preliminary approval for field tests, "the USDA has told us that they
will weigh very heavily recommendations the state might have to modify
the plan ... or not to proceed," he said.

Growing plant-made pharmaceuticals would be a first for Colorado.

Some of the concerns stem from problems in other states. Last year,
500,000 bushels of soybeans in Nebraska had to be destroyed after they
were contaminated by genetically engineered pharmaceutical corn. In Iowa,
the USDA ordered 155 acres of regular corn incinerated last year to avoid
the possibility that pollen from genetically altered corn not approved
for human consumption had drifted into nearby fields.

The USDA requires a 1-mile perimeter between a biopharm and a regular
farm, but opponents say that is not enough.

Monday's protest was held five days after Meristem submitted its
application to the state Agriculture Department.

Thirty-six farm and environmental groups sent a letter to the governor
earlier this month seeking the moratorium in anticipation of Meristem's
application.

"We are deeply concerned that the introduction of biopharmaceutical crops
without adequate public process endangers Colorado growers and consumers
of foods of all types - organic, natural or conventional," the letter
says. "The wholesomeness and integrity of Colorado agricultural products
is a fundamental part of this state's economy."

The opposing groups, which included the Boulder Beekeepers Association
and the Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets, said they were concerned
about the safety of farm workers as well as the safety of the general
public in the event particles from the biocrops are carried by the wind
or a bee into farms where food for humans is being grown.

Dave Georgis, director of the Colorado Genetic Engineering Action
Network, said that while the USDA has given the OK for genetically
altered food to be sold in grocery stores, biopharmaceuticals are
medicines not approved for human consumption.

He said that severe allergic reactions might occur in people exposed to
the lypase protein and other ingredients to be injected into corn and
other crops in the future.

"There is evidence that biopharm crops could secrete drugs into soils and
into irrigation water through their roots," said Suzanne Wuerthele,
chairwoman of the Genetic Engineering Committee for Colorado.