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December 16, 2002
Volume 80, Number 50
CENEAR 80 50 p. 12
ISSN 0009-2347


AGBIOTECH

USDA Fines ProdiGene; Industry Reacts To Farm Interests

ANN THAYER

USDA, in conjunction with FDA, has fined ProdiGene $250,000 for violating the Plant Protection Act by accidentally contaminating a Nebraska soybean harvest with corn engineered to produce a pharmaceutical product. As part of a settlement, the Texas-based “biopharming” firm neither admits nor denies any wrongdoing.

ProdiGene will have to pay more than $2.7 million to cover the government’s cost of buying and destroying 500,000 bushels of soybeans. The firm will also post a $1 million bond and has agreed to higher compliance standards, including additional approvals for field tests and harvest of genetically modified materials.

The incident led to immediate reactions last month from supporters and detractors of biopharming (C&EN, Nov. 25, page 6). The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) had instituted a voluntary moratorium in late October on planting such crops in major food-producing regions, but it recently revised its position after an exchange with Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).

Grassley wants to ensure that Iowa farmers are not “unjustly left out of corn-based pharmaceutical crop production,” which he sees as a potential multi-million-dollar opportunity. He says BIO’s ban was a response to “the demands of special interest, not the demands of science,” and he worked with Iowa State University to release a white paper on safe biopharming practices.

BIO now states that these plants can be safely grown and harvested when there are “appropriate production, confinement, and handling practices” and compliance with FDA and USDA regulations.



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Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society



 
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PRODIGENE WOES
[C&EN, November 25, 2002]

DRUGS FROM PLANTS STIR DEBATE
[C&EN, August 12, 2002]

Plant-Based Drug Competitors Parry
[C&EN, July 22, 2002]

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