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GE Corn Laced with Pharmaceutical Drug
Contaminates Soybean Crop

FDA Orders Destruction of Soybeans Contaminated With Genetically Engineered Corn
The Associated Press

W A S H I N G T O N, Nov. 12 ‹ The government is ordering 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 supply, so there is no risk to
the public, said Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Lester
Crawford.

FDA will issue the destruction order to Prodigene Inc. on Wednesday.

"Prodigene is working out the terms of a program to enhance our compliance
and to ensure the safest and most responsible manufacturing processes," the
College Station, Texas-based company said in a statement late Tuesday. "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 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 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 Prodigene plowed over the field and later planted regular soybeans
intended for food, Crawford said.

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.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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