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Pocahontas neighbors suspected something

(Nov. 28, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

DesMoines Register,11/24/2002 Who planted the Pocahontas cornfield?

Tony Laos, president of ProdiGene, the company that planted experimental corn in Pocahontas County last year, said the crop was designed to contain a swine vaccine.

ProdiGene and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have declined to say where the field was in Pocahontas County or who grew the corn. But Pocahontas County Sheriff Bob Lampe said two investigators from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office in Phoenix recently stopped at his office and asked where they could locate Timothy Hoefing, who farms near Manson.

One investigator, J. David Neal, referred questions about the case to Jim Rogers, a spokesman for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Washington, D.C. Rogers said he could not discuss the matter while an investigation is in progress.

Hoefing could not be reached for comment. A woman who answered the phone at his residence hung up on a reporter.

Officials say the Pocahontas producer failed to make sure all the "volunteer corn" from the previous year's biotech crop was removed before it could possibly pollinate a neighboring field.

Neighbors said Hoefing, who is called "T," never told them he was growing an experimental crop.

Donald Peters, who lives near Hoefing, said he knew Hoefing was growing some type of special crop. Several weeks ago, Peters said, he noticed semi-trailer trucks parked along a road while an adjacent cornfield was combined.

"I knew it had to be a special crop because they didn't haul it to an elevator around here, and it took them about a week to finish," Peters said.

Kevin Stein, who farms north of Hoefing, said he heard Hoefing was experimenting with a pharmaceutical crop.

"Maybe I"m just ignorant, but I"m not too concerned," Stein said.

Gary Hoeppner, who farms south of Hoefing, said Hoefing would have told him if there had been a problem.

"He"d tell me if it would have affected me," he said.