E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Farmers want standards for raising biotech crops

(Monday, Nov. 25, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

ANNE FITZGERALD,Des Moines Register, 11/22/2002: Ames, Ia. - Farmers should not be barred from raising biopharmaceutical crops in the Midwest, farmers and other agricultural experts told federal regulators Thursday.

This fall's contamination of conventional crops by so- called pharmacorn was not caused by the specialty corn's location in Nebraska and Iowa, but by growers' failure to follow protocols for producing it, they said. Iowa, which is campaigning to capture a piece of the burgeoning business, should not be shut out of the market because of that.

Keith Webber, a Food and Drug Administration official who helped draft proposed guidelines for producing and processing the new class of crops, said ultimate responsibility rests with the companies contracting for their production - ProdiGene Inc., a Texas biotech company, in the case of the recently revealed contamination.

"It is the permit holder who is responsible," Webber said.

Federal regulators have allowed few details about their investigation into the dual cases of contamination. But in both instances, volunteer pharmacorn is the suspected culprit.

"I, as a farmer, am getting a black eye because of the actions" of other farmers, said Jim Andrew of Jefferson, who addressed panelists at the public forum held at Iowa State University.

He urged regulators from the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be more open with information about instances such as those revealed earlier this month to stem consumer concerns about food safety.

Andrew also called for standards for farmers growing specialty crops such as pharmacorn, which is designed to yield pharmaceutical ingredients.

Such standards would help prevent cross-contamination of food crops by specialty crops designed for nonfood uses.

"There should be some very clear standards that you should have to meet to even put that seed in the ground," Andrew said.