In the (corn) soup

Published: Sunday 15 December 2002

Reaping a dubious harvest Prodigene Inc, a Texas-based biotechnology company, is at the centre of a row after its soyabean produce was found to be contaminated with genetically engineered corn grown earlier in the same field. The us government has ordered the company to destroy 500,000 bushels of soyabean, estimated to be worth millions of dollars. "The affected lot did not make it to the food supply chain, so there is no risk to the public," clarified us Food and Drug Administration (fda) deputy commissioner Lester Crawford.

The controversy erupted when Prodigene attempted to grow different medications, from Hepatitis b vaccine to an insulin-making enzyme, inside the kernels of genetically modified corn. The company planted a test field in the Midwest, but the crop failed. Later, the same tract was ploughed and regular soyabean intended for consumption was planted on it. Prodigene recently harvested the crop and discovered a few corn stalks in the soyabean produce. Agriculture department inspectors reported this to the fda, which impounded the crop.

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