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AG EXPERTS DISCUSS CONCERN OVER POLLEN DRIFT FROM BIOTECH CROPS

March 17, 2002 Associated Press DES MOINES, Iowa -

Agriculture experts, according to this story, say there is a renewed concern that pollen from genetically engineered crops could drift to nearby fields, contaminating grain intended for use in food. Iowa State University scientist Stephen Howell, director of the Plant Sciences Institute, was cited as telling the Des Moines Sunday Register in a copyright story that, "In any of these kinds of products, containment is always an issue."

The story goes on to say that some Midwest farmers will plant test plots of the new wave of so-called designer corn this spring. One transgenic corn-protein product - trypsin, an industrial enzyme used to produce drugs - will be grown commercially this year on hundreds of acres throughout the Corn Belt. Zivko Nikolov, vice president of process development and production for ProdiGene Inc., which developed the corn-based product, was quoted as saying, "This is not a StarLink. There was no control" in StarLink production and that the ProdiGene will "control every single step." The story explains that ProdiGene is a Texas biotech company, spun off from Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., that is being wooed by Iowans who want to build a processing plant in Ames that would extract protein from the new generation of high-tech corn. John Nason, an assistant professor of botany at Iowa State who has studied gene flow, was cited as saying corn plants are "basically just broadcasting piles of pollen out into the air and hoping it lands where it's needed."

The story says that environmentalists, organic growers and even some proponents of the new class of engineered crops worry that drifting pollen could get into grain intended for use in cereals, chips and dozens of other foods. That could result in ingredients intended for industrial products, or worse, drugs end up in food grains. They also worry that pollen drift would contaminate so-called commodity corn destined for export, closing major foreign markets to U.S. grain.

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