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The article discussed the potential benefits and the risks of biopharming. Biopharming …


Biology Articles » Agriculture » The growing drug problem down on the pharm: biopharming » But aren't biopharm crops regulated?

But aren't biopharm crops regulated?
- The growing drug problem down on the pharm: biopharming

In the United States, USDA has primary authority for experimental biopharm crop cultivation. Do USDA rules ensure that it's all being done in a safe manner? Hmm. Consider the following.

USDA's "gene confinement measures" are intended to minimize rather than prevent contamination of food crops with biopharm crops. The few environmental assessments conducted by USDA are of poor quality and show a disturbing willingness to bend the rules to the likes of the biopharming corporations. For instance, a trial of alfalfa engineered with industrial enzymes was allowed to proceed despite the presence of non-GE alfalfa within 200 yards of the test site—less than the accepted isolation distance. USDA approved the field trial plan over the objections of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.

Genetically engineered crops in general have been found to contaminate non-GE food crops. In the StarLink fiasco, genetically engineered corn that was not approved for human consumption ended up in dozens of products on supermarket shelves that had to be recalled. Even more relevant here is that fact that potentially disastrous slip-ups in biopharm field tests have already occurred. USDA has twice cited ProdiGene twice for allowing biopharm crops to contaminate food crops. In one case, USDA quarantined and destroyed 500,000 bushels of Nebraska soybeans meant for human consumption because the crop had been contaminated with corn engineered to produce a pig vaccine. Similarly, potential contamination led to the destruction of 155 acres of conventional corn in Iowa.

Even if USDA biopharming regulations were adequate to protect the food supply from biopharm contamination, would they be followed? When it comes to GE crops in general, protocols have often been flouted. Dow AgroSciences and Pioneer Hi-Bred International have both been fined for increasing the risk of cross-breeding (contamination) by not complying with USDA permits in tests of (non-biopharm) genetically engineered corn in Hawaii. Growers of genetically engineered Bt crops have been regularly found to be non-compliant with their resistance management plans.

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