Citing recent alleged mishaps by ProdiGene as examples of the danger to the food supply from ag-biotech crops, food industry and environmental groups are urging biotech firms to withdraw from using food crops for pharmaceutical purposes. The company, based in College Station, Texas, is facing up to $500,000 in fines and a federal investigation for possibly having mixed genetically modified corn with normal crops in two "heartland" states.

When the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) held a routine inspection in October of a Nebraska soybean field used by ProdiGene to test pharmaceutical corn in 2001, they found "volunteer" corn — plants growing from accidentally dropped seeds. Whether this corn is transgenic remains unknown, but its very presence at the site violated ProdiGene's federal permit conditions.

Before all the corn was removed, 500 bushels of soy were harvested from the field. Since about 30 grams of corn stalk and shredded leaves...

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