Biotech Crops Come Under Scrutiny
A report by the National ResearchCouncil could hurt Iowa?s chances ofdeveloping biotech drugs. The councilis the research arm of the NationalAcademy of Sciences. A panel of scientistswarned against genetically engineeringfood crops to produce humanand animal drugs from biotech versionsof corn because of the difficulty of controllingthe biotech plants. The report,which was requested by the USDepartment of Agriculture (USDA), saidthat a plant or animal used for foodwould be a "poor choice" for industrialuse unless it was raised "under stringentconditions of confinement."
The study examined a variety ofissues surrounding the problems ofcontaining genetically modifiedplants, animals, or bacteria. Moreresearch is needed into the techniquesof containing biotech products.Biotech companies ceased growingpharmaceutical corn in Iowa followingthe 2002 discovery that 1 company,Prodigene Inc, had failed to controlpharmaceutical crops in Iowa andNebraska. This issue has been a subjectof debate among drug and food companies.Drug companies could save alot of money with "biopharming"because of the potentially low cost ofmass-producing compounds in a cropsuch as corn. Food companies, however,are concerned that a pharmaceuticalcrop could contaminate their products.
Although the USDA did not immediatelycomment on the study?s recommendations,last year the departmenttightened regulations on thecultivation and inspection of pharmaceuticalindustrial crops.