Contamination shows industry and government not doing enough, says CSPI

WASHINGTON-The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined biotech company Pioneer $72,000 for failing to immediately report crops that tested positive for genetic material from last year's controversial misplanting of experimental corn. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today applauded EPA for assessing the fine, but suggested such fines should be many times higher for this type of violation.

"We commend the EPA for requiring Pioneer to clean up the mess it made last year by misplanting genetically engineered corn, and for penalizing Pioneer for its nonchalant attitude about its obligations," said Gregory Jaffe, director of CSPI's biotechnology project. "But to truly deter such bad corporate behavior in the future, fines ten or twenty times higher may be more appropriate. Neither the industry nor the government is doing enough to contain biotech field trials."

Last August, EPA reached a settlement agreement with Pioneer, charging the biotech company with planting experimental rootworm-resistant corn in Hawaii too close to corn plants producing seed corn. As part of that enforcement agreement, Pioneer was required to quarantine and test neighboring crops for genetic contamination, and to report the test results to the government and destroy any crops testing positive.

"The revelation today that genetic contamination occurred from a test plot under USDA jurisdiction is extremely disturbing. The question is how many more instances of contamination will it take before the government begins protecting the public from an industry that has now violated regulations many times," Jaffe said.