Experimental, genetically-engineered corn growing on Kaua`i may have contaminated nearby crops, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA fined biotech firm Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, $72,000. The Iowa-based company found 12 corn plants on Kaua`i had traces of a crop that had been genetically designed to resist the pest rootworm.
Pioneer was fined for its delay in telling the EPA about the mix-up, EPA enforcement officer Amy Miller told the Associated Press.
“Pioneer destroyed the plants that tested positive before they pollinated, and the EPA is confident that corn intended for human consumption was not affected,” the agency told Reuters.
This wasn’t Pioneer’s first infraction: in December they were cited for growing ring-worm resistant corn in a buffer zone beyond their allotted field.
Pioneer doesn’t believe it broke any laws, company spokeswoman Courtney Chabot Dreyer told the Associated Press.
“The important thing is it doesn’t affect neighboring crops, and it’s not in the commercial seed and grain supply,” said Chabot Dreyer.
Greg Jaffe, biotech director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Associated Press that the incident with Pioneer reveals significant gaps in regulations.
“Any level (of contamination) is unacceptable,” said Jaffe. “Both the company and the government did not meet their obligation to contain experimental plots.”
Pioneer will continue to enhance the genetic performance of crops, utilizing a wide array of technologies including biotechnology, according to their website.