|Pharm corn returns to
By PHILIP BRASHER
Des Moines Register
June 11, 2005
Washington, D.C. - Pharmaceutical corn is returning
to Iowa for the first time in three years.
State officials on Friday approved plans by Iowa State
University scientists to conduct a field trial on land
belonging to the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant near Middletown,
Robin Pruisner, state entomologist for the Iowa Department
of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, said there would
be multiple layers of planting restrictions and security
designed to prevent any chance of contaminating conventional
"We want to do as good a job as possible in making
sure everything goes right, that everything is done
with the utmost care and concern," she said.
The trial could help revive dreams of Gov. Tom Vilsack
and agricultural interests in the state to develop an
industry producing crops for high-value pharmaceutical
and industrial uses.
The fenced Army base, which covers 19,000 acres, is
seen as a potential site for long-term production of
Field tests of the crops were halted after a biotech
company, ProdiGene Inc., was caught mismanaging pharmaceutical
corn plots in Iowa and Nebraska three years ago.
The U.S. Agriculture Department, under pressure from
the food industry, tightened planting restrictions,
making it more difficult to find places where the biotech
corn could be grown.
The new field trial will consist of two small plots,
each about one-tenth of an acre in size, located in
a woody area of the Army base. The plots will be planted
The nearest cornfield is about 1.2 miles away and was
planted about two months ago, said Bill Horan of Rockwell
City, who will manage the trial.
The USDA preliminarily approved plans for the Iowa
trial in May, but the state asked for additional measures,
including 24-hour surveillance of the site. The site
also insisted that the plants be pollinated and harvested
"We in the state believe it's important to go
above and beyond the minimum requirement to ensure that
the rest of the corn in Iowa is produced in a manner
that is not jeopardized," Pruisner said.
She said USDA officials agreed to the additional rules.
The crop will not pollinate until late August or early
September, long after any other corn in the state, said
Horan, who specializes in growing biotech crops.
The biotech corn is being developed to make a medication
to prevent diarrhea in pigs, and possibly in humans.
This year's crop is to be used for feeding trials in
The crop was grown in Colorado last year.
The Army site, because of its security and isolation,
will allow for greater control of the crops, said Lisa
Lorenzen, director of industry relations and biotechnology
liaison at Iowa State.