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EPA Settles with Two Biotech Seed Production Companies

Release Date: 12/13/2002
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, U.S. EPA, (415)-947-4297

     SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has settled cases with two Midwest companies over the alleged mishandling of genetically modified corn grown for seed under strict field testing conditions in Hawai'i.

   Today's action simultaneously issues and settles the complaints with  Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (a subsidiary of DuPont) of Johnston, Iowa and  Dow AgroSciences of Indianapolis, Indiana. The complaints allege  failure to comply with the conditions of the EPA's Experimental Use Permits for growing genetically modified corn seed.

       An Experimental Use Permit is issued under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)   which is overseen by the EPA   to allow for field testing of new pesticides in order to generate the data necessary to support their registration as pesticides. The EPA contends that the companies did not comply with certain permit requirements to grow genetically modified corn.  These corn varieties have been modified to contain genes that help protect the corn plant from pests.  EPA regulates these types of products under a rigorous science-based regulatory process.

     While Dow and Pioneer neither admit nor deny any wrongdoing with this settlement, both companies have agreed to pay penalties to resolve the enforcement actions. The settlement reached with Dow is for $8,800 and the settlement reached with Pioneer is for $9,900.

     "EPA required strict conditions in these particular permits to maximize containment to ensure that no pollen from the experimental corn is transferred to other corn," explained Wayne Nastri, the regional administrator of the EPA's Pacific Southwest Region. "Companies using experimental permits to field test genetically modified corn need to abide by the conditions in the permit."

    Both cases were initiated after EPA conducted inspections  in March 2002 at Dow AgroSciences and Pioneer's research fields on the islands of  Molokai and Kauai.

According to the complaints, the EPA inspector found that:

  • Dow AgroSciences did not have an appropriate tree buffer around its experimental corn field and failed to use hybrid corn varieties as a buffer crop, both of which were required to ensure  pollen containment;
  • Pioneer Hi-Bred planted its experimental corn in an unapproved location, which was within 1,260 feet of other Pioneer seed production corn.

     In addition to paying a monetary penalty in this case, Pioneer Hi-Bred must perform additional crop testing to determine if any genetic material from the experimental plants were transferred to unmodified corn grown by Pioneer Hi-Bred in the adjacent fields. This testing will ensure that the corn seed grown under the permit restrictions is contained.

For more information, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/biopesticides.