|Vilsack, Gross Blast Bioengineered Crop Ban|
Nov. 1, 2002 -- An industry regulatory group has given the candidates in the Iowa governor's race something rare during this fall's campaign -- an issue on which they agree.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization [BIO], bowing to pressure from food processing companies and consumer groups, announced that it will ban the cultivation of certain genetically manipulated crops in specified areas of the country, including Iowa.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack and Republican challenger Doug Gross immediately denounced the policy, saying it is not based on good science and will hurt Iowa farmers.
The modified crops are biologically enhanced to produce pharmaceutical and industrial compounds. BIO said that fears about the risks of cross-contamination between the modified crops and those destined for the nation's food supply is too great to allow them to be grown near one another.
"Corn is the plant of choice for pharmaceutical purposes because it is relatively easy to alter for the production of special proteins, and the grain can be stored for long periods. Corn plants, however, cross-pollinate easily, making it possible for the pharmaceutical plants to spread genes to crops intended for food," the Des Moines Register reported.
The ban means that some forms of corn used to produce the special compounds cannot be grown in Iowa. Both gubernatorial candidates believe the policy will mean lost revenues for Iowa farmers.
BIO admitted that that the food industry's fear about the potential cost of product recalls was the primary factor in the decision.
"The policy, which the Washington trade group disclosed last week, has provoked a furious response in Iowa, where Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) is locked in a tight reelection battle with Republican challenger Doug Gross," the Washington Post reported on Oct. 31.
The ban is widely unpopular in Iowa. The Des Moines Register said in an editorial that the region was being "blackballed" and that science should prevail over "paranoia." The paper urged more research on the issue and implored the state's political leaders to call for a reversal of the policy.
Gross accused Vilsack of allowing the industry to "redline" Iowa, the Post reported.
Vilsack has protested the ban in a letter to BIO's president, and asked the group to reconsider its decision.
"I am concerned that you are trying to shut the door on our farmers to keep them from competing in this new endeavor," Vilsack said, according to the Des Moines Register.