For immediate release:  Friday 15th  Nov

  GM "pharmaceutical" maize contaminates soya

  Crops worth millions of dollars have been destroyed in the US
  after soya contaminated by genetically modified (GM) maize plants
  used to produce a pharmaceutical or industrial chemical was
  discovered in a US grain elevator [1].  Friends of the Earth is
  seeking urgent reassurance from the European Commission that food
  in Europe has not been contaminated.

  Half a million bushels of soya, worth about $2.7 million, was
  discovered with GM contamination in Nebraska.  The incident is
  believed to have occurred because the soya was planted on the same
  site used to grow GM "pharmaceutical" maize by biotech firm
  ProdiGene the previous year.  Seeds dropped by the maize grew this
  year and contaminated the new crop.  US authorities have not
  disclosed details of the mysterious GM "pharmaceutical", but have
  revealed ProdiGene was involved in a similar incident in Iowa in
  September.  ProdiGene, carries out a range of outdoor tests on
  crops containing pharmaceuticals and industrial products in at
  least 96 locations in the US.

  Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Adrian Bebb said:
  "  This was an accident waiting to happen.  If you grow GM crops
  outdoors then they will eventually contaminate the rest of the
  food chain.  The US authorities have now had to intervene twice to
  prevent these unlicensed genes entering the food chain.  But how
  many incidents have they missed?  We are seeking urgent assurances
  that food imported into Europe has not been contaminated  . 

  "  Once again the dangers of allowing GM crops to be
  commercially grown   have been highlighted  .  The UK Government
  must take note, and refuse to allow them to be commercially grown
  in the UK".

  Friends of the Earth, as part of a wider US coalition, warned the
  US Government earlier this year of the risk of contamination.  The
  coalition is now filing a legal petition demanding an immediate
  halt to the outdoor growing of "pharmaceutical" GM crops.

  Research into the company involved, Prodigene, reveals that the
  contamination could come from one of the following :
  Aids vaccine gp120 -- a glycoprotein
  Blood-clotting agent -- Aprotinin
  Trypsin - Digestive enzyme that can be used in leather tanning or
  to produce insulin.
  Industrial adhesive Laccase -- an enzyme derived from a fungus

  Other "pharmaceutical" GM crops reportedly grown by ProdiGene
  include experimental oral vaccines for hepatitis B and for a pig
  disease, transmissible gastroenteritis.  According to USDA records
  ProdiGene has received 85 test permits for experimental open-air
  trials of "pharmaceutical" GM crops and chemical crops for
  planting in at least 96 locations.

  Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner Adrian Bebb continued:
  "Once you start genetically engineering drugs and chemicals into
  crop plants you are opening Pandora's box.  The consequences could
  be catastrophic  ."

  [1] The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Tuesday
  Nov.  12 that it quarantined over $2.7 million worth of soya beans
  (500 000 bushels) destined for human consumption at a Nebraska
  grain elevator after finding parts of ProdiGene's GM maize mixed
  with the soya beans.  They later ordered their destruction