As the US prepares to tighten its rules governing the production of pharmaceuticals and chemicals in genetically modified plants, there are suspicions that ensuring food safety is not the only motive for big companies such as Monsanto.

Fears that drug-laced plants could end up in food have led to growing criticism of the US Department of Agriculture’s regulations governing pharming. The issue came to a head in 2002, when maize modified to produce a pharmaceutical protein was found growing in fields of normal soybeans in Iowa and Nebraska.

This happened after the Texas-based company ProdiGene left seeds in the field after harvesting a crop of modified maize. In December, ProdiGene was ordered to pay around $3 million in clean-up costs and fines for violating its permit.

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