USDA approves ISU permit to conduct biopharmaceutical crop research

AMES, Iowa -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has approved a permit for Iowa State University to plant a biopharmaceutical corn field trial. The research is part of Iowa State's work to evaluate the safe use of plants for the production of proteins for pharmaceuticals and industrial products.

The field trial will be grown on less than one-quarter of an acre of land leased from the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant near Middletown in Des Moines County. Planting is expected to begin the week of June 13.

The field trial involves feed corn engineered to produce a protein that can protect humans and animals from diarrhea caused by bacterial infections. The corn will be used in animal feeding studies and for analysis of efficient methods to extract and purify the therapeutic protein.

The proposed trial meets or exceeds all of the APHIS requirements for field trials of regulated plants. To prevent cross pollination, the plot will be located 1.2 miles from and planted at least 28 days later than the nearest commercial corn. APHIS inspectors will visit the plot five times during the growing season. Two additional inspections will be made during the following growing season to check for volunteer plants.

In addition to the standard APHIS requirements, Iowa State will bag the corn tassels, pollinate corn plants by hand, provide around-the-clock security camera surveillance of the site and harvest and transport the grain on the ear, husks intact.

The research is funded by USDA's National Research Initiative, Iowa State University's Plant Sciences Institute and the ISU Research Foundation.