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Pioneer Hi-Bred is working with the Environmental Protection Agency to address concerns about its growing of genetically seed corn on about 20 acres of fields at Waimea.

The EPA sent a letter dated Aug. 5 to Pioneer questioning how genetically modified seed corn was being grown on the acreage.

A consumer group is charging that approved genetically-altered seed corn crops planted nearby at Waimea could be contaminated with what they are calling unapproved test seed corn planted on the 20 acres.

The long-term effect of growing genetically-engineered food crop seeds is a controversial international issue, with opponents of the practice citing dangers to the food chain, while proponents say the practice will help solve world hunger problems.

“We believe we followed all the EPA regulations, and we’re working with the EPA to clarify our understanding of the letter of intent,” said Courtney Chabot Dreyer, Iowa-based public relations manager for Pioneer.

The seed corn in question can produce its own pesticide to fight corn rootworm. The variety of seed in question hasn’t been approved for use in growing food for human consumption.

“The letter from the EPA is a preliminary notification of intent, it does not mean there are actual violations, it just means it’s time to communicate with the EPA to give them information they might need,” she said in an interview with The Garden Island.

Dreyer said the report involves two research plots, one planted in November and one in March.

“Both fields trials were (done) under strict pollen containment procedures from the EPA,” Dreyer said, “and that involved bagging tassels, hand pollination, boarder rows and isolation distance, and crops were destroyed after harvest.”

She said Pioneer is scheduled to discuss the Waimea plantings with the EPA later this week, and has spoken several times with the federal agency since receiving the letter of intent on Aug. 12.

“We’re hopeful on this issue, and doing what we can to work with the EPA, we want to keep Hawai’i apprised on what’s going on in their backyard,” Dreyer said. “We believe we followed the EPA regulations.”

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