This article states that ProdiGene Inc., a small biotech company experimenting with drug producing corn, faces federal investigation, because they may have contaminated regular crops (corn and soy) with their drug producing corn.

Now, this is one of the stories where it’s important to separate myth from truth, hype from facts. Unfortunately, the article is not very accurate. But there are a number of good comments on the associated Slashdot discussion.

Most importantly, no genes jumped. The contamination stems from the plants being mixed together, but not their genes. The crops still have to be destroyed as a precaution, because the chemicals produced by the genes could have contaminated the soy.

To address some of the “gene jumping” concerns: In nature, genes don’t jump from sexual organisms to others of a different species (that’s why in your garden, tulips stay tulips, even if they’re next to a rose bush). However, to implant genes into plans, they are made “transgenic” (by putting the genes into plasmids, transposons or viruses). This could in fact enable them to “jump” to other plant species.

Bottom line: There is a lot of misinformation around, and many dangers are exaggerated. At the same time, I really want to make sure that we understand the consequences, before we plant acres of plants that have hightly active medication inside!