EXCERPT: AmeriFlax said it worries about genetically engineered grain entering the food chain, a prospect it calls "unacceptable."
Growers oppose drugs made of flax
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - A North Dakota flax marketing group is opposing a plant-based pharmaceutical company planned here, citing potential contamination of traditional flax fields by genetically modified crops.
"Are we going to risk our new and emerging markets for the flax on something that hasn't even been licensed yet?" said Ernie Hoffert, a Carrington farmer and secretary-treasurer of AmeriFlax, a branch of the North Dakota Oilseed Council. "This is absurd."
Agragen, a company started by Cincinnati entrepreneur Sam Huttenbauer Jr., has leased space in the University of North Dakota technology park. The company plans to use North Dakota-grown flax in medicines such as albumin, which would be used in blood transfusions for trauma patients.
Huttenbauer said the market potential for plant-made pharmaceuticals would boost the flax industry in North Dakota, which grows more than 90 percent of the U.S. crop.
AmeriFlax said it worries about genetically engineered grain entering the food chain, a prospect it calls "unacceptable."
AmeriFlax last week met with about 30 people involved in the North Dakota flax industry, seeking help in drafting a statement that would strengthen its opposition to production of pharmaceuticals made from flax.
"I do not want to make this specific to Agragen," Hoffert said.
A statement from Huttenbauer that was handed out at the meeting pledged not to move ahead with transgenic flax in North Dakota until regulatory agencies and AmeriFlax agreed that all necessary safeguards had been met. Agragen also is seeking the full support of AmeriFlax, and help from the group and the state in finding development money.
No plant-made pharmaceuticals have been approved for the market by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the federal Agriculture Department. Last year, only about 45 acres of the crops were grown nationwide, under strict federal guidelines.