An unauthorized strain of genetically modified cotton was accidentally mixed in with other harvested cotton in Texas last month, but government officials on Wednesday played down any safety concerns.
About a quarter ton of the experimental cotton seed engineered to contain a protein that produces a pesticide was combined with about 60 tons of commercial cotton growing nearby, said Eric Flamm, a senior adviser at the Food and Drug Administration.
The mixture, grown near Lamesa in West Texas, about 300 miles west of Fort Worth, was then stored along with 20,000 tons of commercial cotton seed in a warehouse. Nearly half the crop was processed into cottonseed oil and cotton meal to use as animal feed before officials at Monsanto Co., which grows the experimental cotton on a test plot, realized the mistake.
Monsanto officials notified the government of the error on Nov. 10.
“We’re talking about a very small amount, but nevertheless, a material that contains a pesticidal substance and has not been authorized for food or feed use,” Flamm said on a conference call with reporters.
Flamm said most of the contaminated crop that was processed into animal feed had already been consumed at cattle feed lots. Two truckloads of the crop were delivered to Mexico, and U.S. officials have notified that country.