Scott Miller & Scott Kilman, Staff Reporters
The Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2005
Huesca, Spain - For 15 years Felix Ballarin labored to perfect a strain of organically grown red corn. He figured the crop could fetch twice the price of traditional yellow corn because local chicken farmers say it gives their meat and eggs a rosy color.
But when the ears first emerged late last year, the farmer made a horrifying discovery: Yellow kernels were mixed in with the red. As government scientists would later confirm with a DNA test, the kernels had been contaminated with a genetically modified strain. No longer considered "organic," Mr. Ballarin's corn lost its premium value and his decade and a half of careful breeding was down the drain. "Why me?" he asked, pointing out the field choked with weeds where the corn stood last year.
As genetically modified crops win a growing share of the world's farmland, they are increasingly altering the makeup of traditional crops like Mr. Ballarin's corn. "Biotech pollution," as critics call it, results when genetically modified plants are mixed with ordinary crops by mistake, carelessness or just the wind. With billions of dollars in crop sales at stake, the issue is becoming a significant one for governments around the world. And it is beginning to pit growers of nonbiotech crops against the big biotech producers, as each side battles to serve their very different markets.