Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Your tax dollars at work [Post]
The Agriculture Department's settlement with a Texas company that mishandled gene-altered corn, portrayed three months ago as a stringent crackdown designed to send a message to other potential violators, actually involved a no-interest $3.5 million government loan that means American taxpayers will effectively subsidize cleanup efforts.

The payment terms, worth as much as $500,000 in interest and other savings to the company over the next three years, are contained in a document newly uncovered in government files by a Washington advocacy group. The Agriculture Department did not release the information at the time it announced the settlement with ProdiGene Inc. of College Station, Tex.

Alisa Harrison, spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department, said there was no intent to deceive the public. "It wasn't that we made a conscious decision not to release it," she said. "It didn't occur to us."

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