Three months ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture settled a case against a Texas-based biotechnology company whose genetically modified (GM) feed corn contaminated natural corn and soybeans. The USDA represented the settlement as a sharp crackdown on violators of GM standards — but in fact, the settlement involved a no-interest $3.5 million government loan, meaning the American people will subsidize the cleanup. The loan will save the company, ProdiGene, Inc., as much as a half-million dollars in interest and other savings. The terms of the settlement were not made public until the Center for Science in the Public Interest sought access to the information. The organization, which backs genetic modification in theory but is critical of the lack of federal oversight, said the secrecy around the settlement amounted to an attempt to hoodwink the public. The center’s Gregory Jaffe said, “I think there was a conscious decision to create an illusion that this was a more severe penalty than it really is.”