Iowa Public Television


Starlink Worries Continue

posted on November 17, 2000

One of the remaining crimps in the farm economy is the small nagging problem that just won't go away. Starlink corn has become a genetic pariah that now has grain traders and processors concerned.

In September, the GE Food Alert, a group of environmental activists searching for genetically modified organisms in food, found Starlink corn in a minute amount in certain brands of taco shells. The strain of corn, which contains the CRY-9-C protein, has the potential to cause allergic reactions in humans. It is for this reason the corn is restricted for use only in animal feed.

The tainted products were recalled. Aventis offered a 25-cent per bushel bounty on Starlink corn. The biotech giant went on to tell elevator operators and processors the company would pick up the tab for disposal of any remaining product. The problem however has not been solved.

Starlink Worries Continue The ripples appear to be going out further than expected. Japan, the major importer of U.S. grain, and not a big fan of biotech products, is now looking for other places to get its corn. As of this week, at least 200-thousand tons of the annual 16-million ton Japanese supply will come from China. It is not clear if this trend will continue.

For its part, Aventis Crop Science, part of the Strasbourg, France based pharmaceutical company Aventis, voluntarily agreed to remove Starlink from the market. The company has also petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency for a tolerance based permit to allow any Starlink already commingled in the system to be consumed by human beings over the next four years.

Company scientists have new data they believe proves the current level of contamination is not enough to cause an allergic reaction. The E-P-A, the agency which issues permits for pesticide based GMOs like Starlink, will make a decision after a public meeting to be held at the end of the month.

Aventis is now looking to spin off or sell its life sciences division. With this move, the drug giant joins the club of big companies trying to distance themselves from their biotech cost centers. The elite group includes former farm chemical and life sciences mega-company Monsanto.

Tags: agriculture controversy corn crops genetic engineering news