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.
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.