Iowa Public Television


Concern over Starlink continues

posted on November 3, 2000

Tests on foods containing the controversial Starlink corn showed the gene was present at levels of one percent or less.

Of the more than 70 million acres planted in corn in the U.S., only about 345 thousand were planted with the star-crossed Starlink variety. The seeds were engineered to produce plants that produced a toxin deadly to corn borer. But the good intentions and modest application has instead produced a bumper crop of controversy.

Concern over Starlink continues It began as just another example of "people in the lab helping people on the land" but it has turned into a nightmare. Aventis Crop Science's Starlink corn, a genetically modified seed only approved for use in animal feed, has slipped into the human food stream causing trouble and consternation.

So far, the only a few brands of taco shells have been found to contain minute amounts of corn which has the potential to cause allergic reactions in humans. It was rumored that the cereal maker Kellogg had received contaminated product, but tests revealed no Starlink corn was present.

For its part, Aventis, is in the midst of buying back all the Starlink it can find. Two weeks ago, the company agreed to pay farmers at least 25 cents more than the market price and assured grain elevator operators all their costs would be covered. Industry officials estimate Aventis could pay out as much as $100 million dollars by the time the ordeal is over.

Aventis has also attempted to get the government to issue a temporary permit to allow Starlink corn to be used in food. So far, no permits have been issued.

The Chicago board of Trade, which determined Starlink corn could be delivered against futures contracts, appears unaffected as futures contracts hit two-week highs. Even so, there is still some anxiety in the pits that Japan will stop importing U.S. corn on the fear that it might be contaminated.

Tags: agriculture controversy corn crops genetic engineering news