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December 6, 2000
WASHINGTON--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report Dec. 5 from its scientific advisory panel that stated StarLink corn has a "medium likelihood" of causing allergic reactions. The panel, made up of agricultural experts, convened on Nov. 28 and reported that "Relative to the characteristics of known food allergens, there is no evidence disproving the potential allergenicity of Cry9C." However, the report also stated that there is a "low probability" of allergenicity in the population exposed to the corn.
EPA has not yet decided on Aventis' petition to grant temporary approval for StarLink in human food (which the agency had planned to decide by Dec. 1); however, the advisory panel recommended further investigation of the possible allergenicity of the genetically modified corn. "EPA will continue its evaluation of the scientific information and develop the appropriate regulatory approach...to ensure protection of public health and continued consumer confidence in the safety and integrity of the food supply," said Stephen Johnson, EPA deputy assistant administrator.
Although the findings of the panel don't condemn StarLink corn, natural products industry members believe the findings will create a rough road for Aventis. "This finding should make it difficult for the EPA to rule in favor of Aventis," said Craig Winters, executive director of The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. According to the panel's report, 34 individuals have already approached the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reporting reactions to StarLink contaminated corn products.
Spokespeople from Aventis declined to comment on the panel's findings. But in a letter to the panel dated Nov. 22, the company stated that it "maintains that all the data it has developed, including the supportive exposure information, taken together provide a weight of evidence supporting a lack of food allergenic potential for the Cry9C protein."
The advisory panel advised EPA to further research issues in the following priority: questions regarding allergenicity and quantities in food chain; monitoring reports from medical community; obtaining additional data levels of Cry9C protein in processed food; impact of processing on levels of Cry9C in food; determine the mixing of StarLink corn with non StarLink corn. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/scipoly/sap/ or www.thecampaign.org.
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