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Starlink Update: Reining In the Biotech Beast

December 1, 2000

3 Min Read
Starlink Update: Reining In the Biotech Beast

Starlink Update: Reining In the Biotech Beast

WASHINGTON--As the StarLink controversy carries on, three more retailcompanies join the list of product recalls. Portland, Ore.-based Western Familyfoods issued a statement that it recalled all of its yellow corn products, andGeorgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin publicly announcedthat Food Lion and Kash n' Karry food stores recalled all yellow corn products.According to the media outlet Reuters, Western Family stated that its decisionwas based on consumer safety. "Western Family's first priority is health,safety and peace of mind of our consumers," a spokesperson for the companysaid. In all, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) listed 300 taco shells,tortillas, chips and tostadas that were recalled from retail stores andrestaurants across the United States.

Despite the numerous recalls, Aventis CropScience, manufacturer of StarLink,requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant temporaryapproval of the biotech corn, allowing a four- year period for the corn to workits way through the food supply. The company provided information on the safetyof StarLink to the EPA that, according to the agency, will be reviewed by ascientific advisory panel. EPA's decision was to be published by Dec. 1.

However, the search continues for StarLink corn and seeds. According to theU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it traced all but 1.2 million bushels ofthe corn. In addition, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Aventis is stillin the process of adding up the total cost of reimbursement for existing crops,predicting it would be "significantly below" $1 billion. AP alsoreported USDA's initial estimated cost was about $100 million, but the biotechcorn was found to be widely mixed with other corn, which may lead to highercompensations.

The U.S. government found that this rising controversy has not only affectedAmerican corn purchasing but international trade as well. After the ConsumersUnion of Japan said at a press briefing that it had found StarLink corn in aproduct called "Homemade Baking," the Japanese Health Ministry askedthe United States to avoid exporting the biotech corn to its country. Accordingto Reuters, although the ministry does not confirm the test on "HomemadeBaking" was accurate, it is still considered an issue because of the amountof recalls throughout the United States. As a result, top U.S. biotech foodpolicymakers met on Oct. 26 to implement a strategy addressing Japan's concerns.According to Reuters, the officials refused to comment on what was discussed. Inearly November, reports began about a slowdown of corn shipments to Japan and arecall by the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) of 14,528 kilograms oftortillas believed to contain StarLink. Also, the KFDA asked that furthershipments of corn and processed food for human consumption be certified free ofStarLink corn.

For now, the U.S. government is aiming to ease minds of domestic and foreignbuyers of corn and corn products. Keith Pitts, a special advisor on biotechissues to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, said that the top priorityfor the U.S. government is to calm the fears of overseas grain buyers. As a signof international cooperation, USDA and Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfaremutually agreed on a method of testing and exporting corn from the UnitedStates, as stated in a press release issued by The National Corn GrowersAssociation (NCGA). For more information, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnologyor www.ncga.com.

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