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3-Food: US food aid and exports to Japan will be free of Starlink



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TITLE:  A) US won't donate StarLink corn to poor nations
        B) US firms sell corn to Japan despite biotech fears
SOURCE: both Reuters, B) by Randy Fabi
DATE:   A) November 6, 2000
        B) November 8, 2000

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


A) US won't donate StarLink corn to poor nations

WASHINGTON - The tens of millions of bushels of StarLink biotech corn 
collected from American farmers will not be donated to foreign countries as 
part of federal food assistance programmes, a senior US Agriculture 
Department official told Reuters on Friday. The corn, made by Aventis SA , 
has not been approved for human food in the United States because of 
concerns that it may trigger allergic reactions. It is allowed in feed for 
cattle, pigs and other livestock. "The effort is to isolate it and then to 
direct into domestic feed or non-food industrial uses," Tim Galvin, 
administrator of USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, said in an interview. 
Galvin said none of the StarLink corn collected would be included in USDA's 
food assistance programmes, which donate or subsidise sales to poor nations.

After traces of StarLink were found in taco shells in September, Aventis 
agreed under pressure from the US government to buy back all StarLink corn 
harvested this year by American farmers. The USDA estimated that will cost 
Aventis around $100 million. More than 300 kinds of taco shells, tostados 
and chips containing corn flour have been recalled by US foodmakers for 
suspected contamination. StarLink was planted on only about one percent of 
US corn fields this year, but federal officials are investigating how some 
of the corn was accidentally commingled with other yellow corn by farmers 
and grain elevators. The USDA recently said that as much as 1.2 million 
bushels of StarLink had yet to accounted for. 

                              *****


B) US firms sell corn to Japan despite biotech fears

WASHINGTON - Japan, the single biggest buyer of American corn, resumed its 
purchases with a 127,000 tonnes order days after the US government agreed 
to begin testing to prevent StarLink gene-spliced corn from tainting 
exports, the US Agriculture Department said yesterday. US and Japanese 
officials spent two weeks negotiating a testing plan to satisfy Tokyo's 
demands that StarLink be prevented from contaminating any corn shipments.

StarLink, made by Franco-German life sciences firm Aventis SA, has not been 
approved for human consumption in the United States because of concerns it 
may trigger allergic reactions. Japan has even tougher rules, and does not 
allow StarLink in humans or animal food. Japan - a key customer for US 
farmers facing another record corn harvest - stopped its purchases after a 
consumer group in Tokyo announced on Oct. 25 that it found traces of 
StarLink in a corn flour baking mix.

The sale of 127,000 tonnes of corn by private US exporters to Japan was 
announced by the USDA as part of its reporting of major export sales. US 
exporters are required to report to the USDA transactions of at least 
100,000 tonnes of corn made in a single day to a single destination by the 
following business day. A USDA spokesman said he had no information on 
whether Japan planned to use the newly purchased corn for human 
consumption, livestock feed or nonfood industrial uses. At the Chicago 
Board of Trade the December corn futures contract yesterday closed up 1-1/4 
cents at $2.14-3/4 a bushel.


STARLINK WORRIES US INDUSTRY

In the United States, traces of StarLink corn were discovered in taco 
shells in September, unleashing a series of recalls and widespread testing 
by US food makers. The US Environmental Protection Agency is now 
considering a request by Aventis for a four-year grace period to allow 
StarLink-tainted corn to make its way through the American food supply. 
Aventis contends StarLink poses no real threat to human health, and that 
new scientific evidence proves its safety. Green groups and other anti-
biotech activists maintain that too many questions remain about the safety 
of StarLink for humans.

Japan, like a dozen other major countries, requires strict labeling on 
human food products containing genetically altered ingredients. Japanese 
corn importers largely stayed on the sidelines in the past few weeks, 
closely monitoring the StarLink situation. Some importers had even started 
considering seeking corn from other countries such as China, South Africa 
or Argentina, instead of US corn amid increasing pressure from local food 
makes for StarLink-free supplies. US grain groups said they were relieved 
at Tuesday's purchase by Japan.

"I don't know if it's over, but it's a good sign," said Paul Bertels, 
production and marketing director for the National Corn Growers 
Association. USDA officials have privately assured American grain groups 
that Japan's temporary halt in US corn purchases was unlikely to affect 
overall sales for the year. With another bin-busting harvest under way, 
American farm groups have been scouring the world for new export markets to 
buy grain and prevent already depressed prices from slumping lower. On 
Thursday, the USDA will announce its latest estimate of US crop production.

South Korea's agriculture ministry yesterday asked the nation's importer of 
corn for human food to make sure shipments are free of StarLink, according 
to commodity traders in Seoul. South Korea buys about 2 million tonnes of 
corn for food, mostly from the United States. Japan buys about four million 
tonnes of corn each year for human food use, plus another 11 million tonnes 
for livestock feed. The new sale of 127,000 tonnes of corn to Japan will be 
delivered sometime during the 2000/01 marketing year, which began on Sept. 
1.

In addition to the StarLink controversy, the environmental group Friends of 
the Earth said it found Roundup Ready gene-spliced corn in tortilla crisps 
sold in British supermarkets. The retailers have declined to remove the 
chips from shelves but have launched their own investigation to determine 
if traces of the corn are present. Roundup Ready corn has been approved for 
human consumption in the United States and Canada, but not by the European 
Union.



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