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7-Business: Taiwan still imports StarLink while Japan's imports decline sharply

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  A) Taiwan buys U.S. corn as usual despite StarLink
        B) StarLink - Japan buying of US corn slows sharply
SOURCE: both Reuters, B) by Jae Hur 
DATE:   A) November 10, 2000
        B) November 13, 2000

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A) Taiwan buys U.S. corn as usual despite StarLink

TAIPEI - Taiwan's grain importers said yesterday they will continue to buy 
U.S. corn for livestock feed despite recent controversy over StarLink 
biotech corn banned for human consumption but found in food products. State-
owned Taiwan Sugar Corp was scheduled to tender for 20,000 tonnes of U.S. 
corn and 10,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans in a combined shipment on Friday, 
and the firm said it had no plan to shift to other suppliers regardless of 
the issue.

An executive with the Major League Feed Group, one of Taiwan's two major 
corn buying groups, said Taiwan's appetite for U.S. corn showed no signs of 
change as the agricultural authority had not said if it would ban the use 
of StarLink in animal feed. "Our grain tender notice has specified the 
crops bought would be used for animal feed, and so far the government 
doesn't say if the StarLink corn in feed is prohibited," said the 
executive. However, the executive said she had no idea if U.S. shipments to 
Taiwan contained any StarLink corn as the gene-altered corn was not 
included in the island's safety standard checklist.

StarLink, a variety of yellow corn altered to produce its own pesticide, 
was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use only as 
livestock feed, but it was discovered in foods in the United States and 
Japan. After tests by a Japanese consumer group last month revealed traces 
of StarLink from U.S. imports in domestic food and animal feed, the issue 
has brought corn import deals to a virtual halt in Japan for the past two 
weeks. StarLink is not approved in Japan for food or animal feed.

Taiwan consumers' sensitivity to the dispute appears low, and one trader 
attributed the cool response to a lack of regulations concerning gene-
altered crops. Taiwan has no rules governing StarLink corn and detailed 
regulations requiring genetically modified farm products to meet government 
safety standards are not due to be completed until the end of 2000. 
Taiwan's health department said it had begun conducting tests for StarLink 
in foods, but an official at the department's Bureau of Food Sanitation 
gave no timetable for the announcement of results. StarLink, made by 
European pharmaceutical giant Aventis SA , is approved for use only as an 
animal feed because of unanswered questions about whether it could affect 
people with allergies.


B) StarLink - Japan buying of US corn slows sharply

TOKYO - Most Japanese corn importers have not bought any US corn since late 
October due to controversy over gene-spliced StarLink corn, casting a 
shadow over the US exports this year, traders said on Friday. The United 
States, the world's largest corn supplier, will export 57.79 million tonnes 
of corn in the 2000/2001 year, up from 49.21 million the previous year, 
according to estimates from the US Department of Agriculture. Japan, the 
world's largest buyer, is set to import 16.30 million tonnes in 2000/2001, 
compared with 16.12 million the year before. Most of its imports come from 
the United States.

US officials have played down the impact of the StarLink controversy on US 
corn exports to Japan. But traders in Japan take a different view. "The 
StarLink issue will have a negative impact on US corn exports to Japan," 
said an official from a leading trade house. "No one wants to make deals 
without guarantees they are free from StarLink."

After tests by a Japanese consumer group last month revealed traces of 
StarLink corn in domestic food and animal feed products, local corn trade 
virtually ground to a halt, with importers scrambling to find other 
sources. StarLink is not approved in Japan, even for animal feed.

Although several local importers, who have elevators in the United States, 
have kept importing US corn since late October, the amount is limited and 
they will have to settle costs of StarLink testing later, the trade house 
official said. Other importers were believed to have already booked corn 
cargoes from China, South Africa and South America to avoid the StarLink 
issue and the cost of testing, he said.


Japan has secured its corn needs to the end of the year and is seeking 
supplies for first quarter shipment, but uncertainty over the costs for 
StarLink tests has led most trade houses to halt offers of US corn to local 
end-users, another trade house official said. Local trade houses and end-
users had concluded less than 20 percent of corn supply deals for first 
quarter shipment before the Consumers Union of Japan's discovery on October 
25, he said. Around this time last year, they had already completed most of 
the first quarter term deals. Japan normally buys about four million tonnes 
of corn in the first quarter.

Earlier this month, Japan's Health Ministry agreed to a US testing plan to 
prevent StarLink corn from tainting exports to Japan for direct human 
consumption. Japanese importers played down the US plan because it falls 
short of full safety assurances and the local food and feed industries were 
reluctant to pay the extra cost for testing StarLink, analysts said. It was 
unclear whether the latest US measures would be sufficient to guarantee 
that corn supplies to Japan for food use would be absolutely free of 
StarLink, a trade house analyst said. The US measures also failed to 
specify who is going to pay the costs for testing and to include corn 
exports for animal feed use in the testing plan, he said.


StarLink, made by Franco-German life sciences firm Aventis SA , has not 
been approved for human consumption in the United States because of US 
regulators' concerns about potential allergic reactions. Japan's 
Agriculture Ministry said on Friday it has started ts own feed studies on 
poultry using gene-spliced StarLink corn to assess the safety of animal 
feed and the tests would take three months. The ministry said in a 
statement that it had asked the Japan Scientific Feeds Association to 
conduct the safety test on 200 broilers on Thursday. The StarLink issue has 
deepened concerns about the US ability to comply with Japanese legislation 
to be implemented from next April that will set zero tolerance for imports 
of unapproved genetically modified products.

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