2-Plants: US Government promotes GE crops despite of industry warnings
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TITLE: A) Farmers warned to be careful what type of corn they plant next
B) Despite Starlink woes, Glickman sees GMO seed growth
SOURCE: A) Associated Press, by Jay Hughes
B) Reuters, by Vanessa Morsse
DATE: A) November 20, 2000
B) November 21, 2000
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A) Farmers warned to be careful what type of corn they plant next season
Illinois farmers are getting early advice about what corn to plant and what
to avoid next spring in hopes of preventing a repeat of this year's harvest
controversy over a genetically modified corn that slipped into the human
Mishandling of the genetically modified StarLink corn variety, which is
approved only for animal feed, resulted in large recalls of taco shells and
some other foods earlier this fall. Fears about the U.S. grain supply have
been blamed for recent drops in corn exports, and major grain handlers and
government agencies are still working to segregate StarLink from corn
headed to processing plants.
In a letter sent this week, Decatur-based grain processor A.E. Staley
Manufacturing advises farmers to use caution if planting genetically
modified hybrids, making sure they only plant those varieties approved for
human use by the European Union, which constitutes a major market.
"Just as StarLink corn has changed our corn purchasing operation this year
to, among other things, require testing, nothing can be assumed or taken
for granted as seed choices are made for spring planting," the letter says.
"The only truly safe seed selection will be seed corn free of any genetic
Archer Daniels Midland Co., a major grain shipper and processor also based
in Decatur, did not go quite as far. In a policy statement, the company
said it supports biotechnology developments in agriculture but must produce
products that will be accepted in overseas markets, which ban some biotech
ADM officials say all their elevators that supply processing plants will
accept non-modified corn and modified strains approved for human use
worldwide. Certain other varieties will be accepted only at designated
elevators; no StarLink will be accepted.
Advice is also coming from the Illinois Corn Growers Association, which
plans to begin distributing a 16-page booklet next week listing what types
of corn will be accepted for different uses.
Doug Wilson, who farms near Gridley, said he's glad processors are
communicating with growers this early as they begin deciding what to plant.
In the past, he said, advisories about preferred varieties often weren't
issued until producers had already bought seed corn and begun planting.
"They're giving us a much better picture of what they will and won't do.
Now it will be a matter of how well we heed what they say," he said.
"Everyone's got to protect themselves. If nothing else, StarLink has
brought it to the forefront that there's huge liability issues."
The discovery that StarLink corn had commingled with approved corn caused
farmers and grain elevator operators to worry that the controversial
variety could ruin the harvest even for those who had tried to avoid the
grain. But Doug Durdan, who runs Durdan Grain Elevator near Streator, said
assurances from StarLink manufacturer Aventis CropScience that farmers and
merchants will be reimbursed for any losses have calmed those fears.
"It's been pretty minor," he said.
So far, the company has agreed to pay farmers 25 cents per bushel over
normal local prices for StarLink and "buffer corn" - crops grown near the
genetically modified corn - but not commingled corn.
State attorneys general from 16 states, including Illinois, are pushing the
company to cover the cost of corn that was commingled and now tests
positive for StarLink. They also want the company to speed up payments.
Just how much StarLink remains to be segregated from Illinois stocks is a
mystery. Mark Lambert, spokesman for the state Corn Growers Association,
said there's no doubt that through commingling and cross-pollination in
fields, there is more StarLink than was produced on the 17,000 acres
planted in the state.
Scherrie Giamanco, chief price support program specialist for the Farm
Service Agency in Illinois, said that agency is directing anyone who thinks
they have StarLink to contact Aventis for information on where to deliver
it and apply for payment. "It's a finite amount and for the most part it's
going to be tracked and contained," she said.
B) Despite Starlink woes, Glickman sees GMO seed growth
WICHITA, Kan. - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said Monday he did
not think the current controversy over Starlink corn would have a long-term
negative impact on the use of bio-engineered grain seed in the U.S. With
proper testing and full disclosure about test findings, Glickman said the
problems with Starlink and related fears about the growing use of
genetically modified seeds could be overcome. "The most important thing we
need to have is good testing and good disclosure to the farmers and to the
public," Glickman told a Reuters reporter. "If we base this on sound
science, the market will continue to expand for bio-engineered seeds and
foods." Glickman's comments followed an address to the Kansas Association
of Conservation Districts annual meeting in Wichita Monday
Starlink is a genetically modified corn variety that is approved only for
animal feed, but has been found mixed into human food items like chips and
taco shells. More than 300 food brands have been recalled from grocery
store shelves across the United States because of Starlink contamination
and American corn exports have been feeling a backlash from overseas buyers
who fear buying U.S. corn because it may be contaminated with Starlink.
Last week, the USDA issued a weekly report showing U.S. corn exports were
39 percent below the four-week average. Both Japan, the single biggest
buyer of American corn, and South Korea, have curtailed corn purchases from
the U.S. because of the issue. Glickman said he had high hopes the testing
of export corn for Starlink that began last week would go a long way toward
alleviating concerns of foreign buyers. "I believe we can work out the
problems with testing and with the transparent system those problems can
get resolved," Glickman said. "They (foreign buyers) want to know what's in
their corn and they want to make sure it's corn that is destined for food
consumption. That is our goal as well."
Glickman said it was crucial that testing work properly to differentiate
Starlink from non-Starlink corn. "It's very important that it goes well and
people believe that it has a lot of credibility to it. I think time will
tell, but I'm hopeful," Glickman said. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal
reported that some large grain processing companies were discouraging U.S.
farmers from planting genetically modified grain seed in light of numerous
problems that have cropped up lately with keeping genetically modified
grains separate from non-GMO grains.
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