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StarLink still starring in corn doldrums

(January 1, 2001- Cropchoice News) -- U.S. corn exports dipped last year following revelations of contamination with genetically engineered StarLink corn, characterized by its trademark Cry9C protein. The slump could continue in 2001, especially given that markets remain wary. Thatís partly because the EPA might pass on deciding whether to grant Aventis, the producer of StarLink, a temporary exemption allowing the corn to remain in the food supply; the agency is behind on its mid-December timetable to decide the issue. Even a nod to the biotech company from the incoming Bush administration might not alleviate the fears of foreign markets that donít want Starlink.

One Kentucky farmerís experience illustrates the frustration of growers and processors about the situation. Fred Rosenberger couldnít sell almost 60,000 bushels contaminated with StarLink. Given that the government had approved the transgenic corn only for animal feed, Aventis supposedly instructed producers to separate the StarLink variety from other corn. Rosenberger told Progressive Farmer that he never received the information. As of December, he was stuck trying to sell his unwanted corn.

Even buyers of corn for animal feed and ethanol production have shunned StarLink, found in much of the Iowa corn crop, because they fear liability issues.

And foreign customers donít want it, either. In late November 2000, Cropchoice reported that South Korea, skittish about StarLink, had looked to anyone but the United States for 30,000 tons of corn and Japan had turned to China for 200,000 tons.

In late December, Spain paid above-market price for 150,000 tons of non-gmo corn from Brazil, Safras e Mercado corn specialist Paulo Molinari told Reuters

Farmers might want to remember that the Bio-safety Protocol, which the United States and 132 other countries signed last year, requires the labeling of all grains bound for export markets. Before labeling can happen, however, someone must segregate gmo from non-gmo grains. Most U.S. elevators aren't equipped for the job, which means the responsbility for segregation will fall on farmers such as Fred Rosenberger. This adds cost and headaches to their production process.

Source: Reuters, Progressive Farmer, Cropchoice