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Nebraska farmers file suit against Aventis over StarLink

(February 5, 2001 -- Cropchoice news)-- A group of Nebraska farmers have filed a class-action lawsuit against Aventis CropScience, which genetically engineered and marketed StarLink corn. This comes a few weeks after Aventis and 17 states reached an agreement in which the company would pay hundreds of millions of dollars (perhaps $1 billion) to farmers and processors who lost money because of the contamination. Notably, a Nebraska official was skeptical about whether Aventis could properly identify and segregate the StarLink variety.

In the class action suit at hand, attorney Daniel Krasner said that StarLink, which the U.S. government has not approved for human consumption, contaminated his clients' crops. This financially harmed them because they weren't able to sell their corn to large export markets that reject biotech food.

Iowa and Illinois farmers have filed similar lawsuits. They likewise charge that cross-pollination and commingling of StarLink with conventional corn varieties caused them financial damage.

Environmental organizations found traces of the unapproved corn -- scientists suspect that it may be allergenic -- in taco shells in September, which led to food recalls. Japan and South Korea cut their U.S. corn after they discovered StarLink in shipments.

This latest legal development comes weeks after Aventis and 17 state attorneys general agreed that the company would reimburse farmers and processors who lost money from the StarLink debacle. Only a few days after the agreement, though, Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Russ Barger, was skeptical as to whether Aventis could identify and segregate all the contaminated corn.

In addition to the problems of cross pollination, Barger reported that a farmer had warned him of the possibility of StarLink seeds that didn't germinate last season sprouting this year in corn fields. Farmers call them volunteer seeds, in this case volunteer StarLink.

Sources: Reuters, Farms.com