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USDA predicts lower corn exports while Greenpeace finds more StarLink contamination

(March 9, 2001 --Cropchoice news) -- Just as reports emerged of a dip in U.S. corn sales and prices, Greenpeace found traces of an unapproved transgenic corn in a Kellogg's line of meat-free corn.

The USDA yesterday cut its forecast for corn exports by 50 million bushels in large part because Japan likely will import less of the grain that it's concerned may contain transgenic StarLink.

The U.S. government approved StarLink, which Aventis CropScience produced and marketed, only for livestock feed. Nonetheless, the corn that scientists suspect may be allergenic because of its Cry9c protein, contaminated the human food supply last year. A recall of more than 300 food products followed. Japan and South Korea, who hadn't approved StarLink for any use, reacted by cutting their corn imports.

The USDA projected that farmers would receive an average of $1.85 per bushel for their corn, the lowest since the farm recession of the mid-1980s. At the same time, farmers are spending more money on inputs, including fertilizer, pesticides and relatively expensive transgenic seeds.

But those farmers planning to switch to soybeans because of the low corn prices might be in for a surprise. As part of its report, the USDA predicted lower soybean prices -- a 28-year low of $4.55 per bushel-- in part because of high South American production. While almost 60 percent of U.S. soybeans are transgenic, Brazil produces only non-transgenic varieties. This has put it in a position to supply European and Asian demand for food that's free of transgenic soy.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has discovered transgenic soy and StarLink corn in the veggie burgers and meat-free Corn Dogs that Morningstar Farms produces.

Kellogg Co., which owns Morningstar's parent company, Worthington Foods, had assured customers in letters and e-mail messages that the product line was free of transgenic ingredients.

The company hasn't decided whether to recall any of the products. It has contacted the Food and Drug Administration, which recalled hundreds of StarLink-tainted products last year and is submitting products to an independent laboratory to be tested for the controversial corn.

Although the tests that Fairfield, Iowa-based Genetic ID, performed found 1 percent or less of the corn in Morningstar's corn dogs is StarLink variety, that's all it took to spur product recalls after the StarLink contamination last year.

Source: Reuters, L.A. Times, Greenpeace