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StarLink and more StarLink

(January 19, 2001 – Cropchoice news) – Amidst the haggling over who should pay the cost of StarLink inspections, Japanese purchases of U.S. corn have slowed further. Meanwhile, the EPA plans to cancel the registration for StarLink.

Japan repeatedly found traces of StarLink in corn imports from the United States. This triggered concern among Japanese consumers, who prefer not to indulge in genetically engineered corn. The StarLink variety never received approval for human consumption; scientists suspect that it may cause allergic reactions. Backing up citizen concern, the Japanese government has required strict testing of U.S. shipments.

It's the costs associated with these inspections that are hampering U.S. corn exports to Japan. Reuters reported that "buying of U.S. corn has recently slowed further as negotiations are making little progress between local corn users and trading houses on who should bear the costs of StarLink inspections." The inspection at U.S. interior points costs as much as $5 per metric ton.

As an alternative to U.S. corn, Japan may turn to cheap, non-biotech corn from China and South America. Meanwhile Aventis SA, the maker of StarLink, requested that the Environmental Protection Agency cancel its registration for the gene-altered corn. The agency complied, saying it will cancel the license next month. Of course, Aventis still has to deal with the existing stocks of StarLink that contaminated the human food supply. The company reportedly has collected all but 75,000 bushels of last year's StarLink crop. The contamination has cost the biotech company millions of dollars in damages, most of which have gone to processors.

Sources: Reuters, Doane's