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Tyson Foods Stops Buying Starlink

(23 October - Cropchoice News) -- Just when the thousands of corn growers who planted Starlink this year probably though it couldn't get any worse, Arkansas-based poulty integrator Tyson Foods has announced it will stop buying Starlink.

According the company, the USA's biggest chicken processor, the move is a defensive one. Spokesman Ed Nicholson told Reuters Friday that "Tyson has elected to stop acquiring corn that we know is StarLink corn...This is basically a precautionary move to avoid confusion among consumers..."

Tyson buys over 25 million bushels of corn every month the feed broilers on more than 6,500 contract farms (plus about 250 swine operations). Its growers and plants are concentrated in the Southeast and midwest, from Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore westward to Oklahoma and Texas.

Tyson is the first major meat company to reject Starlink, although it is unclear if the policy will include genetic testing of grains. While poultry accounts for over 90% of Tyson's business, the company's thinking may have been influenced by the fact that it is also a tortilla maker. Tyson has seen its competitors raked over the coals in the Starlink contamination controversy. So far, Tyson's Arkansas, North Carolina, and Indiana "Mexican Original" brand tortilla operations have steered clear of Starlink accusations.

The controvery over Starlink is still rippling across the human food chain with no signs of stopping. On Friday, cereal maker Kellogg's admitted work at its Memphis plant was disrupted last week while its supplier installed a system to detect Starlink. The Michigan-based company says the move was pre-emptive and denies that any Starlink has been detected in its products.

Aventis, maker of Starlink, had been directing the corn into animal feed and ethanol markets. If other companies follow Tyson's lead, the marketability of Starlink will be further reduced.

Tyson not wanting to be seen as a dumping ground for corn unapproved for human consumption is indicative of the growing sensitivity to GMO issues in the animal feed industry. Especially in Europe, feed makers have shown increasing interest in non-GMO grain sources. Cargill's British poultry subsidiary went GMO-free in its feed products last year and more companies are following suit. But outside of the organic meat industry, Tyson's rejection of Starlink is the first time a US meat company has rejected a GMO for feed.

Source: Reuters, Tyson Foods