ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
 Date:  3 March 2001



(1) StarLink-- Corn prices fall, Questions on StarLink Seed Flap - Reuters, 3 March

The U.S.agriculture Department and seed industry officials refused to disclose on Friday an estimate of how much U.S. seed corn for spring planting was contaminated with an unapproved biotech variety.

(2)   CHRONOLOGY of StarLink Events: Bio-corn found in food seed. (15-Item Chronology)

WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - Traces of the unapproved bio-corn StarLink, which triggered a massive food recall last autumn, were found in bags of corn seed being readied for spring planting by American farmers, industry and government officials said on Thursday... The
following chronology outlines developments affecting U.S. foodmakers and foreign trading partners: 1998 - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves StarLink for animal food but declines to approve it for human consumption, saying not enough scientific data was available to rule out allergic reactions by some people.

(3)   20 Regions & Countries that have GE-Free Zones, A Listing:

(4)   Aventis Reports Rise in Profits, Plans Divest Ag Division.(AP, 2 March 2001)
And Related Article:

Excerpt from paragraph ten:  "The group plans to divest its agrochemical business, which is caught up in a controversy over genetically modified StarLink corn, to focus on pharmaceuticals. The
agrochemicals business has proved troublesome for Aventis after the discovery that tiny amounts of CropScience's StarLink corn - not approved for human consumption in the United States - made its way into taco shells. Analysts have downplayed the link between the StarLink
controversy and the company's decision to divest its agrochemicals unit, citing a trend to abandon the idea of grouping health care and agriculture under one roof - the ``life sciences'' concept - in favor of focusing on one area. "  End excerpt.

(5) StarLink Won't Go Away.  Seed Contamination.  Reaction.
3/2/2001, Willie Vogt, E-Content Director, Farm Progress.
A walk aroundthe show floor at this year's Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas, offered a visitor the chance to get some questions answered about products and services for the new crop year. During the event, I stopped by several seed company booths to discuss one issue that's been at the back of my mind since December -- if seed companies are testing for StarLink in their 2001 product, what are they finding?

Yesterday, the Washington Post carried an article about the fact that seed companies are finding StarLink in their seed and USDA officials owned up to the fact that it was happening. The American Seed Trade Association is surveying its 200 members to find out the extent of the issue.

In my chats with some seed companies I learned that they are finding the genes in some tests, but each company was also quick to say no tainted seed will go to the field.  Apparently, one seed company, discussing this issue with federal agencies, commented that 1 to 5% of the seed crop
could contain StarLink. However, that comment was aimed at quantifying potential trouble, and not meant to be an accurate representation of actual data, according to the American Seed Trade Association.  The national media, in following this issue, will miss a few subtleties of agriculture. Here are a few thoughts Farm Progress has picked up in the last few weeks: All companies are testing their seed. And some have found StarLink content in a few lots. Remember that 40% of StarLink corn was grown in Iowa where a good chunk of the seed corn crop is also grown -- it's bound to be in a few lots of seed given even the best controls.

Finding StarLink doesn't mean it will end up in seed bags at planting time. In fact, testing allows companies to keep it off the market. Seed companies would like to see a standard, because the
zero-tolerance standard that currently exists is an expensive challenge for the industry.  Growers should discuss the issue with their seed sales professional and read that bag tag carefully. As StarLink pointed out weak links in the way farmers segregate their crops, this testing issue
may point out the need for potential changes in seed production.

But  eventually StarLink will work itself out of the system.  Any seed company that doesn't test properly and lets this product into the field,   will have a host of other issues with which it will deal next fall.  For more information on this issue, visit American Seed Trade Association online to keep up. There you'll find a letter from the ASTA to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and USDA about this issue. You can see that letter here.

We'll keep you posted on this issue, as more information becomes available....

(6)   Court orders France to publish GM crop Test Sites

Paris, March 2 (Reuters) - A French court has ordered the government to publish a list of sites in France where genetically modified (GM) crops are being grown on a test basis, an environmental group said on Friday.

France Nature Environnement (FNE) said the administrative tribunal of Paris had ordered the government to divulge the list on the basis that it is public information.

(7)  Legally Speaking: "Implementing the precautionary principle"

By Phillip B.C. Jones, Ph.D., J.D., Senior Patent Attorney,ZymoGenetics, Inc. Seattle, WA.

The precautionary principle often materializes as a justification for excluding biotechnology products from the marketplace. For instance, the German government used the precautionary principle as the rationale for banning the commercial-scale cultivation of Bt corn by Novartis, and the European Union cited the precautionary principle as the reason for delaying approval of genetically engineered crops for sale in European markets.

On an international level, the precautionary principle appears, implicitly or explicitly, in various charters, declarations, and treaties.

(8)   Biotech crops, Prices top Farmers' Concerns this year.

GRIDLEY, Ill. (AP) -- Like a lot of Illinois farmers, Doug Wilson has had some extra things to fret about this winter while waiting for the spring thaw.  The first was what type of corn to plant in the wake of last fall's controversy over genetically engineered corn not approved for consumption that ended up in the human food supply.

Farmers have been repeatedly warned since then that they may have trouble finding overseas markets for some ``biotech'' corn varieties...  The types of corn planted this spring will be influenced, in part, by last season's scare over StarLink, a brand of genetically engineered corn that was never approved for human consumption because of unanswered questions about its potential to cause allergic reactions...

That upset foreign  markets already wary of bioengineered crops. Major shippers such as
Cargill and ADM warned farmers not to plant corn varieties not accepted by all foreign markets this year. The Illinois Corn Growers Association published a manual listing which corn varieties are approved for all markets and which ones European Union markets won't accept.  ``The
advice is, stick with what you know they (consumers) will buy,'' said Bruce Chassy, a food iotechnology professor at the University of Illinois.  Chassy said the biotechnology issue can be misleading, because about 60 percent of the corn grown in Illinois is genetically modified in some way even if it's not classified ``bt,'' and most bt corn varieties are approved for foreign markets.

However, he said,opponents who label genetically modified crops ``frankenfood'' have done
a good job of keeping foreign markets wary, and incidents like the StarLink episode bring those fears to the forefront.  ``In the short term, the farmer has to decide where to sell his corn. What are the benefits and what are the risks?'' Chassy said. ``I think what you're really seeing is a change in the marketplace that was coming anyway.'' In the future, Chassy said, handling systems will have a greater ability to channel specific varieties of grain, eliminating chances of varieties not desired in one market being commingled with shipments headed for that destination.  Analysts say there is no great need for most bt corn seeds in Illinois this year because there is no expected outbreak of
pests like the corn borer that those varieties are engineered to deter.

But some farmers who might plant at least some bt corn, like Wilson, are shying away from the seed this year just to make sure there are no problems when...  Details on which crops farmers ultimately choose should come in late March, when the U.S. Agriculture Department releases
a survey of farmers, including how much genetically engineered seed they will use.

(9)   StarLink - a Boon for Crop Segregation Products?
By Julie Ingwersen, SAN ANTONIO, Tex., Feb 28 (Reuters)

When a genetically modified variety of corn that had not been approved for use in food was discovered in taco shells late last year, food companies, grain handlers and farmers found themselves in a furious scramble to remove it from the food chain. But in many ways, the debacle over StarLink, the corn at the center of the recall, was great advertising for Jim Mock's business.

He co-founded a company that sells certification systems for farmers and buyers who want to trace and identify crops from the seed stage forward. "As food production gets more specific, there's a real need to be able to trade the products from the point of origin to the sale," said Mock, an agronomist and a vice president with Several companies, including...

(10)   Get your seed corn Tested, says Bureau Leader.
(or news) 2 March.

Corn growers should get assurances from their seed providers that the corn they will plant this
spring does not contain traces of the Cry9C protein found in StarLink corn, says American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman."The seed companies and their local dealers must be accountable for the products they market to farmers and document that the seed they sell
does not contain traces of the StarLink protein," he said in a statement Thursday.

StarLink is not approved for human consumption, and is not approved for export to some countries. Producers whose crops contain traces of Cry9C protein may face difficulty marketing their corn this fall, or could be paid discounted prices at harvest.

(11)  Consumers' Contradictory Opinions on Labeling . The Topeka Capital-Journal,2 March 2001, by Kelly Lenz.

The Starlink corn episode taught us much about the weaknesses in the current U.S. grain system and its ability to segregate crops. Now, there are clear indications it may have influenced consumer attitudes in this country with regard to biotech crops in the food supply.    Recently, the Washington-based International Food Information Foundation published the results of a new
consumer survey on biotech labeling. The foundation is funded by food and beverage companies which generally oppose labels on gene-spliced foods as expensive and unnecessary. That fact, and the results of the  survey, tell me they conducted a fairly unbiased and objective poll.
The most surprising finding of the 1,000 adults surveyed came from a question about whether consumers agree with the Food and Drug Administration's current policy on labeling foods containing biotech products, or with critics who say all biotech foods should be clearly labeled as such. Results showed 58 percent of those responding said biotech foods should be labeled. In a similar survey just last May, only 43 percent said they favored labeling.

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