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ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

31 December 2002

STARLINK "COULD HURT US" AGAIN

Second item is an update/elaboration of the Reuters Starlink story we circulated Dec. 28. Third item follows on from the report on GM contamination released in the UK on Xmas Eve. All items point to the uncontainable character of this technology.

Below are some quotes on the Starlink fiasco from the first time around when in October 2000 traces of this Aventis GM corn [maize] showed up in taco shells in the U.S. even though it was approved only for animal feed and not for human consumption. It led to a massive recall of over 300 U.S. food brands. The 'StarLink' gene also showed up unexpectedly in a second company's corn adding to GM contamination problems that have had a major impact on U.S. grain exports. [see the SEEDS OF DOUBT (Sept 2002)  report - Download a pdf version for FREE from
http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/]

Some quotes:

"In Iowa, StarLink corn represented 1 percent of the total crop, only 1 percent. It has tainted 50 percent of the harvest." ABC NEWS  November 28, 2000

Dale Farnham, an Iowa State University agronomist:  "No one knows how far the corn pollen can travel, some studies have said a quarter of a mile" Reuters, November 22, 2000, Corn leaving bad taste in world markets as GMO worries build

"Aventis CropScience Wednesday was at a loss to explain why another variety of corn besides its StarLink brand is producing the [StarLink] Cry9C protein."   United Press International November 22, 2000, Second corn variety producing Cry9C

On the possibility of unintentional mixing of GM and non-GM post-harvest, agronomist Dale Farnham says:  "There are no safeguards." Reuters, November 22, 2000, Corn leaving bad taste in world markets as GMO worries build

"The US Department of Agriculture claims to know where the maize banned from all food use globally... is located. Aventis... says it knows, also. So do I:  StarLink maize is everywhere."  US agricultural journalist Alan Guebert writing in (UK) Farmers Weekly, December 8, 2000

Analyst Dale Gustafson of Salomon Smith Barney:  "We have not yet seen GM wheat. If we did, we would be seeing the same problems in those consumer products."  Reuters, November 22, 2000, Corn leaving bad taste in world markets as GMO worries build

US corn farmer and GM seed salesman, Nebraska, Dec 2000:  "....you guys [US Government] created this monster; you clean it up. I have learned my lesson. No more GM crops on this farm ever." Quoted in UK 'Farmers Weekly', December 8, 2000

1. JAPAN'S STARLINK CORN FIND COULD HURT U.S.
2. Reuters latest on Starlink in Japan
3. Dear ACRE... re: contamination

***

1.JAPAN'S STARLINK CORN FIND COULD HURT U.S.

December 30, 2002
Reuters [via Agnet]

TOKYO -- A senior source at a major Japanese grain importer was cited as saying on Monday that U.S. corn sales to Japan, the world's biggest importer of the grain, could suffer after traces of the banned StarLink biotech variety were found in a cargo from the United States last week, adding, "We still can't know, but the possibility that things could become the same as two years ago is high."

The story says that StarLink genetically modified corn was detected in a U.S. corn shipment bound for Tokyo's food supply in a vessel docked at Nagoya harbour last Thursday, renewing fears that major trading partners may once again turn their backs on U.S. crops.

The return of StarLink corn comes as the United States tries to convince reluctant trading partners that genetically modified crops are safe for consumers.

Japan's Agriculture Ministry said on Friday that trace amounts of StarLink had been detected.

It said the fate of the corn itself remained undecided but that Japan would take steps to beef up its monitoring of U.S. corn imports. The Health Ministry issued a similar statement.

***

2.Japan got trace of biotech corn, U.S. exporters say

BY Randy Fabi, REUTERS NEWS AGENCY
Toronto Star, December 30, 2002

Fears of trade crisis renewed A few kernels can destroy a cargo

Japan has found trace amounts of unapproved StarLink corn in an American shipment bound for Tokyo's food supply, renewing fears that major trading partners may once again turn their backs on U.S. crops, say U.S. exporters.

The return of StarLink corn comes as the United States tries to persuade reluctant trading partners such as the European Union and southern Africa that genetically modified crops are safe for consumers.

Made by Aventis CropScience, the biotech corn variety slipped into the U.S. food supply in September, 2000, initiating a nationwide recall of more than 300 kinds of corn-based foods. U.S. regulators had only approved StarLink for animal feed due to concerns that it might cause allergic reactions in humans.

Aventis CropScience was later sold to Bayer AG as part of the fallout from the Starlink recalls. Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries late last week detected StarLink corn in a U.S. corn shipment in a vessel, The North King, docked at Nagoya harbour, three U.S. exporters told Reuters.

"We can confirm that in fact some food corn was detected as StarLink," said one U.S. exporter, who wished not to be identified. "They randomly test inbound corn for StarLink both food and feed corn."

Another U.S. exporter said the discovery would "create a problem for everyone."

"Everyone's gotten a little lazy. The Japanese government hasn't been testing that often," the U.S. exporter said. "Now they'll be testing every boat again for the next month."

A Japanese embassy official in Washington said he could not yet confirm that StarLink corn was found, but was checking with Tokyo.

A U.S. agriculture department official said the agency was unaware of Japan's findings on StarLink corn but was looking into the matter.

"There hasn't been any communication with USDA from the Japanese government," said a USDA spokesperson, who wished not to be identified. "All of our vessels are tested for StarLink."

USDA officials said they were surprised by the news since they believed all remaining StarLink corn was destroyed last year.

U.S. exporters said The North King was chartered by Japanese trading house Mitsui.

A Mitsui spokesperson in New York could not confirm or deny it was their vessel. The company official said to call its Tokyo office for any comment.

The United States is the world's largest producer of crops that are genetically modified to make them resistant to pests, or to withstand herbicides used to kill nearby weeds.

Exporters said the StarLink issue was still vexing, since it takes only a few kernels of corn to spoil an entire cargo.

Before the first StarLink recall, corn and other grains were normally "blended" to obtain higher grades for food or feed use. After StarLink roiled the grain trade, the USDA's Federal Grain Inspection Service put in place specific procedures to "identity preserve" and segregate grains.

"Shippers are supposed to follow the FGIS protocol," said one corn trader.

"There was an 8,000 tonne hold and some 1,200 tonnes tested positive," said another U.S. corn exporter, referring to a cargo partition in the 50,000-to-60,000 deadweight ton cargo ship.

"But the other buyers for the boat don't want to accept any of it for fear of contamination," the exporter said.

The return of StarLink corn could renew widespread international backlash against U.S. grain exports as it did when it was first discovered in the United States two years ago. U.S. corn purchases from top buyer Japan have only started to return to normal this year, while South Korean food processors have continued to shun U.S. corn for food use.

South Korea's KOCOPIA food processor, once a top customer for U.S. corn, bought 107,500 metric tonnes of Chinese and South American corn on Friday. It now routinely demands official "non-StarLink" certification and samples for its tenders.

Many environmental and consumer groups, especially in Europe, have opposed biotech crops saying more research was needed to ensure they are safe for humans and the environment.

The European Union has banned imports of new biotech goods for the last four years due to consumer suspicions.

Europe's fears helped prompt Zambia in not accepting biotech corn, or maize, because there was insufficient evidence of its safety.

It is one of six southern African countries facing famine.

***

3. Letter to ACRE from Jean Saunders

<foeswindon@hotmail.com> [via GM-ACT]

Dr Linda Smith
ACRE Secretariat

Dear Dr Smith

It is clear from the ACRE advice on the monitoring of large scale releases of GM oil seed rape that the conditions of consent to release GMOs are inadequate to control contamination of sexually compatible species.

We have requested a copy of the full report but, in the meantime and on the strength of the evidence presented in the summary report,  Swindon Friends of the Earth request that all large scale releases of GM oil seed rape are monitored for at least four years post harvest and possibly for up to ten years.  ACRE reports that the study revealed that "in one incidence transgenic oil seed rape volunteers persisted until 2000 at least from a crop harvested in 1996".  Other studies have shown persistence of oil seed rape seed varieties for 8 years whilst the seeds can remain dormant for around 10 years.  Clearly a one year post harvest monitoring programme is inadequate for detecting and destroying transgenic brassicas before flowering.  Moreover, in order to secure seed purity, a condition should be put in place that prevents the growing of conventional oil seed rape on the field trial site for up to ten years.

A new approach needs to be taken to monitoring the whole area around the release site (e.g. where agricultural machinery associated with seed movement has been used) in order to control the accidental release of GMOs into environment that are not covered by the deliberate release consent conditions.

ACRE mention 0.5% contamination of conventional rape found at 250m at one trial site whilst the summary report mentions "3.2% herbicide tolerance .. found at the edge of one field of the varietal association Gemini, at 105m distance from a small block of transgenic herbicide tolerant OSR."  Clearly the 50m buffer zones that are currently monitored (or 100m in the case of varietal associations) are grossly inadequate to secure seed purity standards and to control future releases of GMOs into the environment. Whilst we recognise that there are many variables that can affect the degree of contamination found, it would seem prudent that any transgenic material should be monitored and destroyed within a buffer area of 250m or 800m for varietal associations.

We are alarmed that the summary report states that "seed dispersal was usually associated with spillage and distribution by agricultural machinery, particularly combine harvesters.  In the contract from 1994 to 1997, it was found that some combine harvesters were not cleaned after the harvesting of the GM crop, and the crop harvested subsequently flushed out the GM rape seed onto the ground causing contamination of this field".  If guidelines for good agricultural practice for the growing of GM crops are not stringently adhered to, it is clear that transgenic oil seed rape could grow anywhere outside the trial area and buffer zone.  We cannot see a future for growing GM oil seed rape crops for either trial or commercial purposes in the UK if we seek to achieve acceptable seed purity standards and to prevent the herbicide tolerant trait spreading to other brassica varieties.

The Secretary of State has the power to vary the conditions of consent attached to Part B releases of GMOs at any stage where new evidence emerges. We ask that the points that we have raised are now addressed and that new conditions are attached to past, current and future releases.

We look forward to hearing ACRE's comments on the subject.

Yours sincerely

Jean Saunders
Swindon Friends of the Earth
Pear Tree Cottage
Longcot
Faringdon
Oxon SN7  7SS

[DEFRA Report Summary -
http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/research/epg-1-5-84.htm
ACRE Review of Report -
http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/acre/advice/advice21.htm
Meacher denies 'burying' GM bad news
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=365464 ]

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