After a round of tests on the safety of unapproved StarLink corn as animal feed, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has found no evidence of health risks from pigs fed on the biotech product. The results come after the ministry said in April it had found no health risks from chicken or milk cow products after similar tests on use of the genetically modified (GM) corn. StarLink is controversial in Japan, where consumer opposition to GM products has intensified after traces of the product were detected in food and animal feed last October. The corn, made by Franco-German pharmaceutical group Aventis SA, is not approved in Japan even for use as animal feed. In the latest tests, researchers fed 20 pigs, each weighing about 30 kg, with feed containing 70 per cent StarLink corn for about 12 weeks until their weight increased to 110 kg. According to the ministry, no modified genes or proteins from StarLink gene-spliced corn were detected in meat, organs or blood of the pigs. Officials declined to comment on whether or when it might approve StarLink as animal feed. Following the introduction in April of stricter rules on GM products, importers said they believe the approval of StarLink for animal feed could give them a way to dispose of US corn cargoes intended for human use that are now banned. Such cargoes, which currently must be destroyed or shipped back to the country of origin, could be diverted for animal feed, they said. The new Japanese rules set zero tolerance for imports containing unapproved GM products. Last October, the discovery of traces of StarLink in food and animal feed prompted Japan, the single-biggest buyer of US corn, to sharply cut its purchases. Japan imports four million tons of corn per year for food and another 12 million tons for animal feed.