US states, Aventis into agreement regarding StarLink
the French-German biotechnology group Aventis CropScience to
compensate farmers whose corn was tainted by the company's
gene-altered StarLink variety.
On July 24, 17 US states said they have entered into a second agreement with the French-German biotechnology group Aventis CropScience to compensate farmers whose corn was tainted by the company's gene-altered StarLink variety. StarLink corn, which contains Cry9C, a unique protein designed to repel the corn borer pest, was found to have slipped into the food chain late last year, sparking a massive food recall and roiling export markets. The corn variety is not approved for human consumption in the United States because of concerns it might trigger allergic reactions. It is, however, allowed for use as animal feed. Japan, the top importer of American corn, does not allow the StarLink variety for either human consumption or animal use. Two South Korean food companies, the number two buyer of US corn, announced a tender on July 24 to buy 52,500 tons of corn for human food use but excluded the United States as a possible supplier because of concerns over StarLink. "Some StarLink corn has showed up where no one expected it, and sometimes where no one can explain it," said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, spokesman for the 17 states. An Aventis spokesperson confirmed the agreement but declined to disclose cost and other details. In January, the same 17 states and Aventis signed an agreement to compensate farmers who grew StarLink corn or whose crops were contaminated through pollen drift. Miller said the new agreement covers farmers not included in the original pact, namely those who did not buy StarLink seed, or those whose fields were beyond normal reach of pollen drift but whose corn was somehow tainted by the Cry9C protein. Steve Moline, Iowa assistant attorney general, said the agreement would benefit farmers whose corn contained the Cry9C protein but did not know how it got there. He said the contamination could have occurred through the inadvertent presence of StarLink corn seed in bags supposed to contain other varieties or through pollen drifting beyond what is considered its normal maximum reach of 200 meters. Moline said it was difficult to determine the number of farmers who would benefit from the agreement. "Because farms are so big now, it is difficult to sort all this out," he said. Farmers have filed class-action lawsuits against Aventis for financial losses they suffered due to StarLink corn amid a slowdown in exports and a decline in corn prices. The National Corn Growers Association welcomed the pact, but added that it was necessary for the government to set a "tolerance level" allowing small quantities of StarLink corn in human food. "Once the U.S. has established the tolerance, and only then would we be able to resume normal trade in corn with several countries," spokesman Tom Slunecka told Reuters.