USDA is trying to rid market of StarLink


WASHINGTON – TThe USDA, through its Commodity Credit Corporation, will purchase hybrid corn seed containing the protein Cry9C from small corn seed companies.

The program, estimated to cost between $15 and $20 million, is another step taken to ensure corn seed with the protein Cry9C is not planted this spring.

USDA will purchase the corn seed to guarantee companies not affiliated with Aventis, or licensed to sell the StarLink seed, but whose seed inadvertently contained the Cry9C protein are not adversely affected. This offer does not extend to those companies licensed by Aventis, the registrant of StarLink, to sell hybrid seed corn containing the protein.

Less than 1 percent.

In recent weeks, some seed companies reported finding isolated occurrences of extremely low levels of Cry9C in seed originally intended for sale this year. Based on aggregate information voluntarily provided by the American Seed Trade Association, of those companies reporting, it is estimated that less than 1 percent of corn seeds for 2001 planting may contain Cry9C protein.

The American Crop Protection Association welcomed USDA’s announcement. Jay Vroom, association president, said any program that lends an additional comfort level to growers using new crop biotechnology deserves the food chain’s complete support.

Major seed companies are following recommended testing procedures designed to detect Cry9C. In the event Cry9C is found, these companies will not sell the corn seed for planting and not submit requests for payment to USDA.

Verify first.

USDA encourages farmers to ask for verification that their seed has been tested before buying it.

In January, after USDA announced the recommended testing procedures for Cry9C, the National Corn Growers Association stressed seed testing through its Verify Before You Buy program.

“…growers still have two responsibilities for 2001. We still need to ask for verification that the seed we buy for planting has been tested for Cry9C, and we must control volunteer StarLink corn in 2001,” said Fred Yoder, Plain City, Ohio, farmer and chairman of the NCGA Biotechnology Working Group.

“Asking seed companies for this verification holds them accountable and shows that farmers are fulfilling our obligations to manage StarLink, too.”

Details of the purchase offer will be sent directly to seed corn companies.

The EPA will release a draft paper for public and scientific peer review examining how food processing affects levels of the StarLink protein in finished food.

Release of this paper follows up on last fall’s meeting of EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel to evaluate the available scientific information on how the wet-milling process affects levels of the StarLink protein in food products.

The draft document explains that StarLink corn, which undergoes the wet-milling process, contains essentially no residues of StarLink protein in finished human food. In contrast, food products from the dry milling process do contain protein.

Common food products from wet milling include corn oil, corn syrup, alcohol and corn starch, which account for approximately 80 percent of the food products manufactured from corn.

Risks are low.

ACPA’s Jay Vroom says consumers can be assured because the EPA does not have evidence that food containing StarLink corn will cause any allergic reaction in people, and the agency believes the risks, if any, are extremely low.

Copies of the draft paper are available at The comment period will be open for 30 days.


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