Fair Use Statement
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (October 26, 2000)
Temporary Approval Sought For
Suspect Biotech Corn
No danger of allergic reaction,
company says (RIGHT!!)
Marc Kaufman, Washington Post
Thursday, October 26, 2000
Washington -- The company that makes
genetically engineered corn, which is causing
widespread problems in the nation's corn supply,
asked the federal government yesterday to
temporarily approve the grain for human
Aventis CropScience of Research Triangle Park,
N.C., asked the Environmental Protection Agency
to allow its StarLink corn in human food products,
saying new evidence strengthens its case that the
grain is safe.
New tests and a risk assessment concluded that
consumer exposure to foods containing the corn is,
even under worst-case scenarios, ``many thousands
of times smaller than that required to sensitize
individuals and lead to a later allergic reaction,'' the
company said in a statement.
EPA officials said that they understood the
``urgency'' of the company's request and would
review the information, but that no quick decision
should be expected. ``We will look at the new
information provided by industry and will follow a
rigorous process of scientific and public review,''
said W. Michael McCabe, deputy administrator of
The corn, which is engineered with a protein
designed to control pests, was approved only for
animal consumption because of concerns it may
trigger dangerous allergic reactions in people. But
the corn apparently was inadvertently mixed with
conventional corn around the country. That has
triggered costly recalls of taco shells and widening
concerns that remaining corn supplies may be
difficult to sell.
Aventis also presented yesterday what it called new
and reassuring information about the speed at which
the protein breaks down in the human stomach.
Previous research had suggested the protein broke
down slowly, making it more likely to trigger allergic
The Aventis request comes as concern is growing
that StarLink corn has illegally made it not only into
the American food supply but also into products
Yesterday in Japan, the Consumers Union
organization said it had detected the genetically
engineered corn in snack foods and animal feed. Its
presence there would compound the messy
StarLink situation because genetically engineered
corn is not allowed to be exported, just as it is not
allowed in human food.
The corn also was found in another taco product
yesterday -- Western Family brand taco shells --
that may be distributed in Japan and elsewhere
around the Pacific Rim, a U.S. consumer group
announced. Genetically Engineered Food Alert said
it had found the corn in taco shells in Eugene, Ore.
Western Family Foods officials in Tigard, Ore., said
yesterday that the tacos, produced by Mission
Foods, had been recalled from its 3,500 stores
earlier this month. But officials did not know
whether the store-brand tacos had been sold
A coalition critical of biotechnology sent a letter to
President Clinton on Tuesday urging him to make
sure the EPA does not give StarLink clearance for
``The industry must not now be rewarded for
violating the law by an after-the-fact approval of a
potentially dangerous product,'' the letter said.
Other critics said the Aventis request was motivated
more by a desire to avoid legal liability than by
concern about consumer health.
Aventis has returned its EPA license to sell more
StarLink, so approval for human use would only be
temporary, to cover corn already in the food
In the meantime, the company and the Department
of Agriculture are trying to buy back the entire
StarLink crop from growers and to identify and
retrieve the 9 million bushels that may be entering
the human food supply.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle Page A6
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