Titel: Altered Corn Surfaced Earlier
Datum: 4 september 2001
Bron: New York Times

Altered Corn Surfaced Earlier


The government and the company that developed genetically modified
StarLink corn had at least some indication that the corn might be
entering the human food supply more than half a year before
environmental advocates discovered it in taco shells, according to a
government document.

StarLink was approved for use as animal feed but not for human
consumption because of concern it might cause allergic reactions. But
last September, Friends of the Earth found traces of the corn in taco
shells. That, and discoveries in other foods, set off food recalls and
depressed American corn exports.

But in a survey conducted in December 1999, nine months before the taco
shell discovery, 2 of 230 farmers growing StarLink reported that they
had sold the corn for food use or for export while another 12.6 percent
said they did not know what happened to the corn after they had sold it.
The corn was not supposed to be exported because it had not been
approved in Europe and Japan.

The survey was commissioned by Aventis CropScience, the crop's
developer, which sent the results to the Environmental Protection Agency
in a report dated Jan. 27, 2000. Parts of the Aventis (news/quote)
report were obtained from the environmental agency under a freedom of
information request by the Center for Food Safety, a Washington group
critical of genetically engineered foods.

Critics of biotechnology said the incident showed the looseness of the
E.P.A.'s regulation. "It had a red flag that its approval process was
not working," said Joseph Mendelson III, legal director of the Center
for Food Safety. "Clearly they didn't do anything here until they became
embarrassed." An E.P.A. spokesman said the agency was looking into the

An Aventis official said the company was "not pleased with how we
responded" to the grower survey. This executive said that since the
survey, done by an outside market research firm, was anonymous, it was
impossible to identify the farmers who were selling their corn for
improper uses. In general, Aventis officials have been speaking to
reporters only on the condition that they not be identified.

The E.P.A. is now considering whether to renew approvals for the
so-called BT crops - genetically modified corn and cotton that contain a
bacterial gene that produces a toxin that kills pests. Mr. Mendelson
said that the StarLink incident had also raised doubts about whether
regulations concerning these crops - like the requirement aimed to
prevent overplanting so that pests do not become resistant to the toxin
- would be adequately enforced.

The report from Aventis to the E.P.A. said that the program to restrict
StarLink to authorized uses was "highly effective."

The survey questioned 8 percent of the growers who had signed agreements
with the seed company. But after the situation with StarLink became
public, many farmers said they had not signed such agreements or were
unaware of any restrictions.

When StarLink was found in the taco shells last September, neither the
environmental agency nor Aventis indicated that they had had any inkling
it would happen.

"If there has been a violation of our licensing process, then we would
have a very great concern," Stephen Johnson, assistant administrator for
the E.P.A., was quoted as saying by The Washington Post (news/quote),
which reported the taco shell discovery. Margaret Gadsby, a spokeswoman
for Aventis, was quoted as saying, "We have difficulty imagining how our
corn could end up in the human food supply."

There has been as yet no proof that StarLink causes allergies.
Government tests did not detect evidence of allergies in 17 people who
complained of them after eating food they thought contained StarLink.

But Keith Finger, a Florida optometrist who was one of those 17 people,
yesterday released a letter written to him by his allergist saying that
he "most likely" has an allergy to StarLink. The allergist, Norman
Wasserman of Vero Beach, Fla., said in the letter that Dr. Finger had a
reaction to an extract of StarLink corn in a skin prick test. Dr. Finger
is suing Aventis and the company that made the food he says caused the