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Aventis Points a Finger at Farmers

(4 October - Cropchoice News) -- In a letter to growers published today, Starlink corn maker Aventis suggests that farmers could be to blame for the contamination fiasco that led to the taco shell recall and, possibly, more products currently being tested. The letter offers to buy all Starlink corn in the field or in on-farm storage. The Starlink buyout hopes to capture 35-40 million of the 45 million plus bushels being harvested this year, since estimates are that 10-20% may have already left the farm.

The Aventis grower letter, obtained and published without comment by Pro Farmers, orders Starlink growers to call an Aventis 800 number by midnight this Friday (Oct 6) to tell the company how they intend to dispose of their crop. If growers sell to Aventis' buyout program (through the CCC), the company is paying a premium of 25 cents a bushel for Starlink and buffer corn so it can dispose of the biotech variety in non-food uses.

The letter suggests farmers might be blamed for the recall. While it possible that a single or very small number of farmers knowingly sent Starlink into food channels, the ongoing federal investigation into contamination has released no such evidence. Most, including industry organizations, look on the recall as primarily the result of a risky decision by Aventis to market a corn variety unapproved fo human consumption.

After first incorrectly attacking Genetic ID, the company which initially identified the contamination, Aventis is now turning its sights to farmers. The letter begins with the suggestion that the source of the Starlink controversy are farmers who are improperly selling Starlink. Aventis Cropscience President Maurice Delage writes:

"As you are aware from the StarLink (TM) Stewardship Program, StarLink corn is not approved for use in food for human consumption or for the export market. Concerns have been raised concerning the way in which StarLink corn is being sold. In order to ensure that this corn is properly sold, Aventis CropScience has reached an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase directly from you all StarLink corn..."

Delage's comments might be interpreted to also suggest that elevators have mishandled Starlink. But in the context of an emergency letter to growers providing urgent instructions to call a 800 number to inform Aventis of how they will dispose of Starlink, the company clearly feels some of its customers may be violating grower agreements.

To reduce the number of bushels the CCC and Aventis will have to manage, the company is encouraging farmers to use Starlink for on-farm feed purposes and will still pay the 25 cent a bushel premium even if the corn is fed to the grower's own livestock. Corn that is purchased under the program will be marked at elevators with confetti. Aventis will pay trucking costs.

Source: Aventis, Pro Farmers