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Looking down the road ...
Consumers Take on Starlink

(6 November - Cropchoice News) -- The announcement that USDA and the Japanese government have come to an agreement on a testing protocol for Starlink is good news to grain handlers and producers. US corn exports to Japan can resume, although not without some of the additional costs of testing being passed on and risk of serious credibility losses if any of the banned corn still slips through. The Starlink story will keep going - there was another recall in the west over the weekend - but pundits and pollsters are beginning to identify possible longer term effects of the fiasco.

An important aspect to monitor is American consumer reaction. While the long-term jury isn't in yet, recent reports indicate that failure to segregate Starlink has hurt American agriculture's image with domestic consumers.

A poll published Friday by Reuters details how a cross-section of Americans have reacted to the Starlink story. In the poll, over half of 1210 adults surveyed (54.4%) last week said that the Starlink recall concerned them "because it raises questions about our food supply". By way of comparison, just less than a quarter of those surveyed (24.9%) shrugged the incident off, and said it did not concern them.

Of those that had an opinion about farmers planting GMO crops, more consumers that agreed that "Farmers should be allowed to plant gene-modified crops" than those that thought they should be banned; but barely: Overall, 39.2% thought GMOs should keep being planted, while exactly a third, 33.3% said they favored not planting any more GMOs. On this count there was a definitely gender divide in the Reuters/Zogby poll: More men support GMOs than women.

The strongest opposition to planting GMOs comes from the 30-49 year old age group, while the 50-64 year old age group has the biggest concern about the questions Starlink raises about the American food supply.

Ultimately, another impact may be that Starlink gives a boost to other corn exporters. Hard figures have not been published; but Japanese companies have reportedly been buying up exportable corn in both Argentina and South Africa. Argentina is also reportedly taking advantage of the Starlink confusion in Europe, where Argentina is vying for a major contract from Spain.

Source: Reuters, Agweb.com