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Starlink Bites the Dust

(26 September - Cropchoice News) -- The Taco Wars claimed another victim today when Aventis announced that it was halting sales of Starlink corn hybrids for 2001. According to Aventis, which sells Starlink as "the next generation of Bt corn", the sales stoppage "is aimed at restoring public confidence in our company’s efforts to assure that StarLink corn grain does not enter food channels." Starlink was planted on over 300,000 acres this year.

It is unclear how Aventis will handle farmers who have already ordered or might have 2001 contracts that involve Starlink seed. So far the company has only implemented a "stop sale" of the varieties. Aventis has also announced that it will take steps to make sure the 2000 harvest of Starlink corn does not get into the human food chain, although it has yet to describe this process, and what impact it will have on farmers, in detail.

Representatives at Aventis' US offices in North Carolina were unavailable to provide more information on either issue.

Since multiple genetic tests recently confimed that the corn, which is not approved for human consumption, found its way into supermarket shelves, tens of millions of Taco Bell store brand and restaurant taco shells have been recalled or replaced with new product. More recalls may follow. Azteca Milling, the Texas-based company which provided corn for the shells, has not publicly disclosed information about its other clients, who may also be selling contaminated corn products in the US and possibly Mexico. No other Azteca buyers have identified themselves publicly.

The text of Aventis' statement follows:

September 26, 2000
Aventis CropScience Taking Immediate Action to Assure Confidence in StarLinkTM Corn Distribution

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- Aventis CropScience today said it has instructed its seed distributors to stop sales of StarLink corn hybrids for the 2001 growing season. The company said sales will not resume until the company receives a food clearance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The stop sale is aimed at restoring public confidence in our company’s efforts to assure that StarLink™ corn grain does not enter food channels. StarLink corn is approved for use only in domestic animal feed and non-food industrial uses.

Our company is in active discussions with federal regulatory agencies to address issues related to the 2000 harvest for StarLink corn. Our company will announce as soon as possible an enhanced program in conjunction with StarLink growers to verify that 2000 StarLink harvests will be delivered only into proper non-food channels.

Aventis CropScience strongly supports the release of protein test kits by Strategic Diagnostics Inc. for use with corn grain. While the number of these kits is limited at this time, they will be made available immediately to grain delivery locations to verify that StarLink grain remains in proper channels. These test kits are not suited, however, for testing of processed food products. Further information is available from Strategic Diagnostics Inc. at (800) 544-8881.

In StarLink, the Cry9C protein – the element of regulatory attention -- has not been detected in any of the tests run to date on taco shells. We will continue to work with regulatory agencies and food companies until this issue has been resolved.