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After Uncertainty, Aventis Says it Will Buy Commingled Starlink

(20 October - Cropchoice News) -- Aventis now says it will buy the contents of bins that contain a mix of Starlink and other varieties, according to the Washington Post. Previously, the company was not buying Starlink that had been commingled in storage, except buffer zone corn. Public pressure may have led to the decision - the restrictions on the buyback policy had been mentioned in major newspaper stories interviewing upset growers.

Many of the 2-3,000 growers who planted Starlink this year say they never received paperwork indicating it could not be used for human food uses. According to Kenneth Root of Agritalk Radio, when his program discussed Starlink, "The farmers calling in, to a man, said they had never been told it wasn't fit for human consumption."

As a result, an unknown amount of Starlink is already in the human food chain, leading to mill closures above and beyond the Texas miller that was identified as the source of the original taco shell contamination. A ConAgra mill in Kansas has been out of commission since October 11th while operators clean and inspect it.

Some growers who didn't receive the information on Starlink growing restrictions stored harvests of the Aventis variety with others. Fred Rosenberger, a Kentucky grower, harvested only 8,000 bushels of Starlink; but mixed it with 42,000 bushels of another variety in a bin, leaving Rosenburger with a 50,000 bushel problem.

Aventis says it is doing everything it can to track down all Starlink. Spokesman Rick Rountree says "Obviously, we're going to do everything we can to try and track it down. With 100 percent absolute certainty it's hard to know." But Tom Jennings from the Illinois Department of Agriculture suggested to the Associated Press that Avenits might not have everyone's cooperation: "You have a lot of guys who are so mad they don't want to deal with USDA or Aventis, and they don't know what they're going to do about those farmers."

Estimates on the size and cost of the buyback keep getting bigger. Aventis' estimate of Starlink planted this year has gone up over 15% to roughly 350,000 acres. The company is now buying that corn, other varieties planted with 660 feet of it, and commingled corn from bins and elevators. USDA and Aventis now estimate the total cost will exceed $100 million.

Source: AP, Washington Post, New York Times