Search For StarLink Corn

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

There have been many reports in the American media about a product called StarLink corn. StarLink corn is the only genetically-engineered crop grown in the United States that is not approved for human use.

Recent reports say the corn has entered the American food supply. They say concern is growing that it also has been found in food products sold in other countries.

A company called Aventis CropScience developed StarLink corn. Scientists developed the corn by a process of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is the technology of changing the genes of living things. The changed gene directs the plant or other organism to do things it normally does not do.

StarLink is among several kinds of genetically-engineered corn designed to resist insects. Two years ago, the American Environmental Protection Agency approved StarLink corn as food for animals. However, E-P-A officials expressed concern that StarLink could cause allergic reactions in people.

Groups opposed to genetic engineering have been testing food products for StarLink. In September, there were reports that StarLink was found in food for humans. The tests showed it was present in some corn products. The makers of the corn products ordered their return. Two other companies were forced to temporarily suspend production of their food products to test for StarLink.

Last month, an organization in Japan reported that it had found StarLink corn in food for humans and animals. The Japanese Health Ministry urged the American government to take action to halt exports of food products containing StarLink.

American health officials have said that the corn does not cause an immediate threat to human health. However, they demanded that it be removed from the food supply because it is not approved for that use.

Aventis says it will cooperate in a program to guarantee that the StarLink harvest this year will not enter the food supply. The company agreed to purchase StarLink corn from farmers who grew the crops.

Aventis also has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily permit the use of StarLink in human food products. E-P-A officials agreed to study the request. However, no quick decision is expected.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English