USDA Reports 25% of Nation's Seed Suppliers Have Found Contaminated Corn Seed : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

USDA Reports 25% of Nation's Seed Suppliers Have Found Contaminated Corn Seed Monday, April 23, 2001 04:36 PM ET

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- More than one quarter of the nation's seed suppliers have found corn seed contaminated with traces of a biotech variety that wasn't approved for human consumption, the government says.

The Department of Agriculture agreed to buy the contaminated corn to ensure that it doesn't get planted. So far, 77 of the nation's 281 companies have asked for the purchase contracts, USDA spokesman Kevin Herglotz said Monday.

"The important thing was to get [the buyback program] up and running, to make sure we could prevent any potentially contaminated seed from being planted," Mr. Herglotz said.

The biotech seed, named StarLink, was approved only for animal consumption because of unanswered questions about whether a special protein, called Cry9C, in the corn can cause allergic reactions in people.

Discovery of the corn in the food supply last fall forced nationwide recalls of taco shells and other products and grain shipping was disrupted as processors and handlers started testing for the grain.

Some 68 companies are still testing their seed, but most of the contamination would have been found by now, said Angela Dansby, a spokeswoman for the American Seed Trade Association. She said there have been no shortages of seed for farmers this spring.

The testing is likely to continue for several years. "The seed industry and USDA will continue to birddog this issue or situation until there is evidence that Cry9C is no longer in corn seed," she said.

The department has estimated, based on information supplied by the companies, that less than 1% of the 40 million bags of corn seed produced for planting this year contains some trace of StarLink.

USDA has estimated the buyback program will cost taxpayers about $20 million. The department is expected to pay about $35 to $50 per bag for the contaminated seed. Corn seed retails for about $75 a bag.

The National Corn Growers Association warned farmers against buying seed not certified as StarLink-free. Farmers also have been advised to avoid contaminating their corn crops with stray StarLink plants that will sprout this spring from grain left in fields from last fall's harvest.

The company that developed StarLink, Aventis CropScience, has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to grant temporary food-use approval for the corn. EPA is awaiting results of an investigation into reports of possible allergic reactions to corn products.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 23, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ