John Wichtrich, a top executive from Aventis, the companythat manufactures genetically-modified StarLink corn, saysthe world’s food supply will never be able to get rid of theGM corn. Since StarLink contamination is inevitable,Wichtrich is calling for a change in federal regulations toallow StarLink into human food.
437 million additional bushels of StarLink have been foundin storage, so there is more available than previouslythought and Wichtrich thinks it may as well be used as food.Also, StarLink has widely contaminated the U.S. and Mexicancorn supply, so Wichtrich feels there?s no reason for theEPA to continue to restrict its use. The GM corn is nowapproved only for animal feed and industrial products suchas ethanol.
But Larry Bohlen of Friends of the Earth doesn?t thinkAventis should be rewarded for contaminating our crops.?Aventis broke the promise of biotechnology,” he says. “Theywere supposed to improve the quality of our food, not causeso many problems and introduce so much risk?Aventis isasking the government to legalize genetic pollution.”
Wichtrich has apologized to the North American MillersAssociation for the StarLink contamination. About 50 millionbushels of StarLink corn were grown during 2000, andStarlink was accidentally mixed into another 20 millionbushels of regular corn.
Last fall, StarLink corn was discovered in Kraft taco shellsat a Maryland grocery store, leading to a recall of almost300 food products, including some packaged food sold inhealth food stores. Wichtrich says it?s too late to turnback: “No matter how diligent our collective efforts are, wecan never get to, or guarantee, zero.?
The EPA now has a zero-tolerance policy, meaning that anyamount of the StarLink corn in the U.S. food supply is aviolation. One kernel of StarLink in a sample of 2,400kernels would cause the entire load to be rejected. Sincecorn pollen easily spreads to nearby fields, this penalizesmany farmers who did not intend to grow GM corn.
Until the Centers for Disease Control finishes its study, noone knows for sure whether or not StarLink causes allergicreactions. However, if some people are allergic to GM corn,the numbers are small, or else health statistics wouldalready reveal the problem. The CDC is investigating theclaims of 44 people who say they got sick after eating cornproducts.
Wichtrich says only dry-milled corn products, made from cornmeal, grits and flour, are in danger of being contaminated.Wet milling, which produces corn syrup and oil, kills the GMprotein. Aventis has spent tens of millions of dollarstrying to fix the contamination problem. 384 of the morethan 340,000 acres of StarLink corn are in North Carolina.
Wichtrich admits the company?s culpability but feelsStarLink is safe to eat. He says, ?This is a pivotal momentin the history of biotechnology.”
We?ve long held that, while certain types of GM crops mayprove to be harmful, the main objection to widespread GMfarming is that it eliminates the existence of the originalcrop. If some disaster happens to the GM variety in thefuture, we will have nothing to fall back on. A worldwithout the existence of corn, for instance, would meanstarvation for millions of people.
How safe are GM foods? Find out from ?Eating in the Dark? byKathleen Hart,click here.
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