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Preview / WEEK OF JULY 16-22

Aventis to Assure EPA Panel of StarLink Safety

July 16, 2001|Bloomberg News

Aventis will tell a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency panel this week that trace amounts of genetically engineered StarLink corn, which has been pulled from the market, don't endanger the U.S. food supply.

StarLink, sold in the U.S. for three years, was banned for human consumption because of its potential for causing allergic reactions in humans. When the corn, which was approved for livestock feed and industrial uses, contaminated food products and led to a recall, Aventis stopped selling the corn and agreed to buy back the 2000 crop from farmers.

Aventis, a Strasbourg, France-based drug and crop chemicals maker, wants the panel of doctors and allergy experts meeting in Arlington, Va., to tell the EPA that minute amounts of the corn in food don't pose a health risk. That may avert recalls such as the one that pulled more than 300 corn products from the market last year.

The EPA is the primary regulator of StarLink because the agency classifies it as a pesticide. StarLink contains a transplanted gene that acts as a natural insecticide and is designed to kill the European corn borer, which causes millions of dollars in crop damage annually in the U.S.

The EPA will make a determination based on recommendations of its expert panel.

Aventis declined to comment.

In December, the EPA panel found a "medium likelihood" that StarLink could cause allergic reactions and that children might be more sensitive to the corn than adults. The panel also found that there was a "low probability" of allergic reactions from trace amounts of the corn.

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