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Illegal StarLink™ GM Corn Resurfaces in Saudi Arabian

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

A new study published in the journal Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology titled, "Prevalence of Genetically Modified Rice, Maize, and Soy in Saudi Food Products," indicates there is widespread contamination of the Saudi Arabian food supply with GM ingredients, including the highly controversial StarLink™ maize, a variety of Bt corn patented by Aventis CropScience (acquired by Bayer AG in 2002). StarLink™ maize was approved for domestic animal feed and industrial use in the US in 1998, but was segregated from human consumption due to safety concerns related to its potential allergenicity.    

In September 2000, residues of StarLink™ maize were detected in taco shells (the so-called Taco Bell GMO recall), indicating that it had entered the human food supply. What followed was the first-ever recall of a genetically modified food, and subsequent widespread disruption of the corn markets in 2000 and 2001, as well as increasing distrust by the public of the biotech industry.  Aventis voluntarily withdrew its registration for StarLink™ maize varieties of corn in October 2000,and made promises it would no longer be produced. However, in 2005, aid sent by the Un World Food Programme and the US to Central American nations was found to be highly contaminated with Starlink corn, with 80% of the 50 samples tested coming back positive for StarLink™ maize, compelling the nations of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador  to refuse the aid. This incident underscored the toothless nature of regulation within the US, and the possibility that StarLink™ maize continued to enter the human food supply domestically and abroad unchecked.

In 2005, Saudi Arabia approved the import of GM food, but the decision explicitly banned the imports and agricultural use of genetically modified animals and their byproducts, GM seeds, dates and decorative plants. Furthermore, products containing GM material were required to be labeled clearly in both Arabic and English and carry official certification that they are approved for human consumption in their country of origin.   


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