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ABC National News on Continuing StarLink Corn Scandal

ABC News
World News Tonight (6:30 PM ET)
November 28, 2000, Tuesday

Hardships caused by Genetically-Altered corn, StarLink, to Iowa Farmers

PETER JENNINGS
BOB JAMIESON

PETER JENNINGS, anchor:
We're going to take A CLOSER LOOK at corn tonight, genetically-engineered
corn causing hardship. In Washington today, environmental activists from
Greenpeace showed up at a government hearing on whether to approve a
genetically-altered corn, called StarLink, for human consumption.
Greenpeace is not in favor and we have reported before on the state of
alarm, justified or not, when StarLink showed up in food products. The corn
has now turned up in US-corn sold to Japan and the Japanese have stopped
importing it. In many cases, the amount of StarLink is fairly small. But in
some cases, a tiny amount is contaminating a larger amount of acceptable
corn and it is driving farmers in Iowa crazy. In Iowa, StarLink corn
represented 1 percent of the total crop, only 1 percent. It has tainted 50
percent of the harvest. Here's ABC's Bob Jamieson.

BOB JAMIESON reporting:
(VO) Iowa's harvest was almost complete when farmers like Gene Turner
discovered StarLink had contaminated other corn they had planted.

Mr. GENE TURNER:
We thought these buffer strips was--be enough to separate the different corns.

JAMIESON: (VO) Even though Turner planted StarLink 200 feet away from his
regular corn, it still contaminated his entire crop.

Mr. TURNER: I think the whole system failed, because I don't think anybody
was ready for this.

JAMIESON: (VO) StarLink was engineered by Aventis CropScience to be toxic
to insects, which means farmers save money on insecticides. It was approved
for animal feed but not human consumption because of concerns it might
cause allergic reactions.

Mr. DON KARWAL: It's just over the hill here.

JAMIESON: (VO) Don Karwal didn't plant any StarLink, but pollen from a
neighbor's field contaminated part of his crop. He's left with 5,000
bushels of corn he can't sell.

Mr. KARWAL: Well, I don't know if it's a catastrophe, but it's getting
there in a hurry.

JAMIESON: (VO) Karwal's neighbor who planted the StarLink is John Klindt.
His entire crop was contaminated.

Mr. JOHN KLINDT: You can't see the difference, I mean, there's no
difference.

JAMIESON: (VO) Klindt says Aventis never warned him to be careful where he
planted StarLink.

Mr. KLINDT: The restrictions, they really didn't say much on that.

JAMIESON: Nobody told you that your corn might contaminate Don Karwal's?

Mr. KLINDT: No, no, that was not mentioned.

JAMIESON: (VO) But it got worse. Farmers who didn't know their crop was
contaminated sold it to grain elevators. There, much of it was mixed with
non-StarLink corn. Now, officials believe half of Iowa's crop is
contaminated and food processors won't buy it.

(OC) Iowa agriculture officials say the problem is so big they cannot even
estimate what this will cost farmers and grain elevator operators, but they
do think they know who is to blame.

Mr. TOM MILLER: Aventis has to step up and take care of this problem.

JAMIESON: (VO) Iowa's Attorney General Tom Miller leads 16 states pressing
the company to compensate farmers and elevator operators. He argues Aventis
didn't sufficiently warn farmers of the special requirements for growing
and handling StarLink.

Mr. MILLER: And Aventis never should have marketed it.

JAMIESON: Was this irresponsible of Aventis?

Mr. MILLER: I think it was irresponsible of Aventis. It looks like they
wanted to sell it too badly.

JAMIESON: It's possible you don't know the full extent of this yet.

Professor ROGER GINDER (Iowa State University Economist): I think, yeah.
It's quite probable, we don't.

JAMIESON: (VO) In Iowa, they don't know what will happen to the millions of
bushels of corn stored here. But they do know that no one will plant
StarLink again any time soon. Bob Jamieson, ABC News, Prairie City,
Iowa.

JENNINGS: Today, one of Aventis' competitors, Monsanto, said it will
restrict sales of one genetically-altered corn that it produces and delay
selling another

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