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FDA StarLink Whitewash Fails to Impress Japanese & Korean Corn Importers

FDA StarLink Whitewash Fails to Impress Japanese
& Korean Corn Importers

US report on StarLink fails to soothe Japan, Korea

By Jae Hur

TOKYO, June 14 (Reuters) - Grain importers in Japan and South Korea, the
two top U.S. corn buyers, have shrugged off a U.S. government report that
found no link between bioengineered Starlink corn and human allergy cases,
traders said on Thursday.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said on Wednesday it found no evidence
linking the unapproved genetically modified (GM) corn variety to allergic
reactions reported by dozens of American consumers last autumn.

StarLink, made by the Franco-German pharmaceutical group Aventis , was
barred by U.S. regulators for human use because of concerns it might trigger
allergic reactions such as rashes, diarrhea or breathing problems.
StarLink's key component, the Cry9c protein, protects young plants from
destructive pests.

``The announcement will not help our corn imports resume to normal,'' said a
trader with a major trading house. ``This can also not help Japan change its
view against the StarLink corn because it is not approved in the United
States for human consumption.''

In April, Japan's Health Ministry imposed new stricter rules to guard
against imports of unapproved biotech productsand the ministry began checks
for unapproved GM crops in food imports at unloading ports and in food
products on the domestic market.

The new rules established zero tolerance for imports containing unapproved
gene-altered products and required mandatory labelling for approved GM
products.

The discovery of StarLink in food products last October by a consumer group
had prompted Japan, where StarLink is not approved even for animal feed, to
cut its U.S. corn buying. It also drove importers to find alternative supply
sources.

Japan imports four million tonnes of corn for food use each year and another
12 million tonnes for animal feed use.

SEOUL SHUNS U.S. CORN


South Korea's Korea Corn Processing Industry Association has asked foreign
suppliers since late last week to replace U.S. corn with South American corn
against its previously contracted optional origin cargoes, Seoul traders
said.

The association, which imports about two million tonnes of corn a year for
human consumption, has already bought corn for October arrivals, of which
some were declared by suppliers as U.S. origin, they said. South Korea
imports another six million tonnes for animal feed per year.

``This was just to avoid the StarLink contamination problems in U.S. corn
shipments,'' said a trader with a member firm. ``But it may be hard to
change the origin because of higher premiums.''

Concern about StarLink corn has deepened after the South Korean government
detected StarLink traces in some corn imports which carried U.S. official
non-StarLink certificates early this year under an agreement between the
U.S. andKorean governments.

Traders said the U.S. government announcement on Wednesday had not changed
anything for domestic food importers in Korea as the government had asked
them not to use StarLink corn for food use, but had approved it only for
animal feed use.

A U.S. environmental group last September discovered the gene-altered corn
in taco shells, chips and other products containing corn flour triggering
the eventual recall of more than 300 U.S. food products.

Some 48 people in the United States reported experiencing allergic reactions
linked to StarLink-tainted food products between July 1 and November 30,
2000.

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