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Global Green Groups Tell Bush--Stop Exporting StarLink Corn

Global green groups urge Bush to halt bio-corn exports

WASHINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) - About 100 consumer and green groups around
the world have urged President George W. Bush to halt exports of U.S. corn
and food aid that may be contaminated with an unapproved bioengineered
variety of corn.

A letter, signed by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and other groups in
Australia, Germany, India, Ghana, Bangladesh and Brazil, said the United
States should block further exports that may contain traces of StarLink
corn.

Nineteen Japanese groups also signed the letter, reflecting the ongoing
concerns of Japanese importers. Japan, the single biggest buyer of U.S.
corn, briefly halted its purchases last autumn after the StarLink
contamination was found.

More than 300 U.S. snack foods, taco shells, and other products containing
corn flour were recalled last October because of StarLink contamination.

``The United States should not be exporting genetically contaminated food to
other countries,'' said Ricardo Navarro, chairman of Friends of the Earth
International and a resident of El Salvador. ``If it is not approved for
people to eat in the U.S. then it should not be sent elsewhere.''

StarLink, a variety engineered to repel destructive pests, was approved by
the Environmental Protection Agency in 1998 for use only as animal feed. EPA
scientists have expressed lingering concerns that the corn variety might
trigger allergic reactions such as rashes, diarrhea or breathing problems in
a small number of consumers.

Last month StarLink maker Aventis SA announced that the contamination was
much broader than first thought.

In addition to the 70 million bushels of corn from the 2000 harvest that was
contaminated with small amounts of StarLink, Aventis said last month that
another 430 million bushels still in storage from the 1999 crop was also
tainted.

The company, which says its studies show the corn is completely safe for
humans to eat, has asked the EPA to grant a four-year approval of StarLink.
That would give the corn time to work its way through food processing
plants, grocery stores and consumer pantries, Aventis said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is investigating some 48 reports of
allergic reactions from consumers who believe their symptoms were linked to
StarLink food products.

The letter to Bush also expressed concern that some U.S. food aid to poor
countries may include contaminated corn.

``We are strongly opposed to any shipment of StarLink as food aid. It is
outrageous to think that the U.S. may be using food aid as a back door
market for products like StarLink,'' said Karin Nansen with the Friends of
the Earth programin Uruguay.

U.S. Agriculture Department officials said last November that food aid
shipments would not include any StarLink corn. Once tested and found
contaminated, corn is strictly segregated in sealed bins, rain cars or
barges and sent to livestock feedlots or to industrial plants for making
ethanol, according to USDA officials.

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