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StarLink Contaminates Sweet Corn & Popcorn

StarLink protein found in other crops
BY ART HOVEY Lincoln Journal Star (Nebraska)
March 29, 2001
The StarLink circle remains unbroken.

Genetically modified StarLink corn that was supposed to be kept out of human
food channels has already been linked to taco shells, corn chips and other
common grocery store purchases. Now its telltale protein, still not ruled
out as a cause of allergy attacks, is showing up in Nebraska-grown sweet
corn and popcorn.

Larry Prentice, quality-control manager for the Nebraska Crop Improvement
Association in Lincoln, confirms "some contamination showing up from
StarLink . . . in nonconventional field corn. It's showing up in things like
popcorn and sweet corn."

Frank Morrison of Clearwater just found out Monday from a Swedish popcorn
buyer that genetically modified yellow corn owned by another farmer in the
Clearwater area may have cross-pollinated with Morrison Farms popcorn acres.

Morrison - no relation to the former governor and Lincoln resident of the
same name - said Tuesday that he has not had any samples test positive for
StarLink so far, and he's reasonably confident that more testing would show
the latest contamination problem was not StarLink either.

"We will know more in a few days as to what this comes back as exactly."

But there are also dozens of other corn varieties not approved for sale in
Europe that have been endowed with insect resistance, pesticide tolerance or
some other special trait in U.S. laboratory settings. And Morrison said
worries about windblown pollen from genetically modified corn - also known
as GMOs, or genetically modified organisms - cross-pollinating with corn
meant for human use are "driving us crazy."

"We do everything we can to keep popcorn away from GMO fields," Morrison
said. "But there are also other people who grow for us, and you just never
know how strong the winds will blow or from what direction."

Fellow popcorn producer Dave Vetter of Grain Place Foods near Aurora fears
that wind can push GMO pollen three-quarters of a mile or more into crops
meant for GMO-averse buyers and for human consumption overseas.

His crops, too, have been StarLink-free so far, and his chances for staying
that way have improved, because North Carolina-based Aventis CropScience has
voluntarily pulled the product off the market. But he has not been free of
other types of GMO contamination.

"We have been making a special effort on that front for the last three
years. We failed last year, and we had definite cross-pollination."

Even when he avoids such mishaps, Vetter must pay to test his product so he
can assure buyers it is GMO-free. In one case he spent $1,500 on testing for
a $4,000 sale.

"There's no future in that," he said.

Vegetable grower John Ellis of Libby Creek Farms near York said he can't
afford to do GMO testing on the few acres of sweet corn he grows for sale to
customers at Lincoln's Farmers Market and to annual subscription buyers.

Added Ellis: "I'm concerned about seeds being left in the field even from
last year's production that come up and volunteer and produce this year. So
we could have StarLink pollen in the growing system yet for years to come."
Art Hovey can be reached at or 473-7241.

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