Japan Rejects Cargo of StarLink-Tainted Corn

Report of Rejection of Contaminated Corn by Japan Sends Shockwaves through
Grain & Biotech Industry

Tuesday October 24, 4:37 am Eastern Time
Talk of biotech corn in U.S. cargo rattles Japan
By Jae Hur

TOKYO, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Concerns are growing among Japanese importers
over talk that a cargo of U.S. corn was rejected because it contained
StarLink, a bio-engineered variety not approved for human consumption,
trade sources said on Tuesday.

``There's talk that a local trade house declined to accept a 55,000-tonne
U.S. corn cargo as StarLink corn had been found in the shipment before it
left for Japan,'' said a senior industry source, who asked not to be named.

If the incident is confirmed it would be the first time the genetically
modified (GM) variety had been found in food corn sent to Japan from the
United States, he said.

Stores and supermarkets in the United States have removed items found to
contain StarLink from their shelves, and production lines have been
disrupted at food processors as worries about the gene-altered corn spread.

StarLink, made by Aventis SA , was approved by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency for use only as an animal feed because of unanswered
questions about whether it could affect people with allergies.

Its discovery in corn shipments would send shock waves through importers in
Japan as well as other Asian countries such as South Korea and Taiwan,
traders said.

``There could be other cargo cancellations by major Asian importing
countries if it proved true,'' said another trader.

Japan imports 15-16 million tonnes of corn per year for food and feed,
mostly from the United States, and South Korea buys about eight million


A Japanese Health Ministry official said there have been no reports from
domestic food importers that they had found StarLink in cargoes. It is not
approved in Japan even for animal feed.

A series of food recalls in the United States has made Japanese importers
nervous despite reassurances by U.S. industry groups. Officials from the
U.S. Grains Council and the National Corn Growers Association visited Tokyo
in late September to detail plans to channel StarLink into approved markets
and keep it out of shipments to Japan.

The U.S. EPA will not grant temporary approval to allow StarLink in human
food despite a growing number of food industry recalls and production line
disruptions, U.S. government sources told Reuters on Monday.

U.S. regulators are now investigating how some of the corn made its way
into taco shells, which have been recalled by several grocery stores.
Several companies such as ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG - news) and Kellogg Co.
(NYSE:K - news) have been forced to suspend operations at plants to test
for StarLink.

Last Friday, Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest poultry producer, said
it had stopped buying the corn.

The Tyson move was the latest in a series of actions in the food industry
since Kraft Foods, a unit of Philip Morris Cos. Inc. (NYSE:MO - news) late
last month voluntarily recalled Taco Bell brand taco shells after they were
found to contain StarLink.

The food recall has raised concerns about the United States' ability to
comply with Japanese legislation to be implemented from next April that
will set zero tolerance for imports of unapproved agricultural products,
traders said. Japan does not import taco shells.

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