AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
* Benefits of modern agriculture
* Gene genie bottled again
* Editorial comment: The pressure on pressure groups
* Limits of Growth
* Farmers Embracing Modified Crops
* Column: 'Harmless' Can't Be Proven, Eco-Activists Attempt To Derail
* Monsanto Executive Applauds Farmers As Environmentalists
* Aventis To Assure EPA Panel Of StarLink Safety
Benefits of modern agriculture
July 14, 2001
By Dennis T. Avery of the Hudson Institute
CHURCHVILLE, Va.--Every farmer who's ever complained about modern
agriculture being trashed by the media should get a tape of ABC reporter
John Stossel's recent television special "Tampering with Nature."
Stossel spent an hour of national network time laying out the politically
incorrect truth on high-yield farming, biotech crops and global warming.
He kicked off the show by saying, "Being at one with nature means running
around naked and hungry, maybe killing a rabbit with a rock...and dying
young." He noted that the Indians in Washington's Potomac Valley lived an
average of 21 years.
"We never had it so good because we are tampering with nature," Stossel
added. "Millions of us are not starving to death only because we tamper
with the land reshaping it, bringing water to it, putting chemical
fertilizer on it."
To drive home the point, Stossel took us to a reenactment of the Pilgrims'
first Thanksgiving. He noted that half of the Pilgrims who landed at
Plymouth Rock died the first year, mostly of hunger and exposure. Most of
the Jamestown colonists also died during their first year or two in the
Stossel also took us to a lush tropical valley in Hawaii now nearly
deserted because growing taro for food takes long hours of backbreaking
work in mud up to your knees. The farmer Stossel interviewed said his son
moved to California.
Thanks to modern farming, said Stossel, America not only has abundant
food, but also has just about as much forest today as in 1920. "Technology
allows farmers to feed us on less land, so millions of acres that were
farmland are now forest again. About one-third of America is forest
because of the very technology and chemistry that Greenpeace criticizes."
Patrick Moore, a Greenpeace founder, told Stossel the environmental
movement has been hijacked by people who don't care much about ecology. He
also told Stossel how Greenpeace gets scary numbers on forest decline:
"Every time a tree is cut, they subtract it, but they never add the ones
that grow back."
Moore said he was less worried about genetically modified foods than about
an environmental movement that is "anti-science, anti-reason and is
scaring people about their...food when there isn't one shred of evidence
that genetically modified foods have had a single negative health impact."
Stossel showed African famine victims, and told us: "In Africa, many
scientists are angry that well-fed activists want (biotechnology)
stopped." One of the Africans ironically labeled the rich-country
activists "forces of superstition and ignorance."
Stossel also tackled global warming. He showed us Robert Kennedy Jr.
ranting to an activist rally in Washington, "This is Armageddon; this is
the last battle. We all know that global warming is happening. All the
mainstream scientists in the world know that global warming is happening."
Then Stossel interviewed four prominent, reputable scientists--professors
from Harvard, MIT, University of Virginia and the guy who monitors earth's
temperature for NASA.
All four are members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that
has gained so much publicity by predicting horrendous global warming. All
four doubt that human activity is warming the planet. Stossel then noted
that 17,000 other scientists have signed a petition denying that there is
evidence that human activity is warming the planet.
Kennedy's scientific consensus on global warming does not exist, but it
should be an urgent issue for First World farmers. The Kyoto Protocol
would impose heavy added costs on First World farmers, handing the world's
farm export markets to countries like Argentina and Turkey.
Stossel showed us profoundly disturbing interviews with kids. One little
girl said, "The more you breathe the air, the more you get sick." A little
boy said that because of global warming, there wouldn't be any air to
breathe and people would become extinct.
Stossel asked a panel of primary-schoolers whether America's air and water
were getting more polluted. The kids loudly agreed that they were.
When Stossel told the kids that Environmental Protection Agency monitoring
shows the air and water getting rapidly cleaner, they shouted "No!" One
little boy yelled "They lie!"
A pretty young woman from Green Power said she gives "nonpartisan" school
presentations about the dangers to wildlife of oil drilling in the Arctic.
Stossel asked if she tells the kids that caribou herds have increased
fivefold around Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field. She said she was unaware
of that critically important fact.
The activists did lots of singing, dancing, chanting and asserting, but
Stossel said he'd like them better if they told the truth.
I take some small credit for the Stossel special. We met at a 4-H Club
conference in St. Louis about eight years ago, and I've been sending him
stuff on high-yield conservation since. (I do the same with many other
newspeople, but to far less effect.)
"Tampering With Nature" is by far the most powerful visual presentation
I've seen on the merits of high-tech agriculture and our whole high-tech
society. All American farmers should make sure that their families, local
school youth groups and service clubs see it.
DENNIS T. AVERY is based in Churchville, Va., and is director of global
food issues for the Hudson Institute of Indianapolis. His views are not
necessarily those of BridgeNews, whose ventures include the Internet site
Gene genie bottled again
Times of India
By Seema Singh
July 13, 2001
BANGALORE: When the Union ministry of environment and forests recently
ordered fresh trials of Bt Cotton for another year, both detractors and
proponents of genetically modified (GM) crops heaved a sigh of relief.
The government has sought large scale multi-location trials of Bt Cotton,
which has been genetically modified by insertion of a gene from the
bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (hence Bt) which provides protection from
the deadly pest Bollworm by producing a naturally occurring toxin.
Isolated instances of protest against the government's decision
notwithstanding, (including Karnataka agriculture minister's statement
that farmers do need Bt Cotton), the first GM crop to have hit Indian
market is kept at bay.
A priori, biotechnology -- one of sundry tools of agricultural research
and development -- can contribute to food security by helping to promote
sustainable agriculture centred on small-holding farmers in countries like
India. Yet, biotechnology has become a lightning rod for visceral debate,
with opposing sides making strong claims of promise and peril.
Not long ago, the father of the Green Revolution and Nobel laureate Norman
Borlaug wrote an editorial in The New York Times that India today needs
biotech to feed its population just as it needed Green Revolution in the
sixties to tide over frequent famines.
He estimates that to meet the projected food demand by 2025, average
cereal yield must increase by 80 per cent over the 1990 average. Making
this formidable task even more difficult is that, to ensure that food
production is coupled with both poverty alleviation and environmental
conservation, it will be imperative that this increase occur in the
complex smallholder farming systems of India.
The first GM crops that emerged in the West during 1990s were designed to
solve farms problems like pest and herbicide control and soil protection.
Soon after agro-chemical giant Monsanto produced GM soybean with herbicide
resistance, many companies joined the biotech bandwagon and crops like
cotton and corn were genetically engineered.
These crops were finally released for large-scale commercial use by US
farmers in 1996 after years of laboratory testing and controlled field
testing for environmental impact, risks to human health and other crops in
the neighbouring farms.
Under the strict supervision of Environment Protection Agency, Food and
Drug Agency and US Department of Agriculture, American farmers tried the
crops. By 1999, about half the US soybean crops and one-third of the corn
crop were genetically modified. The seed companies no doubt made money but
farmers were the biggest beneficiaries.
Today, more than 40 million hectares of land is under GM crop tillage with
the US accounting for the largest share followed by Argentina among
developing countries. The five principal transgenic crops so far are
soybean, maize, cotton, rapeseed/canola, and potato.
Where is India in the millennium GM hurdle race? Pretty far behind as long
as getting the crops to the market is concerned with the hurdles being not
much different from the developed nations.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has farmed out various projects to
national research institutes, universities and laboratories and advanced
field trials on in Bt tomato, cabbage, cotton and cauliflower.
Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), in collaboration with Monsanto,
has tried Bt gene in locally adapted cultivars since pest biotypes are
different in different regions and pest resistance developed in seeds in a
Western country may not be useful against pests in India.
The Indian Institute of Horticultural Research in Hesarghatta, Bangalore,
also has some transgenic crops like water melon (with rabies vaccine),
tomato and tobacco in the pipeline.
For a problem which appears local as well as global, when one looks at the
projected food security scenario by 2025 with 8.02 billion people to feed,
the world appears fairly polarised. With countries like US, Argentina,
Mexico, Canada, China (which released 28 transgenic crops in 2000 alone)
being in the forefront of adopting GM crops, Europe, India and others are
taking a cautious stance.
Experts say in the US-Europe battle of GM foods, which is more of a trade
war than anything else with both the sides already being food grain
surplus and affluent, the real stake holders are poor farmers in Asia,
Africa and Latin America who are not benefitting from the GM revolution.
Consumer-driven Europe is pitted against the aggressive American industry
on various issues.
One is the question of "substantial equivalence". Whenever official
approval for the introduction of GM foods has been given, regulatory
committees have invoked the concept of "substantial equivalence". This
means that if a GM food can be characterised as substantially equivalent
to its "natural" antecedent, it can be assumed to pose no new health risks
and hence to be acceptable for commercial use.
Some scientists say the degree of difference between a natural food and
its GM alternative before its "substance" ceases to be acceptably
"equivalent" is not defined anywhere, nor have the legislators agreed on a
common definition. It is this vagueness that makes the concept useful to
industry but unacceptable to the consumer.
Moreover, with the policymakers relying on the concept of substantial
equivalence, further research into the possible risks of eating GM foods
According to a Nature report, only one official organisation has
recognised some of the limitations of the concept of substantial
equivalence. A Dutch government team has acknowledged that "compositional
analysis ... as a screening method for unintended effects ... of the
genetic modification has its limitations ... in particular regarding
unknown anti-nutrients and natural toxins", and it has given a lead by
exploring some alternatives.
This aggravates the potential allergenicity risk of foodgrains, a more
pressing issue of the wealthy in industrial nations but a problem
nevertheless. Scientists agree that a protein encoded by an introduced
gene may be allergenic and can cause allergic reactions in exposed
Though there is not much to worry if the protein introduced in the food is
from a source with no history of allergenicity , but if proteins from
unknown allergen sources are used, grave challenges to the food industry
Linked to allergenicity is the issue of labelling food products that is
driving the food industry crazy in the developed nations. With more and
more consumers demanding GM labelling on food, so that they can exercise
their right to choose, the regulating agencies are in a fix.
In a multi-tier food processing industry, where the standards on
permissiveness of GM ingredients are still not in place, the multi-billion
dollar GM food sector is caught in a bind -- not being able to put their
mouth where their money is.
Editorial comment: The pressure on pressure groups
July 12 2001
Undemocratic, unrepresentative, unaccountable, ill-informed and
illegitimate. These criticisms are continually levied at international
organisations, multinationals and governments by pressure groups. But
if anyone deserves such criticism, it is some of these same pressure
Over the past decade there has been an explosion in the number of
non-governmental organisations. They are hugely diverse in character
and they operate increasingly on the international stage. Governments,
companies and international organisations have sought their support and
some have gained thereby. Their influence is examined in a series of
articles startingin Friday's newspaper in the run-up to the Group of Eight
summit in Genoa.
The NGOs have scored considerable victories. They were behind the
successful international campaign to ban landmines and they provided the
groundwork for the International Criminal Court. They have focused world
attention on poverty, the environment and women's rights, among other
issues. And in terms of organisation, they have often proved more
successful than governments or business in building international
But their failings are also easy to list. Their campaigns are almost
always driven by slogans, which ignore trade-offs and are far too
simplistic. Jubilee 2000's fight to drop developing countries' debt skated
over the crucial issues of the appropriate conditions for debt relief and
the lack of a clear link between a country's debt and its need for poverty
alleviation. Environmental campaigns against genetically modified crops
ignore their benefits, highlighted earlier this week in the United Nations
Of course, the NGOs have the right to lobby for their arguments, like
any other private sector organisation. But they do not have a veto. And
they have no monopoly on claims to represent civil society.
The more sensible NGOs are worried. Leaving aside the riotous idiots,
their representatives recognise that their coalitions are broad but not
deep and that their credibility is on the line. The NGOs are devising
their own code of conduct. It is a welcome step, advocating non-violence
at all times, supporting factual analysis, intellectual curiosity and
promoting positive action rather than negative protest.
There is a problem here. If pressure groups genuinely want to
contribute to serious policy debate with careful research and factual
analysis, they will rarely find that simple solutions or slogans are
appropriate. Grabbing attention will be harder. The alternative, however,
is worse. They will become discredited and will ultimately be ignored if
their slogans fail to reflect reality.
Date: 13 Jul 2001 19:32:48 -0000
From: "Red Porphyry" |
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: UN report, Thai papayas, Globalization, Limits of
In addition to making a passionate blood libel accusation against me
("Red believes we ought to starve people by suppressing ingenuity"), Drew
Kershen, in his colorful essay "Re: The Limits of Growth and its
implications for agricultural biotechnology" (AgBioView archive msg #1122)
also asserts that the Limits to Growth authors and their proponents
believe that human population growth is the fundamental barrier to
attaining a sustainable society. Given the LtG authors' proclivity for
feedback loops and the idea that everything interacts with everything
else, the possibility that they would've zeroed in on one factor,
population, as the "hinge upon which everything turns", to quote the
Protestants, struck me as rather odd.
So I tried to verify this by looking at "Beyond the Limits", written by
the LtG authors. Indeed, they did consider the issue of human population
growth and its consequences for the world economy. In Scenario 8, average
family population size worldwide is limited to two children (replacement
level) with birth control 100% effective after 1995, the world is given
200 years worth of finite resources at 1990 consumption levels, and all
resources (finite and renewable) are allocated using market-based
principles (ability to pay). The result? As usual, overshoot and collapse.
Population growth does slow sharply; by 2040, the population is only 7.4
Unfortunately, the only thing a smaller population buys you, according to
the LtG authors, is a much greater demand for a high standard of living.
Industrial and agricultural production soar until choked off by a
pollution crisis (first) and a resource crisis (later). Paul Ehrlich
notwithstanding, the LtG model predicts that limiting human population
doesn't bring the world economy closer to sustainability. If anything, the
LtG model predicts that limiting human population only hastens
environmental degradation and
Date: 13 Jul 2001 16:59:40 -0000
From: "Red Porphyry"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Re: Limits on Growth
Bob MacGregor, in his latest AgBioView piece "Re: Limits of Growth"
(AgBioView archive msg #1124), appears to be under the impression that I
have a defeatist mindset regarding the future of the world. The reality is
that I'm neither particularly triumphalist nor defeatist. I'm simply
(still) open-minded with respect to the Limits to Growth vs. Technological
Optimism dichotomy. The fundamental question at hand is the following: are
there physical limits (resource limits, pollution limits, agricultural
limits, forestry limits, etc.) to economic growth that can't be overcome
technological solutions or not? The typical answer to this question,
whether on AgBioView or an anti-biotechnology forum, is a "faith-based"
answer, something that boils down to "I place my faith in technology to
get us out of this mess" or "I place my faith in Mother Nature to bring
this madness to a screeching halt".
I, on the other hand, am not able to give such an answer, for the simple
reason that contrary to Saint Paul, I believe that
"man is saved by works, not faith".
As I see it, neither the Limits to Growth side nor the Technological
Optimism side has piled up sufficient "good works" for anyone to make a
definitive answer, one way or the other, to the question. I think that
sufficient "good works" will be visible by the end of 2010, however, to
enable such a definitive answer to be made. The reason is really pretty
simple. By 1980, world political, economic, business and scientific
leaders have firmly placed the world onto the path that the Limits to
Growth authors called "Scenario 2", which the LtG authors defined as 200
years worth of finite resources at 1990 consumption levels AND allocation
of all resources, both finite and renewable, according to MARKET-based
principles (ability to pay). The momentum and inertia of the world
economic system is such that
there can be no significant structural changes between now and the end of
2010. Given this, LtG proponents predicted pretty much what we saw between
1970 and 2000: population rising to 6 billion with steadily improving per
capita standards of living (better public health, better medical care,
more food, more consumer goods, etc.).
Fine, but Technological Optimism (TO) proponents also predicted this. So,
since LtG and TO concur for 1970-2000, no definitive "good works"
conclusion can yet be made as to the validity of each model.
Significant divergence between LtG and TO only occurs in 2001-2010,
which makes this the "make or break" decade for LtG. LtG predicts the
appearance of major, alarming economic and environmental stresses between
2001-2010, stresses indicating that the world economy is rapidly
approaching a condition of "overshoot and collapse". While the collapse
will not actually begin to appear by 2010, the stresses should be clearly
visible by the man-in-the-street. TO, on the other hand, predicts that no
major, alarming economic or environmental stresses will be in evidence by
2010. In fact, things should still be on a positive, upward slope.
This (2001-2010) divergence will allow a definitive answer to the
question of limits and economic growth to be made. The four criteria
(trend of world oil discovery, trend of world oil production, trend of
world food production, trend of pollution) I outlined in AgBioView archive
msg #1122 are simply four areas where an upward trend should be seen if TO
is a better model, and a stagnant/downward trend should be seen if LtG is
a better model. If these criteria are too annoying, something much simpler
can be substituted. On January 1 of each year from 2001-2011, note the
price (constant 1968 US dollars--or any other year to be agreed upon) of a
barrel of discovered (not yet pumped) oil, a price of produced oil, the
price of a unit of each of a variety of agricultural commodities (grains,
meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, lumber), and the price of processing a unit
of several industrial and agricultural pollutants. On January 1, 2011,
we'll see where we are. If the prices (in constant 1968 US dollars) are up
20%, the LtG authors were on to something. If the prices (in constant 1968
US dollars) are down 20%, the LtG authors blew it.
Farmers Embracing Modified Crops
July 15, 2001
GUELPH, Ont. (CP) _ In record numbers, Ontario farmers are planting crops
that have been genetically modified to resist pests and herbicides.
Larry Cowan, who owns a farm near London, Ont. said he is using more
scientifically altered seeds because they have proven very effective.
``We had a really heavy infestation of corn borer. Bt (genetically altered
corn seed) looked like it would give us control over the situation. It
controls the corn borer really quite well,'' Cowan said.
That has led to higher yields than with traditional corn crops, meaning
more money in his pocket.
Increasingly, other Ontario farmers are finding the same payoffs with
genetically altered crops and they are planting more of them. This year,
more than 25 per cent of Ontario soybean crops, 80 per cent of canola and
40 per cent of corn crops are grown from engineered seeds tolerant to
herbicide and resistant to pests, said AGCare, a Guelph-based coalition of
farm groups. These figures have jumped over last year when approximately
20 per cent of soybeans, 65-70 per cent of canola and 30 pre cent of corn
were grown from such varieties.
``It certainly shows farmers are trying the technology and seeing
significant advantage to it. They're growing more acres,'' AGCare
executive director Brenda Cassidy said.
Cassidy said the advantages include reduced plant damage, which means
improved product quality. It also means reduced use of pesticides.
Farmer Fred Wagner said while genetically modified seeds are more
expensive, the higher yield more than pays for the extra cost. For that
reason, Wagner has planted 70 per cent of his 1,000 acres near Kitchener,
Ont. with bt corn, up from only a small plot several years ago.
``It's just overwhelming how beneficial it is,''said Wagner. ``I don't
have to use any insecticides anymore, which we used to do in the past.
It's a major cost saving and major environmental benefit.''
He said he doesn't like using insecticides because they're too
indiscriminate: they kill beneficial insects such as earthworms, which
help churn the soil.
Column: 'Harmless' Can't Be Proven, Eco-Activists Attempt To Derail
By Lisa Young
July 11, 2001
WASHINGTON -- The several hundred Luddites who showed up to protest the
Biotechnology Industry Organization's convention in San Diego last month
pushed a catch-phrase that betrays a basic misunderstanding of science.
The phrase - "the Precautionary Principle" - simply states that no
human technology should be used for widespread human consumption unless
"full scientific certainty" exists that it will not cause human or
environmental harm. The Precautionary Principle - or P.P. as it's widely
known - first took hold among eco-activists in Europe, whose "the sky is
falling" ideas consistently were knocked for a loop when they ran into
Because it's impossible to prove that any product will not, at some point,
cause harm to humans and the environment, the P.P. was a handy weapon for
fringe groups forced to rely on scare tactics to combat reason.
On the surface, the P.P. makes perfect sense - don't take an action
unless you're certain that it isn't harmful. The problem is that reaching
full scientific certainty is impossible. Science can prove a hypothesis
untrue, but it cannot prove a hypothesis true.
For instance, you can prove that a chemical is harmful, but you can
never prove that it is absolutely safe. Indeed, a risk of harm is always
present, even for the most commonly used chemicals.
Using the Precautionary Principle as the basis for regulation stifles
innovation and impedes trade - leading to deleterious consequences for
One only has to look at the history of science to understand why using
"the Precautionary Principle" to guide policy would drastically increase
Virtually all of the most successful scientific advances have involved
some risk. Vaccines, antibiotics, chlorine, automobiles and airplanes have
saved countless lives, yet all of these advances would have been regulated
to the dustbin of history if governments of the past had used the
principle as a litmus test for approval.
Today, biotech advances allow farmers to plant disease-resistant and
pest-resistant crops that greatly reduce the use of pesticides and
herbicides. Golden Rice fortified with Vitamin A can prevent the deaths of
2 million children a year and annually eliminate 500,000 cases of
blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency. Genetically modified foods
eventually will produce enough food to feed the planet's 800 million
If the Precautionary Principle takes hold in legislation in the United
States and around the world, such advances and the fate of millions of
hungry and malnourished people will be placed at risk.
Because the P.P. allows regulators rather than scientists to decide how
much risk is acceptable, the principle often becomes an excuse to
implement trade protectionism.
Although the European Commission recently declared a moratorium on
genetically modified crops illegal, many EU enthusiasts are pushing for
further regulation. At a meeting of EU and U.S. officials to hammer out
details of a treaty on food safety, progress was halted when the EU
insisted on applying the Precautionary Principle to food imports - an act
aimed squarely at U.S. farmers, world leaders in biotech crops.
Trade barriers and regulations are already having a negative effect on the
future of biotechnology. Complex, burdensome regulations and
limitations placed on exports increase the cost of biotech research and
Many biotech companies have been driven into bankruptcy, while others
have been forced into a merger. The overall result: reduced competition
and stifled innovation.
Using the Precautionary Principle to dictate policy is irresponsible.
The obstacles it places to scientific advancement may ease the fears of
some relatively wealthy interest groups - those who can afford high-priced
organic foods and $2-a-bottle designer water to wash it down. But cynical
use of the P.P. will end up condemning the poor, sick and hungry to lives
U.S. trade officials negotiating bio-agriculture treaties ought to be
steadfast in insisting that all provisions fall within the parameters of
sound science. And Congress can do its part by passing a strongly worded
resolution supporting such a stance to the hilt.
Lisa Young, a student at Cornell University, is a research associate
with the National Center for Policy Analysis, 655 15th Street NW, Suite
372, Washington, DC 20005.
Monsanto Executive Applauds Farmers As Environmentalists
July 14, 2001
ATLANTIC, Iowa (AP) - Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley
praised U.S. farmers for their daily contributions to preserving and
protecting the environment as he called farmers "the single largest
environmental group in America today."
"There is a reality that most people are missing," Fraley told the farmers
at a grower summit in Atlantic Friday. "The American grower has invented,
established and practiced the concept of stewardship." Fraley said that
applied technology - such as biotechnology, conservation tillage and the
development of biofuels - are advancing agriculture along the frontiers of
One of the most important tools farmers are employing as environmental
stewards of the environment is conservation tillage, Fraley said.
Conservation tillage is a farming practice that reduces or eliminates the
"The practice of conservation tillage has tremendous benefits for the
environment by conserving soil moisture, reducing nutrient and pesticide
runoff by more than 70 percent, and reducing soil erosion by up to 90
percent," Fraley said.
Last year, conservation tillage was used on more than 109 million acres in
the United States, more than one-third of U.S. acres.
He said biotechnology is another widely-adopted tool farmers are using
that is helping to benefit the environment.
"Biotechnology has earned the right to be considered a legitimate tool of
sustainable agriculture," he said. "In spite of all the perceived
controversy, the reality is biotechnology is growing."
While there has been a great deal of coverage of the risks of
biotechnology, those risks remain theoretical and remote, Fraley said.
"The growth in biotech acres isn't a trivial numbers game, but reflects
the fact that there are thousands of individual growers each making the
decision that biotech is the best alternative on their individual farm."
Aventis To Assure EPA Panel Of StarLink Safety
Los Angeles Times
July 16, 2001
Aventis will tell a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency panel this week
that trace amounts of genetically engineered StarLink corn, which has been
pulled from the market, don't endanger the U.S. food supply.
StarLink, sold in the U.S. for three years, was banned for human
consumption because of its potential for causing allergic reactions in
humans. When the corn, which was approved for livestock feed and
industrial uses, contaminated food products and led to a recall, Aventis
stopped selling the corn and agreed to buy back the 2000 crop from
farmers. Aventis, a Strasbourg, France-based drug and crop chemicals
maker, wants the panel of doctors and allergy experts
meeting in Arlington, Va., to tell the EPA that minute amounts of the corn
in food don't pose a health risk. That may avert recalls such as the one
that pulled more than 300 corn products from the market last year.
The EPA is the primary regulator of StarLink because the agency classifies
it as a pesticide. StarLink contains a transplanted gene that acts as a
natural insecticide and is designed to kill the European corn borer, which
causes millions of dollars in crop damage annually in the U.S.
The EPA will make a determination based on recommendations of its expert
Aventis declined to comment.
In December, the EPA panel found a "medium likelihood" that StarLink could
cause allergic reactions and that children might be more sensitive to the
corn than adults. The panel also found that there was a "low probability"
of allergic reactions from trace amounts of the corn.