2001 B.C. Intell. Prop. & Tech. F. 011101
Biotech Corn Recall

by Christine Uri and Miree Kim, Staff Writers

StarLink, a genetically engineered corn developed by Aventis, has been found in taco shells in the U.S. In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved StarLink solely for animal consumption because it contained Cry9C, a protein feared to be a human allergen capable of causing nausea and anaphylactic shock. Millions of taco shells and other products possibly containing Cry9C have been recalled. The recall is expected to cost up to ten million dollars.

In the wake of the recall, Aventis has asked the FDA to allow StarLink to be used for human consumption for the next four years. However, pressure from the FDA has caused Aventis to voluntarily revoke its license to sell StarLink for animal consumption and initiate efforts to purchase all StarLink in the market. This is the first time that a biotech crop license has been effectively cancelled by the FDA. It is expected that, despite the recall and the efforts of Aventis to buy back the 1999 crop, the StarLink already leaked will remain in the market over the next four years.

On December 4, Americans farmers filed a negligence lawsuit against Aventis CropScience, a unit of Aventis S.A., alleging that Aventis failed to inform farmers of the restrictions placed on StarLink by the FDA. Consequently, farmers allowed StarLink to cross-pollinate with other varieties of corn and to mix with uncontaminated corn in grain elevators. Due to this contamination, foreign markets have banned American corn products and corn prices in the U.S. market have gone down.

The incident raises questions as to how biotech crops can effectively be controlled once the government has allowed their production and sale. Non-profit environmental organizations hope the accidental release of StarLink into the market will raise public awareness regarding potentially hazardous biotech foods. No matter how the controversy over StarLink plays out, more food manufacturers are expected to voluntarily label their genetically altered food products.


NY Times article - November 24, 2000

Aventis company website

FDA website

Genetically Engineered Food Alert website

Kraft Foods press release on taco shell recall

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