USDA sends warning about planting corn

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that farmers should not plant any corn unless they are certain that the seed has been tested and found free of the protein Cry9C. According to USDA, farmers should insist that seed companies verify that the seed corn has been tested for the protein Cry9C to ensure that only tested seed is planted this spring. StarLink is the trade-name for corn genetically modified to be pest resistant by producing a protein called Cry9C. The protein acts as a pesticide and is able to protect the plant from pests, such as the European Corn Borer. The protein was developed by Aventis Crop Sciences, a subsidiary of the French company, Aventis S.A., and sold through various U.S. seed companies. Last week some seed companies reported finding isolated occurrences of extremely low levels of Cry9C in seed originally intended for sale this year. Based on aggregate information voluntarily provided by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), of those companies reporting, it is estimated that less than one percent of corn seeds for 2001 planting, may contain Cry9C protein. Companies involved have recovered and taken control of all lots of hybrid corn seed found to have this protein. Seed companies routinely test their products for impurities and many took steps to detect Cry9C before USDA recommended testing procedures on Dec. 29, 2000. Major seed companies have informed USDA of their intent to continue following recommended testing procedures designed to detect Cry9C, and USDA will monitor this activity. In the event Cry9C is found, these companies will not sell the corn seed for planting. USDA continues to work closely on this issue with the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, Iowa State University, National Corn Growers Association, American Seed Trade Association and Aventis. Additional information can be obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture website at http://www.usda.gov/gipsa/biotech/starlink/starlink.htm

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