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StarLink TM Corn Controversy: Background

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StarLinkª is a corn variety that has been genetically modified to contain an insecticidal protein derived from a naturally occurring bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the gene-spliced variety of yellow corn in 1998 for use only as animal feed and set a zero-tolerance level for its use in human food based on the fact that this particular Bt protein does not break down easily in the human digestive system, is heat resistant, and could prove allergenic. StarLink corn was detected in taco shells in did-September 2000. The StarLink variety constitutes between 0.4% to 0.5% of total U.S. corn production; however, a larger (and unknown) amount of corn currently in market channels may be commingled with StarLink corn. EPA is examining a request from Aventis, the manufacturer, to grant StarLink a temporary emergency exemption from the zero-tolerance standard. Japan, which imports 30% of total U.S. corn exports and does not permit StarLink to be imported for any use, has asked government officials to make sure that no incoming shipments contain StarLink-commingled corn. Several bills were introduced in the 106th Congress to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In addition, a bill was introduced at the end of the 106th Congress (S.3184) to amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to require pre-market consultation and approval for foods containing GMOs. This report will be updated as events warrant.