USDA Looking Into StarLink Discovery

USDA officials are still trying to determine how U.S. corn shipped to Japan became contaminated with unapproved StarLink genetically modified corn, but may not have any answers for a few days.

U.S. grain industry officials told Reuters News Service that full details of the incident, in which 1,200 metric tons of U.S. corn were found to contain StarLink, may not be known until sometime this week.

One grain industry official told Reuters that the corn, which was part of a 19,000-ton shipment docked at Nagoya harbor, likely would have to be re-exported or destroyed.

Several USDA officials contacted by Reuters last week refused to comment on the new discovery of StarLink in U.S. corn.

A USDA spokesman would only say there was a "correspondence from the (Japanese) government that a small shipment" from the United States was contaminated with StarLink. "We're looking into it," the spokesman added.

Most likely, the latest StarLink contamination problem is an isolated incident. Despite extensive efforts by USDA to remove StarLink from the U.S. corn supply in 2000-2001, it's likely some farmers may still have small amounts of the corn from the 2000 crop in storage bins.

And while the Federal Grain Inspection Service has strict procedures for testing corn, a random sampling might have missed the StarLink detected in Japan.

Even if the latest StarLink problem is isolated, however, it has revived what appeared to be a dead issue for the market and can only make it more difficult for U.S. corn to compete with lower-priced Chinese corn in Asian markets.

Editors note: Richard Brock, Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.