Companies may soon have to permit government scrutiny of any food or feed developed through biotechnology.

Food developers would be required to notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at least 120 days before marketing a food or animal feed developed through biotechnology, according to a proposed rule by that agency.

FDA also issued guidelines for manufacturers to voluntarily label their food products as being made with or without ingredients developed through biotechnology.

"These initiatives will further assure that all food products developed using the tools of modern biotechnology are known to the Food and Drug Administration, so that FDA can continue to examine these products before they reach the market," says Jane Henney, FDA commissioner.

Currently, developers of food and feed developed through bio-technology participate in a voluntary consultation program with FDA.

LibertyLink Is Exportable. Two companies' decisions to not market eight new corn hybrids containing both the LibertyLink and YieldGard Bt genes have reduced confusion, according to an Aventis seed account manager.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Cargill Hybrid Seeds postponed the marketing of LibertyLink/Bt hybrids not approved by the European Union (EU) for import.

The EU has fully approved LibertyLink and YieldGard corn hybrids separately, but not yet as a combination, says Don McAghon, Aventis seed account manager.

Aventis Signs Star-Link Agreement. Aventis CropScience has agreed to compensate farmers and grain handlers for keeping StarLink corn out of the food chain.

The agreement, which formalizes assurances and claim procedures already posted on the company's Web site (www.StarLinkCorn.com), is with 17 state attorneys general. The states encompass about 90% of the acreage planted to StarLink corn last year.

Farmers will get 25/bu above the value of the grain for delivering it to elevators for Aventis.

"We're talking about massive amounts of grain," says Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. "This is a significant agreement."

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch adds: "This is a formal agreement enforceable by the states. Aventis agrees that it is expressly obligated to compensate growers and elevators for loss in value resulting from StarLink corn, buffer corn and commingled corn."

New President Hears From ASA. American Soybean Association President Tony Anderson met with the Bush ag transition team to discuss soybean priorities.

Issues brought up by Anderson and other farm group representatives include:

1) Maintaining U.S. farmer income through government support programs to offset continuing low prices; 2) ensuring that biotech crop and product trade is not restricted in the U.S. and world marketplace; and 3) expanding funding for U.S. humanitarian food assistance and ag research programs.

Corn To Bean Shift? Higher energy costs are forcing a shift in planned plantings from corn to soybeans, says a University of Missouri (MU) economist.

The prospect of reduced corn planting improves the price outlook for corn but puts a cloud over soybean prices, says Bob Young of the MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI).

Corn plantings are anticipated to drop below the 78 million acres in FAPRI's preliminary projection last November, Young says. Such a shift could raise the annual average corn price above $2/bu for the coming year. He did not rule out the possibility of bean prices in the low $4 or $3/bu range.

An energy cost change has multiple impacts. Rising natural gas prices increase the price of fertilizer. Also, higher fuel costs reduce the projected use of irrigation. That, in turn, lowers yield expectations.

Young advises corn farmers to "hang on to a quarter of your corn crop, waiting for a price increase." He offers no similar advice about soybeans.