Aventis CropScience--the maker of StarLink corn--has refused a request from the Nebraska Corn Board to share in the cost borne by producer-funded organizations in addressing the StarLink issue.
In a March 13 letter to Aventis, Nebraska Corn Board Chairman Doug Boisen, Minden, asked the company to contribute $1 million each to the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). The contributions were to help defray the cost of regaining lost markets and conducting ongoing education efforts to regain consumer confidence.
In his response, John A. Wichtrich, chief operating officer for Aventis, wrote, "We deeply regret the disruption that StarLink has caused the industry and remain committed to doing all that we can to bring this matter to a close...but given the current state of the StarLink situation, it is not possible, at this time, to entertain your request."
"Biotechnology is a clear benefit to agriculture and consumers," said Boisen. "But we must be patient in gaining approval and in testing the effects of this important science. With StarLink, the zeal to be first to market appears to have taken precedence over common sense and the overall good of the corn industry.
"While it does not make a lot of sense that StarLink technology was approved for feed, but not for food use, the fact remains that Aventis introduced the technology knowing full well that there was a zero tolerance for it in the food supply," Boisen added. "Now, America's corn producers are left holding the bag and having to regain global confidence in our grain supply. This situation was not of our making, but we are paying for it anyway."
For years, the USGC and NCGA have used checkoff dollars to develop markets for U.S. corn. Now, these funds have been redirected to regain the confidence level of the U.S. corn supply. At the beginning of the StarLink outbreak, representatives from both organizations traveled to Japan to help calm the fears that were developing over StarLink being found in the U.S. food chain. The NCGA also commissioned a Biotech Working Group to address the issue.
"Given the fact that USGC and NCGA have been forced to redirect so much of their efforts to defending the corn industry due to StarLink, it seemed only fitting to request that Aventis provide these additional funds," said Boisen.