WASHINGTON (B)--United States Department of Agriculture's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration launched its program Nov. 15 to make official testing for StarLink contamination available for food-grade corn that will be exported to Japan, a GIPSA official told BridgeNews. It is still too early to know how many U.S. exporters have requested have requested the testing, the aide said.

David Shipman, a deputy administrator for GIPSA, said officials in Washington, DC are scrambling to find out how many, if any, exporters have signed up at local offices for the testing in the first few hours of the program. According to a protocol reached by both governments, Japan has agreed to accept food-grade corn from the United States so long as it has been tested and certified free of StarLink, a genetically modified variety of yellow corn that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated for domestic non-food use only.

The inspections here by GIPSA or local agencies licensed and overseen by the agency will provide the following services for U.S. exporters, according to the protocol, which is posted on GIPSA's Website: --Interior test results --Documentation on IP handling (e.g., seal certification number) --Vessel stowage exam certificate from USDA

Japan imports about 16 million tonnes of corn annually, and U.S. corn traditionally has accounted for more than 90% of the total, most of which is used for livestock feed.

No protocol has yet been reached between the United States and Japan over exports of U.S. feed-grade corn. Japan's agricultural ministry said Monday that it has so far detected genetic traces of StarLink in two-thirds of the samples taken from feed-use corn imported into the country during the April-June quarter. StarLink, genetically engineered to produce its own insecticides, is not approved in Japan as the insecticide protein shows similarities to known food allergens.

USDA officials, including Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, have told reporters that recent corn sales to Japan are proof that fears there over StarLink have not created a significant or long-lasting effect on trade. However, there is talk on trading floors here that Japan is opting for Chinese and South African corn to avoid StarLink corn.

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