WASHINGTON (B)--USDA late Oct. 26 sent a notice to U.S. corn exporters reminding them that StarLink corn "is not approved for (human) food use" and that corn exports containing the genetically altered crop may only be used for "approved purposes," such as animal feed.

"The prohibition on food use extends to StarLink corn destined for export," the USDA notice said.

The notice amounts to a lifting of the restriction on exports of StarLink corn that were part of the original Aventis licensing agreement with EPA. However, for those sales to take place, USDA said that all corn export contracts should comply with the biotech regulations of the importing country and should also specify the "intended use of the corn."

Exporters must also make all corn shipment records and contracts available to USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service in order to guarantee compliance with the new guidelines, the notice said.

The notice was sent, according to USDA, because "trace amounts of StarLink may be found in some corn destined for export." USDA also said it wants to ensure corn importing nations that the United States in not trying to dump the product in foreign markets.

Nearly 90% of the 2000 StarLink crop--which accounts for about 0.5% of the total 2000 corn crop--has "already been secured on the farm or directed to approved feed or non-food industrial uses in the United States," USDA said.

The remainder represents about 0.1% of 2000 corn, and much of that will be used for animal feed in the United States, according to USDA.

"Any StarLink corn that may be found in corn destined for export would likely be only a trace amount," USDA said.

Egypt, the fifth largest buyer of U.S. coarse grain, requires that all imported crops be approved in the country of origin and grown in the country of origin for "a period of time" before Egyptian authorities will consider a food crop for import, Saad Massar, president of Egypt's Agricultural Research Center, said.

"It's better to avoid the risk," Massar said.

Most corn is used for fodder in Egypt, though some white corn in blended with wheat flour to make bread.

StarLink corn was not approved for human consumption because of concern by regulators that an insecticidal protein produced by its altered DNA was too similar to known human food allergens. The discovery of StarLink corn in store-bought taco shells provoked a wave of food recalls across the U.S. and concern among importing nations that the corn they buy may be tainted.

Aventis has applied for a four-year temporary waver that would legitimize the StarLink corn currently in the grain handling and food processing system and give it enough time to work its way out.

The company has agreed to purchase all of the 2000 StarLink crop and has permanently removed the biotech corn from the U.S. market.

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