Threatened industry

Published: Monday 15 January 2001

the biotech industry in the us is receiving brickbats from all directions. Some key grain processors, such as A E Staley Manufacturing, which is the us corn processing unit of British commodity firm Tate & Lyle Public Limited Corporation, are discouraging farmers from growing genetically modified ( gm ) crops. It could not have been better timed, coming at the peak of the seed selling season, say experts. According to them, it could put a big question mark on the hopes of many that seed sales could register a sharp increase. During the spring planting season this year, anti-biotechnology groups had managed to influence farmers, due to which there had been a sharp decline in seed sales. Another disappointing sale season is sure to hit the crop biotech industry, which might be unable to even recover research costs.

Farmers have been told to avoid gm crops that don't have the approval of the European Union ( eu ), which is the biggest market for these crops. The problem lies in the fact that some gm varieties grown in the us do not have regulatory approval in all export markets. Tests for identifying gm crops are both expensive and time consuming. Recently, the us E nvironmental Protection Agency had, for the first time, cancelled the licence of a company to grow Starlink, a gm corn, which is alleged to be a potential food allergen. Starlink growers were supposed to feed it to livestock but some of them sold it to grain processors. Many of the us food companies have recalled hundreds of food products because they contain Starlink.

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