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Japan Shuts the Door on
GE-Tainted US Corn

The Nikkei Weekly
September 25, 2001
GM food ban fells U.S. corn imports
BY: NAMI M. ABE Staff writer

Importers refuse to take chances with StarLink, turn instead to countries
such as Brazil, China, Argentina

The volume of imported U.S.-grown corn has declined sharply since Japan
banned the distribution of genetically modified foods in April due to fears
that they may contain a genetically modified corn called StarLink. A growing
number of Japanese foodmakers have stopped importing from the U.S. and are
switching to corn produced elsewhere.

Corn used by Japanese makers of cornstarch, snacks and bread has
traditionally been imported from the U.S., but the revelation that certain
snack foods contained unauthorized GM ingredients has created concern among
consumers, forcing the snack makers to recall their products. The share of
American-made corn in the Japanese import market in terms of weight
accounted for 52.9% in June and 69.1% in July, down from 95.6% on average in
the January-December 2000 period, according to a survey conducted by the
Japan Starch & Sweeteners Industry Association.

Second-ranked Brazil, whose share had long been zero until the end of April
2001, reached 14.1% in July. Third-placed China, whose share was only 1.1%
on average in 2000, accounted for 12.1%. Argentina, which was also at zero
until the end of this March, emerged to stake 11.8% of the market in April,
13.0% in May, 12.0% in June and 2.4% in July.

StarLink was developed by French firm Aventis CropScience SA as a corn that
can repel harmful insects. It has reportedly triggered allergic reactions in
some people, and has been banned for use in foodstuffs in Japan since April.
Corn is tested for StarLink when exported from the U.S., and the GM variant
has been detected mixed in with regular corn.

The French firm's local subsidiary, Aventis CropScience Japan, applied for a
safety inspection of StarLink in December 1997, but the company has not yet
submitted the documents required for the inspection under the new rule
implemented in April. "We can't proceed with the inspection as arranged
without the necessary documents," said an official at the Ministry of
Health, Labor and Welfare.

An official at Aventis CropScience Japan said, "We are also waiting for the
reports and documents from our headquarters in France. We will submit the
documents to the ministry as soon as we can."

Many Japanese manufacturers of sweeteners and other food products that
contain imported corn have begun importing corn from nations other than the
U.S. due to the ban on distribution. Responsibility for labeling GM foods
was legislated in April under the Japan Agricultural Standard Law. But the
law contains a loophole in the form of a provision that states labeling is
only necessary if GM ingredients account for 5% or more of the total weight
of the product.

Marubeni Corp. is considering temporarily ceasing imports of U.S.-grown corn
for delivery through this autumn. Nihon Shokuhin Kako Co., which imported
about 700,000 metric tons of corn last year from the U.S., has begun
importing most of its corn from China and Argentina. The company is also
considering importing from Brazil and is refraining from purchasing
U.S.-grown corn for the time being. Nihon Shokuhin Kako uses imported corn
for producing glutinous starch syrup, an ingredient found in such products
as candy and low-malt beer.

Oji Cornstarch Co. has been importing from South Africa, China and Brazil
since April. Shikishima Starch Mfg. Co. has also procured about 20,000 tons
of Chinese-made corn and about 40,000 tons of South African-grown corn for
delivery through May.

Foodmakers who use corn as a raw material are also scrambling to alleviate
concerns about the possibility of their products becoming tainted by
StarLink. Some of them are rushing to have their products inspected by GM
authorities.

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