Biotch Company to Reimburse Farmers for Banned Corn

Under pressure from the government, the company that makes the biotech corn linked to a massive recall of taco shells agreed today to buy all of this year’s crop of the grain to keep it from getting into the food supply.

Federal officials say there is no known health risk from the corn produced by Aventis CropScience, but it has not been approved for human consumption because scientists are unsure whether it might cause allergic reactions.

The Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a joint statement saying that Aventis had agreed to reimburse farmers for this fall’s harvest of the StarLink corn. Approximately 300,000 acres of the corn were planted, 0.4 percent of the total corn acreage.

“This action is a prudent and responsible step to prevent the current crop of StarLink corn from being used in processed foods,” the statement said.

May Be Used as Cattle Feed

The corn will eventually be sold for cattle feed or for production of ethanol, a gasoline additive, USDA officials said. The department will purchase the grain from farmers and then oversee its shipping to buyers to ensure that it doesn’t get mixed up with food-grade corn. Aventis will reimburse the government for all its expenses, and in turn will get the proceeds from the corn’s sale.

Aventis officials did not immediately return phone calls.

Kraft Foods recalled millions of packages of taco shells that are sold in stores under the Taco Bell name after tests showed that some were made with the Aventis variety, and Taco Bell Corp. said it was replacing all of the shells in its restaurants.

The Environmental Protection Agency approved the crop for commercial use in 1998 with the condition that it only be used for animal feed. The corn contains a bacterium gene that makes it toxic to insects.

It is one of eight varieties of genetically engineered corn that have been approved by the government and the only one that is not approved for use in food.