Discussion Paper

The StarLink Case: Issues for the Future

Oct 1, 2001 | Michael R. Taylor, Jody S. Tick


The disclosure in September 2000 that StarLink corn had been found in the human food supply putfood biotechnology in the public spotlight and caused concern among consumers and food systemstakeholders alike that a product approved only for animal use could find its way to grocery shelves. TheStarLink experience raises a number of issues that deserve study concerning the current regulatory systemand public policies affecting genetically modified foods. The issues include how to manage allergenicityissues posed by biotech foods at the approval stage. Most of the issues, however, involve post-approvalcontrol of staple food crops that have been genetically modified. It may be increasingly important in thefuture to maintain the identity of genetically modified crops and segregate them from conventional ones,yet neither the grain trading system nor the government regulatory system were designed to ensure this.This paper is the first step in a case study that Resources for the Future is conducting for the PewInitiative on Food and Biotechnology to identify and analyze the regulatory and public policy issuesraised by the StarLink episode. In this paper, we pose questions concerning the adequacy of curent legalauthority, regulatory procedures, and institutional arrangements for post-approval control of biotech foodsthat we intend to analyze in depth during the balance of the study based on interviews and other research.We welcome comment on this paper and the planned study.