Reports that an unapproved form of genetically modified corn (maize) has found its way into the Japanese food supply have prompted government action in both Japan and the United States.
StarLink corn, produced in the United States by the French company Aventis CropScience, contains the pesticide Cry9C, which some have warned could cause allergic reactions if consumed. As a result, it has been approved for use only in animal feed in the United States, and the discovery of Cry9C in taco shells on sale in US supermarkets led to a massive product recall earlier this year (see Nature 407, 438; 2000).
In Japan, StarLink has not yet been approved for consumption by either humans or animals. But the Consumers Union of Japan reported late last month that StarLink protein had been detected in corn meal, and there have been reports of it showing up in six other products.
The US Department of Agriculture has now announced that it will test corn that is being shipped to Japan for the presence of StarLink, and Japan's equivalent ministry will start doing its own tests on the product's safety. These tests include feeding the corn to chickens and testing for any debilitating effects on the chickens themselves, and for the presence of the Cry9C protein in the chicken meat.