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Farmers $110 million StarLink Settlement

REUTERS 7feb03

CHICAGO, Feb 6 - A group of farmers reached a $110 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit against StarLink Logistics Inc. and Advanta USA Inc. over unapproved genetically modified StarLink corn that slipped into the food chain in September 2000, lawyers for the farmers said Thursday.

Melvyn Weiss of the law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP said the plaintiffs were farmers who did not grow the StarLink variety.

The farmers claimed they had suffered financially from a drop in corn prices due to StarLink's detection in food products and the subsequent decline in exports. The Starlink corn is not approved for human consumption for fear it could trigger allergic reactions.

The law firm said Judge James Moram of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Wednesday gave preliminarily approval to the settlement, which is subject to further court review before becoming final.

Biotech Firms Pay $110M To Settle Starlink Lawsuit

AP 6feb03

SAN FRANCISCO --Two biotechnology companies agreed to pay a combined $110 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by disgruntled corn farmers over the StarLink fiasco, lawyers said.

Commercial corn farmers alleged that they lost money because of consumer fears caused when the companies' unapproved biotech corn wound up in the nation's food supply in 2000. The corn's inclusion in a variety of foods led to national recalls for several companies.

The farmers didn't grow the biotech crop, but alleged that the entire corn market, especially overseas exports, took a financial hit when the contamination was discovered in taco shells and chips.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Chicago preliminarily approved the settlement between the farmers and StarLink Logistics Inc., a fully owned subsidiary of StarLink creator Aventis SA (AVE), and Avanta USA, which owns StarLink distributor Garst Seed Co.

Lawyers said Thursday that further court review was needed before the settlement becomes final.

"This agreement represents a significant advance in our ongoing efforts to bring [the] StarLink matter to a conclusion," StarLink Logistics president John Wichtrich said in a statement. A Garst spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

Last year, the two companies and four food makers agreed to pay $9 million to consumers who said they suffered allergic reactions from eating food products that contained the genetically modified corn.

The StarLink corn was engineered with a bacterium's gene that's deadly to the corn borer pest.

StarLink seed had been approved in 1998 by the Environmental Protection Agency for use in animal feed but not for human consumption because of unresolved questions about whether a protein it contains can cause allergic reactions. But the StarLink corn was mixed with regular corn in a number of cases.

No StarLink has been planted since the uproar.

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