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Genetically modified corn prepares to make Korean debut

With agricultural goods more expensive than ever before, natural corn costs $100 more per ton.

Feb 26,2008
Genetically modified corn could hit Korean dinner tables by as early as May. The nation’s starch manufacturers signed a deal to purchase nearly 50,000 tons of GM corn earlier this month, the Korea Association of Starch Manufacturers said yesterday.
Starches are used widely as the raw material for everyday foods such as snacks, soft drinks and ice cream, so the decision is expected to stir controversy among the nation’s consumers.
Starch producers have avoided GM corn for the sake of public health, but natural corn is getting harder to secure in the world’s crop market, the association said.
“It was a tough decision, but there was no choice but to purchase GM corn,” said an association official, who wanted to remain anonymous.
“The United States, China and Brazil are the world’s top three corn producers. But China does not export its agricultural goods because it uses them to stabilize food prices in the country. Corn produced in Brazil goes to Europe, so the last option was purchasing U.S. corn, which is all genetically modified,” the official added.
Natural corn normally costs $15 or $20 more per ton than its modified alternative, but with agricultural goods more expensive than ever before, natural corn now costs $100 more per ton, the official said.
The official was also concerned about labeling genetically modified corn. “Under current law, powdered starches must be labeled when they are made of GM corn, but processed starches such as starch syrup and dextrose are made with high temperatures and pressure, so they don’t need to be classified as GM-based food,” the official said. “But you don’t need to worry about this GM corn because its safety was already approved by the U.S. government.”
The nation’s four main starch producers ― Daesang Corporation, Doosan Corn Products Korea, Samyang Genex and ShinDongBang CP ― are members of the Korea Association of Starch Manufacturers, and produce more than 90 percent of the nation’s cornstarch. The starch association buys between 1.7 million and 2 million tons of corn for their member companies each year.
Genetically modified plants, which are made by manipulating an organism’s genetic makeup, have been developed for a variety of purposes, such as resistance to pests. GM products are known to disturb human immune systems, as well as cause allergies.


By Sung So-young Staff Reporter [so@joongang.co.kr]



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