USDA plans to buy seed containing the Cry9C protein before it can be planted this spring.

The USDA has announced plans to purchase seed corn containing the protein Cry9C, found in StarLink corn, from small seed corn companies not affiliated with Aventis, or licensed to sell the StarLink seed.

The program, estimated to cost between $15 and $20 million, is another step taken to contain the movement of corn seed with the protein Cry9C and to ensure that it is not planted this spring. The announcement was made after several seed companies reported finding isolated occurrences of low levels of Cry9C in seed intended for sale this year. Based on information provided by the American Seed Trade Association, it is estimated that less than 1 percent of seed corn for 2001 planting may contain the protein.

Seed companies started routinely testing all lots of hybrid seed corn last fall, even before the USDA mandated such testing on December 29, 2000. Any lots found to contain the Cry9C protein have been removed from the supply lines for sale.

Although USDA is taking steps to remove corn with this protein from the seed corn supply, it still advises producers to ask for verification that their seed has been tested for the presence of the Cry9C protein and found negative before buying it.