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Two biotechnology companies have agreed to pay a combined $110 million to settle a lawsuit filed by farmers who claimed they were hurt by consumer fears generated when unapproved biotech corn was discovered in the food supply. Several food companies ordered national recalls after StarLink corn appeared in products such as taco shells and chips in 2000. The class action lawsuit, filed by commercial corn farmers who didn’t grow StarLink, alleged that the fiasco hurt the entire corn market, especially overseas exports. 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, and Avanta USA, which owns StarLink distributor Garst Seed Co. Lawyers for the farmers said 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 seeking comment Thursday. The StarLink corn was engineered with a bacterium gene that is deadly to the corn borer pest. StarLink seed had been approved in 1998 by the Environmental Protection Agency for use in animal feed, but has not been approved for human consumption because of unresolved questions about whether a protein it contains can cause allergic reactions. Last year, StarLink Logistics, Garst and four food makers agreed to pay $9 million to consumers who said they suffered allergic reactions from eating food products that contained StarLink corn. No StarLink has been planted since the recalls. Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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