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Genetically Modified Foods & Hidden Allergies

There's important new information from the government about StarLink corn. The genetically modified food is not approved for human consumption, but did it actually cause allergic reactions in some people who ate food tainted with it?

CBS News' Wyatt Andrews has the findings of a government study.

Grace Booth is one of the 28 people the United States who the government thought may have had strong allergic reactions to StarLink corn. Today, after an 8-month investigation, the government said whatever the problem was, it was not an allergy to the corn.

In a letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Booth and all the others tested were told their blood "did not react to this specific [StarLink] protein." This conclusion stunned Booth. Her reaction to an enchilada made with StarLink corn was so severe, she went to the hospital.

"I know that whatever happened to me is very serious, and I'm terrified that it's going to happen again," said Booth in December 2000.

The negative tests results are a watershed because for 8 months, fear of Starlink allergies led to an upheaval in the US corn crop--millions of dollars in lost corn exports as well as the recall of corn-based products, from taco shells to corn meal.

The biotech industry, which argued from the beginning that StarLink posed no danger, calls the study a vindication.

"We've found there's just been no negative impact of this whatsoever that could be linked to this protein," says spokesperson Mike Phillips.

Environmental groups, however, say it's too soon to declare StarLink safe. The government tested the blood of only 17 people, though critics claim hundreds reported reactions to Starlink.

"This test is not conclusive evidence that says StarLink is safe for human consumption. We should not be eating this until we've had a thorough investigation," says Matt Rand of the National Environmental Trust.

Corn growers will use these finding to argue that tiny amounts of StarLink should be allowed into food. But several of the people tested, including Booth, are skeptical of the results and are asking one question: If Starlink didn't make them sick, what did?
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