WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's food supply is likely to contain trace levels of unapproved biotech corn ``for the foreseeable future,'' but the contamination is so low that it poses no possible health concern, according to the company that developed the grain.

Discovery of the corn in taco shells last fall led to nationwide recalls of corn products, and more recalls may be necessary unless the government agrees to allow a minimal amount of the corn in food, Aventis CropScience said in a filing with the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA officials said Tuesday that research submitted as a part of the filing showed that potential exposure to StarLink in processed foods ``is significantly lower'' than previously estimated.

StarLink corn was never approved for human consumption because of unresolved questions about the potential of a unique protein it contains, known as Cry9C, to cause allergic reactions in people.

Aventis asked EPA last fall to grant the corn temporary food-use approval to eliminate the need for recalls and disruptions in grain trade. Now, Aventis says it would be sufficient for EPA to set a maximum level, or tolerance, for the biotech grain of 20 parts per billion.

``So long as the government views any level of Cry9C protein, detected by any method of analysis, as rendering food legally adulterated, major disruptions of the food supply will continue even though the theoretical risk is vanishingly small,'' Aventis said in the filing.

``This outcome would not contribute to the protection of public health or represent wise public policy.''

Aventis submitted results of studies showing that processing greatly diminished, but did not eliminate, Cry9C levels in foods made with StarLink corn.

StarLink corn was supposed to be grown and handled separately from other grain but farmers often failed to do so. StarLink was widely mixed with other corn and also cross-pollinated with other varieties of corn. Nearly 80 small seed companies have reported finding Cry9C in non-StarLink corn.

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On the Net: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/biopesticides/otherdocs/stlink/stlinkdata.htm