OCA & National Coalition Protest in 20 Cities Against GE Foods & Crops

Biotech food fight at grass-roots level

Jane Kay
San Francisco Examiner
Examiner Environmental Writer July 19, 2000

New coalition protests Kellogg's, Campbell's

Environmentalists are grabbing Kellogg's Tony the Tiger by the tail and
scolding the Campbell's soup kids in a new wave of activism against the
spread of genetically modified foods.

On Wednesday morning, a coalition of seven environmental and consumer groups
announced a new campaign to pressure the two food giants to remove altered
ingredients from their products sold in the United States.

Outside the Safeway on Market and Church streets, at one of 22 simultaneous
news conferences and protests around the country, the groups charged the
companies with having a double standard because they make food lines with
biotech crops in the United States, but not in many European countries.

Protesters dressed like Monarch butterflies, a species apparently harmed in
lab tests on modified corn, carried signs calling for new regulation on the
biotech food industry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Pesticide Action Network, Friends of the Earth, State Public Interest
Research Groups, Organic Consumers Association, National Environmental
Trust, Center for Food Safety and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
want safety testing and labeling before the foods go to market.

Currently, the FDA doesn't require any extra tests on the altered products
than it would require on traditional foods.

"We would like to see the food and biotechnology industries heed the desires
of American consumers," said Skip Spitzer, a researcher at Pesticide Action
Network in San Francisco.

"Consumers would like to know whether the foods they're eating contain
genetically engineered ingredients. Furthermore, most consumers would like
to know so they can avoid eating genetically engineered ingredients,"
Spitzer said, citing polls conducted over the past years.

Chris Ervin, a spokeswoman for Kellogg Co. in Battle Creek, Mich., said, the
criticisms are nothing new.

"Our basic position has always been that this is one of the safest food
supplies in the world, and that Kellogg would never do anything to
jeopardize its 96-year reputation for making nutritious, healthful and safe
foods," Ervin said.

Representatives of Campbell's in Camden, N.J., did not respond to calls. In
June, the Campbell's consumer affairs department spokeswoman, Marilyn DeCiuceis,
responded to a query about the company's use of the products in the following way:

"Campbell's use of genetically modified ingredients is small, restricted
primarily to part of its supply of products derived from corn and soybeans.
Much of the current global supply of corn and soybeans includes a mix of
genetically and non-genetically modified crops."

DeCiuceis said the "genetically modified crops are tested thoroughly for
safety and many, such as soybeans and corn, have been safely used around the
world for more than a decade."

Foes of biotech foods say altering the genetic structure can produce
unanticipated allergens or toxins. They also warn that crops growing in the
fields possibly can harm wild species by poisoning insects and animals as
well as changing the genetic makeup of plants.

Supporters of the technology say government regulators ensure that these
problems wouldn't occur, and that years of scientific knowledge have
verified it. Last month, a panel for the National Academy of Sciences didn't
find environmental or health concerns over the technology, they say.

Outside Safeway, protesters carried signs reading "Genetic Contamination Is
Forever" and "Children Are Not Guinea Pigs" and vowed to write letters to
the companies.

Simon Harris, an organizer for the Organic Consumers Association based in
Little Marais, Minn., called the new grass-roots campaign to target
individual companies a turning point in the movement against genetically
engineered foods in the United States.

Until now, opposition has been simmering only in the United States, but it's
at the forefront of public debate in Europe, Harris said.

Vigorous public pressure in Europe is bringing a de facto ban on foods made
with crops changed in the lab - most commonly corn, soybeans, canola, cotton
and potatoes, Harris said.

"Most of the large food companies that sell genetically engineered foods in
the U.S. don't do it in Europe," Harris said.

In a list compiled by Greenpeace, the following companies are some that are
beginning to get rid

of engineered crops in Europe but not in the United States: Kellogg's,
Burger King, Dannon, Kraft, Nabisco, McDonald's, Nestle, PepsiCo, Procter &
Gamble, Pillsbury, Quaker and Bird's Eye.

The campaign has been endorsed by 250 groups and individuals, including the
Sierra Club, Pesticide Watch, Global Exchange, national Catholic Rural Life
Conference, Food First and the Children's Health and Environmental
Coalition.

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