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Anti-Biotech Group Targets Kraft Foods

Anti-Biotech Group Targets Kraft Foods

Anti-Biotech Group Targets Kraft Foods
Tue Feb 5, 4:22 PM ET

By Deborah Cohen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - No. 1 U.S. food maker Kraft Foods Inc., whose
brands include Oscar Mayer meats and Philadelphia cream cheese, is
once again the target of a green group leading the charge against the
use of genetically altered ingredients in commercial foods.

The Washington-based group, Genetically Engineered Food Alert, was
responsible for research that led to Kraft's 2000 recall of taco
shells containing StarLink, a genetically altered corn approved for
animals but not humans. Other companies later recalled products that
also contained the corn variety.

The group, whose backers include Friends of the Earth and the Center
for Food Safety, plans on Wednesday to unveil findings from research
on a range of Kraft products it tested for genetically altered corn
and soy, a group representative said.

She declined to say whether the research uncovered unauthorized
ingredients in the foods. Genetically Engineered Food Alert wants
Kraft to cease using genetically modified ingredients such as corn and
soybeans until there has been further testing.

Kraft said its foods contain only government approved ingredients.

"The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the American Medical
Association and the World Health Organization have all looked closely
at biotech ingredients and concluded that they're safe," said Kraft
spokesman Michael Mudd.

"If we believed there is any risk to those ingredients, you can be
sure they wouldn't be in our products," he added.

LABELING NOT REQUIRED

Many genetically modified ingredients, including some soybeans and
corn, are approved for use in consumer food products, and the federal
government does not require their labeling. Farm groups say
bioengineered crops require fewer pesticides and produce better
yields.

Critics, however, say not enough is known about the long-term effects
of gene-spliced foods on human health and the environment.

"I think really the major issue here is that most of the American
public does not realize they're eating genetically engineered food
ingredients," said Matt Rand, a spokesman for Genetically Engineered
Food Alert. "This campaign ... is really going to pressure Kraft to
remove their genetically engineered ingredients until they're proven
safe."

The campaign against Kraft, dubbed "Genetically Krafted Foods: Not in
My Kitchen," will include events at 170 cities, including Chicago,
Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

One prominent health advocate, Dr. Quentin Young, chairman of the
Chicago-based Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, said he would
speak on Wednesday on behalf of the campaign because he thinks wider
research is needed on genetically modified food ingredients,
particularly their implications for children.

"About the issue of food safety, I think you can't be too cautious
because you can't turn back," Young told Reuters. "We shouldn't have
to do it the hard way. We know how to do reasonably reliable
controlled studies."

In September 2000, Genetically Engineered Food Alert unveiled research
that led to a national recall of Kraft's Taco Bell taco shells that
had been manufactured with StarLink corn, a genetically altered
variety made by Aventis SA . The research led to a government
investigation.

"That was a clear instance of an ingredient that was not confirmed for
use," said Kraft's Mudd. "Once we confirmed it was present in the
product, we immediately recalled it."

StarLink corn is engineered to produce the pesticide Bacillus
thuringiensis, which protects growing plants from the destructive
European corn borer.

Prior to the StarLink incident, Genetically Engineered Food Alert and
its members had pressured big food makers to cease using genetically
modified ingredients. In July 2000, they called on Campbell Soup Co.
to stop using gene-spliced ingredients in its soups, breads, juices
and other products. At that time, the group vowed to target other
major food makers.

Camden, New Jersey-based Campbell, the world's biggest soup maker,
launched the first genetically modified food, the Flavr Savr tomato,
which was engineered for a longer shelf life than ordinary tomatoes.
--

___

Ellen Hickey
Director of Research and Communications
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)

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San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 981-6205 ext. 321
ehickey@panna.org

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