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Shaw's Supermarkets Under
Fire in New England

Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)
BY: DOUG KESSELI
August 5, 2002

Bioengineering protest at Shaw's; Inflated ear of corn grabs attention
BY: DOUG KESSELI

BANGOR, Maine

Protesters hope that their message against the use of genetically engineered
food will last longer than their attention-grabbing, 30-foot inflatable ear
of corn did Saturday at their protest.

The ear of corn was ordered deflated by police after it was determined it
violated city policies regarding such gatherings, although organizers said
it wouldn't deter them from continuing their protests here in Maine and New
England.

In the heat of the early afternoon, about 20 people - many from the area,
some from a national watchdog group - stood or paced on the sidewalk in
front of Shaw's Supermarket on Main Street. They said Shaw's parent company
in England had removed genetically engineered products from its store
shelves in that country. As part of their protest, they inflated the large
ear of corn, which after only a short time Bangor police had them deflate
because it blocked the sidewalk and because Shaw's wanted a line securing
the balloon removed from its property.

The corn was deflated, but not the mission. Carrying signs and waving to
passing motorists, the protesters were hoping to catch the attention and
convince people of the potential hazards and the uncertainties concerning
genetically engineered food.

Linda Setchell, the GE campaign coordinator for Clean Water Action, which is
organizing protests in six communities in four states, estimated that 70
percent of packaged foods contains some ingredients that are genetically
engineered. The problem, she said, is that GE foods haven't been fully
tested by the federal government in this country but have been banned or
placed on moratorium in most other countries.

Plants that are genetically engineered develop with strong resistances to
herbicides and in some cases their own toxins to kill off predators. But
Setchell said these plants can cross-pollinate with wild relatives and pass
along the resistance, thereby making what has been described as "superweed."
The toxins could also harm beneficial insects while the detrimental insects
develop a resistance to the toxins making them "superbugs" that are harder
to eliminate.

There is potential harm to humans who could develop new forms of allergies
to the engineered food. In October 2000, more than 300 corn-based products
were recalled after it was determined they had been contaminated by a
variety of genetically engineered corn that included a new food allergen.
Shaw's is the target of the protest because Clean Water and Greenpeace have
tested some Shaw's brand products and determined they contained GE
ingredients, even though the chain's parent company in England has stopped
stocking GE products on shelves there since 1999, Setchell said.

Management at the Shaw's supermarket referred questions to a spokesman, who
couldn't be reached for comment over the weekend.

The protesters wondered why genetically engineered foods are disdained in
other countries but considered OK for consumption in the United States.
At the very least, said Monique Gautreau, the mother of three who took to
the sidewalk Saturday dressed as a caterpillar, food companies and stores
should label the products that contain GE ingredients and let consumers
choose.

"I'm not claiming to be any expert on this," Gautreau said. "I'm a mother of
three children and it makes me furious that I can't look at labels to tell
what is in the foods I'm eating."

Gautreau said she tries to live a healthful life, grows some of her own food
in a small garden and checks labels regularly to see what her family is
eating.

In recent months, Greenpeace and others have been protesting the use of GE
foods around the state and Clean Water Action will continue its tour this
week, visiting supermarkets in Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

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