StarLink Corn Scandal Continues to Spread

United Press International
October 25, 2000, Wednesday 12:48 PM Eastern Time
Third brand of taco shells contains StarLink

By Marcella S. Kreiter Chicago, Oct. 25

A coalition of health, environmental and public interest groups Wednesday
said it has found evidence a third brand of taco shells contains StarLink,
a genetically modified corn approved only for animal consumption.

The Genetically Engineered Food Alert said StarLink was detected in taco
shells produced by Western Family Foods, based in the Portland, Ore.,
suburb of Tigard.

The company, which markets its 6,400 products under a variety of labels
including Western Family, Shur Save, Better Buy, WF, Shur Saving, Market
Choice, Valley Fare and Home and Garden, had no immediate comment. The
products are distributed to more than 3,500 stores in 23 states and overseas.

Japan's Health and Wellfare Ministry has asked Japanese importers to ban
sale of food containing StarLink, which is not approved for import into

The finding is the third of genetically modified corn in a food product in
a month. In September, Friends of the Earth announced it had detected
StarLink in taco shells produced by Kraft and sold to grocery stores under
the Taco Bell name. On Oct. 12, FOE said it had found StarLink in taco
shells produced by Mission Foods Inc. of Irving, Texas, and distributed
under various house brand names, including Safeway. It was not immediately
clear whether Mission Foods produces the Western Family taco shells.

StarLink produces a protein that helps repel pests but has not been
approved for human consumption because that protein may be an allergen
since it is difficult to digest.

Aventis CropScience of Triangle Research Park, N.C., admitted last week it
cannot account for 9 million bushels of StarLink, about 12 percent of the

FOE said one of its volunteers bought the Western Family taco shells at a
store in Eugene, Ore.

"The product, found on the West Coast, further illustrates the nationwide
extent of the contamination," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of
the Center for Food Safety.

Philip Clapp of the National Environmental Trust blamed the Food and Drug
Administration for the apparent widespread contamination.

"The FDA is failing to warn the American public of genetically contaminated
products that should be avoided," he said.

GE Food Alert and Greenpeace sent a letter Tuesday to President Clinton,
asking him to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from
"retroactively" approving StarLink for human consumption."

"For two years, the EPA had reservations about the safety of this corn,"
FOE spokesman Larry Bohlen said. "Approval for human consumption by EPA,
FDA or any federal government body now would seem to be based on politics,
not science."

StarLink is the only biotech corn that received a conditional approval. All
others are approved for both human and animal consumption.

Some farmers say, however, they never were told to keep StarLink segregated
from the rest of their crop.

Iowa farmer Jim Norton told Wednesday's Des Moines (Iowa) Register the fine
print on a tag attached to the StarLink seed he bought last spring appears
to say it can be used for food.

Aventis estimates 40 percent of 350,000 acres planted with StarLink, which
represents 0.5 percent of the nation's corn crop, was planted in Iowa.

Since the contamination was discovered, Aventis has pulled its StarLink
registration and said it would buy all of this year's production.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has proposed legislation that would strengthen
the government's oversight of genetic engineering, giving the FDA the power
to approve genetically modified foods rather than the voluntary system of
consultation between the companies and government that now occurs.

The measure also would give the FDA sampling authority to prevent
unauthorized foods from entering the food supply.

"If it happened once, when environmental groups examined just a handful of
foods, what might be found when thousands of food products are tested,"
Durbin asked.

The measure, however, falls short of demands by FOE and other groups that
all genetically altered foods be labeled.

AP Online
October 25, 2000; Wednesday 11:55 AM, Eastern Time

Unapproved Corn Variety Found Again

By Phillip Brasher

An unapproved variety of gene-altered corn has been found in another brand
of taco shells in testing done for anti-biotech groups that first disclosed
the presence of the grain in the nation's food supply.

The taco shells, labeled with the name of Western Family Foods Inc. of
Tigard, Ore., were purchased in Eugene, Ore. in late September, the groups

''The product, found on the West Coast, further illustrates the nationwide
extent of the contamination,'' said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of
the Center for Food Safety, one of a coalition of advocacy groups called
the Genetically Engineered Food Alert.

Two other companies, Kraft Foods and Mission Foods, have earlier recalled
taco shells after their products tested positive for the StarLink corn,
which was not approved for human consumption because of unresolved
questions about its potential to cause allergic reactions.

The Food and Drug Administration says that any health risk from the corn is
remote. Opponents of genetically engineered crops say the discovery of
StarLink in the food supply shows that federal regulation of the technology
is inadequate.

''This once again raises the question of what the FDA is doing,'' said Matt
Rand of the National Environmental Trust. ''A small group of citizen
organizations is doing what FDA should be doing.''

Officials with Western Family Foods were not available for comment. The
company sells its products under the Western Family and Shurfine names.

FDA said they have been testing a variety corn products but have not found
any containing StarLink other than the Kraft taco shells.

The corn found the taco shells likely came from last year's harvest. The
corn's developer, Aventis CropScience, has agreed to buy up all of this
year's crop but has been unable to account for about 10 percent of that
corn, or about 9 million bushels.

Farmers were not supposed to sell the corn for food use, but Aventis
officials admit that some growers may not have known about the restriction.

With food makers worried about more plant shutdowns and recalls, Aventis
was expected to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily
approve StarLink based on new data expected to downplay its potential to
cause allergic reactions.

EPA officials said they would consider the data but didn't expect to make a
decision for several weeks at the earliest.

''Any time we receive new information it has got to be part of a very
credible process, a process with a high degree of public integrity, one
that assures the food supply the food supply is safe and that EPA is
looking out for human health,'' said Michael McCabe's EPA's deputy

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