Taco Bell Sues Over Starlink Corn Fiasco

Taco Bell Sues Over Starlink
Corn Fiasco

Associated Press
September 19, 2001
Lawsuit filed against corn producers

A group of national and international corn and biotechnology firms acted
together to cause a collapse of the U.S. corn market, alleges a lawsuit
filed by thousands of Taco Bell restaurants and others.

The class-action suit, filed Monday in Washington County Circuit Court,
seeks millions of dollars in compensation and punitive damages for companies
that allegedly lost business because they used a certain genetically altered
corn in their products.

The case was brought on behalf of 4,600 Taco Bell restaurant franchises and
owners in the United States; four Arkansas-based companies, Tyson Mexican
Original Inc., T.B. Barrett Inc., Russ Taco Inc. and Dar-Taco Inc.; and two
other companies - McLean Foods in North Carolina and Heartland Bells Inc. in
the state of Washington. Defendants include Aventis Cropscience USA Holding,
a multinational biotechnology company; Garst Seed Co.; Gruma Corp., the
largest producer and distributor of corn flour and tortillas in the United
States; Azteca Milling LP, another producer of corn masa flour; and other
still-to-be-discovered companies.

The case was filed in Washington County because the defendants each placed
products into the stream of commerce knowing they would be used in Arkansas
and would cause damage to the plaintiffs. The lawsuit says that is a
violation of Arkansas law.

According to the suit, the defendants developed, marketed and distributed
genetically altered StarLink corn and intentionally and/or recklessly
participated in fradulent, deceptive conduct that led to StarLink's use in
hundreds of items that people eat.

The introduction of StarLink corn has resulted in "major disruptions of the
food supply," according to the lawsuit.

StarLink is the trademark for a type of corn that is genetically altered to
resist disease.

The suit alleges that the defendants, assuming they could prove StarLink was
fit for human consumption and motivated by the potential profit, implemented
a marketing and distribution plan. The suit says that plan made it "not only
foreseeable but inevitable" that StarLink would both cross-pollinate and be
physically commingled with corn produced from non-StarLink corn crops.

On Sept. 18, 2000, Friends of the Earth announced that a seven-box sample of
Taco Bell Home Originals brand taco shells sold in a suburban grocery store
contained StarLink corn. For the next two months, various food products
thought to contain StarLink were recalled by manufacturers, distributors and
retail food sellers.

Although Taco Bell promptly replaced all its taco shells with substitute
products, "Taco Bell became the 'poster child' for concerns about StarLink
and other genetically altered foods," the suit claims.

In October, numerous grocery chains recalled taco shells and tortilla chips
when independent test labs found they contained StarLink corn.

On Jan. 23, Aventis agreed to compensate farmers in 17 states for losses
from growing StarLink corn. Arkansas was not among those states.

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