- WASHINGTON (AFP) - Despite
much-publicised announcements by US companies that they were phasing out
genetically-modified foods, many continue to liberally use and market such
products, the New York Times reported Sunday.
- Over the last few years, biotechnology crops have come
to dominate the US food industry, with genetically-modified (GM) corn and
soybeans -- the two biggest crops -- planted on more than 60 million acres
(24 million hectares) of farmland, according to the daily.
- The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimates that about
70 percent of grocery-store food may have been made with GM crops, making
the task of ridding the US food supply of such produce a huge and costly
challenge. The GM grain is used in the processing of snacks, breakfast
cereal, vegetable oil and countless other products.
- In response to growing consumer pressure, some companies
are limiting the use of such products. For instance, McCain Foods, the
world's largest maker of french fries, said it had decided to drop genetically
- "We're in the business of giving consumers what
they want, not what we want them to eat," Frank Van Schaayk, a spokesman
at McCain Foods USA, in Oak Brook, Illinois, told the Times.
- But even though many big food producers are quietly limiting
the use of genetically altered products and are even investing in organic
or natural food units, most continue using GM produce.
- For example, Frito-Lay announced in January that it would
stop using GM corn in its chips, but PepsiCo, Frito-Lay's parent company,
continues to use corn syrup made from genetically altered crops in its
soft drinks, according to the Times.
- Gerber Products has banned genetically modified ingredients
from its baby food but Novartis, the Gerber's parent company, remains one
of the leading producers of genetically altered seeds. H.J. Heinz has also
dropped genetically altered crops from its baby food, but not from its
- And McDonald's has asked its suppliers not to ship it
genetically altered potatoes, but cooks its french fries in vegetable oil
made from genetically altered corn and soybeans.
- Many company officials said that GM crops are so pervasive
that it would be prohibitively expensive, and in some cases, nearly impossible,
to eliminate them entirely from the US food supply.
- Meanwhile, critics are pressing regulators and lawmakers
to push for mandatory labeling of GM foods, so that consumers will know
what they are buying and eating.
- "There should be mandatory labeling because the
consumer ought to know if GM is in their food," said Jeremy Rifkin,
a longtime opponent of biotechnology. "It's the most radical food
experiment we've ever engaged in. Is it safe? We don't know."
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