- Genetically Engineered Food Alert, a coalition of health,
consumer and environmental groups, announced that samples of Safeway brand
taco shells were found to contain genetically engineered Starlink corn.
The corn, not approved for direct human consumption, is the same contaminant
discovered by Genetically Engineered Food Alert in Taco Bell brand taco
shells recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Kraft
Company in September 2000.
- Safeway responded by pulling the taco shells from their
shelves in the more than 1600 Safeway and Vons stores nationwide.
- Starlink, a corn that contains a genetically engineered
plant pesticide and marketed by the biotechnology company Aventis, is currently
approved only for animal consumption by the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). A protein (Cry9C) found in the corn was found to be heat stable
and resistant to stomach acids and enzymes, indicating a potential allergen.
Possible health effects of food allergens range from nausea to anaphylactic
shock, but are not currently known due to lack of adequate testing by government
- Genetically Engineered Food Alert condemned the presence,
as indicated by the test results, of the genetically engineered ingredient
and called the second contamination incident evidence of FDA's failure
to provide adequate oversight of food biotechnology corporations and food
- "The recall of Taco Bell taco shells distributed
by Kraft and the recent finding of Starlink corn in Safeway products underscores
the need for stronger government regulation over genetically engineered
foods," said Ronnie Cummins, Director of Organic Consumers Association.
"The message from American consumers is clear. We want Safeway and
America's largest food corporations to follow the lead of their European
counterparts and remove all genetically engineered ingredients from their
brand name products."
- While these genetically engineered ingredients continue
to enter the market, the FDA refuses to mandate pre-market safety testing
of genetically engineered ingredients or labeling so that consumers know
which foods contain them. The coalition has called on the FDA to test for
the presence of Cry9C corn in all products containing non-organic yellow
corn #2, the class of corn to which Cry9C belongs. The coalition also called
on the FDA to conduct a thorough investigation into numerous reports of
illness made to FDA and alleged to have been caused by consumption of contaminated
- FDA officially recalled the Taco Bell taco shells on
October 2, 2000, after the Kraft Company voluntarily recalled the product
from grocery store shells. The Agency declared a class II recall, defined
as "a situation in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product
may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health effects."
Genetically Engineered Food Alert called on the FDA to take the same action
on the Safeway brand taco shells.
- Aventis, under the direction of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) has agreed to purchase the Starlink crops that are currently
being grown and harvested in the United States, an undertaking estimated
to cost the company from US$90 to $100 million, according to USDA. Aventis
has also announced that sales of Starlink corn hybrids for 2001 had been
- An estimated 45 million bushels of Starlink corn were
grown this year by U.S. farmers in more than 20 states. Reports are starting
to surface, however, that some farmers were not told to segregate Starlink
to ensure that it did not enter the human food chain. A USDA spokesperson
stated that the USDA will not buy Starlink corn that has been blended in
bins with other varieties.
- Genetically Engineered Food Alert founding members include:
Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture
and Trade Policy, National Environmental Trust, Organic Consumers Association,
Pesticide Action Network North America, and the State Public Interest Research
- Background material available on the Web
- The recall letters to Safeway, Taco Bell and Philip Morris,
the formal petition to the FDA, test results, and fact sheets on genetically
engineered Cry9C corn, the regulatory history of Cry9C, and the laboratory
testing protocol are located on the Genetically Engineered Food Alert Web
site at http://www.gefoodalert.org/recall.
- Sources: "Starlink Bites the Dust," Cropchoice.com,
September 26, 2000. "U.S. grain industry meets at USDA," AgWeb.com,
October 6, 2000. "Starlink Growers Get Premiums; Questions Still to
Answer," Progressive Farmer, October 20, 2000. GE Food Alert press
release, October 12, 2000. Reuters, October 12, 2000.
- Contact: PANNA
- PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource
guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage
by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North
America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance
sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
- You can join our efforts! We gladly accept donations
for our work and all contributions are tax deductible in the United States.
Visit our extensive web site at http://www.panna.org to learn more about
- Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) 49 Powell
St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA Phone: (415) 981-1771 Fax:
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