US Companies Continue
GM Crops - 60 Million Acres
Of Soybean & Corn Planted
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 engineered potatoes.
"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 other products.
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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