Maker of genetically altered corn taking it off market

By PHILIP BRASHER

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The maker of a genetically engineered corn that is not approved for human consumption suspended sales today.

Aventis CropScience said it would stop selling the corn until the Environmental Protection Agency approves its use in food. Kraft Foods recalled millions of packages of taco shells on Friday after tests showed that some were made with an Aventis corn variety known as StarLink.

The corn is allowed only in animal feed because of unresolved questions about whether it causes allergic reactions in humans.

“We just think that until we can get all this resolved, the fairest thing for food companies and the consuming public is to stop sales,” said Rick Rountree, a spokesman for Aventis.

Aventis also will take steps to assure that corn being harvested this fall does not get into food channels, he said.

Kraft recalled the taco shells that it sells in stores under the Taco Bell name. Taco Bell Corp. said it is similarly replacing all of the shells in their restaurants later this week.

The corn, which contains a bacterium gene that makes it toxic to an insect pest, is the only genetically engineered crop not approved for food use.

The recall “illustrates how full of holes federal oversight of genetically engineered foods is,” said Rebecca Goldburg, a biotech expert with Environmental Defense.

In a letter Monday to federal regulators, the Biotechnology Industry Organization agreed that farmers shouldn’t be allowed to grow a crop that isn’t approved for food use. That was one of four recommendations that Kraft made to the Food and Drug Administration in announcing the recall on Friday.

Aventis is a member of the biotechnology organization.

The biotech group, which represents more than 900 companies, research institutions and affiliated organizations, said that “consumer confidence in the safety of all food products must be our first and only priority.”

The group also backed Kraft’s other recommendations, including one calling for mandatory review of all new biotech crops, something the FDA itself proposed in May, and another urging the government not to approve new crops unless there is a proven method of testing for their genetic material.

“As the science develops, refinements to the regulatory process may be necessary and desirable to keep pace with the science and to continue to provide for the safety of the food supply,” the letter said.

FDA officials say they are considering Kraft’s recommendations but are confident the existing regulations are working to protect public health. They have said there is no known health risk from the corn used in the tacos.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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