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3-Food: Illegal GE food: Canadian industry and Government produce smoke screens and confusion

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  A) Greenpeace and Council of Canadians denounce secret recall of
           Canadian taco shells containing unapproved genetically engineered
           animal food 
        B) Canadian consumers not warned of taco recall
           Confusion reigns over whose duty it is to notify public
        C) Altered corn hasn't crossed into Canada
           'No evidence' U.S. corn went north, gov't says
SOURCE: A) Greenpeace Canada & Council of Canadiens
        B) The Toronto Star, Canada, by Stuart Laidlaw
        C) The Edmonton Journal, Canada, by James Baxter
DATE:   A) October 26, 2000
        B) October 27, 2000
        C) October 27, 2000

------------------ archive: ------------------

A) Greenpeace and Council of Canadians denounce secret recall of Canadian 
taco shells containing unapproved genetically engineered animal food

Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians called on Loblaws and Kellogg's to 
stop using genetically modified (GM) ingredients after it was discovered 
today that a type of GM corn, unapproved for human consumption, was sold to 
Canadians. The GM corn, called StarLink, was contained in taco shells and 
secretly recalled on October 13th according to a published newspaper 
report. StarLink corn contains a protein that is a potential allergen to 
humans, is only licensed for use as animal food in the USA, and has never 
been approved in Canada. The manufacturer of the tacos, Mission foods, has 
also refused to say which brand was selling their illegal products in 

"The secret recall shows that retailers like Loblaws are not willing to 
protect their consumers from the dangers of GM food," said Council of 
Canadians campaigner Jennifer Story. "We demand that they put an end to 
this genetic experiment on the Canadian population."

"This corn is made for animal food and not even approved in Canada, yet it 
has found its way into our food chain," said Greenpeace campaigner Michael 
Khoo. "This confirms the unpredictable health and environmental dangers of 
using GM food. Now all Canadian companies must act responsibly and declare 
if their products are free of this dangerous GM ingredient."

The manufacturer, the grocery store and the Canadian government all 
neglected their responsibilities by failing to issue an immediate public 
health warning and recall of all contaminated products, warned Greenpeace 
and the Council of Canadians. The groups challenged the election hopefuls 
to explain how their government would resolve this scandal. Industry data 
shows that Canadian consumer rejection of GM food has risen to 60% and over 
90% want GM food labeled.

Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians have been campaigning to stop the 
use of untested genetically modified foods. Kellogg's and top retailers in 
Europe & Japan have removed GM ingredients, but refuse to do so in Canada.

For more information

Susan Gemmell  Greenpeace
Tel: (416)597-8408
(cell 569-8408)

Jennifer Story  Council of Canadians
Tel: (613)233-2773
(cell 795-8685)


B) Canadian consumers not warned of taco recall
Confusion reigns over whose duty it is to notify public

Canadian restaurants were told two weeks ago to stop using tacos shells 
that may contain an illegal brand of genetically modified corn, but 
consumers weren't told about the food's possible health risks. The tacos 
were made by Mission Foods of Irving, Texas, which also made the taco 
brands that had to be removed from the shelves of 3,500 grocery stores in 
the United States over the past few weeks. The tacos were made with 
Starlink corn, which is not approved for use in Canada and is approved only 
as animal feed in the United States because it may cause allergic reactions 
such as fever, rashes and diarrhea.

It was initially believed that the tacos were also sold in Canadian 
groceries, but Mission spokesperson Peter Pitts said yesterday the company 
only sells to the food-service industry in Canada. He refused, however, to 
say which companies had bought Mission tacos. "We don't disclose the names 
of our customers. It's a privacy issue." Pitts refused to say even whether 
Mission's customers are restaurants, hotels, caterers or cafeterias, citing 
commercial confidentiality. He said it is up to food-service companies to 
tell consumers about the recall. "It would be at their discretion."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has said it is up to the manufacturer 
to let the public know about a voluntary recall, and will only force a 
company to make the matter public if the health risks are life-threatening. 
The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association did not return calls 
yesterday. Taco Bell was the first brand-name product to be recalled in the 
United States, though only from grocery stores. The U.S. company said it 
uses a different recipe for its restaurant tacos.

In Canada, Taco Bell buys its shells from Tyson Foods Inc. in Indiana, so 
was not affected by the recall, company spokesperson Denny Post said.

"The current product we are using is safe and has been tested to be 
Starlink free."
Denny Post, Taco Bell spokesperson

"The current product we are using is safe and has been tested to be 
Starlink free." Just to be safe, Taco Bell is switching to white corn 
within the next couple of weeks, she said. Starlink is yellow. Tyson, the 
world's largest poultry company, has stopped feeding Starlink to its 
chickens even though the corn is approved for that use.

Safeway grocery stores in the United States were also forced to recall 
their tacos after activist groups found Starlink in its products. Safeway 
in Canada gets its tacos from Quebec. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 
has sent two officials to Japan to smooth over concerns there after 
Starlink corn was discovered in a consumer product. As well, the White 
House called a meeting of top biotech food policy-makers yesterday to 
discuss the issue. Like Canada, Japan has not approved Starlink for any use.

Keith Pitts, a special adviser on biotechnology to U.S. Agriculture 
Secretary Dan Glickman, said a top priority for the U.S. government is to 
calm the fears of overseas grain buyers. "Whatever they need us to do, we 
will do," he said. Tokyo commodity traders have begun to speculate that the 
issue may hurt American corn exports to Japan, the United States' largest 
customer. Canada will likely not benefit from drops in U.S. sales, however, 
because it doesn't grow enough corn to meet its own needs, said Darcy 
Oliphant, a trader with grain company W.G. Thompson & Sons Ltd.

Starlink maker Aventis, a European biotechnology giant, was given U.S. 
clearance to sell the corn as animal feed on condition that it tell farmers 
the crop was not approved for human consumption, though farm groups have 
complained their members were not told. Aventis is buying the corn back 
from farmers at an expected cost of $100 million (U.S.).


C) Altered corn hasn't crossed into Canada 'No evidence' U.S. corn went 
north, gov't says

Products containing a controversial genetically modified variety of corn 
that was pulled from supermarket shelves in the U.S. nearly a month ago 
have not crept into Canada's supermarkets, industry and government 
officials said Thursday. Responding to reports that Canadian consumers 
might have been exposed to StarLink corn, which is approved only for animal 
consumption in the U.S., a spokesperson for the Canadian Food Inspection 
Agency said while they are continuing their investigation, there is 
"absolutely no evidence to date that StarLink has ever crossed the border.''

"We continue to actively investigate, which we have from the start of the 
situation, but our investigations so far have shown there is just plain 
nothing there," said Gerald Nixon, food composition technical specialist 
for the agency. Nixon insisted that even if StarLink were being consumed in 
Canada, there is no evidence that it poses any danger to humans.

A senior spokesperson for Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said there is no risk that 
customers are eating StarLink in their products because all of their 
private-label items are made with white corn, whereas StarLink is a variety 
of yellow corn. "Food safety is one of our highest priorities and we take 
the issue very seriously," said Geoff Wilson, vice-president of industry 
and investor relations. "We have checked with our suppliers and we are not 
aware of the existence of any illegal substance or ingredient in any of our 
controlled label tacos." While industry and health experts appear certain 
that products sold in Canadian supermarkets are free of StarLink, there 
appears to be less certainty that it has not made its way into Canada's 

The alarm in Canada was sounded following an admission by Mission Foods of 
Irving, Tex., that it may have sold taco shells, wraps and tortilla chips --
 potentially containing a small amount of StarLink corn -- to wholesale 
distributors that were then possibly exported to Canada as restaurant 
supplies. Mission Foods, the U.S.'s largest manufacturer of corn-based 
tortilla and tortilla products, has issued a voluntary recall of all its 
products containing yellow corn.

Experts are still trying to determine how the StarLink corn entered the 
human food chain. Most believe it was an accidental mixing of corn lots at 
a grain elevator, but there is a fear it has cross-pollinated with 
conventional corn varieties. StarLink has never been cleared for human 
consumption anywhere because it contains a protein that has been spliced 
into a plant's genetic code which helps ward off insects, particularly the 
European and southern corn borers. It is feared that the protein, CRY9C, 
which is derived from a bacteria found naturally in the soil, cannot be 
easily digested by humans and could potentially cause allergic reactions in 
a small percentage of people.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a 
statement saying the EPA "does not have any evidence that food containing 
StarLink corn will cause any allergic reaction in people and the agency 
believes the risks, if any, are extremely low." Health Canada concurs, 
Nixon said. Reports that StarLink was being consumed by Canadians were used 
by citizens groups to demand that Loblaw stop selling products containing 
engineered ingredients until it can guarantee the safety of its customers.

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