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8-Misc: Many Americans say stop planting gene-altered crops

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TITLE:  Many Americans say stop planting gene-altered crops
SOURCE: Reuters, by Brad Dorfman
DATE:   November 6, 2000

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Many Americans say stop planting gene-altered crops

CHICAGO - A majority of Americans believe recent recalls of foods 
containing genetically modified ingredients raise concerns about US food 
safety, and a third said farmers should not be allowed to grow gene-altered 
crops, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Friday. Some 1,210 
adults were polled this week about their reactions to the recall of taco 
shells and other foods tainted with ingredients containing corn not 
approved for human consumption. The corn, a variety of seed called StarLink 
made by European pharmaceuticals giant Aventis SA, was not approved because 
of concern it could provoke allergic reactions.

The survey found 54.4 percent of respondents concerned about the recalls 
because it raised questions about the food supply. Nearly 60 percent of 
women surveyed expressed concern. Only 24.9 percent said they were not 
concerned about it. Seventeen percent said they had not heard about the 
recalls, which have been widely publicised in the press. The controversial 
StarLink variety accounted for only about one percent of US corn plantings 
this year, but the corn has been mixed with other varieties, spawning chaos 
in the food chain from farmers to food companies and costing millions of 

Fully a third of those surveyed, 33.3 percent, said that farmers should not 
be allowed to plant gene modified crops. Some 39.2 percent said that 
farmers should be able to plant them and 19.7 percent said they were not 
sure. "I really think that farmers should not be allowed to grow it," said 
Sandy Farris, a 43-year-old marketing coordinator for a water and waste 
operations management company in Houston, and one of those surveyed. She 
said she was concerned that genetically modified foods might be sold 
without being identified as such to consumers. "I really don't think that 
their quality assurance is that great," said Farris, who has four children 
ages 7 to 24.

The question of whether genetically modified crops should be allowed into 
the food chain was put in sharp focus in late September when Philip Morris 
Cos. unit Kraft Food voluntarily recalled Taco Bell taco shells from store 
shelves after a gene-modified corn called StarLink was discovered in them. 
Since then nearly 300 kinds of taco shells, tortillas, chips and tostadas 
had been recalled from US grocery stores and restaurants because of 
suspected contamination with a biotech corn. The StarLink corn, produced by 
European pharmaceutical giant Aventis SA , has been approved as animal feed 
but not for human consumption.

Even some food companies say the government should not approve foods for 
animals and not humans. "I think that what's happened in the StarLink case 
is that they're probably a little bit hard to control, once they are in the 
system," C. Steven McMillan, president and chief executive of Sara Lee 
Corp. , said after the food and consumer product company's annual meeting 
last week. Most food makers have had shareholder proposals this year 
calling for the companies to stop using gene-modified ingredients. Those 
proposals have been soundly defeated.

The survey found a significant gender gap in responses on gene-modified 
foods. A majority of men, 51.2 percent, said farmers should be allowed to 
plant gene-modified crops while 43.2 percent of women were opposed. "I just 
feel that genetically modified products are probably in the long run going 
to be healthful," William Brucker, 65, a retired insurance agent from 
Kenmore, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo, said. "You live long enough and you 
hear so much of this scare stuff and they find out that they're OK. You 
take it with a grain of salt." The poll has a margin of error of three 
percentage points.

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