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Anatomy Of A 'Gene Spill'

Do We Really Need Genetically Engineered Food?

Food policy think tank releases report on the StarLink/taco shell corn scandal which raises questions about genetic engineering of our food supply

Full text of the report available at: http://www.foodfirst.org/pubs/backgrdrs/2000/f00v6n4.html

(Oakland, CA)-The scandal surrounding the genetically engineered (GE) StarLink corn-a variety not approved for human consumption-first found in Taco Bell taco shells, is symptomatic of larger problems, according to Food First's latest Backgrounder: Anatomy of a Gene Spill: Do we Really Need Genetically Engineered Food? The report issued by the Institute for Food and Development Policy, also know as 'Food First,' tackles the thorny issues of corporate concentration and collusion in this recent 'gene spill,' the difficulties of keeping GE foods from the human food supply, and the implications of gene spills for human health and the environment.

"Unfortunately, gene spills are not as easy to contain as oil spills," says Dr. Peter Rosset, the author of the report and Co-Director of Food First. "You can't just throw a boom around them. Once genes are taken out of the laboratory, they can move from plant to plant by natural pollination, winding up in genomes in which they have never been tested and where they may have unpredictable effects."

After independent studies discovered Taco Bell taco shells to be contaminated with a GE corn variety only approved for animal feed, further studies have revealed how widespread this contamination is, with the latest reports finding it in U.S. exports to Japan. According to the report, all steps in the corn commodity chain, including planting, harvesting, storage, shipping, and distribution, are susceptible to genetic co-mingling. Complicating issues of accountability when accidents happen are rampant corporate mergers, acquisitions and alliances in the agriculture and food industry, which impede regulatory oversight.

"Whether it is Alar on apples, or food poisoning outbreaks from fast food hamburgers, corporate power and negligence with new technologies-farm chemicals in one case and factory farming in the other-are increasingly putting our food supply at risk and our federal regulators to sleep," said Rosset.

The report argues that there is "no compelling need" for the these products to be in our food today, and calls for an immediate moratorium on commercial use of genetic engineering of crops and GE foods until each product has passed widely acceptable environmental and health safety tests. Food First - founded in 1975 by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins after the success of Diet for a Small Planet, is an 'outside the beltway' policy think tank that carries out research, education and advocacy about out food system. Food First works to identify the root causes of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world, and to educate the public as well as policymakers about these problems and alternative solutions to them.


Full text of the >report is available at: http://www.foodfirst.org/pubs/backgrdrs/2000/f00v6n4.html

- Robt Mann consultant ecologist P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949


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