by Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 21, 2000
Kellogg Co. has been forced to shut down production at one plant
because the company could not find corn guaranteed to be free of a
genetically modified grain approved only for animal consumption,
food industry sources said yesterday.
The shutdown was the most visible evidence of the problems that have
been confronting the U.S. food industry since officials discovered
that the genetically engineered corn had been widely distributed
throughout the country, industry officials said.
Kellogg officials would not confirm the shutdown.
Ervin said the company - which produces Frosted Flakes and Special K
cereals along with other products,
"doesn't discuss production
schedules for competitive reasons."
But two sources familiar with the situation, who asked not to be
named, said the food giant, based in Battle Creek, Mich., had
stopped production at the plant in midweek, and one said it remains
A major cause of the disruption is that big grain suppliers are
unable to certify that their corn is not "adulterated" with the
genetically modified corn, known as StarLink, which was apparently
mixed with non-engineered corn in multiple sites around the country
in violation of federal regulations.
"What we are hearing is a
significant degree of concern about whether mills or food
processors are able to provide a guarantee of non-contamination,
or non-comingling with StarLink," a senior official with the
Environmental Protection Agency, who asked not to be named, said
"Because those guarantees are not being given, some
corn is not being sold."
The engineered corn was not approved for
human consumption because of concerns that it could trigger
dangerous allergic reactions.
Federal officials stressed that the
corn does not pose an immediate health hazard. But officials are
nonetheless trying to locate and withdraw the corn supplies.
Aventis CropScience, which makes the corn, has agreed to buy back at
a premium as much of this year's crop as possible. Last week,
company officials reported that 9 million bushels of the corn - about
12 percent of the crop - had already left farms after being harvested
in recent weeks, and that some had gotten into the human food
Aventis is trying to identify the grain elevators and mills
that may have received the corn.
Concern that StarLink had made it into the food supply began with a
report from a consortium of opponents of engineered food, known as
Genetically Engineered Food Alert, that it had found the corn in
Taco Bell taco shells. That finding was confirmed by the Food and
Drug Administration, and several brands of taco shells were recalled
as a result.
The FDA (Food
and Drug Administration) is testing a variety of other corn products.
yesterday that StarLink has been found only in taco shells so far.
"To the extent there have been
supply slowdowns, we think that reflects the industry being
responsible, and taking the situation very seriously," said
Agriculture Department spokesman Andy Solomon.
Government officials said the StarLink
problems have begun to prevent exporters from fulfilling contracts
with companies overseas, which often demand that products be
guaranteed to be free of engineered foods.
The White House has been in regular contact with officials from the
four federal agencies involved in overseeing genetically engineered
food. Their latest conference call took place yesterday, a spokesman
said, and they addressed an array of issues, from the extent to
which the substance is traceable and how far it has infiltrated the
food supply to the potential impact on exports.
is hoping to hold a meeting on Monday so agency officials can brief
representatives from the European Union on the steps being taken to
address the problem, officials said.
One possible solution to the StarLink problem is to, in effect,
approve for human consumption the StarLink now in the food chain if
it falls below a certain level. Because an application for human
consumption was before regulators when the problems began, officials
said any new scientific data presented to support claims that the
corn is safe for people might be reviewed now.
Some believe the food industry is being overly cautious about
But Gene Grabowski, spokesman for the Grocery
Manufacturers of America, said the industry has to take consumer
sensitivities into account.
"We believe food companies are
taking responsible steps, but they should not be interpreted as
meaning the food industry believes there is harm to public
safety being done, because there is not," he said.
important that we slow down here a bit and not rush to
conclusions that aren't based on facts."
buying StarLink gene-altered corn
by K.T. Arasu
Tyson Foods Inc. , the world's largest poultry
producer, said on Friday it has stopped feeding its chickens with a
gene-altered corn approved for use only as animal feed but turned up
in taco shells and flour.
The Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson is believed to be the first food
company to stop the use of
StarLink corn as an animal feed, as
concerns emerged that the corn has spread through the U.S. food
"Tyson has elected to stop acquiring
corn that we know is StarLink corn," Tyson spokesman Ed
Nicholson told Reuters.
He said the company did not plan to
carry out independent testing but will leave to its suppliers to
ensure corn it purchases is free of StarLink.
"This is basically a precautionary
move to avoid confusion among consumers, although to my
understanding, there has been no links of the protein in
StarLink transferring to products."
The protein, known as Cry9C and not
found in other crops that are genetically modified, is safe for
animals but may trigger allergic reactions in humans, including
fever, rashes or diarrhea, according to government scientists.
European pharmaceutical giant Aventis SA, which engineered StarLink
corn, has said 90 percent of the corn has been accounted for and was
"tracking" the remainder.
But sources close to the company and in the industry said that some
9 million bushels of StarLink corn is unaccounted for.
Nicholson said Tyson had stopped buying StarLink corn about a month
ago, when news of the corn entering the food chain and turning up in
taco shells was first made public.
The episode began late last month when the largest food manufacturer
in the United States, Kraft Foods, a unit of Philip Morris Cos.
Inc., recalled Taco Bell brand taco shells because they contained StarLink corn.
On Tuesday, ConAgra Foods Inc., the country's second-largest food
manufacturer, said it had suspended milling operations at its corn
processing plant in Kansas while it tests for StarLink corn.
Azteca Milling, a distributor to Mission Foods and other food
makers, said it stopped shipping and milling yellow corn on Sept.
19. Azteca and Mission also voluntarily recalled some yellow corn
products because they could contain StarLink. The two companies are
units of Texas food producer Gruma Corp., a subsidiary of Mexican
food group Gruma .
Aventis has since agreed to cancel its license to sell the StarLink
corn after government officials said the firm was responsible for
ensuring farmers properly segregate the corn.
The company has been buying back StarLink corn, paying farmers who
planted the variety 25 cents more than the market rate to channel
the grain solely as animal feed.
Nicholson said Tyson might have bought StarLink corn before the
Kraft recall of taco shells, but added that,
"it will be difficult to say because
it was not identified then".
"It will be virtually impossible to say that none of it (StarLink)
will end up in our feed because our mills are not testing at
this point," he added.
He said Tyson buys about 6.3 million
bushels of corn each week.
StarLink corn problem under control - CEO
by Carey Gillam
MANHATTAN, Kan. (Reuters)
Agricultural giant Cargill Inc. found an
unapproved variety of biotech corn in some of its food grain
supplies recently, but the company has the problem under control,
its chairman said Friday.
The genetically engineered variety of corn known as
been approved only for animal feed but has made its way into the
human food supply chain, setting off a costly and widespread food
industry containment and recall effort.
Chairman and Chief Executive Warren Staley said Cargill, like other
agricultural companies caught up in the controversy, may have
inadvertently processed StarLink corn for human food uses before
implementing new testing procedures to identify and reject the grain
at its food grain corn processing facilities.
The testing technology
became available to the industry only in recent weeks, he said.
"We went facility by facility and put in place a protocol for
testing for StarLink," Staley told Reuters. "We don't feel it's our
fault, and we think we're being responsible. We didn't know what we
The industry estimates that millions of bushels of the corn have
already made their way into the human food chain. In recent weeks,
taco shells, tortillas and corn chips have been recalled from across
the United States because of possible contamination.
Government officials do not think the corn poses serious health
risks, but the StarLink variety, which is designed to be toxic to
certain insects, may trigger allergic reactions in some people.
Staley said he receives daily reports on StarLink testing results at
Cargill facilities, and the company is working with government
officials and others in the food supply chain to try to contain the
The effort is costly and one that Staley
finds frustrating, he said.
"I hope this is a huge lesson for
everybody in the industry," he said.
Staley said he thought it would be
possible to segregate genetically modified grain from other grain,
but all players in the industry would need to act responsibly.
Irresponsible behavior by a few is to blame for the current mess, he
"There is a process of protocols to
be followed," Staley said. "Unfortunately people didn't handle
Cargill is not the only company
affected. Earlier this week, ConAgra Foods Inc., another of the
nation's biggest food companies, announced it was halting production
at its Kansas corn processing plant while it tested for the presence
of StarLink corn.
Staley emphasized that fears of the corn's impact on human health
were minimal, and said his concern was to ensure that proper
procedures for handling bioengineered grain were followed.
"This is not a health issue, this is
a compliance issue," he said.
The StarLink corn seed was developed by
Aventis CropScience, the U.S. unit of Aventis SA, which recently
agreed to cancel its license to sell the corn after government
officials said Aventis was responsible for ensuring that farmers
properly segregate the corn.
Richard Calhoun, vice president for Cargill's North American Grain
and Oilseeds unit, said the marketplace is starting to pay more for
non-StarLink corn, and many customers are concerned.
"It is a significant issue," Calhoun
Staley and Calhoun were in Manhattan,
Kansas, on Friday for the formal announcement of a $1 million gift
from Cargill to Kansas State University. The money is to assist in
the development of a new Grain Science Center, which will include
bioprocessing facilities and high-tech research laboratories.
Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Cargill is an international marketer,
processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and
industrial products and services. It posted $48 billion in revenues
in the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
if US biotech food regulations adequate
WASHINGTON, Oct 20 (Reuters)
The European Commission on Friday
expressed concern about whether U.S. regulations are adequate to
stop bioengineered grains from getting into exports to nations
concerned about gene-spliced foods.
John Richardson, deputy chief of the EC delegation in Washington,
said there were fresh questions about American regulations following
the recent U.S. recall of taco shells and flour containing a variety
of biotech corn which had not been approved for human consumption.
The EC is concerned whether any U.S. foods exported to Europe
contain the same type of yellow corn, known to farmers by its
Britain, France, Italy and more than two dozen other nations around
the world prohibit the sale of foods containing biotech ingredients
unless they are clearly labeled for consumers. American green
groups have pushed for similar regulations in the United States,
saying not enough is known yet about the long-term effects of
U.S. agribusiness and industry groups oppose tighter regulations,
contending that a longstanding U.S. government policy recognizes
bioengineered foods as safe and no different from conventional ones.
StarLink, made by Aventis SA, was approved by U.S. regulators for
animal feed only and not for human consumption because of government
scientists' unresolved questions about whether it might be an
allergen for some people.
The EC was to hold talks later on Friday with U.S. government
officials about the StarLink contamination, Richardson told a
briefing on a variety of trade issues.
"Part of the basis on which U.S.
genetically-modified products are exported to Europe...is the
understanding the United States has the ability to distinguish
between non-approved products and approved products," he said.
"What this whole discussion throws up is whether, in fact, the
U.S. has that ability (and) whether the U.S. system is working,"
Last week, a senior Clinton
administration official said the United States was making headway
against European resistance to genetically modified crops.
Alan Larson, a State Department undersecretary for business and
agriculture, told an Iowa food conference that he believed there was
a growing unease in Europe with green groups that have lobbied for
strict biotech regulations.
The United States is the world's biggest producer of gene-altered
soybeans, corn, squash and other crops.
American exports of grain to
Europe have dropped because of European consumers' resistance to
from Representative Dennis Kucinich Ohio-10th District
Rep. Kucinich announces Legislation Granting FDA Food Embargo
Authority - Unapproved GE Corn Fiasco Indicates Need for Better Govít
Thursday, October 19, 2000
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Cleveland) announced
a legislative effort to eliminate a major food safety loophole.
legislation Kucinich will introduce will grant FDA authority to
quickly 'embargo' adulterated food products giving Americans
immediate protection. FDA would be better equipped to handle the StarLink corn fiasco which has resulted in widespread contamination
of the bulk corn commodity market.
FDA's current authority allows the
seizure of adulterated foods only after a lengthy court process, yet
they have no authority to take immediate steps to protect the
'If the federal government can
protect the American consumer by forcing a massive recall of
Firestone tires, then the federal government should have the
ability to force a recall of contaminated food to ensure food
safety,' said Representative Kucinich.
'The genetically engineered genie is
out of the bottle and contaminating our food supply. Now is the
time for our federal regulators to have the ability to clean up
the mess this out-of-control genie has created.'
The legislation will:
require the FDA to 'embargo'
adulterated food (a temporary seizure) until a court
determines if FDA can permanently seize the product. Our
food safety regulators must be able to protect the American
public with immediate action.
require the FDA to disclose all
necessary information without regard to confidentially, if
such disclosure is necessary to embargo, seize, or recall
any adulterated food. The American consumer must be assured
that an embargoed, seized, or recalled adulterated food
cannot be hidden behind claims of proprietary information.
require registration of grocery
stores with the FDA to expedite recalls, embargos and