Archive for Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Biotech industry endorses crop control

September 26, 2000


— A group representing the biotechnology industry endorsed proposals by Kraft Foods to tighten controls on genetically engineered crops in the wake of a recall of taco shells made with corn that isn't approved for human consumption.

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.

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 biotech corn used in the taco shells is only approved for animal feed because of unresolved questions about its potential to cause allergic reactions in people.

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.

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.

The corn, which contains a bacterium gene that makes it toxic to an insect pest, is produced by Aventis Corp. and goes under the trade name StarLink. Aventis is a member of the biotechnology organization.

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

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