- CHICAGO (Reuters) 2001
Environmental group Greenpeace said it had detected traces of a gene-altered corn variety not
approved for human consumption in vegetarian corn dogs made by Kellogg
A Greenpeace scientist urged the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to order a nationwide recall of Kellogg's
Morningstar Farms brand meatless corn dogs that Greenpeace said contain StarLink corn.
The allegation comes more than five months after StarLink --
which is barred from human consumption because of concerns it
might trigger allergic reactions -- was discovered in another
company's taco shells, prompting a massive recall of more than
300 food products.
Christine Ervin, a spokeswoman for Battle Creek, Michigan-based
Kellogg, said the company had sent the corn dogs for independent
testing. "We understand that the lab they (Greenpeace) sent it
to has supposedly found it (StarLink)," Ervin told Reuters. "We
have informed the FDA and are sending it for independent
She said the company has not decided whether to recall the corn
In late September, Kraft Foods, a unit of Philip Morris Cos.,
caused a stir when it said traces of the StarLink corn variety,
engineered by European pharmaceutical giant Aventis SA , were
detected in Taco Bell brand taco shells.
StarLink was also found in food products in Japan, the top buyer
of U.S. corn, and South Korea, which led to sharp declines in
American corn imports by the two Asian nations.
The U.S. Agriculture Department said in a monthly report
released on Thursday that StarLink had hurt U.S. corn exports,
helping to pummel prices to about 15-year lows. Farmers claiming
to have suffered financially from the slump in corn exports and
lower prices have filed class-action lawsuits against the U.S.
unit of Aventis. Industry sources said it would cost Aventis
hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate farmers who grew
StarLink or had their corn contaminated by the variety.
Greenpeace genetic engineering specialist Charles Margulis told
a news conference on Thursday that tests commissioned by the
group on three Kellogg food products revealed a gene-altered soy
ingredient and genetically modified corn.
"We tested three Kellogg products purchased from a Maryland
Safeway store in late February," Margulis said. "We sent them to
a British laboratory for genetic-engineering testing. All three
products tested positive for genetically engineered soy, and one
product tested positive for Bt corn, a genetically engineered
"The product with the Bt corn...we decided to see if it
contained StarLink," Margulis said. "The British lab doesn't do
StarLink testing, so we sent another sample of the product to
Genetic ID, a lab in Iowa...and the product tested positive for
He said the tests showed that Kellogg's Morningstar non-meat
burgers and vegetable patties contained a genetically modified
soy ingredient, but not StarLink corn. Margulis said the tests
showed Morningstar corn dogs contained less than 1 percent
StarLink, the same amount found in previously recalled food
Kellogg said that its Worthington Foods unit had never claimed
in its labeling that its products were free of genetically
modified crops. An FDA spokeswoman said the agency is
investigating the Greenpeace complaint and that it is testing a
variety of foods containing corn for the presence of StarLink.
The USDA, which announced a buy-back program on Wednesday of
some corn seed contaminated with StarLink bio-corn's unique
protein, known as Cry9C, had no comment.
Food makers said most of the controversy stems from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency's 1998 approval of StarLink for
animal feed but not for human consumption. On Wednesday, the EPA
announced it would not grant any more so-called "split
registrations," allowing a biotech plant to be used for animal
feed but not for humans.
"The key point is that StarLink's presence in food is the result
of the failed policy of the approval process set by the EPA,"
said Peter Cleary, spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of
America. "That system allowed StarLink to enter the food
supply." Cleary emphasized the gene-spliced corn is not a threat
"Our industry learned a real hard lesson with the taco shells,"
said David Uchic, a spokesman for the National Corn Growers
Association, referring to the massive food recall. "We don't
want any seed corn going to the ground that is not verified to
be StarLink-free," Uchic said. "We believe this is going to
address the corn crop this year and the food products that come
out of it."
Editor's note: Genetically engineered corn has been made
poisonous to insects that feed on it. One biochemist stated "if
it could kill the insects that eat it, it has yet to be
determined what effect it would have on humans or the genetics