ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  5 November 2000

- 'Yer Ass is Grass Aventis' - Cargill

More good news for AVENTIS!

1    Many Americans say stop planting gene-altered crops - Reuters

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.

2.    Corn-Recall Cost Could Reach Into the Hundreds of Millions -Wall Street Journal

"Whatever the recall costs, Cargill says it doesn`t plan to pay it quietly. ``We are going to be holding Aventis responsible, and we are going to be filing claims,`` spokeswoman Bonnie Raquet said."

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1.    Many Americans say stop planting gene-altered crops
        - by Brad Dorfman, Reuters - 1 November 2000

CHICAGO, 3 Nov 3 - A majority of Americans believe recent recalls of foods containing genetically modified ingredients raise concerns about U.S. 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 U.S. 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 dollars.

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 U.S. 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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2.    Corn-Recall Cost Could Reach Into the Hundreds of Millions - Wall Street Journal
3 November 2000 by Sarah Lueck, Amy Merrick, Joel Millman and Stephen D Moore

The recall of StarLink genetically modified corn could cost companies all along the food chain hundreds of millions of dollars as they attempt to find, retrieve and replace products that used the corn.

From Aventis SA, which markets StarLink, to food processors and grocery stores, the impact of the recall is sweeping, covering nearly 300 products and requiring increased testing. Already, the first lawsuits have been filed by consumers claiming allergic reactions to the corn, which is approved only for animal feed and industrial purposes. But some companies are reaping big benefits from the StarLink corn flap.

French pharmaceutical concern Aventis estimates that it will spend from $100 million to $1 billion on the 25 cents-per-bushel ``service fee`` to buy the StarLink crop back from growers. ``But it's still not clear how that cost will be divided between Aventis, the seed companies who licensed the StarLink technology and insurers for everybody involved,`` said Gerhard Waitz, a company spokesman.

Aventis officials expect legal wrangling over responsibility for unauthorized uses of StarLink corn. Government officials have said Aventis failed to make sure that the corn was grown with buffers that would prevent cross-pollination and other restrictions that were conditions of StarLink`s approval. Aventis officials insist that seed companies licensed to incorporate the corn into their own products were responsible for notifying farmers about the restrictions. ``We did everything we had
to do - and after growers licensed the technology, they had to see that things were properly
handled in the next stages of distribution,`` said one Aventis official.

The U.S. subsidiaries of Mexico's largest corn miller, Gruma SA, already have spent millions of dollars on an extensive recall of tortilla chips, tortillas and taco shells produced by Mission Foods from corn flour produced by a sister company, Azteca Milling.

Peter Pitts, a Mission spokesman, said that since the recall began, Mission's entire sales force of more than 200 has worked full time on the recall effort. To date, from five million to six million pounds of Mission products have been either destroyed or placed in storage. Mr. Pitts added that Mission may spend as much as $10 million this year correcting any problems that have risen in connection with the StarLink episode.

The flap cost Azteca at least one big customer: Bimbo Bakeries USA, a subsidiary of Mexico`s largest bread company, Grupo Bimbo SA, which stopped buying Azteca corn flour in late  September.  Azteca, a joint venture between Gruma and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. of Decatur, Ill., had been Bimbo`s exclusive supplier of corn flour for three tortilla plants in Ohio, Texas and California. A Bimbo official said it is now buying flour from Grupo Minsa SA, which also has U.S.

Frito-Lay, a unit of PepsiCo Inc. and the biggest maker of corn snacks, said its own growers supply the majority of its corn. The small amount bought on the open market is tested for StarLink by suppliers at the company's request, said a spokeswoman. Tricon Global Restaurants Inc. said October same-store sales fell 12% at its Taco Bell chain, partly because of the StarLink recall. Taco
Bell licenses its name to a type of Kraft Foods taco shell, a recalled product sold in supermarkets.

For other food concerns and grocery stores, costs could reach the tens of millions, said Gene Grabowski, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America in Washington, D.C. Physically removing products from store shelves and shipping them back to plants should account for the bulk of those expenses, he said.

For grain elevators and exporters such as Cargill Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc. and Continental Grain Co., the recall represents lost market opportunities, said Randy Gordon, a spokesman for the National Grain and Feed Association.  Whatever the recall costs, Cargill says it doesn't plan to pay it quietly. ``We are going to be holding Aventis responsible, and we are going to be filing
claims,`` spokeswoman Bonnie Raquet said.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating several reports of allergic reactions, but hasn't confirmed StarLink was the culprit. Officials have called such risks ``remote.``

But that doesn't rule out lawsuits from people who believe StarLink made them sick. In Chicago, two people are suing Aventis and Azteca, claiming they got hives, stomach aches and other allergy symptoms after eating Kraft taco shells.

The companies that sell tests for detecting StarLink may be among the few that benefit from the recall. Strategic Diagnostics Inc., Newark, Del., sold 400,000 such tests by Oct. 20 to clients including ADM and Azteca, said Arthur Koch, chief financial officer. EnviroLogix Inc. of Portland, Maine, which sells similar tests, has been fielding many calls from the food industry and government agencies, said Dean Layton, vice president of marketing and sales.

Betsy McKay in Atlanta contributed to this article.
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