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Majority in US "Concerned" About Frankenfoods--
One Third Say Ban Them

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Many Americans say stop planting gene-altered crops
By Brad Dorfman
11/3/00

CHICAGO (Reuters) - 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 publicized
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.

15:40 11-03-00

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