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Ecuador Tells US--No Frankenfoods in Food Aid Shipments

Ecuador Tells US--No Frankenfoods in Food Aid Shipments

Ecuador asks US food aid contain no biotech crops
Updated 7:25 PM ET May 15, 2001By Randy Fabi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ecuador has asked a United Nations organization to
destroy U.S. food aid containing genetically engineered crops after some
donations were suspected of containing biotech soybeans, but the matter has
been sorted out and the aid is continuing, officials said on Tuesday.

Foreign governments and consumer groups have recently raised concerns over
genetically modified foods since an unapproved bioengineered corn variety
was found in hundreds of taco shells, chips and other food products sold in
the United States and Japan.

Friends of the Earth, a green group and critic of biotech foods, said it
sent samples of U.S. food aid in Ecuador and other Latin American countries
to be tested for transgenic ingredients. The group said tests results
indicated high levels of transgenic crops in the food donations.

After the findings, Ecuador's Social Welfare Ministry sent a March 30 letter
asking the UN's World Food Program to stop distribution of genetically
modified crops in U.S. food aid, the green group said.

A spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Program said it received the letter
and held discussions about the issue with Ecuador officials.

"Upon review of the letter, Ecuador's government gave us full support to
continue our food aid program and asked for no interruption in its
distribution," said Abigail Spring, spokeswoman for the World Food Program.

The World Food Program in partnership with the U.S. Agriculture Department
and Ecuador's government currently feed some 1.5 million people in the Latin
American country.

APPROVED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION

U.S. Agriculture Department officials said genetically modified crop
varieties contained in U.S. food aid shipments have all been approved for
human consumption by the U.S. government.

But Gerber Products Co, the biggest U.S. baby food maker, and other U.S.
food companies, have avoided transgenic ingredients in their products to
ease consumer fears.

"In Europe and the U.S., many baby food companies don't use engineered
ingredients in their products, but the U.S. has sent it to our children,"
said Elizabeth Bravo, spokeswoman for the environmental group's office in
Ecuador.

"Alternatives to engineered ingredients exist and should be used in food aid
programs," Bravo said in a statement.

Last month, about 100 consumer and green groups around the world urged the
Bush administration to halt exports of U.S. corn and food aid that may be
contaminated with StarLink biotech corn.

More than 300 U.S. snack foods, taco shells, and other products containing
corn flour were recalled last October because of StarLink contamination.

StarLink, a variety engineered to repel destructive pests, was approved by
the Environmental Protection Agency in 1998 for use only as animal feed. EPA
scientists have expressed lingering concerns that the corn variety might
trigger allergic reactions such as rashes, diarrhea or breathing problems in
a small number of consumers.

The USDA has forecast fiscal 2001 U.S. food aid donations at 5.70 million
tonnes of commodities to 72 countries.

More than 60 percent of U.S. soybeans and 20 percent of corn are genetically
modified, according to USDA estimates.

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