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Japan Recalls More Food After GE Potato Contamination

Japan Recalls More Food After GE Potato Contamination

Japan's Snack Recalls Exacerbate Biotech Fuss
Updated: Fri, Jun 22 1:20 PM EDT
By Jae Hur

TOKYO (Reuters) - Distrust over genetically modified (GM) foods in
Japan
deepened on Friday after the third recall in less than a month of snack
products containing unapproved gene-spliced potato.

Japan's Bourbon Corp. said it had voluntarily recalled some of its snack
products after traces of unapproved NewLeaf Plus potato were detected.

It was the second case this week after the nationwide recall by Calbee
Foods of its "Jagariko" snack on Wednesday and Japan's third since the
imposition in April of stricter rules to guard against imports of unapproved
GM products.

In late May, Japan's Health Ministry ordered Osaka-based House Foods
Corp. to recall its snack product "O'Zack" after the ministry found traces
of NewLeaf Plus in it.

The new rules set zero tolerance for imports containing unapproved
gene-altered products and require mandatory labeling for approved
GM products.

Bourbon said it was recalling its "Potelka" snack produced before June
1, after tests for both NewLeaf Plus and NewLeaf Y potatoes turned out
positive.

Sales of the Potelka products totalled 1.1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) in
the 2000/01 fiscal year, against the company's total sales of 86.47 billion
yen, a company spokesman said. The recall was expected to cost the
company about 80 million yen.

Potelka was made from potato ingredients imported from the United States
with certificates that showed they were non-GM products, he said.

The NewLeaf varieties, developed by leading US agricultural biotech firm
Monsanto Co. to protect potatoes from insects and potato viruses, have not
been approved in Japan. In 1998, Monsanto's Japan unit applied for approval
of NewLeaf Plus, but a decision is still pending.

The food recalls, reminiscent of the StarLink furor late last year, has again
deepened fears among the top two US corn importers, Japan and South
Korea, over the possibility of more gene-spliced StarLink corn ending up
on store shelves.

The discovery of StarLink in food products last October by a consumer group
had prompted Japan, where StarLink is not approved even for animal feed, to
distrust US corn and cut its buying.

"The potato snack recalls have the same basic problem as the StarLink corn
does," said a senior trader with the food industry.

The recalls suggest that the only way to avoid unapproved GM products is
to use other substitutes for corn or not buy corn from the United States, said
another trading house trader.

Japan, which imports 4 million tonnes of corn for food use each year and
another 12 million tonnes for animal feed, is the biggest buyer of US corn.

In South Korea, the Korea Corn Processing Industry Association, which
imports 2 million tonnes of corn a year for food use, has already shunned US
corn at its import tenders. Korea imports another 6 million tonnes a year
for animal feed.

Concern about StarLink grew after the South Korean government detected
traces of it early this year in some corn imports that carried official US
non-StarLink certificates.

StarLink, made by Franco-German biotech firm Aventis SA to fight a
destructive pest known as the European corn borer, has not been approved
by US regulators for human consumption because of fears over potential
allergic reactions.

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