StarLink recall jump-starts biotech debate, says study

ALEXANDRIA, VA: The food industry has suffered a PR blow from publicity surrounding the genetically modified corn StarLink, according to a new report released by Promar International, an agricultural consulting and marketing firm.

ALEXANDRIA, VA: The food industry has suffered a PR blow from publicity surrounding the genetically modified corn StarLink, according to a new report released by Promar International, an agricultural consulting and marketing firm.

ALEXANDRIA, VA: The food industry has suffered a PR blow from publicity surrounding the genetically modified corn StarLink, according to a new report released by Promar International, an agricultural consulting and marketing firm.

In September Kraft Foods launched a massive recall of taco shells that contained traces of StarLink, which had been approved for animal, but not human, consumption. StarLink has since emerged in other food products.

The StarLink episode 'is a huge fund-raising tool for (biotech opponent) Friends of the Earth' said Don Westfall, a VP at Promar International and author of the study, which is entitled 'Jurassic Foods?' 'StarLink has given the alarmists a tremendous club,' in the PR battle for consumer attention, he said.

Press coverage of StarLink began noting that it was a genetically altered product and that it had not been approved for human consumption. 'Very quickly the press lost track of the 'not for human consumption' and focused on the 'genetically modified' side of the story,' Westfall said.

Federal food regulators learned a major PR lesson from StarLink, he continued.

Westfall doesn't expect to see regulators giving a biotech product split approval again, meaning it's acceptable for animals but not people. Doing so, he says, is likely to undermine consumer trust in food regulation, and such a lack of trust is what prompted European consumers to worry about biotech foods.

The report criticizes the US food industry for being slow to address the biotech issue with one voice that extends from the farm to supermarket shelves. Food processors, which are at the front of consumers' minds on this issue, will have to be more proactive if they hope to gain consumer acceptance for products containing biotech ingredients, predicted Westfall.

'This is a question that affects more than just logistics. Executives responsible for everything from marketing to mergers will have to take notice too,' he concluded.



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