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THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

21 February 2005


Dear Friends and colleagues,

RE: GMOS IN WFP, US FOOD AID TO CENTRAL AMERICA

Over 70 groups led by the Friends of the Earth have denounced the World Food
Programme and the US for distributing food aid containing GMOs to Central
America.

In total over fifty samples of maize and soy from food aid in Nicaragua, Honduras,
El Salvador, Guatemala, and from commercial imports in Costa Rica and Dominican Republic were sent to the laboratory for testing to verify whether GMOs were present. In more than 80% of all samples sent to the laboratory GMOs presence were identified.

Traces of Starlink, a GMO corn which has not been authorized for human
consumption due to potential allerginicity still shows up in food aid sent to the
region after four years since its ban and discovery in the food chain. Some of the
samples tested also showed a Monsanto-developed variety which is restricted by
the European Union.

In light of the findings, the NGOs called for the immediate recall of food aid
containing GMOs. A press release by the Friends of the Earth is attached below
for you information.

With best wishes,


Lim Li Lin and Chee Yoke Heong
Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama
10450 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twnet@po.jaring.my
Website: www.twnside.org.sg



REF: Doc.TWN/Biosafety/2005/G

Item 1

WORLD FOOD PROGRAME AND UNITED STATES DENOUNCED FOR DISTRIBUTING GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD IN CENTRAL AMERICA


Press Release
Friends of the Earth


A genetically modified maize unauthorized for human consumption, StarLink, was
found in food aid distributed by the World Food Programme in Central America.

February 16, 2005, Managua, San Salvador, San Jose, Guatemala, Tegucigalpa --
More than 70 environmental, consumer, farmer, human rights groups and unions
from six Central American and Caribbean countries denounced in simultaneous
press conferences today the presence of unauthorized Genetically Modified
Organisms (GMOs) in food aid distributed by the United Nations World Food
Programme (WFP), and in commercial imports of food
originating mostly from the US.

The organizations requested the WFP to immediately recall all food aid containing
GMOs.

"The WFP by introducing food aid with GMOs is placing at risk our children and
pregnant women, the most vulnerable people in our society. The GMOs identified
are not authorized in our country and the World Food Programme must immediately
recall them", said Julio Sánchez from Centro Humboldt in Nicaragua.

"In Nicaragua our farmers produce enough food and the WFP should buy any
needed food within our country, instead of using imported food with GMOs",
added Sánchez.

In total over fifty samples of maize and soy from food aid in Nicaragua, Honduras,
El Salvador, Guatemala, and from commercial imports in Costa Rica and Dominican Republic were sent to Genetic ID, an independent U.S. laboratory, to verify whether
GMOs were present.

In more than 80% of all samples sent to the laboratory GMOs were identified.

Food aid has been identified as the main reason behind the presence of GMOs in
countries of the region. In Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala all
samples of food aid sent to the laboratory tested positive for GMOs.

The presence of GMOs in the only sample in which GM levels were tested, a bag
from Guatemala, was higher than 70%.

It is important to note that the Genetically Modified maize unauthorised for human consumption StarLink was for the first time found in food aid distributed directly by
the WFP.

StarLink has never been authorized for human consumption anywhere in the world
due to the potential allergenic content of its genetically modified protein. This maize
was initially authorized for animal feed, but in 2000 it was found in human food products and authorities spent millions of dollars to remove it from the market and banned its planting altogether.

Subsequently, it was found in Japan and Korea and was also immediately recalled from markets there. In 2002 it was also found in USAID food aid sent to Bolivia.

"It is not acceptable that a maize which is illegal for human consumption worldwide is contained in food aid distributed in our country. Finding StarLink four years after it was banned clearly shows that genetically modified foods are not under control", added Mario Godinez of CEIBA in Guatemala.

Commercial imports of food containing maize and soy mostly from the US were monitored in Costa Rica and Dominican Republic, countries which are not food aid recipients. Over 75% of all samples sent to the laboratory from there were positive.

"The unwanted presence of unlabelled GMOs shows that Costa Rica urgently needs a ban on GMOs. In order to protect our population it is of utmost importance now more than ever to act with great caution" said Fabián Pacheco of the Social Ecology Association in Costa Rica.

For background information see http://www.humboldt.org.ni/transgenicos/denuncia.htm


For more information
Contact:

In Nicaragua, Julio Sánchez, Centro Humboldt-FoE Nicaragua, Tel: +505 250
6454 or +505 843 7571, biodiversidad@humboldt.org.ni (Spanish)

In Nicaragua, Juan López, Friends of the Earth International, tel
+393331498049 (Spanish, English, French, Italian) or 505-6269504 (till Feb. 19 only)

In Guatemala Mariano Godinez, CEIBA-FoE Guatemala, Tel: +502 7839 6033 or
+502 7839 10 33 or +502 5718 28 40, ceibauno@terra.com.gt (Spanish)

In El Salvador, Edith Campos, CESTA-FoE El Salvador Tel: +503 220 3000,
cesta@cesta-foe.org (Spanish)

In Honduras, Francis Osorio, Madre Tierra-FoE Honduras Tel: +504 237 5700,
atoldeelote@hotmail.com (Spanish)

In Costa Rica, Isaac Rojas, COECOCEIBA-FoE Costa Rica, Tel: +506 399 7203,
gavitza@rasca.co.cr , y Fabian Pacheco, AESO, Tel: +506 810 9999,
ecologismoprofundo@hotmail.com (Spanish, English)


Item 2

Environmentalists claim modified corn included in U.N. aid
By Sergio De Leon, Associated Press/ Billings Gazette, USA http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?tl=1&display=rednews/2005/02/16/build/world/50-gecorn.inc
Feb 16, 2005,

GUATEMALA CITY -- Environmental groups said Wednesday they have discovered
that banned genetically modified food -- including a variety of corn forbidden for humans in the United States -- is being handed out in U.N. food aid to Central America and the Caribbean.

A study backed by the international group Friends of the Earth found that samples of World Food Program shipments collected in Guatemala included StarLink, a corn long ago pulled from the market in the United States because of concerns it could provoke allergic reactions.

Discovery of StarLink corn in consumer products in the United States prompted several high-profile supermarket recalls of cornmeal, corn dogs, taco shells, soup and chili mixes in the United States in 2000 and 2001.

The study looked at 77 samples of imported corn included in aid shipments or sold on the open market. Eighty percent was reported to include genetically modified material.

Some of the samples here showed a Monsanto-developed variety which is restricted by the European Union, member of the Central American Alliance in Defense of Biodiversity told a news conference here.

"We have alarming news about the food aid that the country is receiving," said Mario Godinez, director of the local environmental group Ceiba.

Similar news conferences occurred simultaneously in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and

El Salvador as part of an international campaign against the growing use of genetically modified crops. Many activists say they are a risk to health and to the environment. Backers say they provide more and cheaper food to the world and say no health risks have been proven.

Julio Sanchez of the Humboldt Center in Nicaragua said the World Food Program "is placing at risk our children and pregnant women, the most vulnerable people in our society."

In a Friends of the Earth news release, he said the programs should purchase food locally instead of importing modified foods from abroad.

In Rome, World Food Program spokeswoman Anthea Web said that "the U.N. WHO, FAO and ourselves have found absolutely no evidence there is any health safety issue" with  genetically modified foods.

"They're eaten safely by millions of people everyday from Boston to Brussels to Buenos Aires," she said.

The director of Guatemala's National Coordinating Committee of Farm Organizations, Daniel Pascual, alleged that the introduction of genetically modified foods endangered the country's native varieties of corn as well as the health of consumers.

A spokeswoman for Guatemala's Agriculture Ministry, Maria del Carmen Fuentes, said she was unaware of the study, but added, "we are worried in any case and an expert in the area will be assigned to indicate as soon as possible what happened."

She insisted, however, that "at no moment would we harm the population."

"The investigation reveals the incapacity of the state to protect national biosecurity", said Adrian Pacheco, spokesman for Costa Rica's Social Ecology

Association, at a news conference there. "Although the authorities have not authorized the cultivation of (modified) corn, for example, it is entering the country as a grain without any kind of control."

He called for a moratorium on genetically modified crop imports because they could be planted by local farmers and contaminate local varieties.

The WPA's Webb said that the decision on accepting foods "rests with the host government."

She that because most of the food aid comes from the United States, a center of modified food production, "We're really in a tough place" in trying to avoid modified foods.

Friends of the Earth complained in 2002 that it had found StarLink corn in U.S. aid shipments to Bolivia.


Item 3

3.StarLink Genetically Engineered Corn in the Food Supply
http://www.humboldt.org.ni/transgenicos/docs/starlink_genetically_engineered.pdf

Date                    Event
18 Sep. 2000 StarLink corn discovered in Kraft Foods "Taco Bell" brand taco shells. Approved only for animal consumption in April 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refused to approve StarLink for human consumption due to scientific concerns that it could trigger food allergies (Washington Post)

22 Sep. 2000 Kraft Foods recalls millions of boxes of StarLink-contaminated taco shells (Washington Post)

12 Oct. 2000 Safeway Inc., one of America's largest supermarkets, recalls Safeway brand taco shells contaminated with StarLink corn (Washington Post)

21 Oct. 2000 Kellogg USA, maker of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, shuts down factory due to StarLink contamination (Washington Post)

30 Oct. 2000 Japan's Agriculture Ministry asks U.S. government to ensure Japanese corn imports free of StarLink contamination (Wall Street Journal)

03 Nov. 2000 300 varieties of StarLink-contaminated taco shells, tortillas and snack chips made by Mission Foods recalled (Washington Post)

10 Nov. 2000 The Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) recalls 14,528  kilogrammes of tortillas contaminated by StarLink corn and asks U.S. to stop shipping contaminated corn (Reuters)

18 Mar. 2001 Aventis CropScience - developer of StarLink corn - announces that 430 million bushels of U.S. corn are contaminated with StarLink (Washington Post)

04 Apr. 2001 100 groups worldwide call on President Bush to stop exporting GMO-contaminated food. "The U.S. should not be exporting genetically contaminated food to other countries," said Ricardo Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth International and a resident of El Salvador. "If it is not approved for people to eat in the U.S. then it should not be sent elsewhere."

04 July 2001 StarLink detected for first time in product made from white corn (tortilla chips); previously, it had been thought that only yellow corn was contaminated (Washington Post)

09 July 2001 EPA warns doctor who believes he experienced allergic reactions to StarLink not to eat the corn at a hearing on the matter, citing concern for his safety (Wall Street Journal)

28 July 2001 Allergy experts tell the U.S. government that tests for allergies to StarLink were deeply flawed, and that StarLink corn is still a potential cause of allergic reactions (New York Times)

07 Mar. 2002 U.S. judge says he will approve a $9 million settlement of a lawsuit against major U.S. food companies that sold products contaminated with StarLink corn (Wall Street Journal)

12 June 2002 A Bolivian group - el Foro Boliviano para el Desarrollo ye el Medio Ambiente - criticizes the U.S. Agency for International Development for shipping food aid contaminated with StarLink
to Bolivia (El Diario, La Paz, Bolivia).

27 Dec. 2002 Japan once again detects StarLink corn in shipment bound for Tokyo's food supply (Reuters)

01 Dec. 2003 Three years after StarLink corn was banned for human consumption, U.S. government still finds small amounts of StarLink in more than 1% of samples tested (San Jose Mercury News)
 

 


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