“We are farmers who choose not to grow genetically engineered corn. Now it appears that our crops may not be safe from contamination from StarLink ... Biotech companies and federal regulators need to be a lot more careful with the genetic engineering genie – because once it’s out of the bottle, it’s near impossible to stuff it back in.” Peggy and George Naylor, Iowa, United States.
“It is unacceptable that the children of Nicaragua are consuming genetically modified products that come masked as food aid for our country. It is well known that baby food companies in the US and Europe do not use genetically modified products. Nevertheless, our highly-vulnerable condition has been used as an opportunity to send products that children in developed countries do not consume.” Victor Campos, FoE Nicaragua.
In 2000, Friends of the Earth US revealed the illegal presence of StarLink, genetically modified maize marketed by Aventis, in the human food chain although it had not been approved for human consumption. This discovery set off a chain of events that sent the US biotech industry into turmoil: reports of allergic reactions, recalls of numerous food products, discovery of StarLink in countries including Japan, and the forced buyback of StarLink from farmers by Aventis. Campaigners around the world reacted to this discovery, asking their governments to take measures to keep StarLink out of the national food supply.
Two years later, in June 2002, Friends of the Earth discovered the presence of illegal genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food donated to Latin American countries by USAID, the World Food Programme and other donor agencies. Civil society groups in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Nicaragua criticized the spreading of contaminated food aid not fit for human consumption and illegal in many regulatory systems around the world, and demanded GMO-free food aid in the future.
The food aid sent to various countries included not only StarLink, but other unapproved strains of engineered corn: Liberty Link, also produced by Aventis, and Monsanto’s BtXtra and RoundUp Ready. In the United States, Friends of the Earth has asked the US administration to recall the corn and to require Aventis to cover any costs incurred by recalls and replacements.
Food aid contamination with GMOs not approved for human consumption may threaten the health of recipients already vulnerable due to poverty and hunger. Food aid containing whole GMO seed, as discovered in Guatemala and Nicaragua, also threatens the environment, as it could inadvertently be planted and contiminate centres of origin, polluting genetic diversity cultivated over generations.
The latest example of contamination shows that biotech companies and the exporting countries that promote GMOs have lost control of their technology. Given their reckless and aggressive promotion to date and the impossibility of easily recalling bio-pollution, Friends of the Earth supports the right of all nations to ban or otherwise restrict the use of GMOs.