Efforts to maintain the acquiescence of North American consumers toward the use of genetically modified grains in food products suffered a severe set back this week, with the recall of a wide range of products manufactured by the Texas-based Mission Foods.

The recall affects products made with StarLink corn. This variety of corn was created specifically for use in livestock feed rations and has not been approved for human consumption. As always, people are warned the corn might cause an allergic reaction.

Unfortunately, consumers do not know which products might be affected. Not just because food products are not labelled when they contain genetically modified foods; but because Mission Foods refuses to disclose which brands might be affected.

Reuters news service quoted Peter Pitts, a Mission Foods spokesman, as saying, "It's privacy. We produce private label for a lot of chains. It's really out of respect." Reuters quoted some supermarket chains as saying they thought Mission Foods did tell consumers which
brands ought to be returned to stores.

Growers, food manufacturers, and seed companies supporting greater use of genetically modified food products should be mortified by the handling of this problem, believes Brian Clancey, senior market analyst with STAT Communications Ltd., a publisher of commodity market news and analysis.

"I have always believed farmers should insist on properly labelling foods which contain GMO products. At the same time, they should actively support product segregation on their farms and in the grain handling system," Clancey said. "Not only does this create a new market stream for farmers, it clears the way for consumer acceptance by eliminating any confusion over food ingredients at the retail level."

What makes this incident significant is the fact it leaves no doubt in the minds of consumers there is something wrong with Starlink corn. Afterall, major grocery chains across the United States hurriedly removed affected brands from their shelves and posted alerts to consumers to return recent purchases.

"The GMO industry is fooling itself if it does not think this could have a lasting, negative impression on ordinary consumers," Clancey said.

"The GMO industry does not like labelling because it singles out their products as different. But this latest fiasco makes it clear to consumers there is something different about GMO products.

"Clearly, full labelling and product segregation are needed. Not only would it be harder for this kind of contamination to occur again in the future, it would create seperate market streams for farmers," Clancey said.

"This creates opportunities for them to differentiate what they grow from their neighbors and create micro fundamentals within the corn or soybean industry. It is the same as growing popcorn or natto type soybeans. Segregating the varieties from their generic uses creates a
chance to make more money in some years than would otherwise be the case," Clancey said.


STAT Communications Ltd is a publisher of commodity markets news and analysis for the agriculture industry. The company was founded in 1988 and is the world's leading provider of news, analysis and statistical information for companies involved in dry edible beans, field peas, lentils, chickpeas, birdseed ingredients, mustard seed, and other specialty grains. More recently, the company has been expanding its coverage of traditional grains, oilseeds and other sectors of the agricultural economy. The STAT website is located at http://www.statpub.com

Brian Clancey is one of the company's founders. He has an extensive background in agriculture, starting his career as an award winning agricultural journalist working in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. In the early 1980's he became an export grain trader, focussing on lentils, dry edible beans, field peas, canaryseed, canola and flaxseed. He can be reached by email at bclancey@statpub.com or by phone at (604) 535-8505.