Kraft’s investors voice concern over use of GM ingredients

EAST HANOVER, New Jersey, April 27, 2004, Public Interest Research Groups: Investors in Kraft Foods, Inc. (KFT-NYSE) expressed concern at the annual shareholder meeting over Kraft's continued use of genetically engineered ingredients. They cited the company's failure to properly address the financial, health, and environmental risks that engineered crops pose.

"Continued use of genetically engineered ingredients is a mistake for Kraft on many levels," stated Richard Caplan, food safety advocate for the state Public Interest Research Groups. "Many food companies have already removed these ingredients from their products to protect consumers and investors. Kraft should do the same."

A scientist present at the meeting discussed recent research on the possible allergenicity of certain genetically engineered crops. Several articles published over the past few years indicate that crops known as Bt crops have immunogenic and allergenic properties. One paper by the head of FDA's own biotechnology studies branch indicates a Bt protein has amino acid sequence homology with a known allergen, one of the key indicators of allergenicity. Several other scientists have published papers on other newly discovered allergenic properties of the Bt protein.

Kraft continues to subject itself to financial risks from using genetically engineered ingredients while the company appears to receive no benefits and has acknowledged in SEC filings that genetically engineered ingredients are a liability, according to Green Century Capital Management's Michael Leone.

"If consumers do not want genetically engineered ingredients, and Kraft recognizes them as a financial liability, why not take the prudent move and remove them from Kraft products?" asked Leone at Kraft's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday.

Many financial risks of genetically engineered foods became evident with contamination of the food supply by StarLink corn in 2000. Since that time other contamination episodes have occurred, including the contamination of conventional soybeans with a variety of genetically engineered corn that was designed to produce a drug not intended for human consumption. The incident led to the quarantine and destruction of 500,000 bushels of soybeans. A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed low levels of contamination of conventional seeds that were thought to be free of genetically engineered material. The report calls into question the ability of Kraft to provide consumers organic and other natural products here and abroad, as they recently pledged to do with the launch of their Back to Nature brand.

"Kraft has made it clear that the company receives no benefit from using genetically engineered ingredients, and in fact may be risking its new ventures into natural and organic foods," stated Friends of the Earth's Health and Environment Program campaigns coordinator Lisa Archer. "Thus genetically engineered crops seem like a lose-lose proposition for the company."

 


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