WASHINGTON, DC, February
16, 2005 (ENS): More than 70 environmental, consumer, farmer,
human rights groups and unions from six Central American and Caribbean
countries held simultaneous press conferences today to denounce
the presence of unauthorized genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
in food aid distributed by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and
in commercial imports of food originating mostly from the United
StarLink maize was found for the first time in food aid distributed
directly by the WFP. StarLink is banned for human consumption due
to possible allergic reactions to the genetically altered protein
In total over 50 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.
GMOs were found in more than 80 percent of all samples sent to
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 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.
The presence of GMOs in the only sample in which GM levels were
tested, a bag from Guatemala, was higher than 70 percent.
StarLink corn contains Cry9C, an insecticidal protein. StarLink
technology was developed by Aventis CropScience and its predecessor
companies in the 1990s and licensed to a number of corn seed companies.
StarLink corn was produced by inserting the gene for Cry9C into
certain corn hybrids. The gene that makes the Cry9C protein was
isolated from a common soil bacteria, a strain of Bacillus thuringiensis
(Bt) subsp. tolworthi.
StarLink corn seed was registered and annually renewed for domestic
animal feed and non-food, industrial use in the USA in 1998, 1999
and 2000. The U.S. registration was withdrawn by Aventis CropScience
in mid-October, 2000.
While StarLink is no longer sold as human food, the use of StarLink
corn in livestock feed and industrial, non-food uses is still approved
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In October 2000 the EPA said it "does not have any evidence
that food containing StarLink corn will cause any allergic reaction
in people, and the agency believes the risks, if any, are extremely
But the groups in Central America and Carribean are concerned that
food with the Cry9C protein was distributed in their countries.
The organizations requested the WFP to immediately recall all food
aid containing GMOs.
“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,"
said Mario Godinez of CEIBA in Guatemala.
“The unwanted presence of unlabeled GMOs shows that Costa
Rica urgently needs a ban on GMOs," said Fabián Pacheco
of the Social Ecology Association in Costa Rica. "In order
to protect our population it is of utmost importance now more than
ever to act with great caution."