Scientists Point to Lessons Learned from Starlink Scare

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"Eat, drink and be wary of those who try to scare you about the safety of your food." That was the message issued today by food safety scientists at the American Council on Science and Health who noted that the scare about bioenginered foods was distorted and exaggerated--and completely without scientific merit.

The Center for Disease Control's (CDC) found this week that there was no evidence that biotech Starlink corn caused allergic reactions in those who consumed it.

When tests first showed traces of the corn in Taco Bell tacos, anti-biotechnology activists jumped on the fact that the corn was approved for animal, but not human use. But, as the new CDC finding supports, they went too far in insisting that people who ate the corn would become sick from it. While there was a theory behind why the corn might provoke allergic reactions in some people, the question was whether that hypothesis alone should have been enough to instigate the drastic reaction it prompted. The science shows that it did not.

Yet after the news broke, many people who felt the least bit ill after eating a taco or other corn product assumed it was an allergic reaction to Cry9C, the protein found in Starlink corn. "Indeed, the activists did such a good job telling us that we'd get sick from the corn, that people actually felt ill," said ACSH president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.

"People are indeed susceptible to the suggestions from activists that foods will make them sick- even if there is actually nothing in the food to make them sick. If the people did get sick, it was from the activists, not the food," said Dr. Whelan. She noted ACSH's Priorities for Health article, "Rumble in the Bronx: Mass Hysteria and the "Chemicalization" of Demonology' which discusses the not so rare phenomenon of mass hysteria, which also took place in Belgium with the Coca-Cola dioxin scare.

According to ACSH Director of Nutrition, Dr. Ruth Kava, the activists claim that biotech foods are not tested is simply without basis in fact. "The FDA does indeed thoroughly investigate new bioengineered foods that's how they knew there might be a possibility of an allergic reaction to the Cry9C protein," she said. Dr. Kava points out that food allergies are fairly common, but are attributable to food constituents themselves, such as peanut protein, and not to processes, like those used to genetically modify food.

Dr. Kava advises us to learn from history. "The groups that told us we would get sick from Starlink also said, based on one laboratory experiment, that the Monarch butterfly should be nearing extinction because of Bt proteins in corn. But its just not happening."

"This should be a lesson to us," said Dr. Whelan. "Before we create international hysteria about the safety of our food supply we should be presented with at least a modicum of science to justify the concern."