Japan: Banned Biotech Potato Found in Snacks

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TOKYO (AP) -- A Japanese company said Wednesday it would recall some of its potato stick snacks after finding a gene-altered potato that is banned in Japan.

The potato, known as NewLeaf Plus, was found in Calbee Co.'s cheese-favored and salt-flavored "Jagariko" snacks during routine safety product tests, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement.

The genetically engineered potato -- which produces its own pesticide -- is believed to have been among frozen potatoes and mashed potatoes Calbee imported from Canada and the United States and mixed with domestically grown potatoes for use in its snacks.

The disclosure by Calbee comes after imports of the gene-altered corn, Starlink, were first detected last November by a Japanese consumer group in animal feed and snacks sold in stores.

Starlink was initially banned but in April the Japanese government began allowing food products to contain genetically modified corn in levels up to 5 percent.

NewLeaf Plus, developed by Monsanto Co., is approved for consumption in the United States but not in Japan.

Calbee plans to pull the snacks made before June 7 from store shelves, though some of it may already have been consumed, company spokeswoman Yuko Tomita said. The company has since used only domestically grown potatoes, she said.

Tomita said it was unclear how much NewLeaf Plus potato was used, but test showed the imported potatoes were safe to eat

But, like genetically altered soybeans and corn, genetically altered potatoes have faced increasing concern from Japanese consumers, who are nervous about food imports. Japan imports about 60 percent of its food, much of it from the United States.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), June 21, 2001

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