Environmental group Greenpeace says it has detected traces of an unapproved, gene-altered corn variety in vegetarian corn dogs produced by Kellogg Co, and has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to seek a recall of the product.

Greenpeace claimed that laboratory tests it commissioned on Kellogg's Morningstar Farms brand of meatless hot dogs contained about 1 percent StarLink corn, a gene-spliced variety that is not approved for human consumption.

Greenpeace asked FDA acting deputy commissioner Bernard Schwetz to contact Kellogg and formally request the company to initiate a recall. Should such actions fail, Greenpeace urged FDA to seize the corn dogs and seek civil penalties against the food company.

Federal law prohibits FDA from ordering a food recall, but can request a company to do so if the product is defective. If the company refuses, FDA can seek a court order to seize the product.

Kellogg indicated that it has sent the corn dogs for independent testing.

Declines on imports

Starlink is barred from human consumption because of concerns that it might trigger allergic reactions. Last fall, the corn was found in another company's taco shells, prompting a massive recall of more than 300 products.

Starlink also turned up in food products in Japan -- the top consumer of U.S. corn -- and South Korea, triggering sharp declines in U.S. corn imports to both countries. According to the U.S. Agricultural Department (USDA), Starlink had helped the price of U.S. corn exports plummet to a 15-year low.

USDA said it will buy back corn seed suspected of contamination with StarLink.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) warned the media from overreacting to recent StarLink corn developments by reminding that the scientific community and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials have all said repeatedly that StarLink corn represents no immediate health concern and that the risks -- if any -- are extremely low. However, GMA attributed StarLink's presence in food to the "failed policy of the split approval process set by the EPA," which allowed products to be approved for use as animal feed separately from the approval for use of food. EPA has since ended the use of the split approval process.

According to USDA, less than one percent of the nation's corn seed supply for spring planting was tainted with traces of the component in StarLink that protects young plants from destructive pests.