Just say ‘NO’ to GMO!
THE BIOTECH BIRDS
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
~ o ~
To Gild Refinèd Gold
To gild refinèd gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet,
To smoothe the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
– William Shakespeare – From King John
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“Genetically Engineered Food – Safety Problems”
Published by PSRAST
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“Based on both scientific theory and experimental data, it can be concluded beyond any doubt that genetic engineering of plants and animals may potentially cause them to unexpectedly contain substances harmful to people who eat them. Scientists cannot however estimate the probability that harmful substances will be created in any specific case, because not enough is known about the new field of genetic engineering.
“Some of the harmful substances which are known to be possible in genetically engineered foods could cause allergies or toxic reactions. But, because the knowledge of DNA is incomplete, genetic engineering of food plants and animals may produce other problems which scientists have not yet anticipated.
“Because we do not have enough knowledge to understand all of the hazards which GE foods present, or have fully reliable methods to test their safety or estimate the risks of introducing them into the food supply, it must be concluded that GE foods cannot be reliably certified as safe at this time.”
– All the authors of this document have, along with several other scientists, signed an Open Letter demanding that GE foods that have not been tested properly should be withdrawn from the market (in practice this means all GE foods).
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Dr Michael Antoniou M.D., Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics, GKT School of Medicine, King’s College, London, UK
Dr Joseph Cummins PhD, Professor Emeritus in Genetics, University of Western Ontario London, Ontario, Canada
Dr Edwin E. Daniel Ph.D. FRSC, Professor Emeritus Health Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario Canada
Dr Samuel S. Epstein M.D., D.Path., D.T.M&H, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Center Chicago, USA
Dr C. Vyvyan Howard MB. ChB. PhD. FRCPath. Senior Lecturer, Toxico-Pathologist, University of Liverpool, UK
Dr Bob Orskov DSc, OBE, FRSE, Honorary professor in Animal Nutrition of Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, UK
Dr Arpad Pusztai FRSE, Biochemistry & physiology. Retired, formerly at Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, UK
Dr N. Raghuram Ph.D., (Plant Molecular Biology) Lecturer, Department of Life Sciences, University of Mumbai, (formerly Bombay), India.
Dr Gilles-Eric Seralini PhD, Hab.Dir.Rech., Professor in Molecular Biology, University of Caen, France
Dr Suzanne Wuerthele Ph.D., Toxicologist and risk assessor, Denver, Colorado, USA
Editor – Dr Jaan Suurkula, M.D. Chairman of PSRAST
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September 2, 2003
Biotech Crops Pose Challenge
By Jim Paul, Associated Press
CHAMPAIGN, ILL. – It would be so much easier if genetically altered corn were green or purple, instead of the same yellow as ordinary corn.
But there is no simple way to ensure that biotech varieties go only where they’re accepted. While some safeguards are in place, the process is still evolving among seed companies, farmers and grain handlers.
Some say changes aren’t Keeping up with the steadily increasing use of biotech crops. They fear problems similar to what happened in 2000, when a biotech corn known as StarLink that was not approved for human consumption accidentally got mixed with other crops. The resulting scare triggered food recalls and caused a worldwide drop in corn prices.
“There needs to be some improvement … to avoid a train wreck,” said Steve Pigg, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
The percentage of biotech in the Illinois corn crop is about 25 percent, and it has been increasing steadily.
Genetically altered corn is bred to resist plant diseases and pests, allowing producers to increase yields and reduce costs. But some people question the safety of tinkering with nature and at least seven biotech corn varieties have not been approved for use in the European Union, according to the National Corn Growers Association.
With the harvest just weeks away in some parts of Illinois, the stakes are high for farmers and grain handlers.
Any co-mingling of grain, however small, headed for a country that won’t accept it endangers the entire shipment, said Peter Goldsmith, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois’ College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
Government leaves it up to the industry to ensure the “identity preservation” of crops, said Jeff Squibb, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Spokesmen for Monsanto Co. and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, two major producers of genetically altered seed, said they have programs aimed at making sure farmers and grain handlers know what to do with biotech crops.
“The responsibility lies with the grower,” said Bryan Hurley, a spokesman for Monsanto. “But there is an infrastructure that has been built to facilitate this and information and education to go with that.”
Farmers planning to plant biotech seed that isn’t approved for export must tell their seed company in the spring which elevator they plan to take the crop to in the fall, spokesmen for Monsanto and Pioneer said….
Come harvest time, elevator operators depend on farmers to tell them if they have genetically altered crops in their truck.
“I’m counting on it. I need to know it. If I don’t know it, I’ve got zero chance” of separating biotech grain during a busy harvest, when more than 800,000 bushels of corn can arrive in a single day, said Dave Hastings. He’s general manager of the Ludlow Co-op Elevator Co., which operates in Champaign, Ford and Iroquois counties….
Hastings said biotech grain will be stored in separate bins at his company’s elevators. He is training his staff to ask more questions when farmers cross the scales at Ludlow Co-op, but worries that even that won’t be fail-safe.
“Sooner or later when we get busy, we won’t ask and we’ll miss a guy,” he said.
Pigg said farmers will do their job, but want more help from seed companies and grain handlers. He said he once was told by one grain elevator “just don’t tell us” when he inquired about delivering a biotech variety he had grown….
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From : “Sam Anderson” <email@example.com>
To : firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE@LIST.UVM.EDU
CC : AfricansForCubaemail@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject : THE MONSANTO AMENDMENT In The Indian Patent Act
Date : 29 May 2002
NOTE: An important read on the rapid monopoly capitalist control of literally “the stuff of life” seeds:
THE MONSANTO AMENDMENT
THE REAL REASONS FOR THE SECOND AMENDMENT OF THE INDIAN PATENT ACT
by Dr. Vandana Shiva
India has amended its Patent Act for the second time since TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) came into force. The first amendment was to introduce exclusive marketing rights and mail box arrangement to implement Act 70.8 and 70.9 of TRIPS.
Why has the second amendment of the Indian Patent Act been rushed through in spite of the double national emergency — the Gujarat genocide, and the spread of terrorism, and an impending war?
The issue is clearly not product patents in medicine, since these will in any way not be granted until 2005.
The major change in the patent regime achieved through the second amendment is not in the area of medicines and drugs but in the area of seeds and plants, especially genetically engineered seeds.
Methods of agriculture and plants were excluded from patentability in the Indian patent act to ensure that seed, the first link in the food chain was held as a common properly resource in the public domain and farmers inalienable right to save, exchange and improve seed was not violated.
There are two amendments in the definition of what is not an invention that has opened the floodgates of patenting of genetically engineered seed.
First, in Section 3(i) “plants” have been omitted.
According to Section 3(i), the following is not an invention:
>> Any process for the medical, surgical, creative, prophylactic or other treatment of human beings or any process for a similar treatment of animals or plants or render them free of disease or to increase their economic value or that of their products.
The omission of “plants” from this section implies that a method or process modification of a plant can now be counted as an invention and can hence be patented. Thus the method of producing Bt. cotton by introducing genes of a bacterium Bacillus thurengensis in cotton to produce toxins to kill the bollworm can now be covered by the exclusive rights associated with patents. In other words, Monsanto can now have Bt. cotton patents in India. The Amendment of 3(i) is clearly a Monsanto Amendment.
The Second Amendment has also added a new section (3j). This is also a Monsanto Amendment since it allows production or propagation of genetically engineered plants to be counted as an invention, and hence patentable. The section 3 (j) excludes as inventions “plants and animals��..including seeds, varieties and species and essentially biological processes for production or propagation of plants and animals”.
However, the emergence of new biotechnologies is often used to define production of plants and animals through genetic engineering as not being essentially biological. Without a clear definition that all modifications of plants and animals, is essentially biological, 3(j) allows patents on GMOs patentability and hence opens the flood gate for patenting transgenic plants. The language of 3(j) is a verbatim translation of Article 27.3 (b) of TRIPs into India law. Article 27.3(b) of TRIPS states:
>> Parties may exclude from patentability plants and animals other than micro-organisms, and essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals other than non-biological and microbiological processes. However, parties shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either by patents of by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof. This provision shall be reviewed four years after the entry into force of the Agreement establishing the WTO.
It is not surprising that the Monsanto Amendments have been made in India’s patent laws according to TRIPS. After all Monsanto had a hand in drafting the TRIPS agreement.
James Enyart of Monsanto had said that the Intellectual Property Committee (IPC) of the MNCs drafted TRIPS.
Once created, the first task of the IPC was to repeat the missionary work we did in the U.S. in the early days, this time with the industrial associations of Europe and Japan to convince them that a code was possible�. We consulted many interest groups during the whole process. It was not an easy task but our Trilateral Group was able to distill from the laws of the more advanced countries the fundamental principles for protecting all forms of intellectual property�
Besides selling our concepts at home, we went to Geneva where [we] presented [our] document to the staff of the GATT Secretariat. We also took the opportunity to present it to the Geneva based representatives of a large number of countries� What I have described to you is absolutely unprecedented in GATT. Industry has identified a major problem for international trade. It crafted a solution, reduced it to a concrete proposal and sold it to our own and other governments�
The industries and traders of world commerce have played simultaneously the role of patients, the diagnosticians and the prescribing physicians.
Having played patient, doctor and diagnostician, all in one, at the international level, Monsanto is now doing it at the national level.
In the process it has made the [Indian] government undo its own position in WTO in the TRIPS review. Article 27.3 (b) has been under review since 2000. The whole of TRIPs council has to undertake review of TRIPS “in the light of any relevant new developments which might warrant modification or amendment of this Agreement.”
As a result of sustained public pressure, after the agreement came into force in 1995 many Third World countries made recommendations for changes in Article 27.3 (b) to prevent biopiracy. India in its discussion paper submitted to the TRIPs Council stated:
>> Patenting of life forms may have at least two dimensions. Firstly, there is the ethical question of the extent of private ownership that could be extended to life forms. The second dimension relates to the use of IPRs’ concept as understood in the industrialized world and its appropriateness in the face of the larger dimension of rights on knowledge, their ownership, use, transfer and dissemination. Informal system, e.g. the shrutis and in the Indian tradition and grandmother’s portions all over the world get scant recognition. To create systems that fail to address this issue can have severe adverse consequences on mankind, some say even leading to extinction.
Clearly there is a case for re-examining the need to grant patents on life forms anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, it may be advisable to:
1. Exclude patents on all life forms.
2. If (1) is not possible then exclude patents based on traditional/indigenous knowledge and essentially derived products and processes from such knowledge.
3. Or at least insist on the disclosure of the country of origin of the biological source and associated knowledge, and obtain the consent of the country providing the resource and knowledge, to ensure an equitable sharing of benefits.
A global movement is calling for a ban on patents on life and recovering of the generic basis of life as “commons” which cannot be owned and privatised.
Instead of W.T.O. being amended, the introduction of 3(j), contradicts the governments position in W.T.O. It is also an amendment introduced under Monsanto pressure and is hence most appropriately described as a Monsanto amendment. This was necessary for Monsanto because without patents it cannot harvest super profits from its Bt. cotton.
On 26th March 2002, Monsanto was successful in getting a clearance for commercial planting of Bt. cotton through the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).
A few months prior, Monsanto had used the same GEAC to order the burning and destruction of 11,000 hectares of cotton planted in Gujarat under the Navbharat 151 variety which was found to have the Bt. gene by Monsanto. The GEAC had recommended the destruction through burning of the standing cotton crop on the ground of its potential to “cause an irreversible change in the environment structure of the soil”, danger to “environment and human health and to obviate any possibility of cross pollination” as well as the fact that “the precautionary principles would require that no product, the effect of which is unknown be put into the market stream”.
Specifically, on the issue of commercialization, the GEAC had stated:
>> This cotton which in appearance is no different from any other cotton will intermingle with ordinary cotton and it will become impossible to contain its adverse affect. The only remedy is to destroy the cotton as well as the seeds produced and harvested in this manner.
If the destruction of the Gujarat cotton was on grounds of Biosafety, Monsanto should not have been granted clearance on 26th March. If the destruction was not related to Biosafety, then it was related to intellectual property monopolies of destroying seeds sold by a competitor. Since prior to the 2nd Amendment of the Patent Act, Monsanto could not use intellectual property rights to have Navbharat seeds destroyed, it used the GEAC to destroy the crop on grounds of Biosafety.
On 26th March 2002, it used GEAC to gets its own Biosafety clearance for Bt. cotton. However, if Monsanto’s Bt. cotton is now deemed to be safe and Navbharat’s Bt. cotton would have to be declared safe, and hundreds of Navbharats would multiply and sell Bt. cotton seeds, undercutting Monsanto’s market monopoly.
To prevent competitors from selling seeds and to prevent farmers from saving seeds, Monsanto has now turned to the patent laws to get monopoly rights. The Monsanto Amendments of India’s patent laws are a logical consequence of the clearance for the commercial planting of GMOs in Indian agriculture.
Corporations like Monsanto genetically manipulate seeds to get control over seed sector not to help farmers. If the seeds could be freely reproduced and patented, Monsanto’s monopolies would not have been established.
Patents on seeds are a necessary aspect of corporate deployment of GM seeds and crops. When combined with the ecological risks of genetically engineered seed like Bt. cotton, patents on seeds create a context of total control over the seed sector, and hence over our food and agricultural security.
This is why China has banned foreign investment in the area of genetically modified seed.
Later, there are 3 ways in why the 2nd Amendment of the Patent Laws jeopardised our seed and food security and hence our national security.
Firstly, it allows patents on seeds and plants through 3(i) and 3(j). Patents are monopolies and exclusive rights which will prevent farmers from saving seeds and seed companies from producing seeds. Patents on seed transform seed saving into an “intellectual property crime”.
Secondly, since genetic pollution is inevitable, and the condition of 2% refugia in the GEAC clearance is a recognition of the inevitability of genetic pollution, Monsanto will use the patents + pollution to claim ownership of crops on farmers fields where the Bt. gene reached through wind or pollinators.
This has been established as precedence in the case of a Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser whose canola field was contaminated by Monsanto’s Round up Ready Canola, but instead of Monsanto paying Percy on the basis of the polluter principle, Monsanto demanded $200,000 fine for “theft” of Monsanto’s “intellectual property”.
Thousands of U.S. farmers have also been sued. Will Indian farmers be blamed for theft when Monsanto’s GM cotton contaminates their crops? Or will the government wake up and enforce strict monitoring and liability?
Finally, the emergence of resistance in pests like Bollworm and creation of super pests is another inevitable consequence of Bt. cotton. Monsanto’s research strategy of “gene pyramiding” is an acceptance of the creations of super pests. As super pests spread, farmers will be forced to turn to Monsanto for seed supply and hence will be trapped in Monsanto’s patent monopoly.
The Monsanto Amendments of the Patent Act run counter to Section 3(h) of the Act with excludes methods of agriculture from patentability. Will 3(h) guide the rejection of Monsanto Bt. patents or will Monsanto once again subvert law and democracy and claim patents on Bt. cotton?
The humble cotton inspired India’s movement, for independence through the Charkha and Khadi. In the age of globalisation and biotechnology, the future of the freedom of Indian people is once again linked to the fate of cotton.
Will India and her farmers and cotton be enslaved by Monsanto patents, or will the freedom of plants and freedom of peasants be defended and protected? These are the issues raised by the Second Amendment of the Patent Act.
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Thank you Brother Malik for your mention of the Work of The Minister General and it’s impact on The GLOBAL Black Nation.
– sons of afrika
See also: Monsanto
For more on the WTO, GO TO > > > The World Trade Organization
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September 20, 1999
The battle heats up between the U.S. and Europe over genetically engineered crops
BY JEFFREY KLUGER
The folks at McDonald’s could not have expected an especially warm reception in France, but the manure in the parking lots still must have taken them by surprise.
For the past month it’s been hard to visit a McDonald’s anywhere in France without running the risk of encountering mountains of fresh manure – as well as not-so-fresh fruit and vegetables – dumped in front of the restaurants by protesting farmers.
There’s a lot about McDonald’s that angers the farmers – its sameness, its blandness, the culinary hegemony it represents – yet at the outset the demonstrations were remarkably genteel, with protesters occupying restaurants and offering customers an alternative meal of baguettes stuffed with cheese or foie gras.
But lately things have turned nasty. Protesters are finding ever more to dislike about the uniquely American food – especially the very genes that make the McDonald’s beef or bun or potato what it is.
Around the world people are taking a closer look at the genetic makeup of what they’re eating – and growing uneasy with what they see.
Over the past decade, genetically modified (GM) food has become an increasingly common phenomenon as scientists have rewoven the genes of countless fruits and vegetables, turning everyday crops into uber-crops able to resist frost, withstand herbicides and even produce their own pesticides. In all, more than 4,500 GM plants have been tested, and at least 40 – including 13 varieties of corn, 11 varieties of tomatoes and four varieties of soybeans – have cleared government reviews.
For biotech companies such as Monsanto, based in the U.S., and Novartis AG, based in Switzerland, the rise of GM technology has meant boom times. Sales of GM seeds rose in value from $75 million in 1995 to $1.5 billion last year, and the crops they produce are turning up not only on produce shelves but also in processed foods from cookies to potato chips to baby food.
But many people question whether it’s a good idea for fallible human beings to go mucking about with the genes of other species. It’s one thing if a scientific experiment goes wrong in a lab, they say, but something else entirely if it winds up on your dinner plate.
To date, there’s nothing to suggest that re-engineered plants have ever done anyone any harm. Nonetheless, the European Union has blocked the importation of some GM crops, and since 1997 has required that foods that contain engineered DNA be labeled as such.
Plenty of trade watchers in Washington see the European actions as one more tweak from an increasingly powerful E.U. no longer intimidated by U.S. economic might. While that may be, the fact remains that the U.S. Congress may address a labeling bill of its own later this year, and some private groups are threatening lawsuits to force the issue.
Even without legal action, public opinion is turning a more skeptical eye on GM technology.
“The farmers in France are right,” observes Dennis Kucinich, a House Democrat from Cleveland, Ohio, who stumbled across the GM food issue this year, and is turning it into something of a cause. “There’s nothing more personal than food.”…
For all the controversy that GM technology is causing, the fact is that biotech companies have succeeded in dreaming up some extraordinary plants. Monsanto, which produces the hugely popular herbicide Roundup, has made just as big a hit with its line of genetically modified crops that are immune to the Roundup poison – thanks to a gene that company scientists tweezed out of the common petunia and knitted into their food plants. . . .
Such souped-up plants are understandably popular with farmers, for whom even a slight increase in yield can mean a big increase in profits. Last year in the U.S., 35% of the soy crop and 42% of the cotton crop were grown with GM seeds. Says Karen Marshall, a Monsanto spokeswoman: “These really do work and have tremendous benefits to growers.”
But what happens when they don’t work? Several years ago, a company developed a soybean with some genetic threads borrowed from the Brazil nut in an attempt to boost the bean’s amino-acid content. The soy began acting like the nut – so much so that it churned out not just amino acids but also chemicals that can trigger allergies in nut-sensitive consumers. The company quickly scrapped the product.
Last May a study published by Cornell University showed that pollen from some strains of corn with built-in pesticides can kill the larva of the Monarch butterfly, a pest by nobody’s standards.
“When butterflies start dying,” says Kucinich, “I think it’s fair to start asking questions.”
Overseas, they have been asking them for some time. In recent years Europeans have become increasingly jumpy about bad food – and with good reason. Since the outbreak of mad-cow disease in 1996, the appearance of dioxin-contaminated Belgian chickens last May and the later recall of contaminated cans of Coca-Cola in France and the Benelux nations, health officials have grown fussier about what their citizens consume.
Since 1990 the E.U. has approved the sale of 18 GM products. (The U.S. Government views GM components in foods as mere additives and thus does not require the Food and Drug Administration to approve them. Instead, it subjects them to a less formal review, a relatively low bar that’s easy to clear.) This year the E.U. banned the importation of nonapproved GM corn.
In the U.S., GM strains are mixed with ordinary strains, so the country’s entire corn export to Europe was effectively outlawed.
“Until we have new rules, we don’t want new substances released,” says Jurgen Trittin, Germany’s Environment Minister. “It’s a de facto moratorium.”
But one country’s moratorium is another country’s protectionism, and the U.S. is suspicious of Europe’s actions. Tension between the U.S. and the E.U. was already running high recently after Europe decided to continue a ban on hormone-raised U.S. beef and the U.S. hit back with a 100% tariff on some E.U. food exports.
Coming in the midst of such a catfight, the GM ban looks like vengeance as much as prudence. What’s more, if Europe is so worried about GM foods, why is it growing them? France produces its own small crop of GM corn and uses more of the stuff than any other country in Europe.
The transatlantic food fight will probably be high on the agenda of the World Trade Organization when it meets in November
– good news for companies like
While the move made Monsanto a Wall Street darling for a while, investors aren’t as sweet on it anymore. A year ago, Monsanto stock perched at a lofty 63; today it’s mired in the upper 30s.
U.S. companies are not alone. In Europe, investors are backing off as biotech firms buckle under the pressure of public opinion.
In July, Deutsche Bank – Europe’s biggest bank – published a report advising large institutional investors to avoid companies involved in the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs):
“We predict that GMOs, once perceived as the driver of the bull case for this sector, will now be perceived as a pariah.”
Swiss biotech giant Novartis has seen its share price dive 30% since January, and smaller firms are more vulnerable.
This month saw the first significant corporate casualty when Axis Genetics – a British company which makes vaccines from GM plants – was forced into receivership.
That news coincided with a survey of 1,000 British consumers by market research company Mintel which showed GM foods had overtaken madcow disease as the public’s number one food safety concern.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the most GM foes can hope to push through an agri-friendly Congress is a proposal for voluntary labeling that biotech companies would be free to honor or ignore. In a demand-driven market, however, they would ignore it at their peril.
In Europe the Gerber baby-food company, a division of Novartis, gave in to anti-GM sentiments and announced that its products would no longer contain genetically modified ingredients.
“This decision was not a safety issue,” insists Novartis spokesman Mark Hill, “but rather a response to preferences expressed by our consumers.”
Not for the last time, to be sure, it’s consumers who will have the final word.
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26% of the U.S. corn crop was grown from genetically changed seeds last year
30% of U.S. dairy cows are injected with the recombinant bovine growth hormone, which boosts production of milk. The hormone is made with genetically engineered bacteria
35% of the 1998 U.S. soybean crop was grown from seeds that had been genetically engineered
75% of all cheeses contain chymosin, which is produced with bacteria that have been genetically engineered
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What’s for Dinner?
There’s a lot more than seasoning in your food. Everything from meat to fruit to baby food is developed with the aid of genetic manipulation. Since the U.S. government sees GM components as mere additives, they require little government oversight. Even the simplest meal is loaded with small DNA tricks:
Some tomato juice is made from tomatoes containing enzymes from Arctic flounder – an attempt to help crops withstand low temperatures
Pork loins could come from hogs treated with human-growth hormones to help them get bigger faster
Potatoes could include genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacterium toxic to insects
Squash may be inoculated with watermelon- and zucchini-virus genes to make the squash virus resistant
The corn in corn bread and other foods could contain a firefly gene, providing a phosphorescent marker to tag other implanted genes
The milk in that innocent-looking rice pudding may have been drawn from cows treated with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone to help boost milk production
– Reported by James Carney and Dick Thompson/Washington; Bruce Crumley/Paris; and Maggie Sieger/Chicago
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To: The Catbird
From: Francis A. Boyle
CALL FOR A BAN ON THE GENETIC ALTERATION OF PATHOGENS FOR DESTRUCTIVE PURPOSES
The recent use of the US Postal Service to disseminate anthrax-contaminated mail underscores a more general threat to people worldwide brought about by the perversion of the biological sciences to cause harm through the deliberate spread of disease.*
This is the moment to outlaw all destructive applications of genetic engineering.
We call on the United States to immediately halt all projects designed to genetically modify naturally occurring organisms for military purposes.
We call on the States Parties to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention to extend the Convention’s ban to cover all genetic modification of biological agents for military purposes.
Since the line between offense and defense in this context is thin to non-existent, there should be no loopholes for “defense.” Genetic modification of pathogens for development of vaccines or other medical purposes should be carried out in civilian laboratories and under strict international controls.
Finally, we call on the United States to support a Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention to assure strict compliance with the terms of the Convention both by states and by individuals and sub-state organizations.
Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law at University of Illinois College of Law, author of U.S. implementing legislation for 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.
Jonathan King, PhD, Professor Molecular Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the Biology Electron Microscope Facility.
Martin Teitel, PhD, President of the Council for Responsible Genetics.
Susan Wright, PhD, Associate Research Scientist at the University of Michigan.
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*Several developed countries, including the United States, have initiated projects aimed at genetically engineering pathogenic and other microbes for military purposes. Military-sponsored projects include:
1) developing “superbug” capable of digesting materials such as plastics, fuel, rubber, and asphalt;
2) developing a strain of anthrax that overcomes the protection provided by vaccines in the name of “defense” against such genetically altered strains.
These projects are being justified under the terms of the Biological Weapons Convention as necessary for “defense.”
Far from providing defense, these projects open up the possibility of more dangerous forms of biological warfare against which there is no defense.
They also undermine the Convention both because the actual motives for these projects are highly ambiguous (if a country were to withdraw from the Biological Weapons Convention, their projects would have direct offensive applications) and because they will stimulate similar projects elsewhere in the world. . . .
For more, GO TO > > > CIA: The Secret Nest
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Then God said, “Behold I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good. . . .
– Old Testament, Genesis 1:29-30
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From When Corporations Rule the World, by David C. Korten:
MAKING MONEY, GROWING POORER
The World Wide Fund for Nature has compiled a Living Planet Index that shows a drop of 30 percent in the health of the living wealth of earth’s forests and waters over a single generation from 1970 to 1995. When the index reaches zero, bacteria and cockroaches may still be here but there will be few humans around to marvel at how much money we have left behind in our bank accounts.
A joint study released in September 2000 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank, and the World Resources Institute assesses five ecosystem types (agricultural, coastal, forest, freshwater, and grasslands) in relation to five ecosystem services (food and fiber production, water quantity, air quality, biodiversity, and carbon storage). It found that sixteen of the twenty-five eco-system/service combinations had declining trends.
Only one – food and fiber production by forest ecosystems – presented a positive trend, which was due to expanding industrial forest monocropping at the expense of species diversity.
These declines are all a consequence of human economic activity. Bio-invasion, the second greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss, now threatens some 20 percent of the world’s endangered vertebrate species. It is a direct result of the introduction, through expanded trade, of exotic invasive species into ecosystems that have no defenses against them.
By 1995 we had already learned a lot about the costs to humanity of the reckless chemical and radioactive contamination of our soils and waters. Yet only in 1996, when Theo Colborn and her research team published Our Stolen Future, did the public become aware of the full implications of the 70,000 synthetic chemicals now dispersed in the human environment.
Thousands of these chemicals mimic the action of hormones in humans and other living creatures and are responsible for declining sperm counts, reproductive failures, a high incidence of deformities in frogs, fish, and birds, and the impaired intellectual and behavioral development of human children.
A newly recognized hazard of the nuclear era is the use of depleted uranium (DU), a waste product of the nuclear arms and energy industries that is used to harden military munitions. When used in combat the uranium in the round ignites on impact and combines with oxygen to form a cloud of uranium dust that is persistent and highly toxic to those who breathe or ingest it, causing disability and/or death. From 300 to 800 tons of DU munitions were fired in Iraq and northern Kuwait during the Gulf War leaving vast areas contaminated with the deadly toxic material with a radioactive half-life of 4 to 5 billion years – the present age of the earth.
DU has become a prime suspect as a source of the Gulf War Syndrome that afflicts as many as 90,000 of the 697,000 U.S. troops who served in the Gulf, even though the military steadfastly denies any possible link. Similar munitions were used by NATO troops in Kosovo, posing a considerable risk not only to NATO troops, but to the returning refugees who will suffer the consequences for generations to come. The continued production and use of such munitions reveals the extent to which a narrow focus on the immediate utility of a technology can result in a callous disregard of the longer-term consequences.
Two new pollution threats have come to public attention since 1995: electromagnetic radiation and transgenic organisms. Health authorities have noted recent sharp increases in asthma, sleep disorders, hypertension, tinnitis, memory loss, and influenza and flu-like illnesses.
The increase began in the United States in November 1996, at the same time that digital cell phones service was first introduced into a number of U.S. cities. Pulsed radio-frequency and microwave radiation levels have since increased bu up to 100,000-fold in some large cities. The 1996 Telecommunications Act mandated universal wireless services and banned state and local governments from regulating transmission facilities on environmental grounds. . . .
The rapid and wide-scale commercialization and dissemination of transgenic organisms is also a post-1995 phenomenon. Conventional plant breeding, which involves selective cross breeding between plants of the same or closely related species, stimulates natural processes. Genetically engineered plants are by contrast commonly transgenic, meaning they are created by moving genetic material across nature’s carefully erected species barriers and inserting them into the sells of a wholly alien species, even crossing the boundaries between bacteria, plants, and animals.
Bacterial genes may be inserted into corn or fish genes into tomatoes. Harmful as they are, at least nuclear and chemical wastes do not self-reproduce. Transgenic organisms do.
They also mutate and interact with other species – and once released into the environment they may prove impossible to recall or isolate.
Under pressure to rapidly achieve dominant market positions, biotech companies have rushed transgenic organisms to the market with minimal testing, government oversight, or regard for potential health and environmental consequences. By 1999, 100 million acres were planted in transgenic crops, primarily in the United States, Argentina, and Canada.
Faced with a growing public outcry from citizen groups alerted to biotech corporations playing Russian roulette for profit with the living systems of the planet, seven major biotech corporations formed the Council for Biotechnology Information to carry out a $50 million public relations campaign to assure the public that their products are both beneficial and harmless.
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Rapidly expanding technological frontiers now give humanity god-like capacities to manipulate the basic building blocks of matter, life, and the electromagnetic spectrum. Corporations with billions of dollars at stake insist that they should be allowed to move ahead with commercializing and disseminating products based on these technologies until others provide conclusive proof that they are harmful.
But our understanding of the implications of such technologies for our own bodies and the earth’s living systems remains minuscule. We are like a child with a box of matches sitting next to an open container of gasoline, armed only with the knowledge that striking a match will produce a pretty flame.
The consequences of letting corporations make for us such basic decisions about altering the chemical, electromagnetic, and genetic environment of the planet – in some instances permanently and irreversibly – purely on the basis of what is possible and profitable at the moment is becoming increasingly foolhardy.
* * *
From Cutting Corporate Welfare, by Ralph Nader:
Government Research and Development
The federal government (a.k.a. US Taxpayers) invests tens of billions of dollars annually in research and development (R&D), most prominently through the Dept of Defense, the Dept of Energy, and the Dept of Health and Human Services. These investments lead to new inventions and the awarding of thousands of patents– publicly financed, and frequently publicly owned intellectual property.
Since the early 1980s, the government has routinely given away the fruits of the research it sponsors, granting private corporations exclusive, royalty-free rights to commercialize government-financed inventions while failing to include and/or enforce reasonable pricing requirements in the licenses.
The result: a corporate welfare bonanza for biotech, computer, aerospace, pharmaceutical, and other firms.
In the critical area of pharmaceuticals, for example, this research giveaway policy leads to superprofiteering by giant drug manufacturers, who charge unconscionably high prices for important medicines– costing consumers, and often resulting in the denial of treatments to consumers who are unable to pay high prices. In an irony that must keep the staff of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association in stitches, perhaps the largest ripped-off consumer is the federal government– the same federal government that paid for the drugs’ invention– which must pay extravagant fees through the Veterans’ Administration and Medicaid . . .
It wasn’t always so.
Following the creation of a major federal role in research sponsorship in World War II, the Justice Dept concluded in 1947 that “where patentable inventions are made in the course of performing a Government-financed contract for research and development, the public interest requires that all rights to such inventions be assigned to the Government and not left to the private ownership of the contractor.”
The Justice Dept recommended also that “as a basic policy, all Government-owned inventions should be made fully, freely and unconditionally available to the public without charge, by public dedication or by royalty-free, non-exclusive licensing.”
The Justice Dept offered what remains a compelling case for non-exclusive licensing: “Public control will assure free and equal availability of the inventions to American industry and science; will eliminate any competitive advantage to the contractor chosen to perform the research work; will avoid undue concentration of economic power in the hands of a few large corporations; will tend to increase and diversify available research facilities within the United States to the advantage of the Government and of the national economy; and will thus strengthen our American system of free, competitive enterprise.” . . .
In the ensuing decades, government policy evolved unevenly between different agencies, with some gradual increase in exclusive rights transfers to private parties. The various agency policies favoring exclusive licensing were done without Congressional authorization. . . .
Beginning in the mid-1970s, however, big business, in collaboration with partners at major research universities, began lobbying for a major transformation in government patent policy.
Based on highly questionable evidence, the business-university alliance argued that exclusive licensing was necessary to spur private sector innovation and development of government-funded inventions.
The concerted business-university campaign succeeded in 1980 with passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, which transferred exclusive control over many government-sponsored inventions to universities and small business contractors.
Universities were in turn permitted to exclusively license to private corporations, including big businesses. . . .
In 1983, President Reagan issued a Presidential memorandum that instructed executive agencies to grant exclusive rights to inventions to contractors of all sizes.
In 1986, Congress passed the Federal Technology Transfer Act, which authorized federal laboratories to enter into exclusive contracts with corporations to develop and market inventions originating in the federal labs.
The federal labs have enormous discretion in working out exclusive licensing arrangements and … have given away hugely profitable taxpayer-financed inventions with no public return either in the form of royalties or, more importantly, meaningful restraints on company pricing.
* * *
From New Internationalist, issue 217:
JOHN MOORE’S BODY
Not everything inside John Moore’s body necessarily belongs to John Moore.
Pat Roy Mooney reports on the transnational companies that claim our organs – and much more besides.
When Quincy McKeen of New England holidayed in Guatemala some years ago, he brought home wild flowers, and choosing the most beautiful he claimed it as his discovery and got himself Plant Patent 559.
The rainforest did the work but McKeen got the royalties.
Jerry L Stimac of the University of Florida, US, did something similar. He imported a fungus from Brazil which was poisonous to fire ants (and could be used to control them biologically) – and patented it. Scientists had obtained the fungus from Brazilian colleagues who in turn learned of its usefulness from local farmers.
This time unnamed farmers had the genius but Stimac got the profits.
Angharad Gatehouse was sent by his university to look for cowpeas in West Africa. He was given a handful, gleaned from farmers’ fields, by The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. Using new biotechniques on the cowpeas, Gatehouse and his friends isolated a specific gene which confers resistance to insect pests and can be inserted into crops like soybeans and maize. Gatehouse moved from the University of Durban to the biotech ”boutique”, Agricultural Genetic Company of Cambridge.
Once the gene was described, Agricultural Genetics filed patent applications for their ”invention” around most of the Western world. The West African farmers who discovered and used the plant’s special qualities have long been forgotten.
Plant piracy of Third World fields and forests is common.
Consider the ”Polo” potato from Bolivia now being adapted for Western convenience in the US and probably worth millions of dollars. Or the ”Alcobaca” tomato from Brazil which has a shelf-life of several weeks and could revolutionize the West’s tomato industry.
And don”t forget medicinal plants. According to the magazine put out by the pharmaceutical industry, Scrip, each of the 200 endangered drug-yielding plant species known in the tropical rainforests may have a market value of millions. By early next century the global market for medicinal plants could be worth maybe $47 billion.
The drug company Merck Sharpe and Dohme is working with Brazilian counterparts to exploit an anticoagulant called Tiki-uba used by the Urueu-wau-wau of the Brazilian state of Rondonia. Not to be outdone, another major company, Monsanto, is hot on the trail of several of the 1,000 medicinal plants used by the Jivaro peoples on the Brazilian-Peruvian border. The companies not only want the plants but also the knowledge of the people who discovered them.
Pirates become jailers.
It was in the Philippines about one year ago that much of this information emerged. Rene Salazar, a veteran farm organizer and now also a biotech researcher, sat dumbfounded in an agricultural biotechnology conference as the Philippine Under-Secretary for Science and Technology casually reported that the country’s first bill to allow the patenting of life forms had passed third reading in the Lower House.
The Act, to allow the patenting of asexually reproducible plants, offered industry a great deal.
First, there was no need to work – no inventive genius was required. A company could merely ”discover a plant in a cultivated field and – so long as they were first to the patent office – obtain exclusive monopoly ownership over it. As Salazar said, ”The bill rewards craftiness not creativity”.
Second, uniquely under Philippine law, anyone else using the patented plant could be criminally liable. In industrialized countries, patent violations are for the civil courts and the onus and cost of patent protection falls on the company that profits from the patent. Not so under the proposed Philippine law. A company need merely go to the police and charge someone with unlawfully using their variety, and the criminal courts would takeover at taxpayer expense.
Rene Salazar, who also works with the South East Asian Regional Institute for Community Education, was furious: ”Maybe a third to half of the plant varieties on government recommendation lists are either chance mutations or the product of informal community breeding programmes. A Pioneer or a Sandoz company can walk into a farm community, take plant samples, patent the most interesting ones and then throw the community in jail if they continue to use the plants they themselves created.”
Within 24 hours, Salazar and a coalition of peasant and environmental organizations had united with scientists to protest against the legislation.
On the other side of the Pacific in California it took leukemia patient John Moore a little longer to organize his protest. Moore is venting his spleen over the doctors and the UCLA hospital who claim to have ”invented” his spleen cell-line when they removed the cancerous organ during surgery in 1976. Mr. Moore – or at least parts of him – were patented.
By the mid-1980s, UCLA had passed the patent to a small Boston biotech ”boutique” known as the Genetics Institute which in turn passed on exclusive monopoly rights to Sandoz, the giant Swiss chemical transnational that – because it ranks in the top echelons of both drug and seed companies – so worries Rene Salazar. En route, Moore’s doctor, David Golde, and the hospital picked up two and a half million dollars in royalties and 75,000 shares of stock.
Moore’s problems are not unique. About the same time in France, a widow whose husband died of testicular cancer, attempted to retrieve some of his semen from the sperm bank. The bank demurred, claiming exclusive rights to the semen. French courts sided with the woman.
Moore also sued for property rights – but lost. Sandoz’s lawyers argued that private (patient) ownership over all body materials would send biotech research costs through the ceiling and deny new discoveries. Moore claimed that his rights had been violated and that no-one should own any parts of him but himself. Further court actions are expected.
~ ~ ~
Be it plants, fungi or people parts, all the new biotech patents spell money.
The biotech body tissue trade is substantial – earning an estimated $2.2 billion in the US last year alone. Recently, a congressional investigation showed a 300 per cent increase over five years in medical schools seeking patents on products drawn from human materials.
What upsets Moore most is that Sandoz could take him to court for selling his own cells to other companies. At least in the US it would be a civil action – but the sad truth remains that not everything inside John Moore is necessarily John Moore’s anymore.
In fact, all of John Moore may be up for grabs at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) talks in Geneva.
Buried amidst discussion of European Community agricultural subsidies lies an almost unreported demand from the US, backed by Australia and Japan, that the Uruguay Round should treat intellectual property as a potential barrier to international trade: if the Philippines or Brazil fail to offer US companies the same level of patent protection abroad as they expect at home, then this constitutes a barrier to trade.
According to US trade representative Carla Hills, US companies lost around $60 billion in royalties in 1986 alone, mostly to Third World patent pirates ripping off pharmaceutical patents, textile trademarks, and book and cassette copyrights. Even GATT officials have difficulty taking the US accusations seriously.
Were the figures true and the royalty charges levied on the South as Carla Hills demands, the surcharge would double total Third World debt repayments each year.
Trading on life
But the GATT proposal has still wider implications.
Says Hills, there should be ”no exclusions” on either the forms of intellectual property or the subject-matter to be patented.
In other words, plants, animals, micro-organisms, John Moore’s spleen cells and even John Moore himself along with all his products and processes would be patentable. Failure to permit such patents would expose a country to trade retaliation from other GATT members. According to GATT, life is a trade issue.
Although daunted by the reach of the US demand, the EC, Nordic countries and Switzerland have called for the patenting of plants and micro-organisms, leaving it open as to whether or not animals should be patentable. Only Norway, in its written submission to GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel, has flatly rejected the patenting of human beings.
Most countries in GATT, have over-looked the fact that any acceptance of the patenting of any life-form will inevitably lead to GATT rules for the patenting of all life-forms. The legislative history in industrialized countries shows clearly that holding rights over plant varieties leads to exclusive monopoly rights over micro-organisms and then animals. Asked directly whether the US really wanted to include human beings in its patent proposal, a Washington official giggled and admitted that Hills and Company simply could not find a way to exclude humans.
In fact, it is probable that no one in GATT is interested in patenting whole human beings. So why not develop wording that does exclude people?
In biotechnology, where fish and insect genes are inserted into crop plants, and human genes are put into mice, pigs, sheep and goats, the ”natural” barriers between species and biological kingdoms are broken down. Life is homogenised.
If human beings were excluded from patentability, would the DuPont mouse – the first patented animal – be unpatentable because it contains a human gene? Would pharmaceuticals derived from human tissue be unpatentable? How many human genes can science insert into pigs before they start to read the menu? How many genes can be patented in a human being before the human being is patented?
Faced with these rather ridiculous but real imponderables, the US Trade Representative has opted not to attempt a definition of a human being but to call for no exclusions in the hope of avoiding the entire moral debate.
For Third World delegates in Geneva, the message should be clear: if it is technically impossible to isolate human beings from patentability then new transgenic technologies also make it impossible to isolate plants both from animals and microbes. It is equally impossible to legally isolate ”discovered” from ”invented” biological materials or ”wild” from ”cultivated” materials.
To accept the patenting of any life form in GATT is to ultimately accept the patenting of all life forms – including the whole vast biological diversity of Third World fields and forests.
The South is only belatedly becoming aware that the so-called ”raw-material” of the Gene Revolution are the microbial, plant and animal genetic resources abundant in tropical and sub-tropical states. GAIT represents a grab for patent control over the sovereign and human intellectual property rights of the South.
(Pat Roy Mooney is a researcher for The Rural Advancement Fund International (RAFI), which campaigns about genetic resources from bases in the US, Canada, Australia and Norway. Together with Carey Fowler, Mooney received the 1985 Right Livelihood Award – the Alternative Nobel Prize – for his work on genetic resources.)
* * *
January 14, 1998
Coalition forms to urge withdrawal of Cuban embargo
By Christopher Marquis, Miami Herald
WASHINGTON — A group of business, government and religious leaders announced Tuesday the creation of a coalition to press for ending the U.S. ban on sales of food and medicine to Cuba.
The group, called Americans for Humanitarian Trade With Cuba, includes David Rockefeller, chairman of his family’s trust; Archer Daniels Midland chairman Dwayne Andreas; and former U.S. officials Carla Hills, President Reagan’s trade representative, and Lloyd Bentsen, President Clinton’s first treasury secretary.
With little more than a week before Pope John Paul II travels to Cuba, the coalition is seeking to portray the 36-year U.S. trade embargo as inhumane and unworthy of U.S. ideals, calling it the harshest in the world. The pope has also criticized the trade ban, which raises Cuba’s costs by forcing it to rely on more-distant exporters.
Working in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the new group has vowed to press Congress to approve legislation to allow the direct sale of food and medicine. Such sales are banned under the Cuba embargo, although Americans may donate food and even sell licensed medical products through charity groups in Cuba.
Witness to hunger
Retired Army Gen. John J. Sheehan, former head of the U.S. Atlantic Command, recalled that he supervised processing of nearly 40,000 Cuban refugees seeking U.S. asylum at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, beginning in 1994. Many were children suffering from malnutrition, he said.
“We can no longer support a policy which causes suffering of the most vulnerable — women, children and the elderly,” Sheehan said. “It is time for us to correct this policy and its unintended effects on the innocent people of Cuba.”
The coalition, which reflects the private sector’s strongest push yet on Cuba policy, drew immediate criticism from some Cuban-American politicians. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, D-Miami, said the group was mistakenly deflecting responsibility for Cuba’s misery from President Fidel Castro to the United States.
Anti-embargo business leaders, she added, are motivated by greed.
“This is really an unholy alliance between the usual suspects who are always anti-embargo, the church groups and now Wall Street,” she said.
“These businessmen would be wheeling and dealing with Mussolini if that dictator were still around, as long as there’s a buck to be made.”
Battle lines form
The debate is focusing on bills authorizing food and medical sales proposed by Rep. Esteban Torres, D-Calif., and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. The House version has more than 90 co-sponsors, according to Torres.
Republican opponents, who control key foreign affairs committees, voice confidence that they can bottle up the legislation.
The new coalition is counting on pressure generated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents Fortune 500 companies and small businesses across the United States, and the National Council of Churches, which claims to represent 53 million Americans. A Cuban American, Hector Irastorza Jr., is the council’s executive director.
In anticipation of the pope’s first trip to Cuba, Castro opponents in Cuba and in exile plan to release a document today that outlines criteria for a political transition, including a general amnesty for all political prisoners, elections by direct and secret ballot, and greater freedom of political and economic activity.
Spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, the document is signed by island dissidents including Gustavo Arcos, president of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights; and by exiles including Carlos Alberto Montaner, head of the Cuban Liberal Union, and Jose Basulto, founder of Brothers to the Rescue.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald
* * *
November 22, 2001
Storm-Racked Cuba Buying U.S. Food
(Reuters) – U.S. grain industry giants Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. on Wednesday announced the first sale of U.S. food to Cuba in 41 years, sparking hopes for a thaw in Cold War tensions and more food sales.
The communist-run island, devastated by Hurricane Michelle this month, asked the United States for food last week. The storm, the worst to hit the island in 50 years, killed five people, destroyed thousands of homes and damaged crops.
The United States slapped an embargo on trade with Cuba soon after President Fidel Castro swept to power in 1959. But last fall, Congress enacted legislation that eased some restrictions to allow cash sales of food and medicine. “There have been some indications this may not be the last of what they need in the light of the damage done by the hurricane,” said Larry Cunningham, a spokesman for Archer Daniels Midland, the top U.S. grain processor.
He said ADM–through its joint venture with Farmland Industries, the nation’s largest farmer-owned cooperative–will supply Cuba with “tens of thousands” of metric tons of wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and soymeal, an animal feed.
He said the products were expected to be shipped to Cuba in the next week to 10 days.
Cunningham declined to disclose the exact amount of each product the company sold to Cuba but said the sales were all done on a cash basis because of financing restrictions.
The legislation enacted last year does not allow the U.S. government and banks to finance sales to cash-strapped Cuba, which lies just 90 miles off the Florida coast. Such U.S. financing is a common practice with dozens of other countries in need of food aid.
Riceland Foods Inc. President and Chief Executive Richard Bell said the company sold rice to Cuba but declined to disclose the amount.
Dawn Forsythe, a spokeswoman for U.S. Wheat Associates, an organization that promotes wheat exports, said, “This is probably the first time in their lifetime younger farmers are seeing the sale of U.S. wheat to Cuba.”
She added, however, that there were several sticking points in opening the door to regular sales of wheat and other U.S. products to Cuba, one of which was the financing restrictions.
Van Yeutter, director of international business development at top U.S. grain exporter Cargill, said the company had signed an agreement to sell a total of 44,000 metric tons of U.S. food, comprising 20,000 tons of wheat, 19,000 tons of corn and 5,000 tons of crude vegetable oil….
Bob Papanos, vice president of international programs at the U.S. Rice Producers Assn., said there still were some concerns that Cuban exiles living in Miami who are adamantly opposed to Castro’s government could attempt to derail the food shipments to Cuba.
* * *
August 26, 2001
U.S., Europe Spar on Rules for Genetically Modified Food
by Alan Sipress and Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post
WASHINGTON – Senior Bush administration officials are pressuring the European Union to abandon new restrictions on genetically modified foods that they say could cost U.S. companies $4 billion a year and disrupt efforts to launch a new round of global trade talks.
U.S. officials have repeatedly told their European counterparts that the regulations, which received preliminary approval last month, discriminate against U.S. products in violation of World Trade Organization requirements, raising the prospect of an emotionally charged trade dispute.
The European Commission’s decision to require the labeling of genetically engineered products reflects a European anxiety about food safety that is far more profound than in the United States, the world leader in agricultural biotechnology. This is a divide that threatens to further aggravate U.S. relations with Europe, already roiled by differences over global warming, arms control and other trade issues.
Undersecretary of State Alan Larson, the State Department’s senior diplomat assigned to economic issues, called the new restrictions “trade disruptive and discriminatory.” He said, “It’s obviously a very serious problem that affects a very important trade and one that’s of vital interest to a very important constituency in the United States which supports free trade.”
Though U.S. officials have declined publicly to detail what type of punitive action the Bush administration might take against Europe, U.S. officials say the regulations are inconsistent with the terms of the WTO because they treat U.S. products less favorably than European ones.
For instance, Larson said, the European regulations would require that American crushed soybean oil bear a label, while European cheeses and wine made with biotech enzymes would not be covered. “There are potential WTO concerns about how it is structured now,” Larson said.
U.S. officials have left open the possibility of bringing a legal case before the WTO, which, after lengthy litigation, could eventually impose a politically embarrassing judgment and stiff economic penalties on Europe. But Larson said the administration’s immediate focus is on lobbying European governments to amend the regulations before they take effect. He added that the United States and Europe need to resolve the issue quickly so it does not become a “distraction” that interferes with their shared interest in launching new global trade talks as planned later this year.
Officials said that economic losses in the United States – where 75 percent of soybeans and more than 25 percent of corn comes from genetically modified seeds – could far exceed other transatlantic trade battles, such as those over bananas and growth hormones in beef. Resolution of the long-running banana dispute earlier this year removed a major irritant in American-European relations.
The dispute could also harden public opinion about biotechnology and its ability to transfer beneficial genes from one species into another. Proponents want it to be seen as a force for progress and global improvement, but it could become a symbol of divisiveness if it set off a bitter trade dispute. . . .
* * *
December 30, 2001
MEXICANS ANGERED BY MODIFIED CORN PLANTS
By Mark Stevenson, Associated Press
MEXICO CITY – In a cautionary tale about the difficulty of controlling genetically modified plants, corn researchers in Mexico went ever higher into remote mountain villages looking for natural varieties of the 4,000-year-old crop.
Time after time, they couldn’t find them.
Samples revealed that just a few years of unlabeled U.S. imports had transferred modified genes to local corn in the Southern state of Oaxaca – even though planting genetically modified crops is banned in this country, the birthplace of corn.
The discovery, confirmed in the science magazine Nature this month, caused outrage among Mexicans, whose ancestors believed the gods created Man from an ear of corn.
“It’s a worse attack on our culture that if they had torn down the cathedral of Oaxaca and built a McDonald’s over it,” said Hector Magallone, an activist with environmental group Greenpeace.
Some scientists worry that genetically modified strains could displace or contaminate Mexico’s genetic warehouse of more than 60 corn varieties – a wealth that enriches staple crops worldwide and includes wild varieties that have yet to be cataloged.
The accidental spread of laboratory-inserted genes, scientists fear, could allow aggressive plants to crowd out other varieties, reducing biological diversity.
Diversity is prized as a hedge against disease, pests and climate change. While some plant strains may be vulnerable to one disease, others may have natural immunity that enables them to survive.
The case has grown international attention. In an open letter, 80 scientists from a dozen countries have asked the Mexican government to stop the genetic contamination.
But supporters of genetic modification say such crops may actually benefit the environment by allowing farmers to use less pesticide or soil tilling, cutting down on erosion.
Mexico is a net importer of corn – about 6.2 million tons annually, almost all from the United States. Perhaps one-fourth of it is genetically modified.
U.S. grain growers aren’t worried by the contamination — and even want to charge Mexican farmers for it.
“If a locally occurring variety receives some improvement from genetically engineered crops, it’s up to the courts to decide whether farmers should be made to pay for that,” said Ricardo Celma, head of the U.S. Grain Council’s Mexico office.
“But we want the patent rights of the owners of that genetic modification to be honored.”
Mexican activists see the situation differently. Greenpeace called for a ban on imports of genetically modified corn, and simultaneous support for natural varieties.
Corn, which is Mexico’s staple crop, is imported mostly for human and animal consumption – not as seed.
Yet several modified strains were found, including one that makes the plant a toxin to ward off corn borers.
It is unclear how far the genetically modified crops have spread. A study by the Mexican Environment Ministry earlier this year found them in 15 locations in Oaxaca, but in low concentration of 3 percent to 10 percent of plants in most fields. . . .
Planting genetically modified crops has been banned in Mexico since 1998.
Officials of Mexico’s Agriculture Department said there were no plans to either halt imports or demand labeling of genetically modified corn.
* * *
January 14, 2002
Biotech Firms on Quest for Fatter Fowl
By Paul Elias, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – U.S. poultry growers have a chicken-and-egg dilemma.
For decades, people who raise chickens for dinner tables have been honing their “selective breeding” skills and have gotten pretty good at growing the fattest bird possible.
But meatier and faster-growing birds lay fewer eggs, and prolific egg-layers tend to be skinny. Chicken producers would love to increase production of meatier chickens by minimizing the influence of the skinny genes.
Origen Therapeutics and AviGenics are among biotechnology companies considering this dilemma as they pursue the perfectly engineered bird. And their solution is sure to rile a number of advocacy groups because it involves not just genetically modified food but also cloning and embryonic stem cells.
The idea is to create identical copies of eggs with desirable traits that can roll off assembly lines by the billions. The hatched chickens would be identically disease-resistant and grow and eat at the same rate.
This goal has yet to be fully embraced.
Biotechnology opponents fear that genetically modified organisms (GMO) are little understood and that the potential for harm to humans is great. Animal-rights activists argue that the science simply provides a more efficient way to harm chickens.
But with an estimated 8 billion chickens bred annually in the United States for food, these biotechnology companies see an industry ripe for their technology.
Besides, they argue, engineering chickens is no different from selectively breeding them, as the industry does now.
“There is very little that is natural” in the current breeding process, said Robert Etches, vice president of research at Origen.
Etches and his colleagues at Burlingame, Calif.-based Origen Therapeutics Inc. aim to breed bigger chickens faster by extracting embryonic stem cells from the fastest growing and biggest chickens and injecting them into fertilized eggs of the skinnier egg-laying chickens.
The process does not involve any genetic manipulation. . . .
Origen scientists hope they can coax the embryonic stem cells to take genetic control of the skinny chickens’ eggs, suppressing the parents’ genetic expression and creating a meaty chicken.
Robert Kay, chief executive of Origen, would not explain the company’s methods and said the technology is still years from fruition. . . .
In Athen, Ga., meanwhile, scientists at AviGenics are attempting to get around the egg problem by cloning chickens with favorable traits such as large breasts.
Anthony Cruz, an AviGenics vice president, said the company has yet to successfully clone a chicken and won’t predict when that may occur.
“There is still a lot of work to do,” he said.
Indeed, these biotechnology companies readily concede they face years of technical and regulatory obstacles before they can revolutionize the poultry industry.
And first, they must convince chicken and egg producers their technology is needed – and that it won’t, for example, backfire and create genetically uniform animal populations that could be wiped out with a single fatal epidemic.
* * *
February 17, 2002
Gene-altered leaf promises low-nicotine cigarettes
By Philip Brasher, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – New cigarettes are due this spring with tobacco genetically altered to be very low in nicotine.
A new Agriculture Department study confirmed the low levels of nicotine, the chemical that gets smokers hooked, in the biotech tobacco and found that the crop poses little risk to the environment.
Tobacco grown on department-supervised test plots last summer is going into the cigarettes made by Vector Group, parent company of cigarette maker Vector Tobacco.
The company has asked the Agriculture Department to remove restrictions on where and how the tobacco can be grown, and the agency probably will go along. The tobacco was genetically altered to block the production of nicotine in the roots.
“This thing could be a home run and it could flop. We think the odds are that it is going to be a successful product,” said Donald Trott, an analyst with the brokerage firm Jefferies and Company Inc.
Vector, which makes Eve-brand cigarettes as well as various generic and discount lines, has not said where it will sell the biotech cigarettes beginning in the spring or what they will be called. . . .
Government approval would make the tobacco one of the first biotech crops to have a consumer use.
Tobacco industry critics fear low-nicotine cigarettes could encourage more smoking. “A nicotine-free cigarette could still deliver very high levels of harmful toxic substances,” said Matthew Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Many tobacco farmers and Vector’s rival cigarette manufacturers are concerned about the product, too. Growers say the biotech tobacco could get mixed with conventional leaf and jeopardize U.S. exports.
“It is a big issue. It has the potential to change tobacco and tobacco production controls that we have had on tobacco for many years,” said Larry Wooten, a partner in a tobacco farm and president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau.
“Many of our farmer are not, I would say, aware of the serious implications that this has.”
The government traditionally has controlled tobacco prices and production through the use of quotas, which entitle the owners to market a given amount of leaf each year.
Penalties on nonquota tobacco make it uneconomical to grow in the handful of states that have quotas, such as North Carolina and Kentucky, so Vector is setting up production elsewhere.
The company grew the crop on 5,200 acres in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Iowa and Hawaii.
Company officials say there is no danger of contaminating conventional tobacco because the biotech version is grown and handled separately from conventional crops. . . .
* * *
August 3, 2001
From The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Food (http://www.thecampaign.org):
US food industry seeks clarity on new China GMO rule
WASHINGTON (Rueters) — U.S. agriculture industry officials yesterday complained that China’s new regulations governing the import of biotech products are hindering bilateral trade, especially for soybeans.
On June 6, China announced new regulations governing the import of foods containing genetically modified organisms. While Beijing still has not provided details on how the rules will be implemented, they require registration and labeling of GMOs and GMO products.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 68 percent of U.S. soybeans are now genetically modified.
During a hearing yesterday of the U.S.-China Security Review Commission, which was established by Congress last year, U.S. agriculture industry officials testified to the importance of developing China’s vast market for wheat, soybeans, meat and other commodities.
Robbin Johnson, vice president of Cargill Inc., told the panel China “has been a good trading partner for more than 30 years” and was “making good headway” toward a growing relationship in agriculture trade.
But that progress was set back, Johnson said, “when China suddenly announced a new law restricting genetically modified organisms” and did so “without any implementing regulations.”
Johnson said the result has been “confusion and disrupted normal trade flows.”
He added that “until the situation is clarified, U.S. suppliers following ethical business practices are excluded from supplying China’s $350 million per month demand for soybeans.”
Dwain Ford, vice president of the American Soybean Association, echoed Johnson’s remarks, telling the panel, “It is critical to our soybean exports that China resolve these rules in a rapid, transparent and non-trade distorting manner…”
China’s purchases of U.S. soybeans have skyrocketed in recent years, with the value of shipments projected to be $1.28 billion this year, up from $472 million in 1999.
The U.S. industry also is hoping for growth in exports to China of soymeal, as the country’s 1.2 billion people shift their diet to one that is higher in vegetable oil and protein.
The U.S.-China Security Review Commission, appointed by congressional leaders, is supposed to assess security challenges posed by economic and military aspects of the bilateral relationship.
Yesterday’s hearing focused on agriculture, steel, aerospace, automobile and high-tech commerce between the two countries. . .
* * *
March 29, 2002
Farmers planting more biotech crops this year
WASHINGTON – American farmers will plant more genetically engineered crops this year, including one-third of the corn on U.S. soil, shrugging off international resistance to biotech food.
The farmers are expected to grow more than 79 million acres of genetically engineered corn and soybeans, the nation’s two most widely planted commodities, a 13 percent increase from last year, according to an Agriculture Department survey.
The gene-altered crops require fewer chemicals. making them easier and cheaper to grow. The crops are engineered to produce their own pesticide or to be resistant to b popular weedkiller.
“Farming has become so competitive, so small margin, that if we can find something that works economically and environmentally we’ll jump on it,” said Minnesota farmer Gerald Tumbleson, who grows biotech corn and soybeans.
About 74 percent of this year’s soy crop, or 54 million acres, will be genetically engineered, compared with 68 percent last year and 54 percent in 2000, the department said. In Indiana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas, 80 percent or more of this year’s soybean crop is expected to be biotech.
Soy is a critical ingredient for a wide variety of foods and, like corn, also is used for animal feed.
Some 32 percent of the corn crop, or 25.3 million acres, will be of biotech varieties, compared with 26 percent in 2001 and 25 percent the year before.
Strong consumer resistance to agricultural biotechnology has arisen in Europe and Japan, but most U.S.-grown corn and soy is used domestically.
“The farmer looks at it strictly from profitability,” said commodities, analyst Don Roose. “They’re not shying away from it.”
The biotech soybeans contain a bacterium gene that makes them immune to Roundup herbicide. In some cases, farmers can get by with treating their fields just once a year to keep away yield-robbing weeds.
In addition, about 10.5 million acres of cotton, or 71 percent of this year’s cotton crop, will be bioengineered. Last year, 69 percent of the cotton was gene-altered.
The popular varieties of biotech cotton are either Roundup-immune or else produce their own pesticide. Most of the genetically engineered corn that farmers plant was designed to kill a common insect pest, the European corn borer.
The biotechnology industry was set back in 1999 by research raising fears, since alleviated, that the biotech corn was killing off Monarch butterflies. The following year, the industry was embarrassed when a type of gene-altered corn was found in the food supply without being approved for human consumption.
Yesterday’s report “shows the continued high confidence that U.S. farmers have placed in seeds improved through biotechnology,” said Michael Phillips of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
Other biotech crops, such as potatoes and tomatoes, have met resistance from farmers and the food industry, and wheat growers are nervous about the pending introduction of Roundup-resistant wheat. Wheat is far more dependent on export markets than other crops.
“That is a huge factor, the extent to which a crop is going to be exported,” said Jane Rissler, a biotech critic with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
* * *
March 29, 2002
Company to release its rice research for humanitarian use
Catbird: Pardon me while I laugh! (…or cry)
WASHINGTON – A biotechnology company agreed yesterday to make public its data on the rice genome so that scientists can use the research to develop improved crops for the world’s poor.
Syngentia AG, a Swiss firm, said academic institutions, governments and nonprofit organizations will be allowed to use the data as they wish, but competing companies would have to pay for rights to commercialize their uses of the material.
Rice is a staple for half the world’s population. Its genetic model is relatively simple and so similar to other grains that scientists can use the rice map to manipulate genetic traits in a variety of crops.
Syngenta made the agreement with Science magazine, which will publish the research next week.
“This is a balance between humanitarian goals and commercial goals,” said Steven Briggs, president of Syngenta’s San Diego-based Torrey Mesa Research Institute.
Science ordinarily requires that scientists place such data in an international repository, known as Genbank, but Syngenta balked at the demand because the firm wants to prevent other companies from using the material commercially.
Science editor Donald Kennedy said the Syngenta research was valuable enough to warrant making an exception to its policy.
The data will make it easier for scientists to add nutrients to crops or increase resistance to drought and pests through both conventional breeding techniques and genetic engineering.
* * *
The BGH Scandals–The Incredible Story of Jane Akre & Steve Wilson (Part 1)
PR Watch, Volume 7, No. 4, Fourth Quarter 2000
In our Second Quarter 1998 issue, PR Watch wrote about TV investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, who were fired after refusing to go along with misleading alterations to their story about Monsanto’s genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone.
Akre and Wilson recently won a landmark whistleblower lawsuit against the station that fired them, yet their former network continues its legal efforts to reverse the ruling and crush them financially. In this issue, we are honored to publish Jane Akre’s firsthand account of her experiences standing up to corporate and media powers that have tried to silence them.
Journalists everywhere should take a close look at this case and its implications. If the Fox network and Monsanto get away with destroying the careers of these two seasoned reporters, the same thing can happen to anyone who tries to stand up for a story that they believe in. With few resources other than the courage of their convictions, Akre and Wilson have struggled to place issues before the public that otherwise would remain hidden from view. In addition to their battle in the courts, they have used the skills they honed in the newsroom to fight back in the court of public opinion.
They have created a website ( www.foxBGHsuit.com ) that includes a downloadable video of their suppressed news story, plus court documents and other facts about their case. We encourage you to visit their website and, in light of their continuing financial struggles, to consider making a donation to their cause.
We hope that after reading their story, you will also share it with others and help get the word out. The public needs to inform itself and take action when the news media fails to do its job properly, and this is an egregious example. . . .
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The Story We Weren’t Allowed to Air
by Jane Akre
The truth is, only Monsanto really knows how many U.S. farmers are presently using their recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). The company persistently refuses to release sales figures but claims it has now become the largest-selling dairy animal drug in America. The chemical giant’s secretive operations were part of what made the story of rBGH such a compelling one for me to explore as an investigative reporter.
In late 1996, my husband Steve Wilson and I were hired as investigative journalists for the Fox-owned television station in Tampa, Florida. Looking for projects to pursue, I soon learned that millions of Americans and their children who consume milk from rBGH-treated cows have unwittingly become participants in what amounts to a giant public health experiment.
Despite promises from grocers that they would not buy rBGH milk “until it gains widespread acceptance,” I discovered and carefully documented how those promises were quietly broken immediately after they were made three years earlier. I also learned that health concerns raised by scientists around the world have never been settled, and indeed, the product has been outlawed or shunned in every other major industrialized country on the planet.
Clearly, there is not “widespread acceptance” of rBGH, not in 1996 when I began my research, and not today. By any standard, it was a solid story, but little did I know that it would become the last story of my 19-year broadcast journalism career and the heart of a dispute that could nearly destroy me and my family.
Even if you ask directly, “How much of your milk comes from cows injected with an artificial growth hormone?” We discovered that you are still likely to be misled or lied to today.
Steve helped me gather and produce a TV report based on the information we discovered. The investigation began with random visits to seven farms to determine whether and how widely rBGH was being used in Florida. I confirmed its use at every one of the seven farms I visited, and then I discovered what amounted to an ingenious public relations campaign that seemed to have succeeded in keeping consumers in the dark. . . .
Who Is the Dairy Coalition?
by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
Created by the PR and lobby firm of Capitoline/ MS&L with funding from the National Milk Producers Federation, the Dairy Coalition is composed of business, government and non-profit groups, including university researchers funded by Monsanto as well as other carefully selected “third party” experts.
Dick Weiss, director of the Dairy Coalition, now works with former Monsanto rBGH lobbyist Carol Tucker Foreman at the Consumer Federation of America.
Dairy Coalition participants include:
The International Food Information Council, which calls itself “a non-profit organization that disseminates sound, scientific information on food safety and nutrition to journalists, health professionals, government officials and consumers.”
In reality, IFIC is a public relations arm of the food and beverage industries, which provide the bulk of its funding. Its staff members hail from industry groups such as the Sugar Association and the National Soft Drink Association, and it has repeatedly led the defense for controversial food additives including monosodium glutamate, aspartame (Nutrasweet), food dyes, and olestra.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the powerful conservative lobby behind the movement to pass food disparagement laws like the one
under which Oprah Winfrey was sued in Texas.
The American Dietetic Association, a national association of registered dietitians that works closely with IFIC and hauls in large sums of money advocating for the food industry. Its stated mission is to “improve the health of the public,” but with 15 percent of its budget–more than $3 million–coming from food companies and trade groups, it has learned not to bite the hand that feeds it.
“They never criticize the food industry,” says Joan Gussow, a former head of the nutrition education program at Teachers College at Columbia University.
The ADA’s website even contains a series of “fact sheets” about various food products, sponsored by the same corporations that make them (Monsanto for biotechnology; Procter & Gamble for olestra; Ajinomoto for MSG; the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers for fats and oils).
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, representing the top executive of every department of agriculture in all 50 states.
The Grocery Manufacturers of America, whose member companies account for more than $460 billion in sales annually. GMA itself is a lobbying powerhouse in Washington, spending $1.4 million for that purpose in 1998 and currently-funding a multi-million-dollar PR campaign for genetically engineered foods. *
The Food Marketing Institute, a trade association of food retailers and wholesalers, whose grocery store members represent three fourths of grocery sales in the United States.
PR Watch is a publication of the Center for Media & Democracy 520 University Avenue, Suite 310 Madison, WI 53703 phone: (608) 260-9713 fax: 608-260-9714 email: email@example.com
* * * * *
I see that some food companies are now labeling their products “NO GMO” (Genetically Modified Organisms). From now on, my motto when shopping for birdseed is going to be:
“JUST SAY NO TO GMO”!
How about YOU?
* * * * *
FOR A CLOSER LOOK AT SOME OF THESE BIOGENETIC BIRDS, AND THEIR NESTS, POINT YOUR FIELD GLASSES DIRECTLY BELOW!
o o o
Ajinomoto Inc. – From Hoover’s Online:
“Essence of flavor” is the literal translation of “ajinomoto,” which is also a generic term for monosodium glutamate (MSG) and the name of Japan’s largest producer of seasonings.
Founded in 1888 to harvest iodine from seaweed, Ajinomoto is a top producer of amino and nucleic acids used in sweeteners, nutritional supplements, and animal feeds. It also makes foodstuffs (edible oils, frozen foods, and Knorr soups in Japan) and beverages.
Ajinomoto created the production technology for NutraSweet. Ajinomoto also markets NutraSweet in Europe.
The company operates in more than 20 countries and has more than 100 manufacturing plants worldwide.
Ajinomoto has been assessed a $6 million fine for price fixing in the US.
* * *
From The Informant, by Kurt Eichenwald: . . .
They started the tour in the upstairs lab, where a handful of tiny flasks were being automatically shaken. …. The irony was that those tiny cells of bacteria were the multimillion dollar heart of this giant operation. They were Archer Daniel Midland’s proprietary biological secret that had allowed the company to break Japan’s control of the business. . . .
The group headed out onto the plant floor, then down a metal staircase. . . .
Mimoto, already behind the rest of the group, slowed his pace. He waited until he felt sure that no one was looking. Quickly, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic bag, removing the moist handkerchief inside. He placed the handkerchief on the staircase banister, rubbing it as he walked down the steps. Before anyone noticed, he slipped the handkerchief back into the bag, sealed it, and casually placed it back in his pocket.
Mimoto knew that the multimillion-dollar bacteria used by ADM to produce its lysine was growing everywhere in this plant, even places where it could not be seen. He could only hope that, with the handkerchief, he had successfully stolen a sample of it for Ajinomoto. . . .
* * *
Former Ajinomoto exec charged with price fixing
WASHINGTON, Aug 23, 2001 (Reuters) – A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a former executive with Japanese food additive maker Ajinomoto Co. Inc. on price-fixing charges, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The indictment, handed down in Dallas, charged that Tamon Tanabe, a former associate general manager, was part of a worldwide conspiracy between 1994 and 1996 to fix the price of nucleotides, a flavor enhancer found in soups, sauces, spices and other foods, the government said.
The charges against Tanabe are part of an “ongoing” antitrust investigation and carry a maximum fine of $350,000 and three years in prison, the department said.
It is likely that the Justice Department has called a temporary halt to the pronouncement of the sentence on the lysine case, until its investigations are over with the flavoring additive case. In the lysine case, Kyowa Hakko Kogyo, which had formed a cartel with Ajinomoto and also pleaded guilty, was sentenced to a fine of US$10 million in October 1999. This leads one to think that there must be some good reason why the Justice Department requested twice for postponement of a sentence to Ajinomoto.
A plea is accepted only if the accused company confesses all about the cartel and makes a vow that it will never do the same thing again. If indeed Ajinomoto did form a flavoring additive cartel, the company may be punished severely as a malicious criminal that deceived the Justice Department. Its fine on the lysine cartel will be made much higher, followed by another heavy fine on the flavoring additive cartel and possibly an imprisonment of those who played significant roles.
Based on a thorough investigation that it has conducted on its own, Ajinomoto asserts that no cartel had been formed as far as flavoring additives are concerned and that the company plans to respond to the civil actions taken against it. Ajinomoto says that neither the headquarters in Japan nor the U.S. subsidiary has been investigated by the Justice Department and that the company is more than willing to cooperate to do away with the cartel suspicion, should an investigation request be made.
Even if this may be the fact, Ajinomoto’s U.S. business will continue to be in the gray zone until the final sentence has been pronounced.
See also: Archer Daniels Midland; G.D. Searle
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld – One of the largest nests of Lobbyists in the world.
In 1998, this firm declared total lobbying income of $11,800,000. Among their clients are the likes of Alliance of American Insurers; America Online; American Express; American Financial Group; Apollo Advisers; AT&T; Biotechnology Industry Organization; Boeing Co.; Capital Gaming International; CBS Corp; Citigroup; Korean International Trade Assn; Miller & Chevalier; National Hockey League; Pfizer; PG&E Corp; Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America; Philip Morris; Pohang Iron & Steel; Samsung Electronics; Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Assn; Time Warner; and Warner-Lambert, just to mention a few. . . .
For poop on the connections between Akin, Gump, Osama bin Laden and the Bush Gang, GO TO > > > Thorns in the Rose Garden
For poop on Lobbyists, GO TO > > > Birds in the Lobby
Archer Daniels Midland – The global giant food company that seems to be trying to bring the “Jack and the Beanstalk”
tale to reality.
From The Informant, by Kurt Eichenwald: . . .
The large gray van, its windows tinted to block the glances of the curious, pulled away from the Decatur airport, heading toward Route 105. Inside, four foreign visitors watched as images of the modest town came into view. … The vast fields of corn that could be seen from the air were no longer visible, replaced instead by an entanglement of industrial plants and office buildings. . . .
In the last few months alone, this road had been traveled by Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, and by Dan Quayle, the American vice president. Those men, like leaders before them, had been drawn to this out-of-the-way place in the center of American largely by one company and often by one man: Archer Daniels Midland and its influential chairman, Dwayne Andreas.
Few Americans were familiar with who Andreas was or what he did. But among the world’s moneyed and powerful, he and his grain processing company were known well. In Washington, anyone who mattered was acquainted with Andreas-or more likely, with his money.
For decades, he had been one of the country’s foremost political contributors, heaping cash almost indiscriminately on Democrats and Republicans-this year alone, Andreas money would be used by both George Bush and Bill Clinton in their battle for the presidency….
The foreign visitors traveling to ADM on this day hoped for an opportunity to meet Andreas….
Hirokazu Ikeda stepped down from the enormous vehicle, trailed closely by Kanji Mimoto, both senior executives from Ajinomoto Inc., a giant Japanese competitor of ADM. Two other Ajinomoto executives followed . . . Shading thier eyes from the morning sun, the men headed into the building’s lobby and introduced themselves to a receptionist. She placed a call, and within seconds a young, energetic man came bounding down a hallway toward them. It was Mark Whitacre, the thirty-four-year-old president of ADM’s newest unit, the Bioproducts Division….
The men chatted about their golf games as Whitacre led them to the executive meeting room, where they found their places around a conference table. … As everyone settled in, Whitacre walked to a wall phone and dialed 5505-the extension for Jim Randall, the president of ADM.
“Jim, our guests are here,” Whitacre said….
Randall walked into the room a few minutes later. … Instantly he took control of the meeting and the conversation, describing how ADM was transforming itself into a new company.
Over slightly less that a century, ADM had grown into a global giant, processing grains and other farm staples into oils, flours, and fibers. Its products were found in everything from Nabisco saltines to Hellmann’s mayonnaise., from Jell-O pudding to StarKist tuna.
Soft drinks were loaded with ADM sweeteners and detergents with ADM additives.
Americans were raised on ADM. Babies drinking soy formulas were downing the company’s wares, as toddlers, they got their daily dose of ADM from Gerber cereals. The health-minded consumed its products in yogurt and canola oil; others devoured them in Popsicles and pepperoni.
While most people had never heard of ADM, almost every American home was stuffed with its goods.
ADM called itself “the Supermarket to the World,” but in truth it was the place that the giant food companies came to do their grocery shopping.
Now, Randall said, ADM was entering a new era. Beginning three years before, in 1989, ADM had taken a new direction, creating the Bioproducts Division. No longer would the company just grind and crush food products. Instead, it was veering into biotechnology, feeding dextros from corn to tiny microbes. Over time, those microbes, or “bugs” as they were know, convert the sugar into an amino acid called lysine.
As people in the business liked to say, the bugs ate dextros and crapped lysine.
In animal feed, lysine bulked up chickens and pigs – just the product needed by giant food companies like Tyson and Conagra.
Until ADM came along, the Japanese largely controlled the market, with Ajinomoto the undisputed giant. Start-up costs alone kept out potential competitors-tens of millions of dollars were required just to develop the proprietary, patented microbes need to ferment lysine.
But ADM abounded in cash, it had already invested more than $150 million in the new business. Now, the world’s largest lysine plant was in Decatur, ready to produce as much as 113,000 metric tons a year. And running it all was Whitacre, a whiz-kid scientist….
“We’re going to be the largest biochem company in the world,” Randall said. . . .
The Japanese executives listened skeptically but said little. If Adm could produce that much lysine, it would have to gobble up much of the existing market. Building such a huge business struck them as irrational, foolhardy. ADM would have to keep large portions of the plant idle while waiting either for the market to grow or competitors to leave the business….
As Randally spoke, Whitacre and Wilson did their best not to cringe. For all of Randall’s swagger, they knew the most important fact about ADM;s new effort was being left untold. The company couldn’t get the damn plant to work….
Ten minutes into his monologue, Randall pushed himself back from the table.
“That tells you about our plant, in a nutshell,” he said. “Now, Mark’s going to give you a tour, and we’ll see you back here later for lunch.” …
They started the tour in the upstairs lab, where a handful of tiny flasks were being automatically shaken. …. The irony was that those tiny cells of bacteria were the multimillion dollar heart of this giant operation. They were ADM’s proprietary biological secret that had allowed the company to break Japan’s control of the business. . . .
The group headed out onto the plant floor, then down a metal staircase. . . .
Mimoto, already behind the rest of the group, slowed his pace. He waited until he felt sure that no one was looking. Quickly, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic bag, removing the moist handkerchief inside. He placed the handkerchief on the staircase banister, rubbing it as he walked down the steps. Before anyone noticed, he slipped the handkerchief back into the bag, sealed it, and casually placed it back in his pocket.
Mimoto knew that the multimillion-dollar bacteria used by ADM to produce its lysine was growing everywhere in this plant, even places where it could not be seen. He could only hope that, with the handkerchief, he had successfully stolen a sample of it for Ajinomoto. . . .
* * *
October 25, 1998
How a few little piggies tried to rig the market
Four men in a hotel room, Hawaii. Unaware of the camera hidden in the bedroom lamp, they begin to share their most intimate secrets, as they had so many nights before, about pig food.
All right, it’s not as gripping as Bill Clinton’s description of alternative uses of a cigar, but the FBI’s videos of the chiefs of the world’s pigfeed industry are weirdly fascinating.
Here is Terry Wilson, a vice-president of Archer Daniels Midland, the US agri-chem giant, in the 1994 Hawaii meeting explaining customer relations philosophy to Japanese and European competitors. ‘We are gonna get manipulated by these goddamn buyers. They are not your friend. They are not my friend. All I wanna tell ya again is, let’s put the prices on the board, let’s all agree that’s what we’re gonna do and then walk out of here and do it.’
And they did. By carving the globe into four territories and parcelling out market shares, ADM and its competitors kicked up the price of the feed additive lysine from 36p a pound to 64p.
We have the tape of the Hawaii price-fixing confab (and a dozen others recorded in Paris, Tokyo and Mexico City) only because the FBI teamed up with a confessed swindler and self-described psychotic, Dr Mark Whitacre, head of ADM’s BioProducts division.
Whitacre recorded 237 meetings in which delegates bickered over the boring details of administrating a billion-dollar conspiracy. The lysine cartel was the brainchild of ADM vice-chairman Michael ‘Mick’ Andreas. He hoped to replicate a cartel for citric acid which he had three years earlier put together with Hoffmann-LaRoche and BayerAG. Their collusion had successfully jacked up the world price for citric acid by 41 per cent.
In 1992, ADM (turnover, $20 billion a year) neared completion of a lysine plant in Illinois with enough capacity to fatten every pig on the planet – and bankrupt every producer worldwide. Andreas made an offer his Japanese and Europeans competitors couldn’t refuse: either agree to fix prices and market shares or ADM would drown the globe in swine food.
When executives of Tokyo’s Ajinomoto challenged ADM’s ability to do this, Andreas took them on a tour of the enormous US plant. The Japanese came away awed by ADM’s technology. They also came away with proprietary microbes which they had stolen by wiping handkerchiefs on machine railings.
On June 27, 1995, a team of 70 G-men raided ADM’s Chicago headquarters. The company, along with Ajinomoto, LaRoche and Bayer, was charged with conspiracy to fix prices, a felony. Several executives faced arrest, including Andreas, Wilson and Whitacre.
But ADM had prepared its defenses. The company’s chairman (and Mick’s dad) Dwayne Andreas, a friend of President Clinton, was known as the single largest contributor to both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Andreas once left an envelope in the Oval Office for Richard Nixon containing $100,000 in cash – which ended up financing the Watergate burglars. By mid-1996, it looked as if Mick Andreas and the company would beat the rap – as it had on charges of fixing the fructose market.
Then, in August, three Asian executives unexpectedly showed up at the US Justice Department with incriminating meeting notes. They signed confessions.
In quick succession, LaRoche, Bayer, Ajinomoto and finally ADM pleaded guilty to fixing the citric acid and lysine markets. So far, the co-conspirators have paid out Dollars 195 million in criminal fines and Dollars 326m in restitution to bilked customers.
Three weeks ago, a Chicago jury found Wilson, Whitacre and Mick Andreas guilty of felony pricefixing. On 7 January, the judge will impose prison terms of up to three years.
And so the story ends, with the bad guys off to jail. Truth, justice and the men with shiny badges win.
But two nagging questions remain.
First, what about Europe? ADM didn’t conspire with itself. LaRoche, Bayer and a subsidiary of France’s Eridania Beghin-Say joined ADM in illicitly swiping an estimated pounds 200m from European customers over five years.
The schemes were nurtured not just in Hawaii but in Paris and London, too, for the enrichment of Swiss, German and French operators, not just Americans.
On 12 July last year, EC competition authorities raided ADM’s offices in Kent to seize price-fixing evidence. But the bold raiders only acted several months after the conspirators had pleaded guilty in US courtrooms. While US authorities charged eight corporate executives with criminal price fixing, not one admitted monopolist was arrested in Europe.
And for good reason: price fixing is not a crime in the UK, nor anywhere in the European community. UK and EC rules lack the teeth of US law, where fines equal twice the monopolists’ ill-gotten gains; consumers can sue and collect three times the amount they were overcharged; and corporate officers face jail. Its criminal investigative powers permitted the US Justice Department to bust the ADM trusts.
But the DOJ’s self-congratulations in this single case cloud the most troubling question of all: How many fish get away? Are ADM, LaRoche and friends an exceptional pack of industrial rogues – or is price fixing business as usual?
The Wall Street Journal, running to ADM’s defence, said the company’s only crime was ‘bad luck’. Every industry, they argue,
‘rationalises’ output. ADM was singled out for punishment only because one psycho manager couldn’t keep his mouth shut. In
fact, Justice Department officials estimate that there are roughly 750 illegal worldwide price-fixing accords in operation. It
has the resources to investigate 30. And in one key industry, collusion may be simply too easy and too profitable to resist.
According to Professor John M Conner of Purdue University, who has spent his career tracking the Andreas family, the import of the ADM story lies in the dark side of the biotechnology revolution.
Citric acid, notes Conner, was the first biotech product. Lysine production is another industry born in a test tube. Secret
technologies, patented microbes and manufacture limited to a small club of enterprises with billions to invest,
make biotech a monopolist’s heaven.
Environmentalists have focused on the threat of biotechnology creating a King Kong turnip. The likelier danger is that a few corporate megaliths will hold the world’s food supply hostage through a web of cartels.
And after ADM’s experience, few will be so incautious as to let the FBI film the pigs feeding at the high-tech trough.
* * *
From The Buying of the President (1996):
In 1988, 249 individuals each gave at least $100,000, achieving a total of $25 million, to help elect George Bush president. By giving that much, they became members of “Team 100” and not only had personal access to Bush and other members of the Bush administration, but many of them — from real estate and construction to finance, from manufacturing to agribusiness to oil and gas interests — received special favors during the Bush presidency. . . .
The many quid pro quo relationships have been well documented by Common Cause magazine and others. The two largest donors were Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) and its chairman, Dwayne Andreas, who gave $1,072,000 and Atlantic Richfield (Arco) and its chairman, Lodwrick Cook, who contributed $862,360. Both companies made or saved hundreds of millions of dollars from their well-placed Washington investments. . . .
Archer Daniels Midland touts itself as the “supermarket to the world.” This behemoth, based in Decatur, Illinois, has its fingers in nearly every agribusiness pie. . . . Its net sales in fiscal year 1994 exceeded $11 billion and its profits topped $1 billion. . . .
The company battled with a spate of bad publicity in the summer of 1995, when the Justice Department, using an ADM informant, made public its undercover investigation into allegations of price-fixing for sweeteners and food additives. . . .
Andreas and ADM, playing it safe, are among the largest contributors to both parties in national political campaigns . . .
In 1994, ADM alone gave approximately $2.5 million to various congressional candidates. . . .
Andreas has befriended virtually every president since Nixon. His generosity to all of them is notorious. His $25,000 check to CREEP wound up in the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars. As a result he was investigated but ultimately cleared, by the Senate Watergate Committee. . . .
One of Andreas’s well-known and closest political allies has been Senator Bob Dole. Since 1979, ADM has given Dole’s senate and presidential campaigns, as well as his leadership PAC and think tank more than $200,000 in contributions, making ADM Dole’s fourth-largest patron. That sum does not include the $275,000 Andreas and ADM have given to the Dole Foundation, the senator’s charity for the disabled.
And Andreas didn’t forget Elizabeth Dole. When she took over the reins of the Red Cross, the Andreas Foundation donated $500,000. . . .
ADM has also been generous with trips, honoraria, and in-kind contributions. Between January 1983 and March 1995, Dole took thirty-five trips on ADM corporate aircraft, for which ADM was reimbursed $75,283. Newsweek (Apr 1995) reported that Dole reimbursed the company for the equivalent of a first-class fare at “less than 25 percent of the cost of operating a private jet.”
During 1993-1994 alone, Dole took an average of a trip a month on ADM aircraft. . . .
THE FLORIDA CONDO – The most intriguing tale of the Dole-Andreas relationship is a Bal Harbour, Florida, oceanfront condominium in the “Sea View” complex that Elizabeth Dole bought from Andreas in 1982.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Dole and her brother John Hanford “paid $150,000 cash for a three-room, ocean-front apartment at the Sea View in a transaction handled by the hotel’s management.” Dole, however, didn’t begin payments on the apartment until seven months after the purchase occurred, and the property was actually valued at $190,000. . . .
The most oft-mentioned return favor to ADM is Dole’s advocacy for ethanol. As of May 1995, ADM produced more than 60 percent of the country’s ethanol, an alcohol distilled from corn and added to gasoline to produce gasohol. Dole’s support of ethanol has been strong and consistent. In November 1989, he held up a steel import bill until his colleagues would agree to extend the ethanol excise tax credit to the year 2000.
An industry analyst estimated that in 1987 alone, ADM would garner $150 million from the federal government’s ethanol program. In 1995 the Department of Energy estimated that ADM had the capacity to produce 898 million gallons of ethanol, which would yield the blenders of gasohol using ADM ethanol a maximum $475 million in tax benefits.
Without the subsidy, there would be no market.
But Dole has done much more to help Andreas and ADM. . . . According to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, ADM has raked in at least $424,541,178 in subsidies — excluding subsidies for ethanol and corn sweetner — from the federal government between fiscal years 1985-1995.
Dole is a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, through which these programs must pass; he has never opposed them.
Programs such as the Export Enhancement Program and the extremely lucrative grain trade with the former Soviet Union in particular, have received Dole’s enthusiastic backing and resulted in ADM pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies….
THE EXPORT ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM (EEP) began with the 1985 Farm Bill and was aimed at helping U.S. farmers compete with foreign farmers who received subsidies from their governments. . . .
Between fiscal years 1985 and 1995, ADM received more than $134 million from the program. In several of its annual reports, ADM executives have lauded it as a “glimmer of hope” and a “major benefit” to the company. . . .
In Senate floor speeches, in the form of amendments, and in interviews Dole has endorsed EEP. . . . urging incoming Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeuter in 1989 to support EEP by saying, “I just think one area that we hope you’ll be very aggressive in, that’s the Export Enhancement Program”. . . .
“We all hope we are going to have an aggressive, knowledgeable person who’s going to be our salesman to the world” … pushing President Bush in 1989 to increase aid to the Soviet Union and to boost EEP, telling him, “if we’re going to trade with the Soviet Union, which we are, then we have to be competitive, we have to meet world prices”; … and writing a letter to former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy in 1993, encouraged Espy to expand EEP to include barley exports (a commodity processed by ADM) and to release $240 million in Russian grain credits even though Russia had not made mandated payments to U.S. banks. . . .
Another area in which ADM benefitted is in the corn sweetener market, of which ADM holds a 30 percent share. Despite ADM’s advertising campaign to the contrary, the much-debated sugar loan program reportedly costs American consumers and estimated $3 billion annually by “stabilizing” the cost of sugar at 22 cents a pound. … Producers of corn sweeteners benefit indirectly — by “shadow pricing” below the cost of sugar — gaining some $548 million annually . . .
Dole also helped push through the 1986 tax bill. ADM told its stockholders in 1988 that its tax rate decreased by 6 percent because of the bill….
– For more on Elizabeth Dole and the American Red Cross, GO TO > > > The American Red Double-Cross
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As reported by Corporate Predators web page, Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990’s, from Corporate Crime Reporter, 10/1/96:
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) pled guilty and paid a $100 million criminal fine — at the time, the largest criminal antitrust fine ever — for its role in conspiracies to fix prices to eliminate competition and allocate sales in the lysine and citric acid markets worldwide.
Federal officials said that as a result of ADM’s crime, seed companies, large poultry and swine producers and ultimately farmers paid millions more to buy the lysine additive.
In addition, manufacturers of soft drinks, processed foods, detergents, and others, paid millions more to buy the citric acid additive, which ultimately caused consumers to pay more for those products….
* * *
From the FBI Website:
Antitrust —- Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
The Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) investigation had been characterized by the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, as the largest criminal antitrust case in United States history. Since August 1996, seven cases have been filed against eight companies and ten individuals charging price fixing and allocating sales volumes of lysine and/or citric acid worldwide.
Lysine, a $600 million a year industry, is used by farmers as a feed additive to ensure proper growth of poultry and swine. Citric acid, a $1.2 billion a year industry, is a flavor additive and preservative produced from various sugars and is found in soft drinks, processed foods, detergents, and pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. To date, eight corporate defendants and six individual defendants have pled guilty and have been fined in excess of $190 million. Most of the defendants have been from or based overseas.
In October 1996, ADM was sentenced to pay a $100 million fine for its participation in the lysine and citric acid conspiracies. At the time, that was the largest criminal fine ever imposed in an antitrust case.
On September 17, 1998, three former ADM executives were convicted of participating in the lysine conspiracy following a nine-week trial. This trial was one of the Antitrust Division’s highest profile and most successful criminal cases in recent history….
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A Catbird Prediction (06/27/00):
Look for Archer Daniels Midland and Tyson Foods to become big beneficiaries in the recently-relaxed trade restrictions with Castro’s Cuba. If this prediction comes true, ask yourself if it was worth sacrificing Elian Gonzales on the Altar of Greed.
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A Follow-up on The Catbird’s Prediction (which I didn’t stumble across until Aug., 2001):
From CUBANET, May 25, 2000:
US Coalition Urges House Rules Chair to Uphold Democratic Process by Allowing Floor Vote To Ease Cuba Embargo
SOURCE: Americans for Humanitarian Trade with Cuba. May 24, 2000. Company Press Release
WASHINGTON, May 24 /PRNewswire/ — The following letter to US House of Representatives Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA) was released today by the Americans For Humanitarian Trade With Cuba (AHTC):
Dear Chairman Dreier,
Americans For Humanitarian Trade With Cuba (AHTC) represents a broad cross section of Americans who believe that the US unilateral embargo on food and medical sales to the people of Cuba goes against the basic principles of our great nation.
We call upon you and members of your Rules Committee to stand firm against efforts by a small but vocal group of Representatives to avoid at all costs a free and fair House vote on the simple question of whether US produced food and medicine should be available for sale to Cuba.
A clear majority of Representatives, 222 to be exact — most of them Republican — have already signed a letter asking Speaker Dennis Hastert to allow a floor vote on this issue this year. Manufacturing a questionable procedural maneuver to avoid a fair vote on Cuba clearly undermines the democratic process so precious to all Americans.
Lawmakers have an obligation to the American people to adhere firmly to principles and to lead by example. Arguing for free trade with China while opposing the sale of the most basic necessities of human sustenance to a small country like Cuba violates fundamental logic, especially when by all expert accounts the human rights situation in China is far worse than in Cuba.
There is a spotlight shining on this issue in the media right now: Avoiding a vote on humanitarian sales to Cuba while pushing for unfettered trade with China would send an unmistakably cynical message to the American people.
For our country to continue to deny Cuba the food and medicines needed to sustain life achieves nothing. Forty years of the strongest embargo in our history has resulted in increased misery for the people of Cuba while in fact increasing sympathy and support for the Cuban government. Political dissidents and religious leaders in Cuba say lifting food and medical sanctions would send the Cuban people a clear message of support.
Former US Trade Representative under President Bush and AHTC member Carla Anderson Hills said it best: ``Moving Cuba toward a market economy serves US interests. The Nethercutt Amendment, if passed, would help do that by forcing Cuba to deal normally on the open market to procure basic goods for its people. If we end the food and medicine embargo and these basic items are still scarce, the Cuban people will know where to put the blame.”
Our entire nation was transfixed by the fate of one six year old Cuban boy. Many embargo backers argued he should not be returned to Cuba because children over seven years of age do not get milk rations. We as Americans need to ask ourselves how our policy is affecting not one but millions of Cuban children who need milk and might get more of it if we allow food and medical sales to Cuba.
We urge you to consider all the above, but especially the children, as you consider whether to block a vote on food and medical sales to Cuba.
Carla Anderson Hills, Former U.S. Trade Representative
Dwayne Andreas, Archer Daniels Midland Company
Phil Baum, American Jewish Congress
Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr., Former Treasury Secretary
Reginald K. Brack, Jr.,Chairman Emeritus, Time Inc.
Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, Former General Secretary, National Council of Churches
Frank C. Carlucci, Former NSC Chief
A.W. Clausen, Former President World Bank
Francis Ford Coppola, Producer / Director
Michael C. Dow, Mayor of Mobile AL
Thom White Wolf Fassett, Methodist General Board of Church and Society
Richard E. Feinberg, Former NSC Chief for Latin America
Craig L. Fuller [AHTC Co-Chair], Former Chief of Staff VP Bush
Sam M. Gibbons [AHTC Co-Chair], Gibbons & Co., Former 34-year Congressman
Larry Gold, PhD, NeXstar Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Mark O Hatfield, Former Senate Appropriations Chair
Grazell Howard, Coalition of 100 Black Women
Bruce Josten, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
David G. Kay, American Rice, Inc.
Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Dr. Paul McCleary, For Children, Inc.
Bob Odom, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture
George Sturgis Pillsbury, Sargent Management Company
Julius B. Richmond, M.D., Former Attorney General
Dennis Rivera, 1199, National Health & Human Service Employees Union
David Rockefeller, Rockefeller Center Properties
James Rodney Schlesinger, Former CIA Director, Former Defense Secretary
Kurt L. Schmoke, Former Mayor of Baltimore MD
General John J. Sheehan (retired), Former Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (NATO)
Sargent Shriver, Special Olympics International
Oliver Stone, Producer / Director
Paul A. Volcker, Former Chair Federal Reserve Board
Malcolm Wallop, Former U.S. Senator, Wyoming
John Whitehead, Former Deputy Secretary of State
Silvia Wilhelm, Executive Director
SOURCE: Americans for Humanitarian Trade with Cuba – Copyright 2000 PRNewswire. All rights reserved.
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Catbird Comments: Good humanitarian goals … Correct action … But take a careful look at the people involved and ask yourself if it is the HUMANITARIAN MOTIVE or the MONEY MOTIVE which is driving this political lobbying machine.
And, using the same arguments stated in the above letter, why not lift these same embargos against the dying women and children of Iraq?
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Recommended Reading: The Informant; Rats in the Grain
Aventis – From InMotion Magazine:
“… splicing foreign proteins into common food products, proteins which in most cases humans have never eaten before, can set off dangerous food allergies – with symptoms ranging from fever, rashes, and diarrhea to anaphylactic shock and sudden death.”
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StarLink: More Bad News for Biotech
News & Analysis on Genetic Engineering, Factory Farming, & Organics
Little Marais, Minnesota
Quotes of the Month:
“Agricultural biotechnology will find a supporter occupying the White House next year, regardless of which candidate wins the election in November…“ – Monsanto’s newsletter www.monsanto.com -10/06/00
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“The [StarLink corn] protein, known as Cry9C and not found in other crops that are genetically modified, is safe for animals but may trigger allergic reactions in humans, including fever, rashes or diarrhea, according to government scientists.” – Washington Post, “Corn Woes Prompt Kellogg to Shut Down Plant” -10/21/00
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“I think they ought to leave nature alone. There is a reason food grows like it does.” – A consumer, Krista Beddo, shopping in a supermarket near Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, Associated Press, “Concern Surfaces Over Taco Recall” – 10/25/00
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THE GENE GIANTS SUFFERED A SERIOUS SETBACK ON SEPTEMBER 18, 2000, when the Genetically Engineered Food Alert (GEFA) coalition www.gefoodalert.org revealed that an illegal, likely allergenic variety (Cry9C) of genetically engineered (GE) corn called StarLink had been detected in a major U.S. consumer food product – KRAFT taco shells.
The GE Food Alert Coalition, which tested the taco shells and broke the news about StarLink, is made up of seven U.S. groups, Friends of the Earth, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, National Environmental Trust, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
The StarLink scandal made headlines, generated thousands of news articles and TV clips, and brought home the realization to American consumers, that the nation’s supermarkets are filled with an extensive inventory of untested, unlabeled, genetically engineered foods.
In 1998 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had approved the commercial cultivation of StarLink – corn spliced with a powerful Bt toxin (bacillus thuringiensis). Developed by a subsidiary of the French-German biotech conglomerate Aventis, StarLink was approved only for animal feed because of fears that this controversial Cry9C variety (50 to100 times more potent than other Bt-spliced varieties) could set off food allergies in humans.
Critics of GE food have warned for years that splicing foreign proteins into common food products, proteins which in most cases humans have never eaten before, can set off dangerous food allergies-with symptoms ranging from fever, rashes, and diarrhea to anaphylactic shock and sudden death.
The FDA admits that eight percent of all US children are now plagued by food allergies, and that the situation is growing worse. Nutritionists warn of a suspected link between food allergies and asthma. Even the staid New England Journal of Medicine warned in its March 14, 1996 issue that unlabeled genetically engineered foods are “uncertain, unpredictable, and untestable.”
In 1996, a gene-altered soybean spliced with Brazil nut DNA patented by what is now Dupont’s seed subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred, was pulled off the market before commercialization after researchers learned that it could set off a deadly allergy in humans.
Even after this near-disaster, Plant Genetic Systems, the developer of StarLink corn (PGS was later bought out by Aventis), apparently continued gene-splicing Brazil Nut DNA into rapeseed, potatoes, tobacco, beans, and peas in European field tests in the open environment. (See Plant Molecular Biology (1998) 37:829-838.)
Denials – Then Mass Recalls
The biotech industry, Kraft/Phillip Morris, and the EPA at first tried to deny the validity of the GEFA lab tests, but within days public pressure forced Kraft, the largest food corporation in America, to recall 2.5 million boxes of the corn tacos.
This action was followed by a halt of sales of Cry9C seeds by Aventis on Sept. 26, and a formal recall order issued by the USDA on Oct. 9 for all 350,000 acres of StarLink corn planted across the US.
GEFA then struck again and forced further recalls (Safeway corn taco shells, Mission Foods corn products, Western Family brand corn tacos) by announcing on Oct. 11 and Oct. 25 that StarLink corn had been detected in other brand-name products being sold in thousands of supermarkets. In the wake of the StarLink crisis, some of the largest US food and animal feed processors, Kellogg, ConAgra, Archer Daniels Midland, and Tyson, either temporarily closed their grain mills or announced mandatory testing for Cry9C corn.
Meanwhile, the White House sent emergency teams to Japan and Europe, trying to reassure major US trading partners that the StarLink controversy would be kept under control.
By the end of October, consumer confidence in the safety of GE foods was severely shaken. Thousands of farmers and grain elevator operators expressed anger at Aventis and the biotech industry.
The state Attorney General’s office in Iowa criticized Aventis and seed dealers for not telling farmers to keep StarLink out of the human food chain.
As one Iowa grain elevator operator told the Washington Post on Oct. 25, “I think we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg here. We just don’t know what’s in those elevators, and when we start letting this stuff go and it’s tested, it’s going to get worse.”
StarLink Hits the Fan
Aventis, Kraft, Safeway, Mission Foods, Western Family, Shaw’s, Food Lion, Randalls, Kroger, Albertson’s, H.E.B., and scores of other food companies and supermarket chains (not to mention grain elevators and farmers) have begun totaling up several hundred million dollars in losses. Consumers claiming to have been poisoned by StarLink corn products filed a multi-million dollar class-action suit in Chicago. Kraft and a number of supermarket chains have voiced dissatisfaction with the lack of oversight of GE crops by US regulatory agencies.
The EPA is caught between a rock and a hard place: fending off pressure by the biotech industry to reverse itself and declare that Cry9C corn is safe for humans, and on the other hand, resisting pressure from public interest groups to take all of the nation’s Bt crops-corn, cotton, potatoes, and soybeans-off the market because of their evermore obvious hazards.
Meanwhile, America’s overseas allies are trying to figure out what to do about the growing demand on the part of consumers in their own countries to close the door on billions of dollars of GE-tainted US agricultural imports.
The US announcement on Oct. 27 that they would let Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, ConAgra and other grain exporters ship StarLink-contaminated corn to international markets only made matters worse. In effect the grain cartel and the White House were telling America’s best overseas customers: Here, take this contaminated corn. Americans are refusing to eat this stuff. Tyson Foods, the largest poultry producer in the US, won’t even feed it to their chickens, but you can eat it.
The fallout and collateral damage from the StarLink scandal will likely continue. As the New York Times stated Oct. 17, Aventis may be hit with a barrage of lawsuits: “Just what farmers knew and when they knew it could end up playing a role in lawsuits growing out of the affair, according to lawyers who handle agriculture cases. Aventis and the seed companies might have a hard time fending off liability for the expenses of farmers, grain elevators, millers and food companies in sorting out the mess if they did not do enough to head off foreseeable risks that mixing would occur.”
The appalling lack of US government regulation and the greed of so-called Life Science corporations to rush untested, and in this case, likely dangerous products to market have now become obvious, even in the heartland of agbiotech, the United States.
Polls taken before the StarLink scandal broke showed that the majority (51% in a poll by Angus Reid) of Americans and Canadians (60% in a poll by Unilever) were already opposed to genetically engineered foods, while an overwhelming majority (80-94%) support mandatory labeling, mainly so that they can avoid buying these controversial foods.
U.S. farmers, and even a number of large food corporations, have already begun cutting back on their use of GE seeds or food ingredients, as reported previously in BioDemocracy News #29 ( www.purefood.org ).
While 33% of U.S. corn acreage was GE last year, this year it fell to 19.5%. Whether or not the StarLink debacle represents a mortal blow to the first generation of GE foods and crops remains to be seen. Certainly a review of recent global developments indicates that the crisis of credibility surrounding genetically engineered foods is steadily increasing.
FDA – No Labeling, No Safety Testing
The U.S. government’s “no labeling” and “no safety testing” policy has become a serious liability and source of controversy.
The Center for Food Safety and other public interest groups filed a major lawsuit in 1998 in U.S. Federal Court to take GE foods and crops off the market. On October 2, the lawsuit was headed off by the FDA, but only by admitting in court that they actually have had no real policy in place on genetically engineered foods and crops since 1992. In effect, all so-called “regulation” up until now has been completely voluntary on the part of Monsanto, Aventis, and the rest of the biotech industry.
Commenting on the Oct. 2 decision, Center for Food Safety attorney Andrew Kimbrell stated:
“This court decision means that for almost a decade these novel foods have gone virtually unregulated in the United States. American consumers have been used as unknowing guinea pigs…”
Inside sources report that the FDA has postponed publishing new proposed regulations on genetically engineered foods, at least until after the November elections. In the aftermath of the StarLink controversy, the FDA understands that its forthcoming proposed regulations (no mandatory labeling, no mandatory safety testing, no required liability insurance) will likely set off a huge public backlash during the legally required public comment period.
But federal officials and the Gene Giants are caught in a terrible bind. If they do what most of the public wants and require mandatory pre-market safety testing and labeling, leading food corporations and supermarkets will do what they are already doing in Europe and Asia, that is remove GE foods and ingredients from their brand-name products. Stores won’t sell products branded with the “skull and crossbones” of the GE label, and farmers will be very reluctant to grow these crops.
On the other hand if the FDA, USDA, and EPA continue to do the bidding of the biotechnology industry, they risk losing billions of dollars in U.S. export sales, not to mention the political risks of provoking the ire of U.S. consumers, who are now apparently awakening to the GE food controversy with a vengeance.
On the international front, the leading producers of genetically engineered crops, the U.S. (74% of all GE crops), Canada (10% of all GE crops), and Argentina (15%), face a similar dilemma. If they try to use the hammer of economic sanctions from the World Trade Organization to force Frankenfoods down the throats of the WTO‘s other 131 nation-state members, they risk provoking a trade war and possibly even a meltdown of the entire global “Free Trade” system.
If they don’t use the police and enforcement power of the WTO, however, more and more countries are going to make it harder and harder for untested and unlabeled GE products to get into their countries. For example:
Europe, which has not approved a new GE crop since April 1998, told the US on Oct. 11 according to the Bureau of National Affairs journal, “that the only way the European Union’s de facto moratorium on new GM (genetically modified) seeds is likely to be lifted is for U.S. farmers to be required to segregate genetically modified crops from those grown from traditional seeds…”
Meanwhile new human health fears over antibiotic resistance genes in GE cattle feeds are prompting Europe’s leading food producers and supermarket chains to ban GE animal feeds in their meat and dairy production. Recently a government advisory board in Britain, the Advisory Committee on Animal Feeding Stuffs, admitted that antibiotic resistant marker genes found in genetically engineered foods and animal feeds may be able to transfer antibiotic resistance to the bacteria in animals’ guts, giving rise to dangerous pathogens in humans that can’t be killed by traditional antibiotics.
German scientists earlier this year-in a story widely reported across Europe-found that antibiotic resistant genes from GE rapeseed plants were combining with bacteria in the stomachs and intestines of bees. BBC reported on Oct. 6 that the UK’s major grocery chains, Iceland, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer’s, and Asda are all removing GE ingredients from animal feed.
A recent UK poll commissioned by Friends of the Earth found 63% of British shoppers wanting supermarkets to drop GM ingredients from animal feeds. As reported in BioDemocracy News #29, the European Commission and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are now both calling for mandatory labeling of animal feeds, a move that analysts predict will all but kill non-segregated, GE-tainted US grain exports to Europe and Asia. . . .
Cargill, the world’s largest grain company, announced in September that they are expanding their contract production and marketing of non-genetically engineered corn, and will strictly segregate these varieties at their processing plants in Paris, Illinois, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Liverpool, England.
As Cropchoice News reported Sept. 29, “Cargill’s latest parlay into non-GMO comes at time when it and other big grain processors continue to downplay the demand for non-biotech grain. But like ADM and ConAgra, Cargill is making moves into the non-GMO market even as they suggest it is unimportant.”
Cargill’s shift reaffirms the conclusion of a recent study carried out by professor David Bullock at the University of Illinois which found that U.S. grain handlers can efficiently and economically segregate GE and non-GE grain varieties by simply designating specific grain elevators, grain processing plants, and transportation facilities as either GE or non-GE.
Government officials in Taiwan announced Oct. 17 that they will follow the lead of other Asian and Pacific countries and require mandatory labeling of food with genetically engineered ingredients. According to officials, labeling requirements will come into force in 2001-with similar measures being implemented in South Korea and Japan.
Taiwan is a major importer of U.S. grains, importing over 4.5 million metric tons of corn last year. According to Cropchoice News, “The government’s decision is in response to intense pressure and follows publication of a Gallup poll in which 74% of Taiwanese said they expected the government to require labels on GMO food.”
According to Reuters news agency, Uni-Food Enterprises, Taiwan’s largest food company, reacted to the news by promising to comply with the labeling requirements and move toward using non-genetically engineered ingredients. Uni-Food Enterprises, with $2.6 billion in annual sales, produces animal feeds, dairy products, frozen foods, instant noodles, and soft drinks.
Japan Says No Thanks
According to an Associated Press story Oct. 25, Japanese authorities have warned the United States not to export StarLink corn to Japan. Government officials were embarrassed after a public interest group, the Consumers Union of Japan, announced in Tokyo that it had found traces of StarLink corn in snack foods sold in Japanese stores as well as in imported animal feed.
StarLink corn is prohibited in both human and animal feed in Japan. An earlier AP story on Oct. 24 reported that an entire 55,000 ton shipload of US corn destined for Japan was rejected after testing positive for StarLink, “sending shock waves through importers in Japan as well as other Asian countries such as South Korea and Taiwan.”
According to the AP “Japan imports about 60 percent of its food, much of it from the United States. In 1999, Japan imported 15.9 million tons of corn from the United States, including 10.8 million tons for animal feed, the Foreign Ministry said. The remaining 5.1 million tons were for food, mostly for corn starch.”
Korea imports about eight million tons of corn per year from the US. The Consumers Union of Japan and allied consumer groups in South Korea are calling for a moratorium on the importation of all GE foods into their countries. In a recent poll 82% of Japanese consumers said they were opposed to genetically engineered food – the highest level of resistance in the world.
Worried officials from the U.S. Grains Council and the National Corn Growers Association, two major agribusiness trade association groups, rushed to Tokyo in late September to outline industry plans to channel StarLink into “approved markets” and keep it out of shipments to Japan.
The White House also dispatched a trade delegation to Europe. According to www.AgWeb.com, an “emergency meeting” took place in Washington on Oct. 6 with agribusiness representatives meeting with high officials from the Clinton and Gore administration. A National Corn Growers Association official expressed the hope at this meeting that Japan would soon approve StarLink for animal feed, but after the recent developments in Japan, this scenario appears unlikely.
The StarLink scandal has spread into Mexico and Latin America as well, with TV coverage by networks such as Telemundo, Univision, and CNN. According to Reuters, Mexico Greenpeace protesters on Oct. 11 “wearing white overalls and mime-like white masks entered an upscale Mexico City supermarket and boldly labeled mainstream corn flour products that contain genetically modified corn with stickers bearing a giant “X,” for “X-perimental.”
Corn flour is the main ingredient in tortillas, Mexico’s most important food product. Greenpeace also announced in October that 450 tortilla factories across Mexico will use only locally produced (non-GE) corn in their products.
Mexico is the world center of biodiversity for corn, with 25,000 varieties found in the country. Environmentalists warn that pollen and “genetic pollution” from genetically engineered corn plants could cause irreparable harm to Mexico’s native corn varieties. Mexico is also the winter home for Monarch butterflies, who migrate south from Canada and the United States. An important study at Cornell University in 1999 found that the pollen from Bt corn kills Monarch butterflies.
According to a report posted by UK geneticist Mae-Wan Ho on the internet Oct. 18, Argentina, the second largest producer of genetically engineered crops in the world after the United States, “is having second thoughts as the world market [for GE soybeans and corn] collapses. This was the message conveyed by both the Environment Minister Ruben Dario Patrouilleauz, who headed the Argentinean delegation to the Biosafety Protocol Conference in Montreal, and the Director General of Cultural Affairs, Raul Alfredo Estrado Oyuela. Both spoke at a special Parliamentary debate on agricultural biotechnology in La Plata, Federal Province of Buenos Aires, on Sept. 26.”
Monsanto has been very successful thus far in getting 84% of Argentina’s soybean farmers to plant GE (Roundup Ready) soybeans. This may soon change however as EU markets for Argentina’s processed oils and animal feed begin to close down, and as EU and Asian markets for Brazilian soybeans (where GE soya is illegal) continue to rapidly expand.
On the scientific front, the StarLink controversy has shined the spotlight once again on the hazards of Bt-spliced crops in general, not just the Cry9C variety.
In dramatic testimony presented to the EPA Oct. 20, a highly regarded international expert, Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union, pointed out that:
(1) The EPA has ignored an EPA-funded study that shows that Bt toxins have induced signs of allergenicity in agricultural field workers, as well as an additional study indicating allergenicity in lab rats;
(2) the EPA has failed to require tests of all Bt crops for allergenicity using the blood serum and chemical reagents from these earlier studies-even though these tests could be done quickly with little expense;
(3) the EPA have failed to carry out adequate safety tests for StarLink or any of the other Bt crops which they have approved;
(4) government “acute toxicity” protocols are based on the erroneous scientific assumption that Bt toxins generated by gene-spliced plants in the field are identical to Bt toxins produced by bacteria in the laboratory; and
(5) the government continues to downplay the potential hazards of antibiotic resistant marker (ARM) genes-found in Bt crops and all genetically engineered foods-even though recent studies underline that ARM genes have the ability to transfer antibiotic resistance to soil bacteria, bees, mammals, and other organisms, including humans.
As Hansen reminded the EPA in May 1999, the British Medical Association, which represents some 85% of the doctors in Britain, released a report calling, in part, for a prohibition on the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in genetically engineered plants. . . .
As Larry Bohlen of Friends of the Earth stated in a press release Oct. 20, “The EPA should not allow Bt corn to be planted next year unless they can assure mill workers, farmers and rural residents that they will not develop allergies and respiratory problems. Farmers could be affected and not even know the reason why due to the EPA’s failure to test for health impacts.”
In a related scientific development, researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that Bt corn does indeed pose a major hazard to Monarch butterflies, since Monarchs are found in concentrated numbers in and around milkweed plants in cornfields throughout the corn growing season.
Researchers were surprised to find, according to an Oct. 25 article in the Los Angeles Times, “just as many” Monarchs were breeding and feeding within cornfields as in nonagricultural sites. In other words, millions of Monarch butterflies throughout the Midwest corn belt are feeding on their only food source, milkweed plants, just at the same time that Bt corn plants are shedding their toxic pollen, pollen which lab and field tests have conclusively shown are poisonous to the butterflies.
The biotech industry has worked overtime in the past year trying to maintain that Bt pollen poses insignificant risks to Monarch butterflies. Besides the Bt threat, scientists have warned that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, sprayed on GE soybeans and other crops, kills off the Monarch caterpillar’s sole food source, the milkweed plant.
Critics have pointed out that not only is Bt killing Monarchs, but that it is also killing beneficial soil microorganisms and thereby damaging the entire soil food web; as well as killing beneficial insects such as lacewings and ladybugs. Scientists also warn that bees and birds are likely being harmed by eating insects that have ingested the Bt toxin.
In addition, organic farmers, 2/3 of whom in the United States use a non-genetically engineered form of Bt spray as an emergency pest management tool, have pointed out that crop pests (beetles, boll worms, corn borers) will inevitably develop resistance to widely cultivated Bt-spliced crops, creating superpests that will overwhelm organic farmers and make organic agriculture more difficult, if not impossible.
For all of these reasons, Greenpeace, the Center for Food Safety, and a broad coalition of public interest groups-including the Organic Consumers Association — are preparing litigation to have all genetically engineered Bt crops taken off the market.
Finally, on another scientific note, even the pro-biotech New Scientist magazine Oct. 7 (UK) pointed out what has now become painfully obvious: if biotech companies and the FDA are unable to keep an unapproved variety like StarLink out of the human food chain and contained in restricted farm plots, what are they going to do once the next generation of bio-pharm plants begin to be commercialized, plants containing vaccines and pharmaceutical drugs, crops that could harm and poison unsuspecting consumers?
As the magazine concluded, “We can’t ignore the taco fiasco… Why was it left to Friends of the Earth to commission the tests that found StarLink in taco shells? The food industry needs to get its act together before the new generation of modified plants arrives. Next time, the consequences could be serious.”
For the moment the proponents of the Biotech Century seem to have survived the latest storm. Unlike the FDA’s last recall of a genetically engineered product, the nutritional supplement l-Tryptophan, in 1989, which left in its wake 37 deaths and 5,000 injuries, there are no dead bodies of StarLink victims visible on the TV news, but the Frankenfoods controversy continues to grow.
The question seems to be no longer, if there will be a biotech Chernobyl, but only when. . . .
Stayed tuned to BioDemocracy News and the OCA website www.purefood.org for further developments.
– InMotion Magazine http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/geff9.html
AviGenics – A U.S. biotech company that plans to re-engineer nature’s chickens with US taxpayers’ money.
New Super Chickens Fuel GM Food Row
A United States biotech company plans to genetically engineer a chicken with an extra-large breast which will yield more meat, and then insert a DNA tag to stop anyone breeding without permission.
If successful, AviGenics, based on the campus of the University of Georgia, would be one of the first to put GM meat on US supermarket shelves, opening up new tensions with Europe over genetic engineering in food.
AviGenics is already one of three US companies racing to turn poultry into drugs factories – adding human genes to create “transgenic” birds, which would then produce human proteins such as insulin in their egg whites.
AviGenics claims to have already created transgenic roosters that have passed on the human gene for a substance called alpha interferon, used to treat hepatitis and certain cancers.
The company hopes to use the same technology to create a chicken for everyday eating.
Instead of adding human genes to make birds lay drug-rich eggs, genes – not necessarily human – would be added, or chicken genes removed, to give the birds bigger breast muscles, faster growing rates or greater disease resistance.
To keep proprietorial control over these valuable new animals, AviGenics is working on a novel kind of trademark, a DNA sequence which would be introduced into the chicken’s genes and handed on to the bird’s offspring.
The chief executive of AviGenics, Mr Carl Marhaver, confirmed that his company was working to create genetically engineered and trademarked poultry for the dining table, but would not comment further.
AviGenics does not plan to raise and market GM chickens itself, but to make its new strains available to large, well established poultry breeders.
AviGenics says it can use DNA trademarks to control the proliferation of its chickens once they are sold to breeders.
Until now it had been thought that the first GM creatures likely to reach the consumer would be farmed fish, genetically engineered to grow faster and bigger or to survive in colder waters.
Concerns have already been voiced about the dangers of GM fish escaping and mating with their wild counterparts. But proponents of GM chickens could argue that centuries of selective breeding have already produced birds as different from their wild ancestors as a musclebound GM superchicken would be from one of today’s standard broilers.
In the short term, AviGenics’ investment in GM chickens for food seems to depend on its success or failure in producing GM chickens to make drugs.
Mr Marhaver said AviGenics had made great strides in making hens that laid alpha interferon eggs, and was expanding its flocks to gear up for commercial production of the drug, the annual market for which is worth about $US1.5 billion ($2.55million) alone…
Cargill, Inc. – From U.S. News and World Report, 4/13/98, by David Kaplan:
U.S. investors are spending billions of dollars to snap up huge portfolios of bad loans from Japanese banks. What the local banks aren’t telling their new customers is that behind much of their economic woes stand Japan’s wily crime syndicates.
In the late 1980s, the yakuza became major players in the nation’s wildly speculative real-estate market. Japanese crime experts now believe that as much as 40 percent of the banking industry’s bad loans are tied to organized crime, representing a whopping $235 billion . . .
The gangs have played such havoc with efforts to clean up the banking mess that one former top Tokyo cop calls his nation’s economic crisis a “yakuza recession.” . . .
At the front lines of this crisis, suddenly, are American investors, among them a Who’s Who of equity funds, investment banks, and real estate trusts..
Over the next few years, U.S. financial companies hope to spend more than $20 billion on the bad-loan portfolios, according to real-estate specialists at Ernst & Young.
Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and others are betting that their experience in liquidating property will pay off big in Japan. The firms are paying as little as 10 cents on the dollar for Japanese properties that range from downtown high-rises to abandoned golf-course developments.
But the risks for U.S. investors are substantial. Yakuza experts warn that Western capital has never before collided with Japanese organized crime in such a major way. . .
~ ~ ~
Risky business. . . . Investors may be unprepared for what awaits them. “You’ve got inexperienced guys from New York coming here who don’t know what they’re getting into,” says an investment banker with years of experience in Tokyo. . . .
In November, a mysterious fire struck the home of a top executive at the Japan subsidiary of Cargill Inc., the U.S. argibusiness giant.
Cargill was among the first foreign firms to buy portfolios of bad loans. When the fire occurred, Cargill executives were suspicious of foul play.
Carla A. Hills – Carla A. Hills is chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hills & Company, International Consultants. The
firm provides advice to U.S. businesses on investment, trade, and risk assessment issues abroad, particularly in emerging
Hills currently serves as a Member of the Board of Directors for American International Group, Chevron, Lucent Technologies Inc., and Time Warner. She is a Co-Chair of the International Advisory board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; a Vice Chair of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and U.S. China Business Council; a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Asia Society, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Institute for International Economics, and the America-China Society; and a Member of the Trilateral Commission and the Inter-American Dialogue.
Hills served as United States Trade Representative from 1989-1993. As a member of President Bush’s Cabinet, Hills was the President’s principal advisor on international trade policy. She was also the nation’s chief trade negotiator, representing American interests in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations throughout the world.
Hills was chairman of the Urban Institute from 1983 through 1988, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the American Agenda, co-chaired by Presidents Ford and Carter. In 1981-1982, she served as Vice-Chairman of President Reagan’s Commission on Housing and in 1985-1986 as a member of the President’s Commission on Defense Management. Hills has been active in the American Bar Association, serving as Chairman of the Antitrust Section 1982-1983, and as Chairman of the Conference of Section Chairmen in 1983-1984.
From 1974 to 1975, she was Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice.
In 1975, Carla Hills, already serving as an assistant attorney general, was named by Republican President Gerald Ford as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, becoming the third woman in the US to hold a cabinet-level position. Her lack of relevant experience was somewhat controversial during the appointment hearings. She was succeeded, when Democratic President Jimmy Carter took office, by Patricia Robert Harris, in 1977.
In 1989, President George Bush appointed her to another cabinet level position, this time as US Trade Representative. (At the same time, Bush appointed Elizabeth Dole, the former Secretary of Transportation, as Secretary of Labor.)
A free trade advocate, Hills was the primary US negotiator of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Born Carla Anderson in Los Angeles, she graduated from Yale Law School in 1958 and married Roderick M. Hills the same year.
Among other offices, she was president of the National Association of Women Lawyers in 1965.
She was first offered an appointment as assistant US Attorney by Elliot L. Richardson in 1973, but he resigned shortly thereafter during the Watergate scandal. The offer was renewed by his successor, William B. Saxbe, in 1974.
From 1978 through 1989 she was active again in her profession of law; after 1993 she has worked as a consultant and public speaker. She was one of the founders of the Forum for International Policy.
Hills co-founded the Los Angeles law firm of Munger, Tolles & Hills, where she was a partner from 1962-1974. She was an Adjunct Professor at the University of California at Los Angeles Law School, teaching antitrust law, and co-authored the Antitrust Adviser, which was published by McGraw-Hill. . . .
~ ~ ~
Concrete benefits key to selling biotech products, says Hills
By Dan Zinkand, Iowa Farmer Today
MONTEREY, Calif. — Biotechnology supporters must stress existing concrete benefits, not just potential developments, a consultant to the U.S. Grains Council says.
“We have a story to tell,” said Carla Hills, a former U.S. trade representative said Feb. 14 at the annual meeting of the U.S. Grains Council.
“Probably consumers are not going to buy the advantages that come 10 years or a half a decade after infusing the rice with Vitamin A to stop river blindness.
“They may like it, but that may not be enough to give it to little Johnny at the kitchen table,” Hills said.
“But when we talk about the fact that food is identical, and it stops chemical runoff that is polluting our water, there you have something I think you can sell. And it is a fact that there is a reduction in the use of chemicals.
Hence, less runoff, and I think that is a story that can sell in Europe . . . because they use far more chemicals than do we.”
Hills’ stress on reducing chemicals could prompt other problems for farmers, said Eagle Grove farmer Delmer Voss and a member of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.
“If we start emphasizing that, is the consumer then going to say, `Those farmers . . . are just killing us with all these chemicals.’
“Are we going to have another fire to put out, raising their fears about all the chemicals we are using, in addition to the genetically modified? That’s the fear I have,” Voss said.
Hills said she would shape the message somewhat differently.
“The fact of the matter is, if you farm, you have to use fertilizer and pesticides and the more you use, the more there is runoff,” Hills said.
“The fact that you can use less has got to be a plus.”
Hills suggested Voss and others consult with ag journalists to formulate a positive message on biotechnology.
“If a group of farm reporters would talk to the major magazines, they would listen to you,” Hills said.
Neil Strong of Novartis Crop Protection said care must be used in touting the benefits of biotechnology, while at the same time “castigating another set of technologies which have been very effective in the past and will be needed in the future, along with biotechnology,” Strong said.
If too much stress is placed on reducing pesticides as one of the benefits of biotechnology, consumers may not understand this intricate message and may take it as an “all or none kind of thing. And the environmental groups would certainly like to do that,” Strong said.
Hills acknowledged what Strong said, but did not change her assessment.
“I don’t think you can get an applause for a new technology unless you can talk about some of its benefits. You can’t really talk about infusing grain with iron because that is not here today,” Hills said.
“So we will have to think long and hard about why it is today we are putting on the market Bt corn.”
Hills said environmentalists she talks to are quite interested that Bt corn could lessen the application of pesticides, which she said could run off.
“It’s not for me to tell you how to get your message out, but you’re not going to get a whole lot of applause if there is no message at all.
“You can just wait to have it happen, but I’m afraid the opposition has the bumper stickers printed, tickets to every biotechnology food conference that is scheduled and a whole lot of the government leaders already in their pocket,” she said.
“We are on the right side of the issue. That is what is important. It isn’t that we are trying to play a game of smoke and mirrors.
“We are on the right side of the issue. We just have to sharpen up our message.”
Communication is key to developing consumer support for biotechnology, Hills said. If support is not built and progress on biotechnology stalls, then much-touted products such as rice with Vitamin A to prevent river blindness will not be developed and commercialized by the private sector, she added.
Bill Griffin, a North Carolina corn grower said housewives read labels, and educational efforts need to be directed toward them.
He said the consensus at a meeting in North Carolina was that “we probably went a little too fast with genetic engineering. We introduced with the public knowing it.”
Griffin said he feared what would happen if someone who ate a food with a biotech crop ingredient became sick. Regardless of the source of the illness, the media would blame biotechnology, he noted.
“I don’t think we, the people, who work with the feed grains realize how much the housewives read these labels and how concerned they are about genetic engineering,” Griffin observed. “I’m a farmer, I say bring it to me.”
Hills said food safety is a key point with biotech crops. She said she hasn’t read any reports that biotech crops are unsafe or have any risk factors “and that story has to get out.”
The public mood switches quite quickly, Hills said.
While the average person probably can cannot define a genetically modified product “it doesn’t sound tasty. I think that we have to do a whole lot to try to explain what we are doing. We can’t have it behind the green curtain,” she said.
The credibility of European governments suffered from numerous food scandals, including the “mad cow” disease in Britain.
By contrast, the United States has independent and credible risk assessment of food, Hills said. . . .
For more on Carla Hills, GO TO > > > HUD
Carol Tucker Foreman – Former Assistant Secretary for Food and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
From the internet:
DOWNSIDE LEGACY AT TWO DEGREES OF PRESIDENT CLINTON
SECTION: BREACH OF TRUST
SUBSECTION: MISC. SCANDALS
In an explosive argument at the end of the third day of Schaeffer and Williams’ trial in U.S. District Court, prosecutors alleged that Tyson Foods Inc. persuaded former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy in 1993 to halt development of a food-safety policy that would cost the company more than $130 million.
The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service previously required poultry known to be contaminated with bacteria-laden feces to be trimmed away and discarded but currently allows poultry processors (of which Tyson is the world’s largest) to rinse the poultry in chlorinated water or cook it without washing. Bacteria found in fecal contamination, are estimated by government scientists to sicken more than 4 million people each year and cause more than 3,000 deaths.
The procedure change was approved by Carol Tucker Foreman, assistant secretary for Food and Consumer Services and sister of former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.
Foreman now says the decision was a mistake, that the previous policy was ”a penalty that made the plants take greater care.”
* * *
June 2, 2000
Carol Tucker Foreman to the Rescue of Biotech
Clinton Appoints Former Monsanto & Tobacco Lobbyist as “Consumer Representative” to Global Biotech Forum
by: John Stauber, managing editor, PR Watch
Its no surprise to me that the Clinton/Gore Whitehouse has appointed recent and long-time Monsanto biotech lobbyist Carol Tucker Foreman as the “consumer advocate” to the global Biotech Consultative Forum.
Some suspect that this has been long in the works, that the primary reason she left her incredibly lucrative corporate lobby firm to take her current position as food czar with the Consumer Federation of America was to use her corporate, political and public interest connections to pave the way for a resolution of the current trade impasse on genetically engineered foods.
The Clinton/Gore-led effort to rush GE foods onto the market has resulted in an economic and political train wreck internationally, and fixing this mess for the Democrats and the food and biotech industry requires someone of Foreman’s skills, someone who has the incredible ability to sell herself inside the beltway as a “consumer advocate” while pulling in huge money as a biotech and food industry lobbyist.
Her old lobby firm, now called Heidepriem & Mager, has as some of its current clients American Home Products Corporation, Dow Chemical, SmithKline Beecham, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories and Monsanto and Upjohn’s parent company Pharmacia.
Foreman was the executive director of Consumer Federation of America before starting her corporate lobby career, and while a corporate lobbyist she headed up the board of the food-industry funded Public Voice organization..
When she moved back to CFA last year, Public Voice became part of CFA. In April I attended CFA’s National Food Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Most of the participants came from the agribusiness and biotech industry, and the principal speaker was Gordon Conway of Rockefeller Foundation, one of Carol’s current funders who is the driving force behind ending the impasse over marketing biotech foods.
Security for the event was provided by IFIC, the International Food Information Council, a scientific front group funded by the food industry. One of the CFA employees I met and spoke with was PR crisis management expert Dick Weiss, who I had not see in a decade. At that time he was paid by the National Dairy Board to head up their PR campaign on behalf of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, or rBGH. . . .
CFA badly needs infusions of corporate and foundation cash, and folding Public Voice into its operation under Carol has delivered the money. For instance, CFA’s National Food Policy Conference was “held in cooperation with the National Food Processors Association, with technical assistance from the International Food Information Council. Support the 2000 biotechnology component was provided by the American Feed Industry Association.”
The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) is a huge trade association and lobby group unknown to most Americans, but it is the group RESPONSIBLE FOR LAUNCHING AND COORDINATING THE CAMPAIGN TO PUT FOOD DISPARAGEMENT LAWS ON THE BOOKS.
I capitalize this because these laws are the single biggest and most successful assault on free speech in the US in the past decade, and are responsible for imposing self censorship on the media regarding food issues. For more information on these laws, under which Oprah and Howard Lyman were sued, see our book Mad Cow USA (Common Courage Press, 1997).
In short, AFIA hired the law firm of Olsson, Frank & Weeda, another “patron and sponsor” of the CFA conference to draft a model ‘food disparagement law’ which the American Farm Bureau Federation has lobbied into law in 13 states.
Other corporate “underwriters and benefactors” or “patrons and sponsors” (I guess it depends on how much cash they dumped on CFA) of the National Food Policy Conference were:
Food Marketing Institute, International Dairy Foods Association, International Food Information Council, Kraft Foods (owned by Philip Morris), National Food Processors Association, The Procter & Gamble Company, Archer Daniels Midland, Chocolate Manufacturers Association, General Mills Foundation, Hershey Foods Corporation, IBP, inc., McLeod, Watkinson & Miller (food industry lobbyists and lawyers), National Pork Producers Council, National Yogurt Association, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Olsson, Frank & Weeda law/lobby firm, Protein Technologies International, Tropicana and Unilever.
In short, Carol Tucker Foreman is best seen as type of political Frankenstein creature. She is a smart, aggressive, well connected, hardball lobbyist, who has managed to continue to cultivate her image as a “consumer advocate” by serving as a go-between with groups like Public Voice, CFA and their corporate benefactors.
Her brother replaced Clinton as Governor of Arkansas, until felony corruption forced him from office.
But her family and political credentials as a Democratic insider and friend of the Clinton/Gore administration run deep.
Does anyone doubt that after delivering the goods for the agribusiness and biotech industry on genetically engineered foods she won’t be back lobbying for them directly? For that matter, who really knows what her current financial arrangements are with any of these corporations? Probably just Carol herself.
Perhaps this appointment will have a good effect. It might if it draws attention to the incredible corruption that has taken place inside the beltway among so-called consumer and public interest groups like CFA. These groups epitomize what is wrong with the public interest community – at the national level it has sold out to big money from special interests, and when push comes to shove it will follow the money.
Nobody in DC is better at pushing and shoving, or shoveling money, than Carol Tucker Foreman.
Yes, she is now a forceful advocate for labeling genetically engineered foods. But then, what would you expect? She HAS to be; that’s what provides her credentials. Remember, the game here is to broker a deal, and the biotech/agribusiness industry has learned the hard way that it has made mistakes and has to eventually accept some level of labeling in order to get back on track.
But, has Carol changed from the corporate lobbyist she’s been? Not at all. Her specialty is wearing many hats, and winning for her clients. Right now, that’s CFA and its foundation and corporate funders.
A deal will be sought in the name of consumer and environmental protection, but protecting corporate interests and agricultural biotechnology will be the real bottom line.
– John Stauber, managing editor, PR Watch www.prwatch.org
Commodity Futures Trading Commission – From: The Buying of the President (1996 ed): . . .
Phil Gramm has also been criticized for mixing government business and campaign politics by using his Senate office staff to work on campaigns. . . . At least two different aides to Senator Gramm have written memos about how Gramm’s wife, Wendy…should be used for his reelection bid. . . .
That is particularly interesting in light of the powerful position she held in Washington as chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. As the nation’s leading regulator of futures contracts for all agricultural commodities, Wendy Gramm was under tight ethical constraints as to the degree and nature of her personal daily interaction with agribusiness interests. In other words, the chairwoman of the powerful federal regulatory agency overseeing agriculture commodities futures trading would be helping her U.S. senator husband raise campaign funds from the corporations and individuals she regulated. . . .
The CFTC oversees federal regulation of the nation’s fourteen commodities and futures exchanges. At those exchanges, contracts to buy and sell a seemingly endless variety of commodities are traded: oil and gas, soybeans, cattle, pork belies, corn, precious metals, cocoa, lumber, cranberries, and sugar, to name but a few. The regulatory duties of the CFTC are aimed largely at ensuring fairness and stability at the nation’s commodities exchanges.
One week after Bill Clinton won the presidential election it became clear that Wendy Gramm would be leaving the politically appointed CFTC post.
On November 16, 1992, nine energy companies wrote to the commission seeking to exempt energy derivative contracts, a business valued at $5 TRILLION a year, from federal regulation. . . .
In response to the energy companies’ request, Wendy Gramm set in motion the process that led to those energy derivative contracts, and other exotic financial transactions, being exempted from regulation. . . . A Center for Public Integrity investigation shows that of the nine companies that requested the exemption, seven had donated to Phil Gramm campaigns through PACs, company officers, or employees. . . .
Cumulatively, Gramm’s campaigns had received $157,250 from the people who were asking his wife to exempt energy derivatives and the other transactions from regulation. ...
During Wendy Gramm’s tenure with the commodities commission, Phil Gramm accepted $38,500 in commodity honoraria, according to his actual disclosure records. . . At the same time she was heading the commodities commission, he was on the Senate Banking committee. That means that Phil Gramm, too, had regulatory jurisdiction and oversight regarding commodities.
On July 24, 1990, Phil Gramm voted to kill an amendment that would have lowered the sugar price support from eighteen cents a pound to sixteen cents a pound. That was a potential conflict of interest because Gramm’s disclosure show that at the time the couple owned between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of stock in a sugar company named Castle and Cooke.
ConAgra, Inc. – From the Progressive Populist, by A.V. Krebs:
CONAGRA: An Unhealthy Choice For Farmers, Workers, Consumers and Environment?
ConAgra Inc., is the nation’s second largest food manufacturer. It is the only major food company that operates across the food chain — providing feed, fertilizers and chemicals to farmers and ranchers, trading meat and grain, and producing packaged foods for consumers.
Corporate agribusiness today, from seedling to supermarket, is dominated by such transnational corporate giants as Unilever, Nestle, Philip Morris, RJR Nabisco, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland.
In attempting to demonstrate the nearly complete control that corporations have now acquired over our everyday lives, the Alliance for Democracy, a fledgling two-year old national populist movement, believes that food and the process by which we obtain our food is the appropriate place to begin an effort to achieve both corporate responsibility and corporate accountability.
The Alliance for Democracy (AfD), in its effort in seeking to end large corporation’s domination of our economy, our government, and our culture, seeing the corporation’s role as illegitimate in a self-governing democracy, believes that the time is now to publicly dramatize the need for corporate responsibility and accountability.
In ConAgra the Alliance sees a corporation that clearly reflects not only the prototype of a modern transnational corporation, but also one which graphically illustrates the unhealthy prices that family farmers, workers, consumers, the environment and our communities are being required to pay to support such corporate behemoths. It believes the record shows that by many of its recent actions ConAgra can be considered antithetical to the common good.
The AfD points to some recent examples:
ConAgra Inc. earlier this year agreed to pay $8.3 million in penalties, including a criminal fine of approximately $4.4 million, to settle federal fraud charges pleading guilty to a felony charge of wire fraud. In addition, ConAgra agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of misgrading crops and adding water to grain.
ConAgra officials have maintained that the company’s sophisticated watering systems were used to suppress the grain dust that can fuel elevator explosions. But the water also increases the weight of the grain, and thus its market value, because grain is sold by weight. The government investigation focused on whether Peavey Grain elevators around Terre Haute, Ind., and elsewhere padded profits by excessively dousing crops — which the government considers “economic adulteration.”
The Justice department said ConAgra reaped $3.5 million in criminal profits.
U.S. attorney Judith A. Stewart also announced that the company agreed to plead guilty to charges that it systematically cheated farmers who sold crops to a dozen of ConAgra’s Peavey grain elevators in Indiana from 1989 to 1992.
Among other things, ConAgra employees doctored samples of grain being offered by farmers to make the crops appear to be of lower quality, and thus less valuable, according to documents in federal court in Indianapolis.
In September, 1992 some 100 undocumented workers were arrested in a raid on a Monfort meatpacking plant in Grand Island, Nebraska and were deported. In all, 307 illegal immigrants, most from Mexico, were arrested.
(For more recent Mexican smuggling, see Tyson Foods.)
Subsequently, the company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of ConAgra, was fined $103,000 by a federal judge after pleading guilty to 25 counts of knowingly hiring undocumented workers and one count of engaging in a pattern and practice of employing aliens at its Monfort facility.
In the summer of 1995, ConAgra abruptly canceled poultry producing contracts with over 178 independent contract growers in the southern United States. In offering new and what one producer described as “abusive” contracts, ConAgra demanded binding arbitration be included.
A typical poultry contract is a unilateral contract, often referred to as a contract of adhesion. An adhesion contract is simply a “take it or leave it” contract. Frequently a farmer who has borrowed one-third to a half million dollars in order to secure a business contract with a processor like ConAgra has no option other than to sign, even if it means giving up his or her constitutional right to access their state and federal courts should anything go amiss in terms of fraud or dispute.
Some 53 families, at the risk of losing their farms and their homes, refused to accept such terms, saying it was clearly a violation of their freedom of speech. ConAgra’s cancellation of contracts, many of the producers believed, came in retaliation for an earlier court suit brought on behalf of some 300 poultry growers in the region where a federal court jury awarded the producers some $17 million after they presented evidence of being cheated by ConAgra on the weight of their birds.
In 1991 the Exxon Corp. made a secret deal with seven Alaska seafood processors whereby the seafood processors settled claims with Exxon for about $70 million, but then promised to return to Exxon any money they received from awards of punitive damages. After the jury awarded $5 billion in such damages against Exxon, the nation’s largest oil company, the seven processors put in claims totaling $745 million, or 15 percent of the $5 billion.
The seafood processors, however, had previously and privately agreed to “kick back” the $745 million to Exxon if their claims were upheld, and in turn receive from Exxon $12.4 million.
One of those seafood processors was Trident Seafood Corp., at the time a wholly owned subsidiary of the ConAgra Corp. Presiding Federal Court Judge H. Russel Holland of the U.S. District Court which tried the case, in a June 13, 1996, decision, described the arrangement as an “astonishing ruse,” saying Exxon had deceived the jury and acted as “Jekyll and Hyde” by “behaving laudably in public and deplorably in private.”
A federal court ruled that Golden Valley Microwave Food, a ConAgra subsidiary, obtained patents through “deception,” concealing information from the government, filing fake affidavits, misrepresenting test results and unlawfully claiming another company’s invention as its own.
Golden Valley Microwave Foods was also one of several companies that agreed to pay $6.8 million to settle a price fixing lawsuit after a federal court ruled in 1991 that “sufficient evidence exists that Golden Valley engaged directly or acquiesced in a pricing conspiracy.”
In April 1996 Monfort abruptly closed its Des Moines, Iowa, plant giving some 1322 workers just one day’s notice of termination. In announcing that ConAgra was cutting 6500 jobs planning to alter or shutting down 29 plants.
Philip Fletcher, ConAgra CEO and chairman declared: “For our shareholders and employees, this is the right step to make ConAgra more competitive, more secure, more profitable.”
After ConAgra agreed in 1983 to buy Armour Foods Co. from Greyhound, it said it would retain Armour’s 2,250 union workers only if they agreed to concessions. The workers refused an hourly pay cut to $8 from $10.69, so Greyhound dismissed them and shut down the plants shortly before ConAgra assumed possession. When ConAgra reopened the plants, including one in Mason City, Iowa, a few days later, they announced they had hired new workers at “competitive compensation” — an average base wage of $6 an hour.
Later, ConAgra officials, after being accused of discriminatory hiring practices, but without admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to a $6.6 million settlement. In addition to back pay plus interest, the settlement called for job offers, retroactive seniority and preferential hiring rights for the union workers.
ConAgra, Latin for “in partnership with the land,” is the second largest food manufacturing company (behind Philip Morris) in the U.S. with 1996 sales of $24.82 billion and with earnings of $545.2 million, as compared with the previous year’s earnings of $495.6 million. It is estimated that six cents of every dollar Americans spend for food goes to ConAgra.
In 1996 ConAgra’s return on common equity (profitability) was 24.3 percent. It’s 1992-96 yearly average was 23.4 percent. Had a person invested $30,000 in ConAgra stock in 1974 and sold it in May 1992 it would have been worth $5 million. . . .
ConAgra’s principal business in terms of growth has been its prepared foods segment (including its over $1 billion flagship brand) “Healthy Choice”, which has accounted for more than three-quarters of its total sales. The corporation typically has 80-100 “acquisition candidates” in screening at all times. ConAgra has described itself as “a mutual fund of the food chain” with “about 70” operating units “across the food chain.”…
Currently ConAgra’s board of directors, which reads like a who’s who of American business, is comprised of members who also serve as board members of the following corporations:
RJR Nabisco, Valmont Industries, Norwest Corp., Peter Kiewit Sons, E.I. Dupont de Neimours & Co., Wells Fargo Bank (ConAgra’s second largest stockholder), ColumbiaHCA Healthcare Corp., Ford Motor Co., Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Newhall Management Corp., SunAmerica Inc., The Economist Newspaper Group, W.H. Smith PLC, Public Radio International, The Atlantic Council, KRA Inc., Opus Corp., North Star Ventures, MFS Communications, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Burlington Resources Inc., California Energy Corp. FirstTier Financial Inc., Sears Roebuck & Co., Wales Group Int., American Software Inc., Apple South Inc., Bell South Inc., Georgia Power Co., National Life Insurance Co., Global Connections, Inc., Asian Fine Arts, Fidelity Group Mutual Funds, McKesson Corp., Cornerstone Properties and C-Tec Corp.
Clayton C. Yeutter, past president and CEO of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, domestic affairs advisor to President George Bush and U.S. trade representative, was named to ConAgra’s board of directors in December 1992. He also serves on the boards of Texas Instruments, FMC Corp., Oppenheimer Funds, B.A.T. Industries, and Farmers Insurance Co.
As the University of Missouri rural sociologist Bill Heffernan points out, “We no longer have a competitive agriculture sector in the U.S. The food system resembles an hourglass with many producers and millions of consumers, but the few firms that control the processing are in a position to control the food industry.”
“There is a general assumption,” Heffernan said, “that when four firms control 40 percent or more of the market, the market no longer behaves as a competitive market. The conclusion to be drawn is that for poultry meat, cattle, pork, sheep, wheat, soybeans and corn processing, United States farmers no longer sell in a competitive market.”
Also, says Heffernan, “a few firms — names like ConAgra, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and IBP — now appear on the list of several commodities.” And “a few of these firms control the food system from ‘seed to shelf.’ “
He cited ConAgra which operates elevators and owns railroad cars and barges. It’s one of the four top firms in processing of poultry, beef, pork, sheep and wheat.
“With this type of an integrated food system, one can ask: Where do farmers fit into the overall production process, and how do the farm family and the rural community benefit?” Heffernan asks. He believes control by a relative few companies allows them to “receive a disproportionate share of the economic benefits from the food system.”
Since early August, the Alliance for Democracy has been engaged in its fall harvest Food Action Campaign throughout the nation, making ConAgra Inc. the campaign’s focal point. The campaign consists of two stages, while also seeking the ideas and participation of local and national farm, worker, environmental and consumer groups.
The AfD prepared “The People’s Report” on ConAgra, which includes an 18-page “Corporate Profile” and an eight-page “Bill of Particulars.” These reports are being circulated to the AfD’s approximately 50 local alliances across the US. They can be obtained by sending a 10 x 13 stamped ($1.47) self-addressed envelope to AfD’s Food Action Campaign, P.O. Box 2201, Everett, Wash. 98203-0201. . .
A. V. Krebs is director the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project. Contact him at P.O. Box 2201, Everett, Washington 98203-0201; phone 206-258-5345; or e-mail: avkrebs@earthlink.
For more, GO TO > > > www.purefood.org
Donald J. Tyson – a/k/a “Chicken Man” – In his book, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes:
I had been given comprehensive intelligence files from the Criminal Investigations Division of the Arkansas State Police, going back as far as the early 1970’s . . . I was scarcely able to believe what I was seeing. Among the famous names of the Arkansas oligarchy that jumped out from page after page of criminal intelligence files was Don Tyson, the billionaire president of Tyson Foods and the avuncular patron of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. . . .
A gruff barrel-chested man with a cropped beard and a reputation for ruthless business practice, Don Tyson is one of the great characters of Arkansas. He presides over the biggest chicken processing operation in the world from his “Oval Office” — a replica of the real one — with dooor handles in the shape of eggs….
The family business, based in Springdale, has grown at an explosive rate since the 1960;s, swallowing up rival companies in a relentless quest for market share….
The documents I was looking at made me wonder about the origins of his liquidity. Here were files from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, marked DEA SENSITIVE, under the rubric of the “Donald TYSON Drug Trafficking Organization.”
One was from the DEA office in Oklahoma City, dated December 14, 1982. It cited a confidential informant alleging that “TYSON smuggles cocaine from Colombia, South America inside race horses to Hot Springs, Arkansas.”
It cited the investigation tracking number for Don J. Tyson, a/k/a “Chicken Man,” as Nadis 470067.
A second document from the DEA office in Tucson, dated July 9, 1984, stated that “the Cooperating Individual had information concerning heroin, cocaine and marijuana trafficking in the States of Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri by the TYSON organization.” The informant described a place called “THE BARN” which TYSON used as a “stash” location for large quantities of marijuana and cocaine.
“THE BARN” area is located between Springdale and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and from the outside the appearance of “THE BARN” looks run down. On the inside of “THE BARN” it is quite plush. . . .
~ ~ ~
A memo by the Criminal Investigative Section, dated March 22, 1976, states that Don Tyson “is an extremely wealthy man with much political influence and seems to be involved in most every kind of shady operation, especially narcotics, however, has to date gone without implication in any specific crime . . .”
The memo was triggered by a dispute between Tyson and the Teamsters Union over allegations of drug dealing and prostitution at a Teamsters-owned hotel leased by Tyson.
Two sets of documents refer to alleged hit men employed by Tyson to kill drug dealers who owed him money.
Another report alleged that Tyson was using his business plane to smuggle quart jars of methamphetamine. All told, it was a staggering portrait of a drug baron.
None of the allegations led to criminal charges, and it would soon become clear why. Police officers who tried to mount a case against Tyson were destroyed by their superiors in the State Police.
The first to try was Beverly “B.J.” Weaver, then an undercover narcotics officer in Springdale. Working the streets and bars of northwest Arkansas, disguised as a deaf woman, she collected detailed intelligence on Tyson’s alleged smuggling network. . . .
“There were loads going out with the chickens,” she explained.
“They’d put the coke in the rectums of the chickens, live chickens. That’s how they’d move it.“ . . .
As the allegations from her informants mounted, she requested the intelligence files on Don Tyson. That is when her problems began. Her colleagues in the Springdale office — who she now believes were “on the take” from the Tyson machine — put out the word that she was “not stable,” that she had “flipped out.” Then it got rough. “They started passing out my photo on the streets, which put my life in danger. I became paranoid. I didn’t trust my phone line. There was nobody I could really trust.” . . .
By 1987 her position was untenable. Her career in ruins, she resigned from the police and found a job as a security guard in the Bahamas. . . .
~ ~ ~
To Don Tyson, who has reportedly again become disenchanted with Clinton and is giving money to Bob Dole in the 1996 campaign, the business of politics has never been particularly complicated. It consists of “a series of unsentimental transactions between those who need votes and those who have money . . . a world where every quid has its quo.” . . .
See also: Tyson Foods
G. D. Searle – The pharmaceutical firm that introduced NutraSweet. Later taken over by Monsanto.
From nancymarkle.com (www.nancymarkle.com/nutrapoison/believers.html):
G.D. Searle, the pharmaceutical firm that introduced NutraSweet, worked symbiotically with federal and congressional officials, bribed investigators when violations of law were exposed, “anything” to move aspartame to market.
As far back as 1969, an internal Searle “strategy memo” concluded the company must obtain FDA approval to outpace firms competing for the artificial sweetener market. Another memo in December 1970 urged that FDA officials were to be “brought into a subconscious spirit of participation” with Searle.
To that end, with enormous profits at stake, the pharmaceutical house set out on a long struggle to transform the Pentagon’s biochemical warfare agent into “the taste Mother Nature intended”.
The official story is that aspartame was discovered in 1966 by a scientist developing an ulcer drug (not a “food additive”). Supposedly he discovered, upon carelessly licking his fingers that they tasted sweet. Thus was the chemicals industry blessed with a successor to saccharine, the coal-tar derivative that foundered eight years later under the pressure of cancer concerns.
Aspartame found early opposition in consumer attorney James Turner, author of The Chemical Feast and a former Nader’s Raider.
At his own expense, Turner fought approval for ten years, basing his argument on aspartame’s potential side effects, particularly on children.
His concern was shared by Dr. John Olney, Professor of neuropathology and psychiatry at Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Olney found that aspartame, combined with MSG seasoning, increased the odds of brain damage in children. . . .
NutraSweet, the “good stuff” of sentimental adverts, is a truly insidious product.
According to independent trials, aspartame intake is shown by animal studies to alter brain chemicals affecting behavior. Aspartame’s effects on the brain led Richard Wurtman, an MIT neuroscientist, to the discovery, as recorded in The New England Journal of Medicine (No. 309, 1983), that the sweetener defeats its purpose as a diet aid, since high doses may instill a craving for calorie-laden carbohydrates. . . .
Even more daunting are the findings of Dr. Paul Spiers, a neuropsychologist at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital, that aspartame use can depress intelligence. For this reason, he selected experimental subjects with a history of consuming it but unaware that they might be suffering ill effects.
The subjects were given NutraSweet in capsules of the FDA’s allowable limit. Spiers was alarmed to discover that they developed “cognitive deficits.” . . .
Aspartame has been shown to erode short-term memory.
At the May, 1985 hearings on NutraSweet, Louisiana Senator Russell Long related a bizarre anecdote:
SENATOR LONG: I have received a letter recently from a person who is well known to me and whose word is impeccable, as far as I am concerned. This person told me that she had been dieting and she had been using diet drinks with aspartame in it. She said she found her memory was going. She seemed to be completely losing her memory. When she would meet people whom she knew intimately, she could not recall what their name was, or even who they were. She could not recall a good bit of that which was going on about her to the extent that she was afraid she was losing her mind. . .
In due course, someone suggested that it might be this NutraSweet, so she stopped using it and her memory came back and her mind was restored.
Senator Howard Metzenbaum replied that he had received “a number of letters from doctors reporting similar developments. . . There have been hundreds of incidents of people who have suffered loss of memory, headaches, dizziness, and other neurological symptoms which they feel are related to aspartame.” . . .
Also at the center of the effort to land FDA approval of NutraSweet stood Donald Rumsfeld – “Rummy” to his friends – chairman of G.D. Searle upon leaving the Ford administration in 1977.
Rumsfeld, the product of a wealthy Chicago suburb, was a Princeton graduate and a Navy pilot during the Korean conflict. He entered politics as a Congressional House aide attending night classes at Georgetown University Law School, which is closely aligned with the CIA.
Rumsfeld campaigned ambitiously for Richard Nixon, who drafted him to direct the Office of Equal Opportunity on May 26,1969. . . .
Rumsfeld also figured in Nixon’s notorious Power Control Group, spearheaded by Charles Colson and John Ehrlichman.
Gerald Ford named Rumsfeld executive chief of staff upon the resignation of Al Haig.
In 1986 he was named chairman of the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a neoconservative “think tank” (read: propaganda mill) established in 1972 by Edwin Meese and Caspar Weinberger. . . .
Rumsfeld, at 43, became the county’s youngest Secretary of Defense.
For many years he has been a vocal proponent of chemical weapons. He is chairman of the Rand Corp.
In 1988, he dropped a presidential bid, and was named a v.p. of Westmark Systems, led by past NSA Director Bobby Ray Inman.
Rumsfeld was one of Westmark’s founding directors, sharing the board with Joseph Amato, a former vice president at TRW (and a colleague of Inman’s at the National Security Agency), and Dale Frey, chairman of the General Electric Investment Corp.
Rumsfeld, a veteran political operative, was an adept at the vulgar art of public relations. He was recruited by G.D. Searle because he had “a Boy Scout image,” according to one company official.
A house politician was precisely what Searle needed to compensate for the damage done by independent researchers concerned about the toxic effects of aspartame. In March 1976, an FDA task force brought into question all of the company’s testing procedures between 1967 and 1975.
The task force described “serious deficiencies in Searle’s operations and practices which undermine the basis for reliance on Searle’s integrity.”
The final report of the FDA task force noted faulty and fraudulent product testing, knowingly misrepresented findings, and instances of “irrelevant or unproductive animal research where experiments have been poorly conceived, carelessly executed or inaccurately analyzed.”
Richard Merrill, the FDA’s chief counsel, petitioned Samuel K. Skinner U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Illinois, for a grand jury investigation of Searle’s “willful and knowing failure” to submit required test reports, and for “concealing material facts and making false statements” in reports on aspartame submitted to the agency.
Yet industry analysts, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal six months after Rumsfeld’s appointment as chairman, noted a rapid turnabout in Searle’s fortunes as a result of his direction.
Searle denies that Chairman Rumsfeld ever had any contact with the FDA, or the Carter and Reagan administrations, to lobby for aspartame.
But the Wall Street Journal article reported in 1977 that Rumsfeld “keenly understands the importance of a public image. So he has been mending fences with the FDA by personally asking top agency officials what Searle should do to straighten out its reputation.”
Westley M. Dixon, Searle’s vice chairman, told the Journal that without Rumsfeld “we wouldn’t have gotten approval for Norpace,” a drug investigated by the FDA in 1975. . . .
See also: Ajinomoto, Inc; Monsanto
For more, GO TO > > > The NutraSweet Syndrome
Gerald Tumbleson – From PBS online:
Frontline: An Interview with Gerald Tumbleson
How long has your family been farming this part of Minnesota?
My father and mother moved to Martin County in the late 1930s, so they’ve been farming here. I was born in the 1940s, and my brothers were born in the 1930s and 1940s. So our family operation has been in southern Minnesota for a number of years, and it’s worked out fine.
My father started with 240 acres of tillable land, which, at that time, was quite a bit. He rented that, and most of it was pasture then, because they had a lot of livestock. Their operations were made from livestock back in those days. Today we’ve expanded this operation through my brother and my two sons. We’re at about 2,700 acres. That’s a fairly large operation . . . probably the top 10 percent, because we run a lot of livestock with it. But if you split it up four ways between four families, then it’s only 600-700 acres apiece. That’s a pretty small operation….
What challenges do farmers face?
One of the most difficult parts of farming is weather. It changes every hour, every day, and every month. . . . As far as the livestock part of it, it’s disease and things like that. So these are really the most difficult parts of it. We have grain prices. We have prices that vary. But our yields and our diseases and our weather are probably our biggest concern. Once we could get those protected in some insurance program or some form like that, then we can move on into really worrying about price.
Right now, in the United States, it is very difficult to make it in grain farming, because of the price of corn and soybeans, which we raise here. Prices are really quite low at this time.
With the way the industry has gotten into what you’d call science, agriculture has changed. In the last ten years, it has turned to what I call agricultural industrialization, which has become so exciting. I envy my sons, because they’re just getting started in a time that I think is very important. Sure, we went through the mechanical part and production part. Now we’re into the science part of it. We’re going to be raising things on this land in 10 or 15 years on this soil that we haven’t even dreamt of. And that’s exciting to me, because when I was in college, that was what I was into–research.
This is where we’re going. We will raise different crops. It might be corn, but the corn will be different. The kernel will be made of different parts, and we will raise what the consumer wants or what can be used. Today the consumer wants this product, but in ten years, they don’t know what they want yet, and we don’t know what we’re going to be raising. That’s what’s so exciting about it. . . .
How long have you been using BT corn? What are the noticeable advantages?
We’ve used BT corn for about five years. One year it really was an advantage. It saved us 20 bushels, or better, per acre. Well, even at $2 a bushel of corn, that’s $40 an acre. . . . Every year it seems to be a protection. . . .
We have Roundup Ready soybeans. We’ve used those for four years. It’s a way to control noxious weeds in there, with a surface-applied chemical–not on the soil surface–but on the plant surface. It does not get in the soil. Some of our herbicides we put in the soil. This one we put on the top. We don’t have to put anything on the soil. We have no carry-over. It’s gone. It’s a very friendly herbicide. So that’s why we use that on some of our acres–it’s so friendly.
We pay a tech fee to get to use it. That’s a fee to the company that developed it. That’s why we don’t maybe use it on all, because we don’t care to pay that kind of a fee. But there are times when it’s great, and environmentally, it’s really friendly, because there’s no carry-over from it and it doesn’t harm anything but just that plant.
Has it been beneficial financially?
Financially, it’s kind of a wash. It’s a convenience, because we can control a lot of weeds with it, yes. You have to understand, and I hope the consumer understands, that technology is really a benefit to the consumer, not the producer.
To a lot of people, that’s hard to understand. But ultimately, the consumer is the one that benefits, because if we can produce this crop at a less cost, they buy it at less cost, and they’re the ones that benefit. . . .
That’s what we’re here for. We’re here for the consumer. It’s people. That’s the only reason you’re on this earth–for people. If you weren’t on here, why would we exist? So I don’t have any problem with that. Just don’t make it so I can’t make a profit.
Biotech is under fire because of health risks. What is your take on those fears?
Well, change is difficult to all of us. . . . I can remember when I was a little kid and we had polio. They got this vaccine. You took a shot of this vaccine. People said, “You can’t put that in me, because that’s really polio.” Look at what it did. Do we hear about that anymore? No. But there was a fight. You could hardly get penicillin on the market. You take penicillin off the market today, and you’re going to have a fight. This is what happens as we do anything in change. This is what’s going to happen in this biotechnology in agriculture. There’s a fear out there that we’re going to create something. . . .There are things out there that people have no need to fear, but they are afraid.
The greatest part about this biotech thing is that the research has been done over and over and over again. We’re not out there destroying humans. We’re not out there causing problems. We’re doing a ton of research, and we’re backing it up with more research to make sure it’s okay. If we run into an allergy, they drop it. They’re doing the research on it.
God gave us a mind. He created the world, okay? I’m along with that. But he also gave us the mind to make it better than what he did. He said, “I’m starting this. You make it better.”
And we are. I can think of nothing in the past that I think is fabulous. But I can see a lot of things in the future that are going to be really fabulous. . . .
We have rice that they’re developing today, called Golden Rice, where you put the vitamin A and the iron into the rice when you plant it in soil. We can have children who will be able to see when they’re 60, but they’re going blind today at 30. Just because we in the United States have all these things doesn’t mean the world has the same things.
If I can make a child see until they’re 60 instead of 30 by just putting it in the grain – because I can’t get the vitamin A and the iron there any other way they plant it – I’ll do that any day of the year. I’d be very, very disappointed in anybody that fights that. . . .
I’d like to be the age of my son instead of my age, because he gets to do all this, and I’m going to be gone. In the meantime, I’m having fun with it, and we’re developing it. I hope we can stop the fear that’s out there that something’s going to happen here. We’re not going to turn into Draculas or something on this thing. We’re doing enough research. We know what’s there and what isn’t there. But we also know we’re going to save a lot of people’s lives and we’re going to create a much better universe. We’re not going to have carbon problems in the future. We’re not going to have all these things. We’re going to solve problems with this, instead of creating more problems.
How well are regulatory agencies monitoring this technology?
After you’ve been through some of those regulatory things that they go through, you will feel very comfortable that they’re doing a fantastic job. The regulatory industry is doing great. . . . If you don’t think they’re doing a good job, go watch them. If you try to put something on the market today, it’s very difficult. I feel a little bit sorry for the people that are doing the research, because they’re doing a lot of research and can’t get it on the market because they have to test over and over and over and over, and prove this over and over again. So they are doing a good job of making the research people prove that it’s safe and it’s working. Yes.
How do you feel about the activist campaigns?
Well, I kind of like their groups. I don’t like it when they go crazy with it, but I like their groups, because they make us do the research, and somebody has to do that. So I’m not against that at all, because I’m an activist. I’m an activist on ethanol and things like that, and corn. So I’m not against activists. But once we get the scientific fact and we get the facts right on the table, then let’s accept them. . . .
That’s why I feel safer in the United States – because we have those groups. They have made it so that we do the research. They haven’t let us just go wild and do these things. So I’m comfortable with them. I don’t have any problem with them. I sit down and talk with them. I don’t have any problem with that. I like those people that question things, but who question it correctly. I don’t have a problem with that. I think it’s great. . .
What about the fear of BT corn pollen affecting the monarch butterfly? How much milkweed is actually found within a cornfield?
Within a cornfield? I hope there’s none in mine, because it’s a noxious weed, to me. So we have destroyed it in our field. We have it in ditches. We have it on our lakes. We keep them there, and that’s where it should be. That’s where the monarch butterfly feeds off of it, and it works fantastic. . . .
Now, maybe we can set up so that we don’t have that pollen in the BT. Then we don’t have that problem with it. I don’t have a problem against the activists finding this out. Nothing. Let’s just prove that it doesn’t do harm. So that’s where I back the activists. “Look at what we found here. Let’s do the tests on it. Let’s check it out and let’s prove that it’s right or wrong.” So I’m all for finding out to make sure we’re not on the wrong track on this. I don’t want to get rid of monarch butterflies. I kind of like them. I do play with them out here in the fields and so I like them around.
Are you concerned over too much power shifting to the biotech companies?
Well, there’s what I call a concentration of companies in the United States. I don’t care for that. I’m out here farming, and I’d just as soon not have a monster-size farm, because I like a lot of farmers around. It helps rural America. It develops rural America. The more farmers I can have out here, the more towns they can have out here, the more jobs that are available out here. . . . I don’t care for the concentration of big business and moving it out of rural America. The concentration of big business doesn’t give me a competitive advantage when I’m purchasing or selling. So that is a concern.
Now, if your research department of your company has developed this certain product, and they want to control it, it’s theirs. I mean, they really did develop it. But . . . I think that sharing this information is way more important than controlling it. If we lived like Abraham for 600 years, then controlling it would be way more important. But we don’t live that long. Let’s share it. Let’s make it better for human use. . . .
I think we’re going to see that. I think we’re going to see the companies go to the farmer, and the farmer saying, “Hey, I will use this product, but let me have a percent of your profit. Then together, look what we can do for the consumer.” . . .
Opponents of this technology say it’s a disservice to the farmer because the power and money go to the seed companies, away from the farmers. Is this technology really a financial advantage to the farmers?
That’s an interesting subject matter, isn’t it? Does this make larger farmers? Or does it make smaller farmers? What does it have to do with farming? What does it have to do with rural America when you do this? It’s a very, very touchy subject when you get into that. Now you’re talking about a different thing, because today my sons and I could farm 20,000 acres. We can do it. The technology is there. Do we want to do that? I don’t know, because then I don’t have rural America anymore. And rural America, to me, is what I live for.
That’s why I think agriculture should move into production and processing, to the consumer. We should get a part of that whole step. If I’m getting something from the processing – which, in Minnesota, I own into some ethanol plants who process the corn to ethanol and then a protein and then an oil – if I own part of that, that some of that money can come back to supplement my production of agriculture.
Look at what it does. Now I don’t need the monstrous production to make the same amount of money. It’s important to me, very important, that we tie these together. And that’s what I like with the big companies – share in the profit, and join together on that, instead of becoming monstrous farms. . . .
If we’re going to subsidize rural America, let’s subsidize it through the processing end of it and through the production end of it, and keep rural America. . . .
So a bonus of this technology is a tool to privatize rural America?
Yes. What some people call it is IP, that’s “identity preserved.” What it does is, you will raise this corn for this pig, this corn for turkeys, this corn for an ethanol plant, this corn to make clothes out of. . . .
The opportunities are there. We just have to create them. But we have to create them through the government, through tax incentives and through those types of things. T hat’s the clue to this thing that has to tie in with it. They all have to tie together. So I don’t envy our congressmen or our senators, because we have to tie those things together. We will get that done, too.
As we get this biotech thing cleared up and get it moving ahead, we will get these other things coming. We have all this structure in place. We’re just moving it together to get it done. And it’s going to happen. . . .
What’s your opinion of creating organic farms on a large scale?
Oh, I think organic farms have their place. I’m all for organic farming. I’m for it, and if people want to eat food from organic farms, I’m for that too. The only thing is, if everybody was organic farming, your production would be a little lower. We couldn’t feed as many people. We couldn’t do as much stuff with it. The price would go down anyhow, because everybody’s doing the same thing. So that’s not the answer to what we’re talking about here.
But organic farming, I’m all for that. Anybody who wants to do that, I’m with him on that. . . .
I don’t think they’re out there condemning me for not doing it, because if I did it and so did everybody else, their price would go down. So I don’t think they’re doing that.
It’s another way of farming and it’s okay. I don’t have any problem with it. But if we’re going to move to what I want as a renewable energy source, whether it’s energy for food or energy for everything else, we have to move in that direction. Everybody can’t organic farm to do that, then. So that’s fine. There are all sorts of farming out there. . . .
So it has merit, but it’s in the wrong direction?
The merits are good and the direction’s correct. . . . I don’t think it’s the whole answer, though, and that’s my point. It’s not the answer to everything, and maybe the way I’m doing things isn’t the answer to everything. But we join them together and we get the answer to everything. Then I’m happy. Then we can get the job done. If you want to pay more for your food that’s organic, that’s fine. Go ahead and pay for it. I don’t have any problem with that.
I don’t worry in the United States about what I eat, because I think it’s the safest place in the world to eat anything. It’s been proven. We live longer. We enjoy life more. We have the best food, I think, and we’re creating better food. I am not one bit afraid of anything. I eat the BT corn, I eat the Roundup Ready soybeans when I’m combining them.
They’re safe, to me. . . .
* * *
Statement of Gerald Tumbleson, Corn, Soybean, and Hog Farmer,
and Director, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Sherburn, Minnesota
Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Trade
of the House Committee on Ways and Means
Field Hearing in Bloomington, Minnesota, on the
Benefits of Trade to the Medical Technology and Agriculture Sectors
May 14, 2001
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee.
Good afternoon. My name is Gerald Tumbleson. I am a farmer from Southwestern Minnesota, serving as a director of the Minnesota Corn Growers Associations. I farm with my wife, two of our sons and my brother, and together we grow corn, soybeans, and hogs.
Your roles as policy leaders and our roles as ag leaders require us to be visionary, peering into the future to see what lies ahead for those we serve. The long view of agriculture finds a world with a growing population and growing demand for energy of all types. Agriculture will be a player in this growth. Middle America can be a prosperous place if we capture the full value of the raw commodities we produce. Corn, for example, is a complex package of valuable chemical building blocks, with potential to help in meeting our energy, fiber, plastic, and nutritional needs.
Depleting hydro-carbon sources, coupled with growth in demand for fuels and chemical feedstocks, indicate that to continue our strong economic growth we must begin to incorporate renewables. We refer to this as the “carbohydrate economy”. When we capture the sun’s energy through the 400-million-acre solar panel of cropland across this country, then convert it efficiently into more valuable meats, fuels, feed products- anything with a higher value- it benefits many sectors of the U.S. economy. These renewable resources will not directly compete with petrochemical resources, but will complement them and help meet the incremental growth in demand. This “carbohydrate economy” is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and helps reduce our reliance on imported oil and the resulting trade imbalances.
Meeting the needs of our foreign customers will be increasingly important in the future. Trade agreements around the world are moving away from protectionism and artificial trade barriers. Trade agreements at their best allow the economies of both trading partners to grow. For example, NAFTA has increased the level of trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico, opening these markets to American goods. This in turn provides Americans with greater access to products from Mexico and Canada. As this North American economy grows, demand for more and higher valued products will grow as well.
Unfortunately, the United States has not been involved in the vast majority of free trade agreements. Of the 130 or so agreements reported to the WTO since 1990, the U.S. has been involved in only two, with a third expected to be in place soon. This hampers the efforts of our agricultural producers to access much of the world market.
The Peoples Republic of China is home to more than one-fifth of the world’s population. Direct access to this large market is vitally important to agricultural producers. The U.S. has been a residual supplier to China, but to develop consistent demand we need to develop a normal trading relationship with China. The economies of both China and the U.S. will be enhanced by normalization of trade.
The reduction of trade distorting agricultural subsidies worldwide is an objective of the WTO. As farmers, we want to grow the crops that are in demand and respond to market forces. The American farmer is an efficient producer and sets the standard in the production of food, energy, and fiber. We will succeed because in the absence of artificial trade barriers, over time, resources will be allocated to their best use. However, we also recognize that a minimum level of support is required to stabilize our rural economies in times of depressed markets. This baseline of support assures that until free trade is the norm, our producers will not be forced out of business by production distorting tariffs and subsidies.
As the global economy grows, trading partners need assistance to develop their economies so that their people can afford our goods. The U.S. has the ability and responsibility to assist developing countries in improving their incomes, diets, and creating markets for our products.
This is especially important as we attempt to export higher valued products.
Trading partners also need the assurance that the availability of basic goods such as food and medicine will not be affected by sanctions. Disruptions in trade harm our reputation as a reliable supplier and represent a lost opportunity for our economy.
The lack of a nimble trade negotiating authority limits our ability to access foreign markets, increase exports and investment overseas, and sustain the dynamic performance of our economy.
Trade promotion authority allows quick response to often fleeting opportunities, yet gives Congress authority to vote the negotiated agreement up or down. This is important to agriculture because negotiations that drag on can lead to missed opportunities. Trade promotion authority will reinforce our commitment to the pursuit of free trade.
Differing attitudes toward biotechnology also contribute to trade inequities. We believe that new products should be evaluated through sound science by the appropriate regulatory agencies. We must not allow the use of biotech acceptance as an artificial trade barrier. We recognize the consumer’s right of choice, but expect that education and information will lead to greater acceptance of this new technology. In the meantime, international harmonization of standards for biotech-enhanced crops would provide direction for farmers around the world.
Agriculture makes a positive contribution to our balance of trade, and that positive value will grow in the future. Improvements in genetics and cultural practices will bring continued increases in crop yields while also protecting the environment. This growing supply of raw commodities will enable growth in value-added processing and the sales of both processed goods and raw grains, to both domestic and foreign customers.
While domestic food and energy consumption provides the base demand American agriculture is built around, Minnesota farmers depend on the continued growth of trade opportunities throughout the world for future prosperity. . . .
Isomedix – From Corporate Predators: Clean Food or Irradiated Dirty Food? (12/8/97): The irradiation industry is betting
that consumers will settle for the latter.
Earlier this month, in response to a petition filed by Isomedix, a New Jersey radiation firm, the Food and Drug administration (FDA) authorized the use of irradiation– a process by which food is exposed to high levels of nuclear radiation– for meat products including beef, lamb and pork. Irradiation is already permitted in the United States for poultry. Irradiation kills significant numbers of micro-organisms, such as e. coli.
Companies like Isomedix are hoping to ride the wave of justified public concern over outbreaks of e. coli and other food contaminants to overcome consumer resistance to the controversial irradiation process. Public opinion polls show three quarters of the population oppose irradiation and would refuse to eat irradiated food.
There are sound reasons underlying consumer resistance to irradiation.
First, although the FDA has approved the use of irradiation, there are serious uncertainties surrounding the safety of irradiated foods. “No long-term studies on the safety of eating irradiated beef have been conducted, and the effects on humans are unknown,” notes Michael Colby, executive director of Food & Water, Inc., a Vermont-based food safety organization that is the leading opponent of food irradiation.
Second, irradiation kills “good” as well as “bad” bacteria. That means if beef becomes contaminated after irradiation, dangerous bacteria will be free to multiply without competition from harmless bacteria.
Third, irradiation fails to deal with the real food safety problem: unhealthy conditions on animal farms and in slaughterhouses and packing-houses.
In the last two decades, the meat and poultry industries have become tremendously concentrated, with each sector dominated by a handful of giants like ConAgra, Cargill, Perdue and Tyson. These companies buy animals raised on “factory farms,” where the animals are confined to small spaces in which bacteria can easily spread.
The animals are transported to increasingly mechanized slaughterhouses and processing plants, where feces routinely spill or spray on meat, and chicken carcasses are dipped in cold water tanks contaminated with fecal material. Animals pass by workers on the corporate assembly lines at staggering speeds– often too fast for the workers to maintain proper sanitation standards, or even to identify contaminants on meat or poultry.
Genuinely insuring a safe food supply requires addressing these conditions so that animals are raised, slaughtered and processed in sanitary conditions.
There are other reasons to reject irradiation. At existing irradiation facilities (which overwhelmingly sterilize products like medical equipment rather than food), there is already a disturbing record of worker overexposure to nuclear radiation and of improper disposal of radioactive waste….
Although it has urged the government not to permit irradiation, Food & Water’s emphasis has been on directing consumer pressure to food suppliers– from McDonald’s to Hormel to supermarket chains– extracting commitments that they will not sell irradiated food products….
The solution to the problem of dirty and contaminated meat and poultry is to clean up the beef, pork and poultry farms and the factories in which animals are slaughtered and processed– not to expose the food to nuclear radiation. That’s the message consumers must send to the beef, pork and poultry companies, supermarkets, restaurant chains and other big food distributors.
For more, GO TO > > > All God’s Creatures; Down on the Factory Farm
Mike Espy – From Boy Clinton: . . . Drug trafficking was linked to Arkansas throughout the 1980’s, occasionally to Clinton’s
friends and supporters.
An investigator wrote in the minutes of a Resolution Trust Corporation meeting held on June 29, 1994, that [Dan] Lasater “may have been establishing depository accounts at Madison [Guaranty] and other financial institutions and laundering drug money through them via brokered deposits and bond issues.”
Among the “other financial institutions” Lasater has been linked to is the Arkansas Development Finance Authority created by Governor Clinton.
In 1994 when Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy resigned owing to allegations that he was accepting gifts from the Arkansas poultry tycoon , Don Tyson, London’s Sunday Telegraph published a story based on numerous state and federal police documents showing that Tyson was “under suspicion of drug dealing from the early 1970’s until the late 1980’s” by such diverse organizations as the Arkansas State Police and the DEA. No charges were ever filed. . . .
* * *
From Multinational Monitor: “10 Worst Corporations of 1997” . . . Tyson Foods, the Arkansas-based chicken company which symbolized corporate corruption of the political process through its illegal gifts to former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy.
Tyson pled guilty in December to paying illegal gratuities and agreed to pay $6 million in fines and court costs. . . .
See also: Tyson Foods
For more on Mike Espy, GO TO >>> A Flock of Donkeys
Monsanto – From Conscious Choice, May 1999:
by Liane Clorfene-Casten
Like a Celtic sea monster emerging from the depths of a brackish Scottish lake, the footprints of bio-engineered and sterile seeds populating the world have become the focus of international debates, lawsuits, and activist campaigns that will not disappear very soon. The bio- engineering story could become the agricultural issue of the next decade.
In the center of it all is multinational giant Monsanto, the biggest player in the field right now.
But Monsanto is not alone in its efforts to spread bio-engineered and sterile seeds across the globe. It is aided by the White House, the Department of Commerce, the Secretary of State, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshevsky and an economic policy that puts free trade and corporate control ahead of all other concerns.
The FrankenFood Method
Genetic engineering is an artificial laboratory technique that allows scientists to cut, join, and transfer genes between totally unrelated living things. Scientists can transfer genetic material from a species of plant, bacteria, virus, animal, or fish into another species with which it will not naturally breed.
Unlike normal methods of reproduction or traditional crossbreeding, genetic engineers can create combinations of genes that would never occur naturally. Some crops have been engineered to make them resistant to weed killers; others produce their own pesticide.
Those who work in the industry insist genetically-engineered (G-E) foods are safe; that G-E foods can increase yields and profits, enhance nutritional value, reduce waste and improve flavor and shelf life. Monsanto claims their products will help eradicate world hunger by making farming easier, more reliable, and thus cheaper.
Some farmers in the U.S. swear by their new Monsanto G-E seeds. Once a farmer plants them, the only weed control that group of crops will need is one produced by Monsanto. Thanks to a bit of gene splicing, soybean, cotton, and canola seeds will grow in spite of that herbicide while weeds all around it will die. The crops are engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, also known as glyphosate.
There are problems; glyphosate is the third most commonly reported cause of pesticide illness among farm workers.
According to the Journal of Pesticide Reform, glyphosate is “Acutely toxic to animals, including humans…. Glyphosate-containing products have caused genetic damage in human blood cells, fruit flies, and onion cells; it causes reduced sperm counts in male rats, lengthened estrous cycle in female rats, decreased birth weights in offspring…. Residues in the soil have persisted over a year; damaging or reducing the population of beneficial insects, fish, birds, and earthworms.”
Scientists at an American Association for the Advancement of Science forum in May, 1998 warned of the potential risks of agricultural G-E crops. “I’ve come to believe that the potential power of G-E dwarfs that of nuclear power,” said Liebe Cavalieri, professor of Environmental Science at State University of New York at Purchase. “Society should not be carried away with fantasies promised by the biotech promoters.”
Ohio State University scientists have found that G-E crops can pass their traits on to nearby weeds via hybridization. These hybrid, transgenic weeds resist the herbicides that were designed to kill them.
What’s perhaps more fundamental is that New York scientists have learned that genetically engineered Bt may accumulate in soil. Bt bacteria occurs naturally in some plants, offering them protection from certain insect predators. But natural Bt becomes inactive in soil. Thus, its toxic effects are limited. Genetically engineered Bt binds with clay and humic acid soil particles and does not lose its capacity to kill insects.
The gene beans also contain potential allergens, microbial genes, new proteins and increased chemical residues. Currently, “gene beans” are grown separately from others but are mixed after harvest with conventional soybeans; the company and the U.S. government aggressively refuse to keep them separate.
So far, there are insufficient long-term tests of these products, but if the general public continues to be as unaware as it is, the consequences to public health can be serious.
G-E products interfere with the natural order of nature. When these products are introduced at random into the food supply of an unknowing public, there is no certain cause-and-effect relationship, no identifiable way anyone can say “My allergies are the result of the food I’m eating.” (There is no control group.)
Thus, the manufacturer of these products will take no responsibility for their effects.
In fact, the U.S. has been accused of “bullying” foreign governments in order to protect Monsanto’s global ambitions. But Monsanto itself is far from clean. One alarming tale is the story of Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a Hungarian-born research scientist now in Aberdeen, Scotland. Front-page headlines in the U.K. told of Dr. Pusztai’s suspension from his research post at Rowett Research Institute in August, 1998, ending a distinguished career.
Pusztai found, to his own surprise, that consumption by rats of G-E potatoes had a “profound physiological effect” on their growth and development. Dr Pusztai, a research scientist with a world reputation, has published over 200 papers on lectin, a protein which is a natural insecticide found in the snowdrop flower.
In his 1998 experiments, he fed lectin to rats. The rats who ate potatoes mixed together with lectin suffered no ill effects. But the rats who ate potatoes into which lectin had been genetically engineered became ill.
Pusztai sums up the situation as follows: two harmless substances, potato and lectin, were found to become toxic after genetic modification.
Pusztai is the first world-renowned scientist whose research findings question the use of genetic engineering as a whole, and it is significant that he is, at heart, an advocate of genetic engineering. His experiment had not been done to see if the potatoes were safe as human food, but to devise a way of testing for safety in general, as part of a project set up by the government. The findings surprised Dr Pusztai as much as anyone else.
“I was totally taken aback,” Pusztai told the press. “I was absolutely confident that I would not find anything, but the longer I spent on the experiment the more uneasy I became. I believe in the technology. But it is too new for us to be absolutely sure that what we are doing is right.”
Pusztai was attacked by “Britain’s most august Fellows of the Royal Society,” his computers were “sealed,” and all data from his experiments was confiscated.
While Pusztai’s findings were subsequently duplicated by a panel of 20 other international scientists, he is deeply bitter that he took a fall as the result of corporate pressure. “His firing and the ensuing scientific cover-up by the U.K. government were a direct consequence of ongoing White House pressure on Tony Blair to keep the door open to Monsanto and other biotech companies,” said Ronnie Cummins of the Pure Food Campaign.
Dr. Pusztai added, “If anyone dares to say anything even slightly contraindicative, they are vilified and totally destroyed.”
Reaction is taking hold — slowly — across North America. Lawsuits are being filed, as Monsanto’s altered form of Bt (along with Roundup,) has been used in growing cotton with negative results. One U.S. farmer nearly lost his whole crop and is suing Monsanto for $250,000. Almost 200 cotton farmers in Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina are suing Monsanto for damages after crop failures on both Monsanto’s Bt and Roundup Ready cotton seeds.
Twenty-five Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana farmers are suing Monsanto for fraud and misrepresentation — thanks to Bt cotton failures. Monsanto and Delta and Pine Land Company were forced through legal proceedings to pay more than $1.9 million to three Mississippi cotton farmers who planted Roundup Ready cotton seed that was defective. Other Mississippi farmers settled privately.
On February 18, an international coalition of public interest organizations, led by attorneys from the Center for Food Safety, filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. to have all Bt crops taken off the market, citing hazards to the environment and public health.
Last May, the CFS sued the FDA to have all G-E foods taken off the market on the grounds that they are neither properly labeled nor safety-tested. Lack of mandatory labeling illegally restricts the freedom of choice of those who would choose, on religious or ethical grounds, to avoid G-E foods.
But Monsanto is fighting back. Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer who has been farming his fertile acres his whole life, is being sued by Monsanto for what the company calls “seed piracy.” It’s a landmark case; the outcome could influence how much control biotech companies will have over the world’s food supply for years.
Schmeiser is one of hundreds of farmers in the U.S. and Canada who are accused by Monsanto of replanting the company’s patented gene-altered seeds in violation of a three-year-old company rule requiring that farmers buy the seeds fresh every year.
He denies having bought Monsanto seeds, saying pollen or seeds must have blown onto his farm. He accuses the company of harassment.
Why? Pinkerton detectives are sent into farmers’ fields, and the company sponsors a toll-free “tip-line” to help farmers blow the whistle on their neighbors. It places radio ads broadcasting the names of non-compliant growers caught planting the company’s seeds. Critics say these tactics are fraying the social fabric that holds farming communities together.
(UPDATE: Not surprising when a small farmer climbs a Genetically-Engineered beanstalk and takes on a giant corporation in court: Monsanto won the lawsuit!)
Schmesier’s story is the tip of the iceberg. A bill has been introduced in the Ohio state legislature that would require registration and state-level regulation of any farmer who cleans or conditions self-pollinated seed. According to the Rural Advancement Foundation International, the proposed legislation is part of Monsanto’s aggressive corporate strategy to police rural communities and intimidate seed-saving farmers.
The proposal to amend Ohio’s seed law originated with Monsanto in 1998. Under U.S. patent law, it is illegal for farmers to save patented seed. To enforce its exclusive monopoly, Monsanto has aggressively prosecuted farmers for “seed piracy.” Usually the seed saving is illegal only if the farmer is saving or re-using patented seed.
If this bill becomes law, it would require seed cleaners to keep detailed records on every seed cleaning transaction, to document the name of the farmer, seed variety names, and whether or not the seed is protected by patents or breeders’ rights. Thus, the bill discriminates against farmers who are lawfully saving and re-planting their own non-patented seeds. And the bill would shift expenses and the burden of policing rural communities to the seed cleaners and state governments.
Currently, it’s estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the foods in U.S. stores contain G-E components.
The FDA projects that 100-150 new G-E products will hit the market by the year 2000. These foods have not been subjected to thorough, pre-market safety testing, nor are they labeled.
(FDA has worked with Monsanto and other G-E companies in keeping consumers in the dark about what is in their foods.)
Soybeans, cotton, canola, corn (ten varieties), potatoes, yellow crookneck squash, radicchio, and tomatoes (five varieties) are already on the list of G-E products which unknowing consumers eat.
Big name products such as Coca-Cola (corn syrup or Aspartame), Fritos, Green Giant Harvest Burgers (soy), McDonald’s French fries (potatoes), Nestle’s chocolate (soy), Karo corn syrup (corn), NutraSweet (Aspartame), Kraft salad dressings (canola oil), Fleishmann’s margarine (soy), Similac infant formula (soy), Land O’Lakes butter (rBGH), and Cabot Creamery Butter (rBGH) – all include G-E ingredients.
G-E foods represent 30 percent of all soy grown in the U.S and over a quarter of the maize. G-E cotton crops now comprise 45 percent of all cotton.
Monsanto now controls ten percent of the global seed supply and its share is growing rapidly.
Monsanto has been in the process of buying up as many seed companies as it can afford. So far, it has bought Holden’s Foundation Seeds, Asgrow Agronomics, De Kalb, Delta, Pine Land, and Cargill (joint venture.)
The company owns 85 percent of all the U.S. cottonseed market alone.
Acquisition price so far: $8 billion in the last two years. So far, the Justice Department has closed a blind eye to this chemical monopoly.
Monsanto predicts that by the year 2000, nearly 100 percent of U.S. soybeans (60 million acres) will be genetically modified.
If the corporation and the U.S. have their way, there’s every reason to suggest that over a period of time, every crop in the world can and will be altered and patented.
Anyone for fasting?
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New From Monsanto:
T e r m i n a t o r T e c h n o l o g y
In March, 1998, Delta and Pine Land Company (purchased by Monsanto that year), in collaboration with the USDA, was awarded U.S. patent number 5,723,765: Control of Plant Gene Expression.
Although the patent is broad and covers many applications, the one application that most attracts these biotech companies is the one that the Rural Advancement Foundation in 1998 dubbed the “terminator technology.”
The terminator patent aims at engineering crops to kill their own seeds in the second generation, making it impossible for farmers to save and replant seeds. Each farmer who buys terminator seeds from Monsanto will have to return to that company to buy next year’s seeds. Critics call this technology a blatant act of control.
While the final plans for terminator technology are not yet in force (and some scientists suggests the international uproar may keep these plans from being fully implemented), the environmental consequences of these technologies are not fully understood.
Still, several problems already have been identified. For example, the terminator gene is likely to “drift.” That is, under certain conditions, it can kill seeds of neighboring plants from the same species, becoming a potential problem for the farmer whose fields are close to the terminator crop. If enough normal seeds die, the farmer next door may not be able to save his or her own seeds.
In addition, scientists speculate that the seeds may have an impact on birds, insects, fungi, and bacteria that eat the seeds.
Other issues related to genetic engineering also apply. Scientists do not yet know how these seeds will affect the ecology of soil organisms; whether they will provoke allergic reactions, or how the effects of these seeds can be distinguished and measured, once they’re released into the general population.
These are troubling issues; but they hardly surface in the U.S. news. Watch international news reports to catch a glimmer of the international reaction to these technologies. — Liane Clorfene-Casten
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Genetically Modified Nightmares
One of the biggest fears of the natural products industry recently became reality when the first known instance of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) contamination of a U.S. organic product was discovered.
A European importer was forced to destroy an entire shipment of certified organic chips from the U.S. after they were genetically tested by Dutch importers and determined to have traces of GMOs.
The contaminated chips, manufactured by Wisconsin-based company Terra Prima, Inc., came from certified organic corn grown on a farm in Texas and were processed by a certified organic facility. According to Melodi Nelson, vice-president of Terra Prima, Inc., the problem was not due to fraud or to the audit-trail system, but to cross-pollination. It is believed that corn genetically modified with Bt, a natural pesticide used to kill corn earworms, was responsible for the contamination.
Because genetic testing is expensive, it is currently not part of the organic certification process and is rarely done in the U.S., leaving questions about how many other organic products on the market have genetic contamination. According to estimates, at least 25 percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified.
Terra Prima lost $147,000 by destroying the contaminated chips, and says it will now do genetic testing on all corn before processing. The company will refuse corn with contamination of more than one part per thousand by weight. They have also joined the Center for Food Safety and other concerned groups, including Greenpeace, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture, and organic farmers from 21 states in filing suit against the EPA to stop the Bt genetic engineering.
The contamination incident could be devastating to the organic industry, whose growth in part has been due to consumers wanting GMO-free products. It also has raised concerns as to how much genetic contamination will be allowed by proposed organic regulations.
“Genetically engineered crops are a threat to farmers, consumers, and the environment,” said Charles Margulis, a Greenpeace genetic engineering specialist.
“The evidence overwhelmingly backs our concerns, yet the [EPA] refuses to act. The threat to farmers and the environment is imminent and requires immediate action.” — James Faber
See also: World Trade Organization
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THE PELICAN BRIEF
by Robert Cohen
THE PELICAN BRIEF. John Grisham wrote the suspense novel. Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington starred in the blockbuster movie.
Two supreme court justices are assassinated so that an evil oil billionaire can petition the president to appoint environmentally unfriendly justices to America’s highest court. It’s all about politics, multi-national firms, and dollars.
TODAY’S PELICAN BRIEF
Life imitates art.
Here’s a jigsaw puzzle, and this column provides the pieces. The finished work merges two art forms, combining political influence with political power. You’ll be amazed.
Many of you wrote to me…requesting a list of PAC donations made by Monsanto.
Interesting thing has occurred…Nearly one-billion dollars were spent on the elections, and Monsanto is aware that they are under the microscope. Do they stop giving, or do they give in different forms that are not easily observed?
THE PLOT THICKENS
During the 2000 election cycle, Monsanto gave a total of only $63,350 to congress…on the record.
Nobody will ever know what amounts were invested in the form of soft money, cash money, party favors, and gifts. The $63,350 paid to 435 members of Congress, and 100 members of the Senate averages out to $118 per member. Sure. I believe that.
The man receiving the SECOND highest total dollars from Monsanto was Larry Combest (R-TX). He got $2000. Combest is the powerful chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
Who got the most from Monsanto? The winner of the Monsanto sweepstakes with $10,000 was:
John Ashcroft, (R-MO)
Ever hear of the man? You will in the coming weeks during the Senate’s confirmation hearings.
Now…for those of you who are not regular readers of the not-milk column, let’s review the Bush/Monsanto connection.
First . . . Monsanto’s lawyer was appointed to the Supreme Court by George Bush, Sr. The deciding swing vote giving the election to George, Jr. was made by Clarence Thomas, Esq.
Second . . . Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense was President of Searle Pharmaceuticals, purchased by Monsanto.
Third . . . Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture was on the board of directors of Calgene Pharmaceuticals, purchased by Monsanto.
Fourth . . . Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health was a supporter of Monsanto in Wisconsin. He received $50,000 from Biotech firms in his election run, and used state funds to set up a $317 million dollar biotech zone in Wisconsin.
Fifth . . . Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Daniels was the vice president of corporate strategy at Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical company. Eli Lilly and Monsanto developed the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. Lilly “owns” the European “franchise.” Daniels presence insures that the bovine growth hormone will one day be approved for use in Europe.
Sixth . . . Last, but not least. John Ashcroft, Attorney General. Winner of the Monsanto PAC sweepstakes.
What will America’s prize be?
– Robert Cohen
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Monsanto Pushes Hormones on School Kids in Their Milk
By Mitchel Cohen of The Green Party
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is a genetically engineered drug injected into cows, which increases the levels of cancer causing and other dangerous chemicals in milk.
Its manufacturer, the Monsanto Corporation, also manufactured the deadly Agent Orange.
Monsanto has been pushing farmers to inject cows with rBGH since 1994. Many small farms, however, continue to resist. Repeated injections of rBGH artificially stimulate cows to produce 10% to 25% more milk than normal, causing health problems for the cows and danger to consumers, especially kids, who drink rBGH milk or eat butter, ice cream, cheese or yogurt.
Although milk drawn from cows that have not been injected with rBGH is now widely available, New York public schools don’t buy that milk. Instead, the Board of Education buys most of its daily 3/4 of a million half pints of milk from Tuscan, whose suppliers inject their cows with the genetically engineered hormone.
Monsanto has been fighting against consumer demands to require labels on genetically engineered products.
In mid April of 1997, the New York City Board of Education responded for the first time to public outcry over the use of genetically engineered hormones in school milk by announcing that, despite the protests, it will continue to buy milk and dairy products from companies that inject their cows with genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone.
“The FDA has given us assurances milk is safe if it contains this growth hormone,” said Board spokesperson David Golub. “This is a non issue.”
But Golub, the Board he represents, the FDA, and the Monsanto Corporation (which manufactures the genetically engineered hormone), are lying to us; the milk is NOT safe.
And it is banned in Europe and Canada.
rBGH derived milk contains dramatically higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor), a risk factor for breast and colon cancer.
IGF-1 is not destroyed by pasteurization. An article in “Cancer Research,” June 1995, shows that high levels of IGF-1 are also linked to hypertension, premature growth stimulation in infants, gynecomastia in young children, glucose intolerance and juvenile diabetes.
Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and chair of Cancer Prevention Coalition, Inc., reports that IGF-1, which causes cells to divide, induces malignant transformation of normal breast epithelial cells, and is a growth factor for human breast cancer and colon cancer.
Yet rBGH was never adequately tested before the Food and Drug Administration allowed it on the market. A standard test of new biochemically produced products and animal drugs requires twenty four months of testing with several hundred rats. But rBGH was tested for only 90 days on 30 rats.
This short term rat study was submitted to the FDA but never published. The FDA had refused to allow anyone outside that agency to review the raw data from this truncated study, saying it would “irreparably harm” Monsanto.
In 1998, Canadian scientists managed to obtain the full studies for the first time. They were shocked to learn that the FDA never even looked at Monsanto’s original data on which the agency’s approval had been based.
In reviewing the data, the Canadian scientists discovered that Monsanto’s secret studies showed that rBGH was linked to prostate and thyroid cancer in laboratory rats.
Monsanto had actually cut the study short and omitted any mention of the cancers in their report to the FDA — or so the agency now says!
And so, a few companies which had invested hundreds of millions of dollars developing a product having absolutely no consumer benefit and which poses a severe health risk, was able to foist its dangerous product on an unprotected populace with the help of the government.
All this has outraged Green Party organizer Maris Abelson:
“Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) increases levels of cancer causing hormones and other dangerous chemicals in milk. It was the first genetically engineered drug to be widely marketed through the food supply, and the few long term studies that have been done raise serious questions about its safety. We’ve got to stop it, now.”
Abelson urges every concerned New Yorker to call the Board of Education today: (718) 729-6100. Tell them, “Stop buying from Tuscan. Purchase milk and other dairy products only from companies that do not use rBGH, and that are, preferably, organic.”
What’s All the Ruckus?
The Monsanto Corporation, manufacturer of rBGH (also known as BST and Posilac), has hundreds of millions of dollars invested in biotechnology development. It insists that IGF-1 levels are not elevated in milk from rBGH treated cows and that rBGH is perfectly safe.
“Satisfied customers across the United States, many with three years experience, attest to the product’s safety. Further, the FDA confirms that no unusual or unexpected concerns about cow or human safety have been raised since Posilac’s introduction.”
But Monsanto’s own studies refute that position. In its 1993 application to the British government for permission to sell rBGH in England, Monsanto itself reported that “the IGF-1 levels went up substantially [about five times as much].”
The U.S. FDA acknowledges that IGF-1 is elevated in milk from rBGH treated cows. Even proponents of rBGH admit that it at least doubles the amount of IGF-1 hormone in the milk. The earliest report in the literature found that IGF 1 was elevated in the milk of rBGH treated cows by a factor of 3.6. How could the company honestly assert there have been “no unusual or unexpected concerns”?
The mass outpouring of protests and growing technical data indicate otherwise; clearly, the company intentionally lied about rBGH and falsified its reports to recover its investment.
Since 1994, Monsanto has been pushing every which way to get farmers to inject rBGH into their cows. Bi-weekly injections of rBGH cause an increase in the amount of milk cows produce on average from 10% to 25%.
The market is flooded with too much milk as it is, enabling middle men to pay farmers below their costs, bankrupting dairy farms in record numbers while retail prices remain around the same. (This, of course, enables agribusiness giants to purchase their farms at a song.)
Some farmers have even felt compelled to kill their cows because it cost them more to feed and maintain the animals than they’d gotten back in sales.
With the addition of rBGH, small farmers are caught between a rock and a hard place. They know that the so called “extra” money they’re promised for squeezing more milk out of each cow with rBGH is a delusion. The market is already glutted.
How could increasing the total volume of milk possibly help them compete with giant agribusiness conglomerates who can afford lower prices per gallon or even go into debt for a time and absorb the cost of antibiotics to treat the increased instances of diseases such as mastitis brought on by rBGH and more frequent replacement of their cows to win a larger share of the market?
Monsanto has no sensible answer. Instead, it swings its mighty stick: Fear. “Soon everyone else will be using rBGH.” It’s like any new machine employed in production. It will lower the price of milk even more, and increase the quantity.
If you don’t use it, you’ll go bankrupt.
But, and here’s the carrot, “if you start using rBGH now, before everyone else, you’ll get the jump and do all right.”
That’s quite a powerful “argument” — the threat of bankruptcy and the looming shadow of bank foreclosure. To counter it, Green activists have joined dairy farmers and other local consumer groups in coalitions across the country to stop Monsanto from achieving the “critical mass” it needs to apply its new genetic engineering techniques to milk production.
Once Monsanto reaches that point, farmers fear, they will be driven by market forces to use any means available — including rBGH — to increase the amount of milk their cows produce just to chase the ghost of breaking even as the wholesale price plummets.
Is rBGH Safe for Cows?
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is like “crack” for cows. Bi weekly shots “rev” up their system and force them to produce more milk for perhaps a few years, and then their milk production declines dramatically. rBGH also makes them sick.
Their udders swell and develop painful, bloody lesions — an infection known as “mastitis,” which is “treated” by giving cows huge doses of antibiotics. The cows suffer through shortened lifespans and increased birth defects, rates of metabolic disease, infertility and stress.
What’s more, there’s pus in the milk. Farmers must buy heavy doses of antibiotics to treat rBGH cows’ frequent infections, which occur seven times as often in cows treated with rBGH than in those who are untreated, last six times as long, and leak pus, blood, bacteria and increased levels of antibiotic residues into the milk.
Shockingly, the very companies that produce rBGH add to their profits by manufacturing antibiotics and tranquilizers which they then sell to dairy farmers to combat the side effects — which end up in the milk.
High levels of antibiotics passed along to the mother or to children could impair the development of the immune system in children, cause the growth of resistant strains of bacteria and viruses, and lead to serious health problems.
High School students at a “No rBGH” parade and rally in Brooklyn in February 1997, organized by the Brooklyn Greens, were quick to point out that they were moved to participate upon learning of increased levels of pus in rBGH milk.
Some of the students altered Dairy Council ads, and made signs out of them. Instead of “Got Milk?,” the signs read “Got Pus?”
Ben & Jerry’s donated free non rBGH ice cream for the protest.
Cows into Cannibals
The use of rBGH intensifies the already unhealthy confinement of animals in industrial scale dairy production.
Factory farming of animals is immoral; some cows spend their whole lives tethered to machines. Increasingly, they’re viewed as “units of production” instead of sentient beings. Some Florida dairy herds grew sick shortly after starting rBGH treatment.
One farmer, Charles Knight, lost 75 percent of his herd due to the injections while Monsanto and company funded researchers at the University of Florida withheld from him the information that the same thing was happening to other farmers and their herds. Knight says Monsanto and the university researchers blamed him for the high death rate.
Even in death — which, in general, comes earlier to rBGH injected cows — the animals are seen as part of the machine, the “production process.” In recent years the industry has taken to “rendering” animal carcasses, which means grinding up dead and often diseased cows into animal feed and other meat products. (Some ad agencies have added their own “spin” on the practice, calling it “recycling.”)
Approximately 40% of the “rendered” beef is used to make hamburgers. The rest is mixed into cow feed, along with sheep brains and other “rendered” animal parts. Cows, like many animals, are by nature vegetarian.
Turning cows into cannibals is gruesome enough. But now, with meat being derived from diseased rBGH treated cows, each burger or bucket of feed contains an increased proportion of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, viruses, bacteria, and chemicals. The ratio intensifies each time around the cycle of death.
The situation is compounded by genetically engineered hormones. rBGH injected cows require more protein than normal. So they consume even more rendered meat in their feed, which concentrates the amounts of synthetic hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals even further.
Just a short time after this practice became widespread, health officials began to notice a dramatic increase in the rate of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) — “mad cow” disease — which is caused by “prions” found in diseased and waste animal body parts, offal and blood.
Prions cause infected cattle to literally develop holes in their brains, suffer seizures, fall down and die. Recent studies indicate that mad cow disease is linked to the devastating Creutzfeldt Jakob disease in humans.
A prion is a form of protein having the normal chemical composition but is shaped differently. When it comes into contact with normally constructed proteins it causes them to relapse into the deformed shape, triggering a chain reaction. Prions are able to withstand severe heat, such as pasteurization and even irradiation.
There is no known way to defuse them. They may incubate for 30 years, and are passed to humans who eat meat from sick cows, regardless of how well one cooks the meat.
The U.S. government, of course, maintains that no BSE infected cattle have been discovered in the U.S. But, as Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn write, the disease may have appeared in the U.S. before the outbreak in England.
“Richard Marsh, a veterinary scientist at the University of Wisconsin, was raising the alarm about BSE in American cattle back in 1985. Marsh discovered an outbreak of spongiform encephalopathy at a mink farm in Wisconsin. The mink had been fed a protein supplement made from rendered cows that had supposedly died from `downer cow syndrome.’ Marsh believes the cows had actually succumbed to a previously undetected form of BSE.”
Around 100,000 cows a year die from downer cow syndrome in the U.S. Most of these dead cows are rendered into protein supplements to feed other cattle.
(For a story on ‘rendering’ dogs, cats and other animals for pet food, GO TO > > > All God’s Creatures)
As Cockburn and St. Claire see it, “if this is true, the U.S. cattle population may already be infected with BSE and American meat consumers may have already contracted CJD.”
All of this has severe environmental and economic as well as health consequences. Groundwater becomes even more polluted as mutated, drug resistant viruses, fungus, and bacteria develop in response to the increased use of antibiotics and genetically engineered chemicals and, through waste run off — often used as fertilizer — enter the water supply and soil.
Ever greater quantities of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic chemicals are applied to the land to deal with the new strains of resistant germs, blights and diseases, further contaminating soil and water.
These are manufactured by the very companies that produce rBGH and other genetically engineered products. So are the antibiotics and tranquilizers sold to dairy farmers to combat the “side effects” of rBGH.
For Monsanto, as with other corporations, the name of the game is profits, profits at any cost.
A Method to Their Madness
Monsanto is playing the same game it once played in developing the herbicide 2,4,5 T, used in Agent Orange, another Monsanto product.
Back in the 1960s, Monsanto, working closely with the Pentagon and the Veterans’ Administration, intentionally falsified key data on the effects of Agent Orange on human health in order to sell the deadly defoliant to the government for “use” in Vietnam.
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged that the government’s exoneration of Agent Orange was “politically motivated .. to cover up the true effects of dioxin, and manipulate public perception.”
Similar concerns erupted over Monsanto’s manufacture of Aspartame, the chief ingredient in NutraSweet and in diet soda, which causes brain lesions in laboratory rats.
And then there’s Monsanto’s manufacturer of PCBs. Monsanto’s Sauget, Illinois plant discharges an estimated 34 million pounds of toxins into the Mississippi River. The facility is a major producer of chloronitrobenzenes, bioaccumulative teratogens detected at levels as high as 1,000 parts per billion in fish over 100 miles downstream.
The factory was the world’s only manufacturer of PCBs until Congress finally banned them in 1976. They are still present today, 22 years later, at high levels in Mississippi River fish and are ubiquitous in the global ecosystem.
Monsanto also manufactures butachlor (trade names: Machete, Lambast), an herbicide which poses both acute and chronic health risks and can contaminate water supplies.
Although Monsanto manufactures butachlor in Iowa, the herbicide has never been registered in the U.S. or gained a food residue tolerance. In 1984, the EPA rejected Monsanto’s registration applications due to “environmental, residue, fish and wildlife, and toxicological concerns.”
Monsanto has refused to submit additional data requested by the EPA. Despite its recognized dangers, Monsanto sells butachlor abroad. Dozens of countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa use the product, primarily on the paddy rice which constitutes almost all of U.S. rice imports.
Clearly, Bovine Growth Hormone is just the tip of the iceberg. Today, Monsanto, Hoffman LaRoche and other manufacturers of vaccines injected, often involuntarily, into GIs, are working “behind the scenes to contain the government investigation of Gulf veterans’ health problems.”
Monsanto and other pharmaceutical companies continue to cover up the dangers in genetically engineered drugs, herbicides, pesticides and uranium weaponry — a cover up essential to ensuring mega profits, business as usual.
As in the cases of dioxin/Agent Orange, PCBs and Aspartame, neither Monsanto nor the FDA have performed the appropriate long term studies on the effects of rBGH on the environment or on the health of people. Nevertheless, rBGH was fast tracked through government, with strong support from the Clinton/Gore administration.
Meanwhile, Monsanto flouted the law at every opportunity.
One law, for instance, required Monsanto to notify the FDA about every complaint the company received from dairy farmers such as Charles Knight, whose situation we discussed earlier. But four months after Knight complained to Monsanto, the FDA had still heard nothing from the company. Monsanto officials say it took all of those months to figure out that Knight was complaining about rBGH!
After witnessing so many lies, it is no wonder that people across the country — indeed, throughout the world — don’t trust a thing Monsanto says. For instance, the company claimed that every truckload of milk in Florida is tested for excessive antibiotics. But Florida dairy officials and scientists on camera say this is simply not true.
Likewise, Monsanto says that Canada’s ban on rBGH had nothing to do with human health concerns.
But Canadian government officials say just the opposite, and that, in fact, Monsanto had tried to bribe them with offers of $1 to $2 million to gain approval for rBGH. (Monsanto officials say those funds were for “research.”)
No wonder that outraged consumers have forced legislation to be introduced requiring labeling of dairy products derived from rBGH cows in state after state, only to be torpedoed as often by Democrats as Republicans at the behest of Monsanto.
Instead, new legislation pending before Congress limits the liability of corporations, and is receiving fervent support from the pharmaceutical industry to fend off consumer lawsuits against genetically engineered products.
Both major parties fill their warchests with campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.
Taking their cue from Washington, many so called progressive Democrats such as 1997’s NYC mayoral candidate Ruth Messinger and Bronx Boro President Fernando Ferrer have gone to bat for the industry and opposed labeling, under the delusion that genetic engineering is the key to progress.
In today’s Mayoral race in New York City, Alan Hevesi has joined Ferrer in championing the development of genetic engineering facilities as a means for “developing” New York City’s infrastructure in the inner city.
Radiation and Milk
Cows’ milk and other dairy products have been associated with serious health problems even before recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone was given the go ahead by the Food and Drug Administration in late 1993. Atomic bomb tests caused radioactive isotopes like Strontium 90 to enter cows’ milk in the 1950s. It became the subject of protests and national debate, and played a role in winning the first comprehensive test ban treaty on nuclear weapons.
The issue was raised again following the disastrous accidents at the Three Mile Island (March 1979) and Chernobyl (April 1986) nuclear power plants.
For the first time, statistical evidence was gathered directly relating the large increases in total and infant mortality that occurred across the United States in the summer of 1986 to the heightened amount of radioactive iodine, cesium, strontium, and barium in rain and milk fallout from Chernobyl halfway around the world.
Radioactive isotopes in milk have, by now, compromised the immune systems of an entire generation. While protests have forced a few of the most dangerous chemical sprays like DDT off the market, new and even more dangerous sprays have taken their place.
Chemical, hormone, antibiotic and radioactive residues in dairy products continue to contribute to the rise of asthma, cancer, AIDS and other illnesses.
The direct injection of rBGH into cows raises the issue once again. As long as kids drink milk or eat butter, ice cream, cheese or yogurt, they are especially susceptible to radiation, pesticide residues, impurities, and, in the case before us, the high levels of antibiotics and increased hormonal levels found in rBGH derived dairy products.
Monsanto claims that the government monitors antibiotic levels, and that they are safe. But the FDA generally tests for only four types of antibiotics. “Both the GAO and the Milk Industry Foundation, which reports on drug testing, have found that a wide variety of drugs are used and not tested for.
Thus, an increased use of antibiotics in response to a rise in rBGH induced mastitis would likely go undetected in the milk supply.”
While most milk companies now oppose rBGH and have pledged not to use it, New York City public schools continue to contract with Tuscan, which refuses to sign rBGH free pledges and continues to contract with farmers for milk that may come from cows injected with rBGH.
“If I can’t test for it, I’m not going to put our company’s neck on the line by making that kind of pledge,” said Peter Stigi, senior vice president of Tuscan Dairy Farms.
But the FDA, Monsanto and Tuscan are able to test for it; they’ve chosen not to. In 1991, the American Medical Association said that it was possible to develop a test to distinguish between the natural hormone and rBGH.
But incredibly, the FDA refused to develop an rBGH detection test. Nor did it require Monsanto to do so. Then, a German company announced that a test could easily be developed to detect rBGH in milk.
But no one thought it important enough to develop it. As long as no test existed, the FDA and Monsanto could pretend that rBGH is indistinguishable from the natural hormone, implying falsely that the two hormones are identical.
Angry members of the National Farmers Union (NFU) decided to take on the bureaucracy. The NFU raised contributions and hired a laboratory, Kara Biologicals of Stanton, New Jersey, to develop a low cost strip test to detect the presence of rBGH in milk.
And now, two Cornell University researchers, Vitaly Spitsberg and Ronald Gorewit, have developed another way to detect rBGH in milk. As it turns out, Monsanto’s claim that there is “no difference” between the natural hormone made by the cow and the synthetic hormone manufactured in the lab is but another false pearl in its necklace of lies.
The synthetic hormone is detectable in milk because it has an addititional amino acid sequence, methionine, compared to the naturally produced hormone. How will this affect those who consume milk derived from rBGH injected cows? No one knows; those tests have never been done.
Nevertheless, Monsanto continues fighting tooth and nail against consumer demands to require appropriate labels on dairy products. And now, the giant pharmaceutical companies are gearing up for the real battle, in which rBGH is only the opening salvo: The right to patent, own, and profit from the very substance of life itself.
What Is Genetic Engineering?
Genetic Engineering is the process of redesigning DNA molecules to create new forms of life. Scientists are recombining genes from plants, insects, bacteria, animals and humans to more fully exploit the commercial possibilities of agricultural and pharmaceutical production.
Genetically engineered foods are unlabeled and, mostly, untested. The health consequences of eating genetically engineered foods are largely unknown; what has been engineered into the genetic code of such staples as corn, soy and rice has never before been part of our diet.
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans, for example, are genetically modified to withstand increased exposure to the company’s herbicide Roundup. The company advertises its soy as “herbicide resistant” — a euphemism for what is actually herbicide saturated. We ingest these additional chemicals, produced in every cell of the plant, along with our food.
Cows fed Roundup Ready soy produce milk with significantly higher fat content than those fed ordinary soybeans. At a meeting of the Working Group on Biosafety of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity on October 13 17, 1997, scientists from around the world concluded this to be direct proof of a substantial difference between genetically modified and ordinary soy.
They also found that the application of glyphosate (such as the herbicide Roundup) increased the level of plant estrogens of bean crops. Estrogen, including that from plants, is known to impact mammalian tissue and is one of the triggers of humans cancer.
As if all of that is not bad enough, certain diseases are, for the first time, beginning to cross the “species barrier,” following trans species genetic implantations.
There has already been some crossover between pig and human viruses, and gene modification across species also subjects us to higher levels of toxins and allergens. Genes from peanuts and Brazil nuts implanted in soy can cause severe allergic reactions, even death.
Yet the products containing peanut genes have no warning labels. (Soy with Brazil nut genes were forced off the market several years ago.)
Genes from flounder implanted in tomatoes to keep them from freezing, and genes from chicken spliced into potatoes to keep them from bruising raise all sorts of ethical problems for vegetarians.
Genetically synthesized scorpion toxin is brushed on fruit to keep away pests. The manufacture of synthetic vanilla is already playing havoc with the economies of Madagascar, the Comoros Islands and Reunion Island, which depend on natural vanilla exports as their primary source of income.
Bio engineering, backed by the might of the U.S. military, is now being used as part of a conscious policy to drive indigenous people from the lands they’ve traditionally shared and on which they’d grown food for themselves and their communities. Agribusiness companies, increasingly tied to pharmaceutical corporations, want profitable crops grown for export.
As Oxfam puts it, “Hunger is increasing because immense wealth is flowing out of poor countries and into rich countries. Far greater wealth in the form of crops, minerals, timber, labor power, skills and cash is being removed from poor countries and transported to the world’s wealthier countries than the other way around.
More than $50 billion in capital is transferred annually from the global South to governments, banks, corporations, and lending agencies based in the global North…
Today the free market revolution has only widened already extreme income inequalities and worsened poverty throughout Latin America. (“Oxfam urges big changes at World Bank,” Financial Times, Sept. 30, 1994.) In fact, in 1973, 36 of the world’s most impoverished and starving countries were chief suppliers of export crops to the U.S.
And it has only gotten worse.
By newly “enclosing” agricultural lands and pasture, legalizing confiscations after the fact, agribusiness corporations, USAID, the World Bank and the IMF have been able to drive formerly self sufficient peasants and the rural proletariat off their lands and to cities in search of work, generally as laborers in near slave conditions in assembly or export zone sweatshops.
The lands are then taken over by giant corporations and plundered for soil depleting strip farmed export crops and the extraction of natural resources.
According to the USDA, only two percent of genetically engineered foods are developed to enhance taste or nutrition. 98 percent are artificially designed to make food production and processing more profitable for the 3 percent of the world’s landlords — mostly giant corporations — that have come to control 80 percent of the world’s land and the food grown on it.
One of the ways international agencies accomplish this is by systematically dumping cheap or free food onto the local markets, undermining local producers and forcing them to drastically cut their prices to compete. (This is different from legitimate food emergencies in which short term contributions are critical, although even there many so called “natural” famines are in reality man made by the policies of the IMF and World Bank.)
Since so many small producers are dependent on immediate income to stay afloat, any significant drop in income destroys their community and way of life, and enables large corporate farmers to take them over and consolidate their hold on both the production apparatus and the market.
The dumping of hybrid and now cheap genetically engineered corn in Mexico, the special water and soil requirements, and the corporate patenting of seeds threaten to undermine stable indigenous communities centered around growing and marketing local corn.
The Zapatista rebellion in January, 1994, focused on opposing the importation of corn under NAFTA and the destruction it would cause to their local, self sufficient economies.
As the industry grows more sophisticated, genetic engineering — which reduces everything in nature to objects for commercial manipulation, the commodification of life itself, and the constant genuflection before the gods of profit — and the private patenting of seeds provide international capital with powerful weapons for imposing the IMF, World Bank, and USAID’s “structural adjustment programs” on the Third World.
Take the new genetically engineered corn. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring insect repellant that organic farmers effectively apply in small doses to individual plants.
In the early 1990s, Novartis (the gigantic corporation recently invented by combining Ciba Geigy and Sandoz) patented a way of encoding each corn plant to produce its own Bt.
Instead of limited amounts of Bt being applied in specific and well defined areas, Bt now is produced in every cell of every plant over entire fields of genetically engineered corn.
Not only does this kill insects beneficial to crop pest management, it quickens widespread resistance among undesired pests, reducing diversity and, in effect, making it easier for diseases to spread quickly across the entire field, rendering Bt — which is relatively harmless to humans — completely ineffective and depriving organic farmers of one of the few insecticides that they can use safely.
As weeds and insects are repeatedly exposed to herbicides and pesticides, the varieties tolerant to the toxin survive and become the norm, reducing (and even eliminating) its effectiveness, requiring farmers to apply heavier doses of pesticide to kill increasingly resistant pests.
Organisms that had been under control now become veritable plagues wiping out enormous quantities of crops. Genetically engineered foods subject us to viruses, bacteria and other organisms that mutate into more virulent strains for which we’ve developed no resistance.
Scientists race the blights by “designing” new insecticides and herbicides before bacteria, viruses and fungi are able to modify their capacities accordingly. This only leads to an acceleration of the crop chemical treadmill, where farmers use more and stronger chemicals to control pests, more chemicals in the environment, more damage to nearby plant varieties and soil fertility, and vast reduction of biodiversity.
And so, as we move into the new millennium, we find that in just 100 years, the world has lost 95 percent of the genetic diversity that existed in agriculture at the beginning of this century.
Agribusiness already dumps more than 500 million pounds of herbicides on U.S. farmlands each year. Monsanto’s Roundup, whose product sales come to $1.2 billion a year, leads the toxic parade. A study released in August 1995 found that levels of herbicides in drinking water in 29 cities and towns tested in the Corn Belt exceeded federal safety levels.
And now, researchers at Riso National Laboratory in Denmark are finding that plants — whose “natural” immunities develop over many years through the interaction of many varieties, species, and microbes as part of a coherent (if fragile) ecosystem — spontaneously cross fertilize.
Genetically engineered canola (rapeseed), for instance, passes its genes for herbicide resistance to surrounding weeds; the same is true of other plants. The offspring resulting from the cross breeding of genetically engineered and weedy plants are not only herbicide resistant themselves, they also are capable of passing on resistance to subsequent generations.
Unlike defective products of other technologies, genetically altered organisms, once released, are irretrievable and self replicating. Herbicide resistant qualities can spread to weeds.
Rapid growth capacities can spread to pests. Antibiotic resistance can spread to bacteria such as staphylococcus, diphtheria, salmonella, bubonic plague, cholera, typhoid and a whole range of dangerous diseases.
And genes for new and virulent toxins can, accidentally or purposefully, spread to wild plants. Engineering on the genetic level introduces dangers of a qualitatively different magnitude which can easily become irreversible. Genetically engineered lifeforms are on the verge of permanently disrupting the already precarious ecological balance of the planet.
Why Didn’t Government Just Say “No”?
In the global capitalist system, “research and development” means the public takes all the risk and pays for development and corporations then privatize that knowledge and reap the profits.
Human health and safety, and environmental degradation, are rarely factored in in determining corporate costs. In such a system, genetic engineering makes monocropping the cost effective option. It fills acre after acre with the same kind of crop, the easier to utilize certain kinds of machinery and chemicals, “speeding up” agricultural production the way Taylorism assembly lined industry.
Genetically engineered soybeans, corn and corn syrup (a sweetener used in almost everything we drink), potatoes, strawberries and cotton are now coming to market. rBGH continues to be the spearhead of the new genetic engineering technologies which are overturning the previously unbreechable biological boundaries between species, and even between the plant and animal kingdoms.
I’ve already outlined a number of reasons why rBGH is bad: The cows get sick more often, die more quickly, and there’s pus and increased hormone levels of all sorts in the milk, which are potentially cancer causing.
There is already a milk surplus in the U.S. and no need to artificially induce cows to produce more.
Thousands of dairy farmers are being driven out of business by large factory farms; rBGH accelerates that process, in line with the IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programs.
Yet Monsanto, along with such huge transnational corporations as Novartis and Eli Lilly (in which the family of former Vice President Dan Quayle holds controlling interest), remain unregulated warlords over their fiefdoms, policing dissidents and public health advocates.
How could this have happened?
In 1993 the Food and Drug Administration approved recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone for use in milk cows without performing the required longterm health studies.
The FDA official who “fast tracked” rBGH approval was Michael R. Taylor. Until 1991, Taylor had been a law partner at King & Spaulding and lawyered on behalf of Monsanto during the FDA approval process of rBGH. He was soon appointed to the Food and Drug Administration, where he “fast tracked” rBGH approval.
Upon becoming Deputy FDA Commissioner, Taylor appointed others from Monsanto to positions at the FDA, with President Clinton’s approval. Margaret Miller, former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, was one of them.
She is now Deputy Director of Human Food Safety and Consultative Services, New Animal Drug Evaluation Office, Center for Veterinary Medicine in the US Food and Drug Administration.
She published a number of pro rBGH papers as an FDA official which were co authored by Monsanto’s hirelings, and called for policy directives exempting rBGH milk and other genetically engineered foods from labeling.
Meanwhile, Richard Borroughs, the doctor who originally supervised the rBGH target animal safety studies, was fired (under pressure from Monsanto) for insisting on enforcement of stringent animal health standards in rBGH research.
King & Spaulding continued to represent Monsanto even as its former directors and employees fast tracked rBGH approval through the FDA.
Monsanto filed lawsuits against dairies that had labeled their milk “rBGH free,” and threatened to sue any dairy company making similar claims.
Monsanto never won any of those suits; but the hundreds of millions of dollars it was willing to spend has enabled the company to get away with strong arming dairies refusing to inject their cows with the hormone, and deterred small companies from labeling their products as “rBGH free”.
Despite failing to win a single round in the courts, Monsanto has been nevertheless able to create enough economic and political intimidation on smaller companies to win economically what it cannot win in the courts.
In March 1994, the Pure Food Campaign and the Foundation for Economic Trends, under the leadership of Jeremy Rifkin, petitioned the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate Taylor’s apparent conflict of interest. Three members of Congress then asked the General Accounting Office to investigate. Within days of the FET complaint, Taylor was mysteriously transferred out of the FDA.
But Taylor and Miller are hardly the only officials doing Monsanto’s bidding inside the government. As Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown did more than anyone to insure that Clinton and Gore became, indeed, the Administration from Monsanto.
As head of the Democratic National Committee Brown garnered huge financial contributions from the biotech industry and vigorously promoted their interests. Brown also flacked for the biotech industry’s attempts to patent genetically engineered human cells against the opposition of foreign governments:
“Under our laws, as well as those of many other countries, subject matter relating to human cells is patentable and there is no provision for considerations relating to the source of the cells that may be the subject of a patent application.”
At the time his plane crashed over war torn Yugoslavia, Brown was accompanying a few dozen high level corporate executives seeking to ferret out “investment opportunities” among the misery there. The conflicts of interest between government and industry are appalling, and dangerous.
From Brown on down, the Clinton administration catered to every outrageous whim of the biotech industry.
Much of the government’s position on genetic engineering came under the supervision of former Hunter College president Donna Shalala, who was Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Except for Clinton and Gore, it was Shalala who had final say over these odious policies and corruption. And it is the “progressive” Shalala who let Monsanto and the other corporations get away, literally, with murder.
Take the case of Mickey Kantor, a power broker, former U.S. Trade Representative and trusted Clinton adviser. Kantor became Secretary of Commerce following Ron Brown’s death and continued his predecessor’s boosterism for biotechnology.
In mid 1997, Kantor left his job at Commerce. He was immediately appointed to the Board of Directors of … the Monsanto Corporation.
Joining officials who changed job assignments from service in government to positions in the biotechnology industry was Marcia Hale. She had been assistant to the President of the United States for intergovernmental affairs.
Her new appointment: Senior official for the Monsanto Corporation in coordinating public affairs and corporate strategy in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Also switching sides over the last couple of years were:
L. Val Giddings, who went from being a biotechnology “regulator” at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to being the Vice President for Food and Agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a pro biotech propaganda arm. Giddings, who had represented U.S. government (and, purportedly, the people’s) interests at the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety Protocol, attended the second meeting on the protocol as the representative of the industry;
David W. Beler, former head of Government Affairs for Genentech, Inc., and now chief domestic policy advisor to Al Gore; Linda J. Fisher, former Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, and now Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Monsanto;
Josh King, former director of production for White House events, and now director of global communications in the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto;
Terry Medley, former administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the US Department of Agriculture, former chair and vice chair of the US Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Council, former member of the US Food and Drug Administration food advisory committee, and now Director of Regulatory and External Affairs of Dupont’s Agricultural Enterprise;
William D. Ruckelshaus, former chief administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, now (and for the last 12 years) a member of the board of directors of Monsanto;
Lidia Watrud, former microbial biotechnology researcher at Monsanto, now with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Effects Laboratory, Western Ecology Division; and,
Clayton K. Yeutter, former Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, former US trade representative (who led the US team in negotiating the US Canada Free Trade Agreement and helped launch the Uruguay round of the GATT negotiations), now a member of the board of directors of Mycogen Corporation, whose majority owner is Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical.
One of the leading shills for Monsanto and a very visible proponent of genetic engineering is former US President Jimmy Carter. And, should any of the legal cases make their way to the Supreme Court they will be argued before Justice Clarence Thomas, among others.
Thomas — one might remember from Anita Hill’s testimony — began his career as a lawyer for … Monsanto.
And one of the chief witnesses on behalf of Monsanto will be Dr. Louis Sullivan, former head of Health and Human Services and now a paid apologist for the company.
Media & BGH
In February, 1997, two veteran news reporters for Fox TV in Tampa, Florida, were fired for refusing to water down an investigation reporting that rBGH may promote cancer in humans who drink milk from rBGH treated cows. It is the link between rBGH and cancer that Monsanto pressed Fox to remove from the story.
Award winning reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre had been hired by WTVT in Tampa to produce a series on rBGH in Florida milk.
After more than a year’s work on the rBGH series, and three days before the series was scheduled to air (starting February 24, 1997), Fox TV executives received the first of two letters from lawyers representing Monsanto saying that Monsanto would suffer “enormous damage” if the series ran.
Monsanto’s second letter warned of “dire consequences” for Fox if the series aired as it stood. Despite the fact that WTVT had been advertising the series aggressively, the station canceled it at the last moment.
According to documents filed in Florida’s Circuit Court (13th Circuit), Fox lawyers then tried to water down the series, offering to pay the two reporters if they would leave the station and keep mum about Fox’s censorship of their work.
The reporters refused Fox’s offer, and on April 2, 1998, filed their own lawsuit against WTVT. The Wilson/Akre lawsuit charged WTVT with violating its license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by demanding that the reporters include known falsehoods in their rBGH series.
The reporters also charged WTVT with violating Florida’s “whistle blower” law, and that Fox ordered them to remove all mention of “cancer,” changing it to “human health effects” whatever that may be.
After a five week trial and six hours of deliberation which ended August 18, 2000, a Florida state court jury unanimously determined that Fox “acted intentionally and deliberately to falsify or distort the plaintiffs’ news reporting on BGH.”
In that decision, the jury also found that Jane Acre’s threat to blow the whistle on Fox’s misconduct to the FCC was the sole reason for the termination… and the jury awarded $425,000 in damages which makes her eligible to apply for reimbursement for all court costs, expenses and legal fees.
The whistle blowing journalists, twice refused Fox offers of big money deals to keep quiet about what they knew, filed their landmark lawsuit April 2, 1998 and survived three Fox efforts to have their case summarily dismissed.
It is the first time journalists have used a whistleblower law to seek a legal remedy for being fired by refusing to distort the news.
(See, “Milk, rBGH, and Cancer,” Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly #593, April 9, 1998.)
What Can We Do?
1) Demand mandatory labeling of all dairy products derived from rBGH cows. Fight for legislation banning rBGH dairy products and all genetically engineered foods.
2) Throw the bums out of office. But our fight cannot be limited to the electoral arena or we’ll lose. We need to leaflet stores and target them for more militant action if they continue to stock dairy products derived from rBGH cows.
If they don’t respond, organize picket lines at the stores. Make “No rBGH” part of the powerful unionization campaign of immigrant workers now underway at local markets. (Leaflet the WORKERS on the picket lines, too!)
3) Bring up this issue at every opportunity. Circulate petitions against rBGH at PTA and Community School Board meetings. Get your friends to carry them in school and around the neighborhood. Confront candidates as they run for elected office.
4) Every college has some connection to pharmaceutical corporations and biotechnological research and development. Demand an end to patents on life: Eliminating patents takes the profits out of genetic engineering.
We’ll then see which scientists will continue to do their “research” on behalf of the public good and not suck at the udders of Washington cash cows injected with genetically engineered hormones.
Pharmaceutical corporations and biotechnological research and development facilities provide sitting targets, just as ROTC buildings and Department of Defense research and recruitment once did. Every college now has some connection to them.
We need to begin a similar campaign against the privatization of our universities and colleges, and especially against their collaboration with pharmaceutical and biotech corporations.
5) Hold contests for the best parody of the “Got Milk?” advertisements. Put up posters and “improve” existing ones. Organize your building, school, workplace and neighborhood.
Remember: In every danger there also resides opportunity, if only we learn to look for it and develop it correctly.
The issue of rBGH in milk is so straightforward that it is an ideal place from which to launch a much greater campaign against the genetic engineering of foods, vaccines and medicines, privatization of knowledge through “intellectual property rights,” patenting of synthesized genetic sequences for private profit, the consolidation and concentration of farmland, who controls our food?, mistreatment of animals, the growing domination by corporations and, in general, the system of exploitation that rules our lives.
– GaryNull’s Natural Living
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Highly Recommended Sites > > > www.purefood.org; How to Avoid Monsanto Investments
For more on Monsanto and NutraSweet, GO TO > > > The NutraSweet Syndrome
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – From Reader’s Digest, Oct, 1968, by John Barron:
TELL US THE TRUTH, UNCLE SAM!
Federal agencies and bureaucrats are increasingly engaged in a self-serving policy of official deceit – a shabby practice that debases the quality and character of our democratic process . . .
In recent years the government has tampered with the truth so frequently that the phrase “credibility gap” has gained common acceptance. Like most slogans, it is not always used fairly. Official pronouncements which turn out to be wrong sometimes are the consequence of bad judgment instead of dishonesty . . . Yet even after the most charitable allowances are made, the public record remains littered with official lies which no amount of explanation can erase or mitigate.
This war on truth is waged for fundamental purposes:
To Cover Incompetence.
By deceit, bureaucracies seek to hide bungling that would justify the censure or dismissal of their administrators. Consider what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tried to foist off on the public last year (1967).
NASA spends $11,500,000 of the taxpayers’ money annually and employs 300 press agents to glorify itself. It initially enjoyed immunity from independent scrutiny and criticism.
On the night of January 27, 1967, fire erupted in an Apollo space capsule at Cape Kennedy. Three brilliant young astronauts were suffocated, and our whole program to put a man on the moon was set back a year. NASA attempted to depict the tragedy as simply a bad-luck accident which could not possibly have been avoided.
Death was “instantaneous,” it announced. “There was a flash and that was it.” “We always have adhered to the highest standards of safety,” intoned a space boss. “And yet, in spite of meticulous attention to the smallest detail, this tragedy has occurred.”
Soon, these reassurances were shattered. New York Times and Washington Evening Star reporters learned from engineers who had heard tape recordings that the three deaths had been far from “instantaneous.” The astronauts pleaded for help and, as the Times disclosed, up to the very end “they were scrambling, clawing and pounding to open the sealed hatch.”
Rep. William F. Ryan (D., N.Y.) Unearthed proof out of NASA’s own files that, as a result of previous blazes, it had been warned repeatedly of the danger of fire in the capsule. Yet it made no provision for emergency escape.
Next, several Senators asked NASA officials if Maj. Gen. Samuel A. Phillips had not submitted a report devastatingly critical of the Apollo program. “I know of no unusual General Phillips report,” replied George E. Mueller, an associate administrator of NASA. The agency admitted that General Phillips had made some “notes.” But it belittled their importance, and NASA boss James E. Webb refused to let investigating committees see them.
Rep. Ryan obtained a copy of the Phillips report from a secret source. Instead of a few “notes,” it was a voluminous document full of charts and evidence. It found the principal Apollo contractor, North American Aviation, Inc., guilty of disastrous mismanagement and waste, and showed that the entire Apollo program was jeopardized by dangerously poor workmanship and skyrocketing costs. Yet additional evidence demonstrated that NASA had done little to correct the conditions pinpointed by Phillips.
Now some Congressmen began to wonder. Had there been favoritism in awarding North American the $5 billion Apollo contract in the first place? A “Source Evaluation Board” of 190 scientists and business advisers had recommended a contractor after an exhaustive study. Had it been North American?
On April 17, the Senate Space Committee summoned Webb. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R., Maine) asked the direct question: “Was North American the first choice of the Source Evaluation Board?”
“Yes. It was the recommended company,” Webb said categorically.
Three weeks later, Senator Smith had the facts – and called Webb back to testify. She asked if it was not true that the experts actually had rated Martin Marietta Corp. above North American.
Webb at last admitted that North American was not picked by the experts. He and his three assistants had rejected the expert recommendation on their own. . . .
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NASA NEWS RELEASE: 98-250 – 98-12-17:
Eight Alabama Researchers Receive NASA Biotechnology Grants
NASA has selected 48 researchers — eight of whom are from Huntsville and Birmingham — to receive grants (a.k.a. US taxpayer dollar give-a-ways) totaling approximately $33 million to conduct biotechnology research that may lead to new medical technologies.
As part of NASA’s Biotechnology Program, the 48 grant recipients will study protein crystallization and cell science. This research, managed by the Microgravity Research Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., may result in improvements in structure-based drug design, tissue engineering and biosensor development.
NASA’s biotechnology research has contributed information to the understanding of many diseases, including AIDS, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory syncytial virus and hepatitis. NASA’s cell growth experiments have led to new research models in cellular and molecular biology and new tissues for transplant operations.
During NASA’s selection process, 165 research proposals were peer-reviewed by scientific and technical experts from academia, government and industry. Forty of the grants are to conduct ground-based research, while the remaining eight will work to refine and fly experiments in space aboard the International Space Station.
Currently being assembled in orbit by Space Shuttle crews, the Space Station will be an orbiting laboratory built, worked and lived on by 15 cooperating nations. The orbiting laboratory is scheduled to be completed by mid-2002. Microgravity experiments are scheduled to begin by mid-1999.
Thirty-four of NASA’s 48 Biotechnology grants are for new research efforts. The remaining 14 grants are for continuation of work currently being funded by NASA. . . .
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December 21, 2001
CUT BACK ON SPACE STATION, PANEL SAYS
by Marcia Dunn, Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The NASA Advisory Council is endorsing the idea of scaling back the international space station program, saying the huge cost overruns “cannot be excused and must not be ignored.”
Despite the technical successes in orbit, “the viability of the entire international human spaceflight enterprise is being undermined by a loss of confidence in NASA’s ability to exercise adequate management and cost discipline,” the council’s chairman Charles Kennel, wrote in a letter to NASA dated Wednesday.
The NASA Advisory Council is a standing body of experts that offers guidance to the space agency.
Last month, an independent task force on the space station’s budget problems suggested that NASA reduce the station work force and number of shuttle flights and reorganize station management to get costs under control.
The overruns are in the billions; NASA has yet to determine exactly how many billions….
No commitments to expand the space station should be made until NASA has regained public confidence, the council said….
The council also said NASA has failed to make its scientific priorities clear and should do so immediately.
Tyson Foods – In his remarkable book, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
I had been given comprehensive intelligence files from the Criminal Investigations Division of the Arkansas State Police, going back as far as the early 1970’s . . . I was scarcely able to believe what I was seeing. Among the famous names of the Arkansas oligarchy that jumped out from page after page of criminal intelligence files was Don Tyson, the billionaire president of Tyson Foods and the avuncular patron of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. . . .
The documents I was looking at made me wonder about the origins of his liquidity. Here were files from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, marked DEA SENSITIVE, under the rubric of the “Donald TYSON Drug Trafficking Organization.”
One was from the DEA office in Oklahoma City, dated December 14, 1982. It cited a confidential informant alleging that “TYSON smuggles cocaine from Colombia, South America inside race horses to Hot Springs, Arkansas.” . . .
A second document from the DEA office in Tucson, dated July 9, 1984, stated that “the Cooperating Individual had information concerning heroin, cocaine and marijuana trafficking in the States of Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri by the TYSON organization.”
The informant described a place called “THE BARN” which TYSON used as a “stash” location for large quantities of marijuana and cocaine. . .
~ ~ ~
But the past is beginning to catch up with Don Tyson.
He has been named as an official target in the criminal probe by Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz, who was appointed to investigate bribery allegations against Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, who was later indicted. His chief lobbyist, Robert Greene, has been indicted for lying to investigators in the case. From small beginnings, the Smaltz investigation has widened into a full-scale probe of the Tyson business empire, provoking vehement accusations that it is a “politically motivated witch hunt.”
The Espy affair is a textbook case of Arkansas mores penetrating the U.S. federal government. CBS News’ 60 Minutes reported that Espy was flown to Arkansas to seek the blessing of Don Tyson before he was nominated to his cabinet post.
Once installed at the Agriculture Department, Espy proved to be a friend of the chicken industry. The department scuttled a plan for tougher standards on poultry fecal contamination.
This required shifting the bureaucratic machinery into reverse gear. The plan had already been drawn up, approved, and was set for implementation. The effect was to reduce the likelihood that Tyson products would face random inspection. . . .
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For more on Tyson Foods, GO TO > > > Down On The Factory Farms
University of Hawaii – From The Honolulu Advertiser, December 16, 2001, by John Duchemin:
Medical School Seeds Sown
. . . Legislators have approved $150 million in financing to build a medical research and teaching center on 10 acres of state land near the Kaka`ako waterfront.
Next month, the university will seek bidders for the project, which it hopes to complete in 2005. . . .
The university hopes to attract dozens of world-class researchers to the new center and use them in turn to draw hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and private research money….
The state government, in an effort to stimulate the economy, approved $150 million in bonds to fund construction of the school, which UH hopes to start building next September.
When the first stages are complete several years later, many say, the medical school could become everything that its supporters desire: A top-flight science center, an anchor for Kaka`ako development, and a cornerstone of a biotechnology industry in Hawaii.
The medical school dean, Dr. Edwin Cadman, says the planned center has the potential to do for Hawai`i what the University of Washington medical school does for Seattle, or what John Hopkins does for Baltimore. Those schools attract top-flight medical researchers and bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal grants….
UH will have to market itself heavily against stiff worldwide competition, and the best researchers often earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from universities and corporations.
If UH fails to draw top talent, the medical school will likely continue to fall behind its peers. In 2000, the school drew $2.5 million in National Institutes of Health grants, 115th in the nation.
John Hopkins, by contrast, drew $420 million. . . .
Facility should market itself
Supporters hope the Kaka`ako center will market itself. Not only will the medical school have a state-of-the-art facility, but it will be affiliated with a federally designated “minority university” – and thus be in a great position to tap federal medical research money, which has recently increased by billions of dollars per year….
When new UH President Evan Dobelle arrived this past summer, he added a new twist, by announcing he would re-evaluate the choice of Kaka`ako as a location for the medical school. . . .
And after Sept. 11, with the state looking for a big construction project to stimulate the economy, Dobelle successfully lobbied the Legislature to provide money for the medical school project.
Now that it’s for real, Cadman says the medical center could lure 40 to 50 top researchers to new faculty positions and attract between $80 and $100 million per year in federal research money, plus tens of millions more in federal reimbursements for the administrative costs of research….
Must lure research grants
The university’s business model predicts yearly profit between $1.2 million and $7.2 million if the faculty can land enough research grants….
Developers in Kaka`ako say the school also is expected to stimulate growth and development in the surrounding area.
Major landowners Kamehameha Schools and Victoria Ward Ltd. are drawing up plans to refashion several nearby acres that are now filled with car dealerships and warehouses. . . .
Kamehameha Schools officials said it’s too soon to tell what will happen, but they hope to have firmer plans by next April.
Sanford Murata, the estate’s director of commercial assets, said the ultimate goal is to be “synergistic” with the medical school. . . .
A leap forward
If the medical school does bring in top researchers and money, it will attract plenty of attention from the entrepreneurs, corporations and venture investors that scour the globe for cutting-edge ideas, said David Watumull, president of Aiea research firm Hawaii Biotechnology Group. . . .
“That’s the real promise of a research medical school – it’s not just about teaching new doctors, but about having the research that can be transferred to the private sector, which leads to new jobs, new opportunities and a new industry.”
For more, GO TO > > > Broken Trust
Vector Group – Parent company of Vector Tobacco which plans to market the first gene-altered low-nicotine cigarettes.
From The Insider, State of North Carolina News Service:
GENETIC TOBACCO BILL YANKED
Rep. Dewey Hill, D-Columbus, said he will withdraw a bill regulating genetically altered tobacco so that plans to manufacture a nearly nicotine-free cigarette in the state can move forward.
Hill made the announcement after meeting with Gov. Mike Easley, Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps and Bennett LeBow, chairman and CEO of Vector Tobacco.
Vector is using genetically engineered tobacco plants to develop a cigarette it plans to market next year as a device to help smokers quit.
The company has contracted with farmers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi to grow 6,000 acres of the almost nicotine-free burley.
LeBow downplayed fears that the low-nicotine tobacco plants could be mixed with conventional leaf, thereby threatening exports to foreign buyers that have rejected genetically modified products….
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August 2, 2001
Illinois farmers are growing tobacco without the nicotine
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
CARMI, Ill. — A handful of farmers in Carmi and elsewhere in Southern Illinois are trying their hands at raising a new cash crop – genetically engineered tobacco that its maker says could help people stop smoking.
Almost no one here can remember when southeastern Illinois was a major producer of tobacco, but a North Carolina-based cigarette maker is hoping farmers here will replace some of their corn and soybean fields with the new no-nicotine tobacco.
The tobacco was genetically engineered by scientists at Vector Tobacco – a sister company to Liggett Group Ltd., the renegade tobacco company that broke ranks with the industry by being the first to admit that nicotine was addictive.
Vector scientists say their new Omni Free cigarettes made with the new tobacco taste like regular cigarettes but contain fewer carcinogens and may help smokers kick the habit.
But the product has its critics. Some say the tobacco isn’t any safer than traditional cigarettes. And other big tobacco companies are worried that the genetically engineered plants could interfere with their foreign cigarette sales.
Farmers here working with Vector officials say they don’t care whether the crop is genetically engineered or not. They just want to know if tobacco is a good alternative to more conventional crops such as corn and soybeans.
“It’s a learning year for all of us. We’re still trying to learn the soil, learn the climate, learn the people,” said Bill Maksymowicz , an agronomist for Vector.
Carl Short is one of the farmers who welcomes the tobacco. The 64-year-old farmer said he had tried just about everything to turn a profit. He raises and races Thoroughbred horses and plants about 500 acres of corn, soybeans and other crops.
But if it weren’t for government price supports, Short says he wouldn’t make a dime on the grain.
A tobacco grower can bring home $1,000 for every acre of tobacco he harvests, Short said. That lucrative proposition got Short interested in trying tobacco, until he found the catch – too much work.
The prospect of hiring workers and overseeing production of a labor-intensive crop he wasn’t familiar with stopped Short from trying his own hand at growing tobacco. So he is leasing 100 acres of land to Vector.
Vector expects to hire a crew of 150 migrant workers to harvest the crop.
The company leases about 300 additional acres elsewhere in southeastern Illinois from others. And private farmers are growing 200 more acres of the tobacco in several Illinois counties.
Amish farmers in Pennsylvania and growers in Louisiana and Mississippi also are raising Vector’s tobacco. Five farmers in Iowa have 1-acre test patches of the tobacco and may scale up production next year.
Vector has turned to these unconventional areas largely because the company was virtually forced out of traditional tobacco-growing areas.
A bill in the North Carolina Legislature would have required anyone who wanted to possess the genetically engineered tobacco to post a $1 million bond. Vector officials argued that the proposed law would criminalize possession of its tobacco, and the bill was later dropped.
Traditional tobacco producers are worried that genetically modified leaves from Vector’s plants will get mixed in with their tobacco, Maksymowicz said. That could hurt exports to Europe and Japan, where genetically modified crops are regarded with suspicion, the critics contend.
But that scenario is not likely, Maksymowicz said.
Vector regards the leaf as a commodity and has exclusive contracts with growers. The company has more to fear from traditional tobacco, Maksymowicz said.
“If traditional tobacco mixed with ours, it would be disastrous,” he said.
The company located its fields in nontobacco areas partly to protect the purity of its tobacco supply, he said.
The genetically engineered tobacco was an invention of Mark A. Conkling, then a plant scientist at North Carolina State University. Conkling and graduate student Wen Song found a gene for a nicotine-producing enzyme in the roots of tobacco plants.
Tobacco makes nicotine in its roots and then transports the chemical to the leaves, where it helps protect the plant from insects and disease.
The scientists transplanted a defective copy of the gene into tobacco. In a process the scientists themselves don’t fully understand, the defective gene caused nicotine production in the plant to shut down.
Trace amounts of nicotine are found in the tobacco leaves, but no nicotine can be detected in the blood of people who smoke cigarettes made from the leaves, said Conkling, now Vector’s vice president for genetic research.
The biotech tobacco also lacks some carcinogens, known as tobacco-specific nitrosamines. These cancer-causing chemicals form when nicotine combines with nitrous oxide during the tobacco curing process and when the tobacco is burned.
But critics doubt that the no-nicotine tobacco will keep smokers from getting cancer, emphysema or other smoking-related diseases.
“A cigarette is like a little toxic waste dump on fire,” said Dr. Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco and an outspoken critic of the tobacco industry.
Even if nitrosamines are eliminated or reduced, cigarettes still contain more than 50 carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. Vector’s new cigarettes probably are not much safer than traditional cigarettes, he said.
The company eventually hopes to market its new Omni Free cigarettes as a smoking-cessation aid. Clinical trials are under way to see if the cigarettes, perhaps in combination with nicotine patches, can help people quit smoking.
But when Omni Free cigarettes hit stores next year, they will only be touted as having reduced nicotine and carcinogen levels….
Previous attempts to market cigarettes without nicotine failed miserably, Glantz said. Those cigarettes were chemically treated to remove nicotine from tobacco, but the result was a cigarette that smokers said tasted terrible.
Since Vector’s tobacco only lacks nicotine, all the flavor-producing chemicals are still there, Conkling said.
But even the new Omni Free cigarettes may lack the only taste that counts to smokers.
“People don’t smoke cigarettes to get the carcinogens and the cardiovascular toxins,” Glantz said. “They smoke to get nicotine.” . . .
World Trade Organization – From If the God’s Had Meant Us to Vote … They Would Have Given Us Candidates, by
Canadians have something we need, and I don’t mean hockey players.
“Blue Gold,” it’s been dubbed by a Canadian newspaper, but it’s far more valuable than that implies, since the world can actually do without gold.
WATER. That’s what Canada has that parts of our country and much of the world might literally kill for.
Hell, you say, water’s everywhere. 70 percent of the earth is covered in the stuff. Yes, but as Canada’s Maude Barlow points out to anyone who’ll listen, less than one-half of 1 percent of all the water on the globe is fresh water available to drink.
An author and agitator for common sense, Ms. Barlow heads the Council of Canadians and is founding chair for progressive politics and policies. “Worldwide, the consumption of water is doubling every 20 years,” she writes in a stunning report entitled “Blue Gold: The Global Water Crisis.” Barlow calculates that in a very short while, most of the world’s people will face shortages or absolute scarcity. . . .
Canada, on the other hand, has a blessing of agua fresca. . . . Some 20% of the world’s entire supply of fresh water is in the winding rivers and countless lakes splashed all across the vast land . . .
This is not a reality that has dawned on Canadians alone. Others are casting their eyes northward, thinking, “There’s gold in them thar hills.” But it’s not countries making invasion plans– it’s corporations.
To get their hands on the gold, the corporate grubbers first have to change the way the world’s supply of drinking water is managed. Instead of letting countries treat it as a resource to be held in common and allocated by the public for the general good, they want it to be considered as just another commodity to be held and traded by private investors strictly for their own profit.
Like oil or pork bellies … only this is your drinking water they want to privatize and commodify.
Will it surprise you to learn that those bratty globalization twins, NAFTA and the WTO, contain provisions that advance the commodity concept? Thought not. Both incorporate the bald assertion that “water, including … ordinary natural water of all kinds (other than sea water)” are “goods” that are subject to the new rules of global trade.
We’re talking here about much more than bottled water– Perrier, Evian, Yellow Snow #5, and your other favorite boutique brands. We’re talking about bulk sales, including whole lakes and aquifers being bought and mined, the flow of rivers being siphoned off, the Great Lakes themselves being put on the market.
Maude Barlow and others report that corporations worldwide are already organized to do the deed, using super-tankers, pipelines, canals, the rerouting of rivers, and every other mammoth scheme known to humankind to shift the product from water-rich nations to those markets willing to pay top dollar for it:
>> Nordic Water Company now totes H2-0 from Norway to thirsty European countries by tugging it across the sea in giant, floating plastic bags
>> Global Water Corp, a Canadian firm, has cut a deal with the town of Sitka, Alaska, to take 18 billion gallons of water per year from nearby Blue Lake and haul it to China, and it is joining with a Houston maritime outfit to ship more Alaskan water aboard bulk tankers to Singapore. “Water has moved from being an endless commodity that may be taken for granted to a rationed necessity that may be taken by force,” GWC says in a chilling statement.
>> The GRAND Canal (Great Recycling And Northern Development Canal) is an engineer’s wet dream, involving the building of a dike across the huge James Bay … to capture the water of the twenty rivers that flow into it … then building a network of canals, dams, and locks to move the water four hundred miles south to Georgian Bay, where it would be “flushed through” the Great Lakes into pipelines that would take it to America’s Sunbelt.
>> McCurdy Enterprises of Gander, Newfoundland, plans to “harvest” some 13 billion gallons of water a year from one of that province’s lakes, pipe it to the coast, pump it into old oil tankers … and ship it to the Middle East for a hefty profit.
>> Monsanto sees a multibillion-dollar business opportunity in the emerging water crisis, with one executive saying bluntly: “Since water is as central to food productions as seed is, and without water life is not possible, Monsanto is now trying to establish its control over water. … Monsanto (has launched) a new water business, starting with India and Mexico, since both these countries are facing water shortages.”
“Canada,” barked editor Terrence Corcoran of the Financial Post in a 1999 editorial, “is a future OPEC of water,” urging that the country begin trading in this rich commodity pronto.
Likewise, Dennis Mills, a member of Canada’s parliament … is pushing for assorted water projects and trading schemes, declaring with gusto, “Fortunes are made by those who control the flow of water.”
Thanks to citizen groups like the two Maude Barlow heads, however, the Great Canadian Water Sale-a-Thon has yet to surge forth, for they have alerted the citizenry and generated a national debate on the wisdom of shouting “y’all come” to every global greedhead with a big bucket. Their vigilance has produced a temporary moratorium across the country on bulk sales.
This might be a good place for me to add that Maud, and Canadians generally, certainly are not saying, “It’s our water and the rest of the world can go suck eggs” … To the contrary, they are the ones pushing for a public policy of sharing their bounty to meet the global water crisis, allocating water particularly to help those people in need. But the pressure is intense to simply turn the water loose and let “the market” decide who needs it. And that little, nasty Chapter 11 is being wielded to break the dam and turn the water loose.
Sun Belt Water Inc., based in Santa Monica, California, has filed the first NAFTA water case. It had an agreement with a British Columbia company to take water from this far western province and ship it in huge tankers down the west coast to southern California. But such a public outcry ensued when the scheme became public that the provincial government stepped in to protect its water, nixing the shipment by enacting a moratorium on all water exports. Imagine if Sun Belt had quietly worked a deal to sink a siphon into Lake Tahoe and drain it into Los Angeles, and you’ll get a sense of how the people of British Columbia felt about Sun Belt’s raid.
“Screw the people” was the reaction of the California corporation. It sued Canada in 1998, claiming that its future profits were “expropriated” by British Columbia’s export moratorium and that, under the infamous Chapter 11, the nice people of Canada owed it $468 million. . . .
Dealing with NAFTA is trickier than playing hockey in hell, and, for the Canadians, there is another nasty trick in the trade agreement that makes them vulnerable to an all-out corporate raid. Sun Belt and the other water hustlers only need one export deal in any one province to break the dam for all of Canada’s water.
This is because the devils who set up the NAFTA game rigged it with a provision called “proportionality,” which means that if one company gets a deal, the country has to treat every other company the same. So when one company exports even a trickle of water out of Canada, that opens the tap for all other export deals, and the tap cannot be turned off– even if it is later proven that the massive outflow is doing horrible damage to the environment, to other businesses (fishing, tourism, etc.) or to the country as a whole. . . .
This is why Sun Belt Water Inc. is squeezing so hard in British Columbia. Canada’s national government, rather than imposing its own ban on water exports, took the kind of half-assed approach our national politicians would take– they asked each of the ten provinces of Canada to implement their own voluntary moratoriums. . . .
If (or when) one province allows a export deal, all the other provincial moratoriums are immediately null and void — and the “Blue Gold Rush” is on.
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From The WTO by Lori Wallach and Michelle Sforza:
From the Introduction by Ralph Nader. . .
In approving the far-reaching, powerful World Trade Organization and other international trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. government, like those of other nations, has ceded much of its flexibility to independently advance health and safety standards that protect citizens. Instead, the U.S. has accepted harsh legal limitations on what domestic policies it may pursue.
Approval of these agreements has institutionalized a global economic and political structure that makes every government increasingly hostage to an unaccountable system of transnational governance designed to increase corporate profit, often with complete disregard for social and ecological consequences.
This new governing regime will increasingly provide major generic control over the minute details of the lives of the majority of the world’s people. It is not based on the health and economic well-being of people, but rather on the enhancement of the power and wealth of the world’s largest corporations and financial institutions.
Under this new system, many decisions affecting people’s daily lives are being shifted away from our local and national governments and being placed increasingly in the hands of unelected trade bureaucrats sitting behind closed doors in Geneva, Switzerland.
These bureaucrats, for example, are now empowered to dictate whether people in California can pursue certain actions to prevent the destruction of their last virgin forests or determine if carcinogenic pesticides can be banned from their food, or whether the European countries have the right to ban the use of risky biotech materials in their food.
Moreover, once the WTO’s secret tribunals issue their edicts, no independent appeals are possible. Worldwide conformity or continued payments of fines are required.
Multinational companies have shaped the globalization of commerce and finance. The establishment of the WTO marks a landmark formalization and strengthening of their power. . . .
Globalization’s tactic is to eliminate democratic decision-making and accountability over matters as intimate as the safety of food, pharmaceuticals and motor vehicles, or the way in which a country may use or conserve its land, water, minerals and other resources.
What we have now in this type of globalization is a slow motion coup d’etat, a low intensity war waged to redefine free society … as subordinate to the dictates of international trade– i.e. big business uber alles. . . .
Many corporate officials share a common, perverse outlook. To them, the globe is viewed primarily as a common market and capital source. Governments, laws and democracy are inconvenient factors that restrict their exploitations and limit their profit….
How can citizens most effectively mobilize a reversal of the expanding globalization agenda while they defend our democratic spaces, instincts and institutions from assault? The degree of suppression and subterfuge necessary to continue along the downward path will be hard to maintain in the presences of any vigorous democratic oversight.
However, actually reversing NAFTA, the WTO and the push toward globalization will require a revitalized citizen democracy in the United States and movement building across national borders. Replacing the WTO-GATT with a pull-up, not pull-down, system of global commerce is the goal….
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WTO Trend: Commerce Always Takes Precedence.
The overall theme that emerges from reviewing the WTO’s record: In the WTO forum, global commerce takes precedence over everything–-democracy, public health, equity, the environment, food safety and more. Indeed, under WTO rules, global commerce takes precedence over even small business.
The WTO’s manic tilt toward commercial values is perhaps best highlighted by its rules seeking to commodify everything— to turn everything into a form of property– so that it can be bought and sold.
For instance, the new system gives patents– and thus exclusive marketing rights– for life forms and indigenous knowledge.
Consider what has happened in India, where the indigenous population has used the neem tree for medicinal purposes for generations. After a U.S. importer discovered the tree’s pharmaceutical properties, multinational companies from the U.S. and Japan sought and received numerous patents on products made from the tree, leaving the indigenous populations unable to profit from knowledge they have developed over centuries. . . .
Consider, too, the plight of subsistence farmers. Under the WTO’s new intellectual property guarantees, a company can obtain ownership rights– literally a patent– over the knowledge and effort of the local farmers who bred an adapted seed over generations.
Once a company holds the patent for a particular seed variety, it can force farmers either to pay an annual royalty, buy new seed each year or no longer use the variety, which may be the only one available or effective in that region….
For more, GO TO > > > The World Trade Organization
THE SAFETY OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
Reasons to expect hazards and the risk for their appearance.
It is our aim to make this important information comprehensible for the layman. Therefore we have tried to keep the language as simple as possible. If you have difficulties in following the text, we suggest you read “What is genetic engineering?”, and linked documents.
Dr Michael Antoniou M.D., Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics, GKT School of Medicine, King’s College, London, UK
Dr Joseph Cummins PhD, Professor Emeritus in Genetics, University of Western Ontario London, Ontario, Canada
Dr Edwin E. Daniel Ph.D. FRSC, Professor Emeritus Health Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario Canada
Dr Samuel S. Epstein M.D., D.Path., D.T.M&H, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Center Chicago, USA
Dr C. Vyvyan Howard MB. ChB. PhD. FRCPath. Senior Lecturer, Toxico-Pathologist, University of Liverpool, UK
Dr Bob Orskov DSc, OBE, FRSE, Honorary professor in Animal Nutrition of Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, UK
Dr Arpad Pusztai FRSE, Biochemistry&physiology. Retired, formerly at Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, UK.
Dr N. Raghuram Ph.D., (Plant Molecular Biology) Lecturer, Department of Life Sciences, University of Mumbai, (formerly Bombay), India.
Dr Gilles-Eric Seralini PhD, Hab.Dir.Rech., Professor in Molecular biology, University of Caen, France
Dr Suzanne Wuerthele Ph.D., Toxicologist and risk assessor, Denver, Colorado, USA
Dr Jaan Suurkula, M.D. Chairman of PSRAST
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1. General conclusion
Based on both scientific theory and experimental data, it can be concluded beyond any doubt that genetic engineering of plants and animals may potentially cause them to unexpectedly contain substances harmful to people who eat them. Scientists cannot however estimate the probability that harmful substances will be created in any specific case, because not enough is known about the new field of genetic engineering.
Some of the harmful substances which are known to be possible in genetically engineered foods could cause allergies or toxic reactions. But, because the knowledge of DNA is incomplete, genetic engineering of food plants and animals may produce other problems which scientists have not yet anticipated.
Because we do not have enough knowledge to understand all of the hazards which GE foods present, or have fully reliable methods to test their safety or estimate the risks of introducing them into the food supply, it must be concluded that GE foods cannot be reliably certified as safe at this time.
2. Reasons why GE may cause the appearance of unexpected substances
Molecular biologists have shown in the laboratory that the insertion of a gene may induce unexpected metabolic changes that in the worst case may result in harmful substances for the following reasons:
> > With presently used techniques, it is impossible to guide the insertion of a gene. Therefore, it will occur haphazardly in the midst of the ordered code sequence of DNA. This will perturb the normal close control of DNA over metabolic processes resulting in unpredictable effects on the metabolism. This is especially so as, to be successful, the inserted gene has to be inserted in a region of DNA that is active (most of DNA is inactive, and genes inserted there will not have any effect).
> > The so-called promoter that is always included in gene insertion packages, may cause metabolic disturbances…. The promoter is added because it is an absolute requirement to ensure the inserted gene is “read”; i.e. copied into RNA and translated into the protein for which it codes. . . The artificially inserted strongly stimulating promoter-enhancer complex without any coupling to inherent regulatory mechanisms eliminates this delicate demand/supply regulation. This may have unpredictable effects on cellular functioning.
> > Genetic engineering means in most cases the insertion of a gene coding for a protein foreign to the species. There is no way of knowing what the presence of a foreign protein will have on the metabolism and functioning of an organism. It may have unexpected effects in addition to its desired effect including the possibility that it may cause the generation of a harmful substance.
> > The effect of a gene is context dependent. In a foreign environment, it may have unpredictable effects. These effects may be difficult to detect but might in the worst case generate harmful substances. . . .
> > Most of the foreign proteins that are used in genetic engineering have never existed in food. There is no way of knowing beforehand, without extensive food safety assessment, if it is safe to eat food containing such proteins.
> > Regulatory genes may inadvertently be included in the inserted gene, causing unpredictable complications (however, with the kinds of genes presently used, this risk is considered unlikely). The knowledge of regulatory genes is incomplete so there is a risk that an inserted DNA sequence may possess unanticipated regulatory activities. These genes regulate the activity of other genes. This might disrupt any of the cellular processes in which DNA or RNA participate which might result in many kinds of unexpected effects including the production of harmful substances . . .
> > If so called fusion proteins are generated through GE, they may cause unexpected allergies that may be more allergenic than proteins produced by the original DNA sequences. Fusion proteins are created by linking pieces of DNA sequences from two or more sources. The regions where two proteins are joined can assume conformations very different from those of either of the original proteins. Furthermore, the likelihood of generating allergenicity in fusion proteins is increased by the fact that the junctions at which two proteins are fused often assume configurations that are not common in natural proteins, and are, therefore, more likely to be allergenic.
There are also other reasons why genetic engineering might caused increased problems with allergens . . .
A special class of hazards might be unexpected effects of known substances. Obvious candidates are GMOs modified to produce pesticides, substances designed to be toxic. . . .
There are several known ways in which the artificial insertion of a gene may cause unexpected complications of a kind that never occurs in conventional breeding. Some unexpected effects have been experimentally verified … In addition, because the knowledge about DNA is very incomplete, there may be effects that cannot be even imagined presently….
It took almost 50 years after the introduction of nuclear technology and synthetic pesticides to appreciate the health and environmental hazards they present. Because recombinant DNA technology (genetic engineering) is even more complex, and because we have almost no experience with it, it is reasonable to expect future surprises.
The U.S. FDA and the European Union have been denying any hazards with GE foods. It is satisfying to find that evidence have been unearthed indicating that this has been the result of suppression of truth….
3. Is it possible today to estimate the risk for appearance of harmful substances due to genetic engineering?
Risk is the probability that some adverse effect (hazard) will occur in the future. Of course, no one can predict the future with perfect certainty. The degree of accuracy of a risk assessment is dependent on how much relevant information is available, the quality of that information and how well that information is interpreted. . . .
Specifically, it is not possible to assess the risk of harm from eating GE food with a high degree of accuracy because:
> > Genetic control of cell function is not well understood . . . Not even the DNA sequence of presently marketed genetically engineered plants is fully known.
In order to understand what can go wrong with a system and to evaluate its potential to go wrong, it is first necessary to understand how the system works. … Since the genetic control of cell function is an extraordinarily complex system which is only poorly understood, our comprehension of all that can go wrong when foreign genes are added to foods, our ability to predict the outcome of eating such foods, and our ability to design safe GE foods is highly limited. . . .
> > Laboratory experiments with GE have been very limited. For some (but not all) GE foods, some short-term studies have been conducted on experimental animals. But there are almost no long-term toxicological, neurological, metabolic, endocrinological, developmental or reproductive studies of these foods. Such studies are necessary to evaluate the effects of substances which are slow-acting, have cumulative or reproductive effects. . . .
> > Human experience with GE foods has been very limited. GE foods have been on the market for only about five years, so there obviously has been no experience with long-term exposure to these novel foods. Few controlled short-term human studies have been conducted on these new foods.
Moreover, since GE foods have not been labeled, there has been no way for scientists to compare the health of people who have and have not been eating them.
In contrast, humans have had thousands of years of experience with naturally occurring foods, and the conditions under which they pose hazards (e.g., eating solanine in green potatoes) are well-known. . . .
There is no scientific knowledge at all that makes it possible to estimate how likely it is for harmful substances to be generated in GE foods. But we can definitely say today that there is no scientific basis for maintaining that harmful substances may not appear or are very unlikely.
4. Problems with food safety testing
Safety testing of GE foods is problematic because genetic engineering may give rise to unexpected and unpredictable substances. It is illuminative to compare with a closely related field, the testing of medical drugs, especially as there is an extensive experience of the reliability of such testing.
> > On the basis of knowledge about the chemical properties of a medical drug, it is possible to predict, to a quite large extent, what kind of harmful effects might occur. In the case of GE foods, there is no clue to decide if an unexpected substance may be toxic, allergenic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or otherwise harmful.
> > In medical drug testing, it is possible to expose test objects to several times higher doses than used clinically. This helps to get an idea of the harmfulness of a drug. For foods, such a procedure is impossible because it would give rise to nutritional imbalances.
For these reasons, it is considerably easier to detect harmful effects of a medical drug than of a GE food….
The greatest problem in toxicological testing is to reveal long term harmful effects. Against the experiential background from medical drug testing, it can be confidently predicted that even most rigorous safety testing of GE foods is likely to fail to detect long term harmful effects to a considerable extent.
The only way of minimizing the risk of not detecting unexpected harmful effects of harmful substances is to use long-term testing. As animals are not fully reliable predictors of food safety for humans, it is necessary to use long term human studies….
As experimental long term testing is not sufficient to ensure safety, Fagan has suggested a monitored premarketing test on a population of about 2.000.000-3.000.000 people during 2-3 years with close surveillance of its health status. Even with that test included, he concludes that there will remain a “residual risk” for unexpected long term damage….
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NOW … DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR BIRDSEED?
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M O R E T O C O M E !
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From The Catbird Seat
Last Update September 2, 2003