28 October 2002
CONTAMINATED CHOICES/SUPPORT OREGON!/EUROPE'S BIOTECH MADNESS
"GM canola has, in fact, spread much more rapidly than we thought it would. It's absolutely impossible to control... It's been a great wake-up call about the side effects of these GM technologies." - Martin Entz, professor of Agronomy at the University of Manitoba
1. Contaminated choices
2. GMO implications for Montana wheat growers
3. Europe's Biotech Madness
4. Support Oregon!
1. Contaminated choices
By Robert Schubert
(Friday, Oct. 25, 2002 -- CropChoice commentary) --Monsanto and the rest of the biotechnology and agro-chemical crew are spending $4.5 million to persuade Oregon residents that they should vote down an initiative that would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the state.
Among their arguments is the notion that people already have a choice. If they don't want genetically modified corn flakes and soy shakes, they should buy organically grown food. Its production standards disallow the use of transgenic seeds.
People to whom this argument sounds convincing, and even those who opt for organic as a matter of course, should think twice.
Why? Genetically modified crops threaten the survival of safe, sustainable agriculture.
Their continued cultivation, particularly the easy crossing corn and canola, gradually will render fruitless any efforts to keep the transgenic traits out of organic harvests.
The breeze, the birds and the bees aid cross-pollination. Wind and water move seed from field to field. Human and machine errors lead to mixing of seed during processing, distribution and planting. The same is true of grain handling. These are just a few reasons why biotech contamination is happening and will accelerate.
Martin Entz, a professor of Agronomy at the University of Manitoba, attested to this in June 2001 when he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that the "GM canola has, in fact, spread much more rapidly than we thought it would. It's absolutely impossible to control... It's been a great wake-up call about the side effects of these GM technologies."
Nebraska organic farmer David Vetter told me recently: "The contamination concerns me when I look at it here on the farm. There's not much you can do to defend yourself. If you have increased acreage of this stuff, we”šll see more cross-pollination. But the bigger issue is the seed industry, which has trouble segregating."
One should not forget the StarLink corn fiasco. Iowa farmers planted about 1 percent of this biotech variety, which did not have governmental approval to be in human food. By harvest time, almost half the state's crop registered positive for StarLink, which found its way into taco shells and other corn products.
"Our investigations thus far from the 2000 harvest lead us to believe that virtually all of the seed corn in the United States is contaminated with at least a trace of genetically engineered material, and often more," David Gould, a certifier with North Dakota-based Farm Verified Organics, told me in February of 2001. "Even the organic lots are showing traces of biotech varieties."
Gould added that if certifiers insisted on 0 percent contamination, then "we shouldn't certify any corn as organic." Further, propagating genetically modified crops year after year will lead to the presence of more and more biotech material in organic and conventional varieties. That would mean raising the tolerance levels. In the end, the idea of organic would become a joke.
The fact that the biotech corporations are well along in polluting organic foods with a technology they can't control undercuts their argument in the Oregon labeling debate that people who don't want to eat genetically engineered foods can simply go down the organic aisle. Those consumers increasingly don't have that choice. The biotechnology industry contaminated it.
2. Connecting the dots on GMO implications for Montana wheat growers
(Thursday, Oct. 24, 2002 -- CropChoice news)
Dan McGuire, director of the Farmer Choice-Customer First program of the American Corn Growers Association, presented this speech today at the 87th annual convention of the Montana Farmers Union.
It's a real pleasure to be here at the 87th annual convention of the Montana Farmers Union. I'm here representing the Farmer Choice - Customer First program of the American Corn Growers Foundation and American Corn Growers Association, but I'm also a life member of the National Farmers Union and a state board member of the Nebraska Farmers Union so I can attest to the great job that the NFU state and national organizations do to represent you at the state, national and international level.
We're going to talk about GMOs here today, one of the most serious international wheat and grain marketing issues to face wheat growers, ever. I rank the GMO issue right up there with farm programs and the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a major marketing and price concern, one that will impact your income and shape the future structure of farming and the rural economy.
Regarding GMOs, I want to first mention that we cannot be "spectators" on this issue, while biotech companies and giant agribusiness set policy. Just as with the WTO, we have to be proactive. And on the point of being proactive with the WTO, I want to commend your state and national NFU leadership for their upcoming very proactive trip to Geneva, Switzerland to participate in WTO meetings. National NFU leaders, President Dave Fredrickson, national officers John Hansen of Nebraska and Robert Carlson of North Dakota, and NFU staff Tom Buis and Jim Miller and some others that I may have overlooked mentioning will be there representing your interests. I salute them for not just being spectators from 3,000 or 4,000 miles away, but going right to where the action is. After all, the WTO is being used by giant, concentrated, powerful, transnational agribusiness corporations to control the future of farm policy, trade policy, GMO policy, food production and the price you get for your commodities and they're agenda is primarily to enhance their economic bottom line, not yours...
3. Europe's Biotech Madness
Washington Post, Editorial
Monday, October 28, 2002
FOR FOUR YEARS the European Union has refused to license new genetically modified crops. It has pursued this policy even though Americans eat biotech products every day without apparent ill effects; even though European tourists arriving in America do not generally bring suitcases full of non-modified food with them; even though Europe's own health commissioner says the ban violates international trade rules; and even though an anti-biotech policy discourages developing countries from embracing a technology that could greatly boost their farm output. Last week the Europeans made a show of renouncing their absurd policy. Unfortunately, it was only a show.
As of last Thursday, the official policy of the European Commission is that it is willing to consider requests to license genetically modified (GM) products. But this doesn't mean the commission can remove the obstacles to selling them. Under Europe's arcane rules, a minority of countries can block the use of GM food in the whole of the European Union. For the moment, France, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Luxembourg and Austria form a Luddite caucus that voids the European Commission's new policy stance.
Perhaps one day this caucus will splinter. Even then, GM products might in practice be kept off the market by onerous labeling requirements. The Europeans insist that GM foods should carry a label, even though there's no evidence genetic modification is a health issue; they reject the saner policy, which is to invite non-GM producers who want to differentiate their products to come up with their own labeling regime. The reason they reject sanity is that they are out to protect their own producers against biotech-powered Americans. When it comes to European wine and cheese made with GM enzymes, the European position is that no label is required.
Faced with this outrageous policy, the United States has no good choices. It can bring a case against Europe at the World Trade Organization, which it would win; but this might not change European policy given the vehemence of the European public's suspicion of biotech. On the other hand, remaining passive in the face of European intransigence sends a troubling signal: that large members of the World Trade Organization can be allowed to violate trade rules if they have political reasons to do so. The Bush administration should go for the first option. It should bring a WTO case against Europe, even though it must accept the fact that European compliance with the eventual ruling is unlikely; and it should maintain diplomatic pressure on Brussels to rethink its anti-scientific prejudice.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
4. Contacts for people connected with GE labelling in Oregon
Oregon Concerned Citizens for Safe Foods
Tel: 503 223 3223 or 503 892 2888
Laurie Heilmamn, First Alternative Co-op, Community Outreach Co-ordinator
Why support Oregon's effort?
Oregon's campaign is increasing the public's exposure to the pervasiveness of GE ingredients in our food supply Oregon's Ballot Measure 27 to Label GE Foods has already received national and international attention Oregon's primary opposition are the biotechnology companies, led by Monsanto which are outspending us by a ratio of 60:1 Oregon's success can motivate other states to take action concerning GE foods Requiring labels on GE foods will create incentives for large food companies and suppliers to source GE-free ingredients. This has already happened in the United Kingdom. Oregon's success will demonstrate to the international marketplace that Americans are concerned about their food choices. This issue is critical, as the United States brings a challenge to Europe's GE moratorium through the World Court this fall. Oregon's success will direct consumers to healthier organic alternatives
Your generous financial support is urgently needed for our success!
Only 3 weeks until the November 5th vote
We need your support for a final public relations push!
(please print and mail, or visit our website to make your contribution)
City:________________ State:_______ Zip:______________
Occupation:___________________________(required by Oregon law)
Donation: $100__$200 __$500 __$1000 __$5000 __Other:___
Make your check payable to: YES on 27
Mail to: 1245 Charnelton Street, Suite 9, Eugene OR 97401
Phone: 541.338.8766 or call Mel Bankoff 541.485.0495
Americans Want Labels on GE Food - You Can Help
In the United States, there is no law requiring labeling of GE food. But in a few weeks, the citizens of the state of Oregon will vote on GE food labeling for their state. While this is just one state, if this law passes it will send a strong signal across the U.S. that people can demand labeling and win! Americans who are working to win this victory need your help. They need to see that people around the world, especially from countries where there already are labels on GE food, support their right to GE food labels. That's why Greenpeace is requesting that you/your organization endorsers the Oregon GE food labeling bill.
Anyone in the world can endorse this proposal. There is no cost or obligation to endorsers. Endorsing the bill simply shows that you support Americans who want labels on GE food. Greenpeace will post the list of endorsers on our web site, and Oregon citizens will be directed to the site via the official Voters Guide, which is distributed to 2 million voters before the election.
The election is in early November, we need your endorsements as soon as possible, since voters can start sending in their ballots in mid-October. Please send endorsements by Sept 15 if possible, we will accept them after but the sooner we get them the more influence we can have.
You can see the full text of the Oregon proposal at
Charles Margulis Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaign 1817 Gough Street Baltimore, MD 21231 tel 410-327-3770 fax 410-327-2990
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has added its voice to those of the agriculture, biotechnology, and food-processing industries in opposing Oregon's ballot measure 27, which would require labeling of genetically modified foods sold in the state. In a letter sent Friday to Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), FDA Deputy Commissioner Lester Crawford said that GM foods "are as safe as their conventional counterparts" and called the measure both unnecessary and contrary to the agency's guidelines. The letter also stated that mandatory labeling of such foods "fails to provide material facts concerning the safety or nutritional aspects of food and may be misleading to consumers." Donna Harris of Oregon Concerned Citizens for Safe Food said she was not surprised by the FDA's stance: "This isn't a new thing for them. For years, consumers have been writing letters to the FDA to let them know that they have wanted labeling" -- all to no avail.
straight to the source: Portland Oregonian, Michelle Cole, 08 Oct 2002
do good: Take action to label genetically modified foods
September 30, 2002
Food Industry Is Campaigning Against Oregon GMO Proposal
By PATRICIA CALLAHAN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Buried among six other ballot measures in Oregon this November is an initiative that could upend the way the U.S. food industry operates.
Measure 27, the first of its kind to go before U.S. voters, would do what Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have declined to do -- require food companies to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients. About 70% of processed food contains genetically modified corn, soybeans or some other crop, according to food industry groups. Such crops -- which haven't been shown to cause health problems -- resist pests and weed killers and are easier for farmers to grow.
With the Oregon voter initiative, proponents of labeling may have found the food and biotech industries' Achilles' heel. By putting the labeling question before consumers, rather than politicians, such a law is more likely to be approved.
National polls repeatedly have shown that when asked if they would like to see information about genetically modified ingredients on food labels, an overwhelming majority of consumers answer "yes." Organizers of the Oregon measure collected more than 100,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. They've heard from labeling proponents in seven other states interested in introducing similar initiatives.
"If the food is so safe and the technology is great, why not put a label on it and let me have a choice?" says Donna Harris, a Portland mother who formed Oregon Concerned Citizens for Safe Foods, the group leading the labeling campaign.
The food and crop-biotechnology industries are raising a war chest to fight the ballot measure. In documents slated to be filed Monday with the state, the industries' group -- the Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law -- will report it raised $4.6 million in cash in the seven weeks ended Sept. 20. The group has so far spent about $1.9 million. Of the money raised, about $3.7 million came from Crop Life International, a biotech trade group. Most of the rest came from food companies, including PepsiCo Inc., General Mills Inc., Kellogg Co., ConAgra Foods Inc., Sara Lee Corp. and H.J. Heinz Co., according to Pat McCormick, head of the antilabeling campaign.
By contrast, the pro-label group has raised about $84,000 in cash, loans and in-kind contributions and has spent about $72,000 in about the past 1* years, according to the Oregon secretary of state's office. The group's largest contributor is Mel Bankoff, founder of Emerald Valley Kitchen Inc., a Eugene, Ore., organic food company, who gave $47,500, most of it in loans, state records show.
The U.S. food and biotech industries have opposed similar laws, concerned that the labels would stigmatize their products unfairly. Such labels, required in parts of Europe and Asia, are "scary sounding," says Ken Yates, vice president of government affairs for the Northwest Food Processors Association, a Portland trade group.
Such a law would create a logistical headache for farmers, food makers and supermarkets. Could the industry apply special packaging to products destined for a single state? Such a system is possible, food industry groups concede, but it would require major, costly changes. Perishable products, such as bread and milk, often are produced locally, making it easier to comply with a state labeling law. But food companies make many processed foods at plants that often serve the entire country.
"They'd have to have an Oregon market and a market for the rest of the U.S.," says Stephanie Childs, a spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, a trade group representing large food producers. "It's one thing to set up a system for North America, set up a system for Southeast Asia, but to set up a system state by state?"
While food makers track products through lot numbers for recall purposes, food can change hands several times before it reaches its final destination. Food brokers buy products and sell them across the country. Other foods go to supermarket distribution centers, which can send products to retailers in different states.
The Oregon measure, which would likely face court challenges if passed, would require labeling of food sold in the state, as well as of products made or housed in Oregon and distributed to other states. The ingredients used in such products would have to be tracked carefully; a cake-mix maker, for example, would have to know if the hens that laid the eggs used in the mix ate genetically modified feed.
The campaign is heating up. A state packet explaining ballot initiatives, which will be mailed to voters, has 20 pages of published comments for and against the labeling provision. Oregon is the only state where all ballots are mailed to voters.
The anti-labeling group plans TV and print ads and mailings. Already about 330 road signs, many erected alongside farms, tell voters to "VOTE NO ON 27, THE CO$TLY LABELING LAW." The 41-year-old Ms. Harris insists she and her campaign aren't a front for any industry. "I'm really just a mom," she says.