14 April 2003
Kraft CEO says pharma crops and GM animals threaten food supply
*Kraft exec wants tougher rules
*What America will defend
Kraft exec wants tougher rules on planting crops for drugs
Chicago Sun - Times, Apr 4, 2003
Kraft Co-CEO Betsy Holden is calling for stricter rules for planting crops that are bio-engineered to produce pharmaceuticals. The usually tight-lipped and regulation-averse Holden told an agricultural forum that such crops, as well as genetically modified animals, pose a threat to the food supply.
"Both share the same issue--the risk of co-mingling with the food supply, the same problem that led to the recall a couple of years ago of our Taco Bell products that were adulterated with StarLink corn," Holden said in a speech to the Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va., sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Kraft Foods voluntarily recalled its Taco Bell Home Originals taco shells from grocery stores nationwide in September 2000 after its tests confirmed the presence of StarLink corn, which is genetically engineered. The corn had been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use in animal feed, but not for human consumption because it can trigger allergic reactions.
Asked to expand on Holden's comments, Kraft spokesman Michael Mudd said if the federal government refuses to outlaw pharmaceutical crops or to ban their planting in farm states, Northfield-based Kraft "wants there to be every regulation possible so commingling will not happen."
A reporter for Congress Daily, a Capitol Hill news service, asked Holden after her speech whether a tolerance level should be allowed for pharmaceuticals in crops. Holden declined to answer, but she said a trace amount of an allergen "could be extremely deadly," according to the Congress Daily report.
Holden also pointed to "close calls" in which the Agriculture Department found traces of biopharmaceutical corn in a crop of Nebraska soybeans and in a new corn crop in Iowa. Farmers had planted the soybeans on top of the plowed-under corn.
ProdiGene Inc., a privately held biotech company based in College Station, Texas, agreed to pay about $3 million in fines and costs after the Nebraska mixup.
"Right now, public acceptance of biotechnology in America is relatively high," Holden said. "But how many more times can we test the public's trust before we begin to lose it?" she asked.
The issue is gaining urgency because about 20 companies are splicing corn, rice, soybeans, tobacco and other crops to try to mass-produce medicines. Nationwide, 38 percent of the 79 million acres of corn planted this year will be biotech, including corn genetically engineered to resist insects and weedkiller, according to the Associated Press.
Regulators have yet to approve products made from pharmaceutical crops for commercial use, but the companies developing them want to go to market in a few years.
Holden isn't alone in her complaints. Groups as varied as the Grocery Manufacturers of America and environmental groups opposed to genetically modified organisms in food have called for federal regulators to crack down on biopharmaceutical farming.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization last fall endorsed a ban on pharmaceutical crops in the Midwest and Plains states, but reversed itself after farm-state lawmakers protested. Farmers see the new technology as a potentially lucrative business because the crops would sell for premium prices.
The Agriculture Department in March proposed new, stricter rules governing pharmaceutical plants.
Pharmaceutical corn crops would have to be planted at least one mile away from plants grown for human and livestock food, for example. Current regulations call for a half-mile separation.
The proposed rules also call for land used to grow biopharm corn crops to lie fallow for a year and for separate equipment to be used in planting genetically engineered and conventional crops.
Mudd, the Kraft spokesman, said the company endorses the proposed rules and wants farmers to guard their fields to ensure no one steals the bio-engineered crops.
Opponents say such rules are unworkable and fail to take into account today's sophisticated farming methods.
Henry I. Miller, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and former director of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Biotechnology, said Thursday that the proposed "one size fits all" rules are unnecessary. The likelihood that people would be injured by biopharm and conventional rop mixups is highly unlikely, Miller said.
The regulations would stigmatize bio-engineered crops, inflate the costs f developing them and result in far fewer new drugs for consumers [in their corn flakes?], he said.
Americans defend two untouchable ministries from the hordes of looters
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad
The Independent, 14 April 2003
Iraq's scavengers have thieved and destroyed what they have been allowed to loot and burn by the Americans - and a two-hour drive around Baghdad shows clearly what the US intends to protect. After days of arson and pillage, here's a short but revealing scorecard. US troops have sat back and allowed mobs to wreck and then burn the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information. They did nothing to prevent looters from destroying priceless treasures of Iraq's history in the Baghdad Archaeological Museum and in the museum in the northern city of Mosul, or from looting three hospitals.
The Americans have, though, put hundreds of troops inside two Iraqi ministries that remain untouched - and untouchable - because tanks and armoured personnel carriers and Humvees have been placed inside and outside both institutions. And which ministries proved to be so important for the Americans? Why, the Ministry of Interior, of course - with its vast wealth of intelligence information on Iraq - and the Ministry of Oil. The archives and files of Iraq's most valuable asset - its oilfields and, even more important, its massive reserves - are safe and sound, sealed off from the mobs and looters, and safe to be shared, as Washington almost certainly intends, with American oil companies.
It casts an interesting reflection on America's supposed war aims. Anxious to "liberate" Iraq, it allows its people to destroy the infrastructure of government as well as the private property of Saddam's henchmen. Americans insist that the oil ministry is a vital part of Iraq's inheritance, that the oilfields are to be held in trust "for the Iraqi people". But is the Ministry of Trade - relit yesterday by an enterprising arsonist - not vital to the future of Iraq? Are the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Irrigation - still burning fiercely - not of critical importance to the next government? The Americans could spare 2,000 soldiers to protect the Kirkuk oilfields but couldn't even invest 200 to protect the Mosul museum from attack. US engineers were confidently predicting that the Kirkuk oilfield will be capable of pumping again "within weeks".
There was much talk of a "new posture" from the Americans yesterday. Armoured and infantry patrols suddenly appeared on the middle-class streets of the capital, ordering young men hauling fridges, furniture and television sets to deposit their loot on the pavement if they could not prove ownership. It was pitiful. After billions of dollars of government buildings, computers and archives have been destroyed, the Americans are stopping teens driving mule-drawn carts loaded with second-hand chairs.
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd