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Genetic Engineering UpdateAcreage of two GE crops declined in the United States this year relative to last. Soy acreage dropped from 57 to 54%; and corn from 33% to 20 percent. Engineered cotton, on the other hand, increased to an estimated 61% of this year’s crop compared with 55% last year. While consumers associate cotton with clothing, much of the crop ends up in the food chain. Cottonseed is fed to dairy cows, especially in the Northeast; and cottonseed oil is in many salad dressings, baked goods and snack foods. (BioDemocracy News #29, Sept. 2000)
Not to be deterred, Monsanto is involved in a global campaign to promote GE foods by influencing which experts get on international scientific committees, promoting their views through supposedly independent scientists and gaining influence with key decision makers in government departments in developing countries, according to GeneWatch (www.genewatch.org). A report leaked from Monsanto describes such actions in 20 countries and shows "how Monsanto are trying to manipulate the regulation of GM foods across the globe to favour their interests," says Dr. Sue Mayer of GeneWatch UK. "It seems they are trying to buy influence with key individuals, stack committees with experts who support them, and subvert the scientific agenda around the world," she continues. The report says, for example: "Global: Scientific outreach and Ag Regulatory was instrumental in assuring that key internationally recognized scientific experts were nominated to the FAO/WHO expert consultation on food safety which was held in Geneva this past month. The consultation and final report were very supportive of plant biotechnology, including support for the critical role of substantial equivalence in food safety assessments, antibiotic resistance markers used in these products, and the reservation of animal feeding studies to address specific questions rather than for routine safety." The full report is available at www.genewatch.org.
The GE world seems to get increasingly bizarre as "scientists" and others work with animals. The U.S. biotech company AviGenics, for instance, based on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, is developing chickens with bigger breasts, faster growth rates or greater disease resistance. To protect its invention, it is trying to develop a DNA sequence that it would introduce into the chickens’ genes to act as a "trademark." The genetic "trademark" would be in every cell of the chicken, and in every cell of every chicken’s offspring, and of the offsprings’ offsprings, and so on. ("Genetic Chickens Get DNA Copyright Tag," by James Meek, Guardian (London), 7/31/00)
Meanwhile, Chicago artist Eduardo Kac convinced French genetic researchers at the National Institute of Agronomic Research to create a rabbit whose DNA would include genetic material from a phosphorescent jellyfish. When illuminated with black lights, the bunny, "Alba," would glow green from every cell in her body. Alba would then interact with Kac in a work of performing art. Alba, however, has been confined to the French lab after protests from scientists and animals rights activists. Kac says that the transgenic art bunny is a loveable but alien character that society must confront. Kac has also engineered a bacterial work of art in which he translated a passage from the Book of Genesis into Morse code and then into DNA code, which was then injected into the bacterium. ("Cross Hare: Hop and Glow," by Gareth Cook, The Boston Globe, 9/17/00) In an editorial in the same paper, the Globe says, "Whatever value his work has in awakening the public to genetic issues, Kac is crossing a line from art to the rogue science that causes him concern."
Presto-Chango: Merge, Spin and Change Your NameOn Aug. 3, Novartis said that is was eliminating GE ingredients from all of its foods, worldwide. Novartis makes Gerber baby foods, Ovaltine, Wasa crackers and many diet and health foods. The company is still selling the biotech seeds it developed, although it plans to merge with Astra Zeneca and then spin off its biotech division into a new company called Syngenta. It said in the London Times (Nov. 16, 1999) that it would work to eliminate the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in GE crops, although its scientists say that may take three to five years. (BioDemocracy News #29, Sept. 2000)
Contaminated Crops ProliferateIn July and August, Greek and French government authorities ordered the destruction of thousands of acres of GE soy, canola and cotton when imported seed was found to be contaminated with GE seed. Likewise, on Aug. 4, Denmark stores pulled eight foods off their shelves when they were found to contain more than 1% of GE soy and corn (BioDemocracy News #29, Sept. 2000). Also in August, "Tonnes of genetically modified cotton seed" were "accidentally released on to the market, and could have entered the food chain as cattle feed" in Australia, where the GE crop is not allowed. Monsanto’s technical director, Bill Blowes, told authorities there that Monsanto had "no way of knowing" where the GE seed ended up, since the mixed seed went into "one big pile" that could have been crushed for oil, used for stock feed, and/or exported. ("GM Seeds May Be in Food Chain: Monsanto," by Mike Seccombe, Sidney Morning Herald, 8/26/00)
Canadian canola farmers are becoming increasingly angry as GE herbicide resistant canola spreads as a weed, even where it was never planted, resulting in management problems and increasing expenses to control it. "It may be necessary to use a lot more potentially more harmful chemicals to kill this monster," Saskatchewan farmer Lavern Affleck told the Globe and Mail. (GE News, 8/15/00) Meanwhile, Australia, Canada’s main competitor for supplying canola, has started receiving premium prices from European buyers for its crop. Some U.S. companies, such as Frito Lay, reportedly are looking for non-GE oil as well. (GE News, 8/20/00)
Maybe the canola farmers should infect their fields with the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV). According to Nature Biotechnology, when GE canola that had the CaMV promoter gene inserted into it was exposed to naturally occurring CaMV in the environment, it lost its resistance to the herbicide (in this case, bialaphos). "Susceptibility to the herbicide was most likely a result of transcriptional gene silencing of the transgene. Our results show that transgene phenotypes can be modified by pathogen invasion," write the authors. Would biotech companies be held responsible for such crop losses? The CaMV 35S promoter gene is used in most transgenic crops. ("Plants rendered herbicide-susceptible by cauliflower mosaic virus-elicited suppression of a 35S promoter-regulated transgene," by Nadia S. Al-Kaff, Maria M. Kreike, Simon N. Covey, Robert Pitcher, Anthony M. Page & Philip J. Dale, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK, Nature Biotechnology, 9/2000, vol. 18, no. 9, pp. 995-999)
In September and October, the GE crop recalls continued--but in the United States--as Aventis’ StarLink corn was found in Taco Bell taco shells (produced in Mexico and distributed by Kraft Foods) and then in house-brand Safeway taco shells. Mission Foods, which makes Safeway brand shells, recalled all of its tortillas, taco shells and snack chips and switched from yellow to white corn for subsequent production. ConAgra Foods Inc. stopped making corn flour at one of its mills because it may have received StarLink corn, and Kellogg Co. shut down a plant in Memphis, Tenn., because it could not guarantee that the corn used there was not StarLink. ("Mission to Recall All Tortillas, Taco Shells and Snack Chips," AP report, 10/13/00; "ConAgra Stops Producing Corn Flour at Kansas Mill as Precaution Against Genetically Modified Grain," AP, 10/17/00; "Concerns About Corn Spur Kelloggs to Close Plant," AP, 10/21/00) Tyson Foods, the world’s largest poultry producer, said that it had stopped buying StarLink even for its chicken farms. (Greenpeace press release, 10/21/00, at www.greenpeaceusa.org/media/press_releases)
StarLink is the only variety of Bt corn that has been genetically engineered to contain the Cry9C protein, which is difficult to break down in the human gut; thus it is approved only for animal feed--but found its way into human feed. Federal officials, concerned about the possibility of allergic reactions in people who consume the Cry9C protein, urged Aventis to suspend sales of the seed. The company did, and agreed to cancel its license to sell the corn, and promised to reimburse the government for purchasing all of this year’s harvest. ("Seed Company Drops Biotech Corn in Wake of Second Recall," by Philip Brasher, AP report, 10/13/00; "Biotech Critics Cite Unapproved Corn in Taco Shells," by Marc Kaufman, Washington Post, 9/18/00)
StarLink corn was delivered to more than 350 grain elevators around the United States. As we went to press, about 9 million bushels (about 10% of this year’s StarLink crop) had not been accounted for. ("Not All Biotech Corn Accounted For," by Philip Brasher, AP, 10/20/00) Suddenly, food companies were complaining about the "self-policing" of the seed industry--while Aventis was asking U.S. regulators for a four-year grace period so that StarLink that did get into the food chain could move through it. ("USA: Wrapup--Biocorn Contamination A Costly Headache for U.S. Firms," by Julie Vorman, Reuters, 10/26/00)
More Dead ButterfliesAn Iowa State University study showed that pollen from NatureGard and Attribute corn, engineered to carry the Bt toxin, spread sufficiently to nearby plants to kill up to 20% of the monarch butterflies. The researchers gathered leaves from plants growing within and around the corn fields and fed them to captive caterpillars. Those eating pollen from non-engineered corn grew normally, while 20% of those eating the Bt pollen died. The researchers predicted "that the effects of transgenic pollen on [monarch butterfly larvae] may be observed at least 10 meters (30 feet) from transgenic field borders... However, the highest larval mortality will likely occur on [common milkweed] plants in corn fields or within three meters (nine feet) of the edge of a transgenic corn field. We conclude that the ecological effects of transgenic insecticidal crops need to be evaluated more fully before they are planted over extensive areas." (Environment News Service, "Drifting Bt Corn Pollen Could Kill Wild Caterpillars" by Cat Lazaroff, 8/22/00; The Iowa State study was published on 8/21/00 in the online version of the journal Oecologia.)
Legal Challenges to GE CropsOn July 21, federal judge Louis Oberdorfer granted a Greenpeace motion to voluntarily withdraw its lawsuit against the EPA on genetically engineered Bt crops. The judge had previously ordered EPA to respond to the scientific and legal questions raised by Greenpeace--clearly indicating that the court found these concerns to be legitimate. The July 21 order states that all counts except one "are dismissed without prejudice." By agreeing to dismiss the case without prejudice, Greenpeace makes no concessions regarding the adequacy of EPA’s response or its registration process. Since the Judge forced EPA to respond to Greenpeace’s claims in the spring, Greenpeace agreed that one charge--that EPA’s failure to respond caused an "unreasonable delay"--could be dismissed without prejudice.
Greenpeace is now preparing further legal steps in its battle to force EPA to withdraw its approval of insect-resistant Bt crops. The environmental group and its co-plaintiffs (who represent family farmers, organic growers, consumers and environmentalists--and MOFGA) are developing a series of legal actions against EPA for its failure to adequately protect the environment from the threat of Bt crops. (Greenpeace press release from email@example.com)
Another suit, filed in May 1998 by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity and some scientists and clergy members, said that the lack of labeling and safety testing of GE foods violated food safety laws and the religious and moral beliefs of some people. The suit was dismissed on Oct. 2, 2000, when a federal court said that FDA’s current policy on GE foods "does not have a binding effect" on GE food producers. The court equated the current policy to FDA "inaction" and therefore found it immune from challenge. The Court did say that the plaintiffs had produced information "showing significant disagreement among scientific experts" concerning the safety of GE food, but it could not consider that information because it was presented after 1992, when FDA’s current policy was established. FDA was scheduled to publish new rules on the testing and labeling of GE foods this fall. Meanwhile, the Center for Food Safety and 53 environmental, farming and consumer organizations petitioned FDA earlier this year regarding new science that supports mandatory testing, environmental review and labeling of all GE foods. The FDA has not formally answered the petition yet. "Clearly another legal battle may be in the offing should the FDA’s new regulations fail to protect consumers and the environment," says Joseph Mendelson, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. (Center For Food Safety press release, 10/3/00)
Bans, Labels, ProtestsChina--heralded by the biotech industry as a great potential consumer of its goods--announced in July that all GE seeds will have to be labeled there. China sells GE-free grains to Japan and other countries. (BioDemocracy News #29, Sept. 2000) New Zealand and Australian health ministers also agreed to mandatory labeling of all GE foods this fall, while 25 of Scotland’s 32 school districts have banned GE foods from school menus. (GE News, 10/22/00)
Closer to home, City Councils in Boston; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; Boulder, Colorado; and Minneapolis and Cleveland have all passed resolutions calling on the FDA to require mandatory labeling and safety testing of GE foods and crops. The Minneapolis resolution also recommends that the city purchase organic foods for city contracts. (BioDemocracy News #29, Sept. 2000) Boulder has gone one step further and has adopted a policy that bans biotech crops from the city’s 33,000 acres of open space, of which over 15,000 are leased to farmers. (GE News, 8/30/00)
Canadian growers want a gene-altered flax taken off the market, and they don’t want GE wheat to even enter the market, due to consumer opposition. British Columbian apple growers were successful in getting their provincial government to abandon plans to engineer apples, as organic growers feared that GE apple trees would cross with theirs. (BioDemocracy News #29, Sept. 2000)
Kellogg’s told its subsidiary, Morningstar Farms--the largest U.S. producer of vegetarian burgers--to tell questioning consumers that it is "moving toward" having GE-free soy in its burgers. (BioDemocracy News #29, Sept. 2000) And Cargill is marketing a new non-GMO brand of corn called "Innovasure." (GE News 9/29/00) While Kellogg’s is "moving toward," many British supermarkets are there, as they now refuse to sell even meat, eggs and dairy products made from animals that were fed GE crops. The biotech industry had hoped that animal feed would be a ready market to sop up the crops that people didn’t want to eat directly. ("New Blow to GM as Big Stores Extend Their Ban," by Geoffrey Lean, Independent on Sunday, 9/24/00)
Although they have the luxury of finding GE-free foods readily, the British are not slowing their protests of biotech. In September, 28 Greenpeace supporters there were found not guilty of criminal damage after they destroyed some experimental GE corn in Norfolk. Not to be outdone, over a dozen members of the Canadian "Citizens’ Voluntary Labelling Collective" stuck more than 2000 warning labels on products containing GE ingredients in Halifax grocery stores in October. (GE News, 10/22/00)
The Organic Consumers Association (6114 Highway 61, Little Marais, MN 55614; 218-726-1443; fax 218-726-1446; www.purefood.org; firstname.lastname@example.org) is taking the matter furthest, asking for a global moratorium on all GE foods and crops; an end to factory farming and phase-out of industrial agriculture; and conversion of 30% of U.S. agriculture to organic by the year 2010. Look for supporting postcards at your co-op, or get some from the Association and put them at your co-op.
Guide to GE and GE-Free BrandsGiven the FDA’s failure to require labeling of GE foods, Greenpeace has developed a True Food Shopping List--a detailed list of thousands of products made with ingredients from GE corn, soy, canola and other crops. Organized like supermarket aisles, the list covers dozens of foods in each of 20 categories, including baby food, cereal, frozen foods, snacks and soups. The "Red" list shows GE foods, such as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. The "Green" list shows alternatives made by companies that have eliminated GE ingredients. The "Yellow" list includes products made by companies that are eliminating GE ingredients. The list is available at www.truefoodnow.org/shoppinglist.html; or by calling 1-800-722-6995 or writing to Greenpeace Supporter Services, 182 Howard St., Box 416, San Francisco CA 94105.
Report on the NFFC Farmers' Summit on Genetic Engineeringby Sharon Tisher
For two years now, the National Family Farm Coalition has sponsored a Farmers' Summit on Genetic Engineering in Manassus, Virginia, in conjunction with the Farm Aid concert. Last year, I was stranded in the Bangor airport with no way to get there on time. This year, I was delighted to make it, representing both NESAWG (Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group) and MOFGA. The summit was a treasure trove of the latest information on biotech science, policy and politics. And it was just plain wonderful to be in a room full of farmers of all sorts from all over the country who were dedicated to fighting agribusiness's biotech agenda. As Carolyn Mugar, Executive Director of Farm Aid, put it, this meeting was perhaps the most important of all in the on-going biotech battles: "Farmers are at the point of production. If farmers don't plant it, we won't have GM food."
Jim Hightower, former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, led off the meeting by focusing on the bigger problem behind the biotech agenda: the "corporatization of world agriculture is the goal...A few global corporations greedily have put themselves in charge of agriculture." The "first step" in this goal, Hightower contended, is the "demise of the family farm." "The family farm isn't passing on; it's being mugged and murdered." Where, Hightower asked, are the Presidential candidates on this issue?
Michael Hansen of Consumer's Union gave the summit an overview of the regulation (or lack thereof) of ag biotech, dating from the creation of the so-called "Coordinated Framework" under the republican administrations of the 1980's. The decision then, which still holds today, was that there would be no new statutes governing the development of engineered plants, microbes and animals. Any new issues would be simply squeezed into the existing regulatory framework, with a coordination of the EPA, FDA, and USDA, each addressing their own turf issues as best as possible. As a consequence, certain new creatures, like GE fish, have fallen through the cracks of governmental oversight. Regulations designed for chemical contaminants that present no possibility of biological reproduction or gene flow into unexpected organisms now try to cope with the risks of manufactured life. Hansen pointed out that the US, the major producer of biotech seed, stands alone on the international community. In the Codex Alimentarus, the food standards committee of the United Nations, the US is the only company arguing there shouldn't be mandatory labeling, and the only country that doesn't yet require safety testing of GE foods.
Mardi Mellon, a lawyer with a doctorate in microbiology on the staff of the Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed out that there are three critical areas in a scientific analysis of the success of biotech crops: not just risk, which has received the lion's share of attention, but also benefits, and alternatives. In the area of benefits, Mellon stressed "how disappointing biotech is on its own terms." Twenty-five years ago, the prophets of biotech were promising higher yields, more nitrogen-fixing plants, and combinations of dozens of functioning inserted genes in a single species. So far, the industry has produced only a single functioning gene in each plant, and "no crop out there even has the potential for increased yields." Mellon admitted that there was some demonstrated accomplishment in chemical pesticide reduction with the Bt crops, particularly cotton, but "that benefit will last no longer than pesticide resistance to Bt develops." Certainly, Mellon noted, there's been "no demonstrated economic benefit to farmers."
Turning to risk, Mellon noted that it's astonishing "how little we know about the risks." The UCS's own analysis was consistent with that of a researcher who published a report in the June 9, 2000 issue of Science magazine. The writer undertook a comprehensive search for published, peer reviewed studies that in any significant way addressed the risks of biotech foods. The result? Only four: the two reports by British researcher Dr. Arpad Puztai, which were so controversial because they found significant evidence of dietary risks in potatoes that incorporated the snowdrop lectin protein, and two reports commissioned by Monsanto. Neither of the Monsanto studies on GE soybeans (now found in infant formula) addressed, Mellon noted, the impact on infant health, either of laboratory animals or of humans. Mellon lamented the fact that we haven't made resources available to the scientific community to do essential testing of these foods.
On environmental risks, Mellon noted that the harmful impact of GE pollen on the monarch butterfly has now been demonstrated in the field as well as the lab; and that there is new evidence that GE herbicide resistant crops that use the cauliflower mosaic virus (CMV) as a promoter can just turn off in the middle of the summer as a result of a CMV infection. There is a "huge scientific quandary" on the subject of allergenicity of GE foods. The EPA has finally turned down on application for Bt corn out of a concern that it may be an allergen. [Mellon's speech came days before it was widely announced that this variety of corn, marketed by Aventis and approved only for use in animal feed, had been found in Taco Bell taco shells, resulting in a massive recall by Kraft of the shells. In an unprecedented cry for tighter regulations by industry, Kraft asked the EPA not to approve any GE crops for animal feed that were not also approved for human consumption.] Mellon emphasized that we still don't have the methods to test GE foods for their potential to induce allergies.
On the subject of alternatives to GE crops, Mellon lamented the fact that so little resources have been devoted to finding ways to accomplish the same goals of pest control and increased productivity without engineering genes. She pointed to a sustainable ag study in China on controlling rice blast. Researchers found that by planting two kinds of rice that matured at different times, they were able to increase yields by 18% and control rice blast without any inputs. "This is the kind of result biotech would kill for," commented Mellon. [Coincidentally, days before the conference the USDA had announced the award of $100 million in research grants - the largest sum for ag research in a long time. One conference participant who had won a small piece of that commented that 50% of the awards were for biotech, and only $7-10 million for projects that could be characterized as organic.]
Michael Sligh, of the Rural Advancement Foundation International, focused on the perils of over-concentration in the seed industry. Just ten agribusiness companies control 33% of the world seed trade and ten agrochemical companies control 91% of the agrochemical market. Five companies control 75% of the global vegetable seed market. The consequences of monopolization are a profound risk to biodiversity. Seminis Seed, a Mexican company which supplies seeds for 40% of all vegetables sold in US grocer stores and controls nearly one-fifth of the worldwide fruit and vegetable seed market, announced that it would eliminate 2,000 varieties of seeds, or 25% of its inventory. This issue goes beyond agriculture, Sligh noted; it's a question of human rights versus corporate greed.
George Naylor, an Iowa farmer and a plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit against Monsanto, discussed the problems confronting the farmer trying to grow GE free crops. Naylor wants to grow and market GE free corn, but can't get his local elevator to segregate his crop, and faces prohibitive transportation costs to get his corn to a market. He also faces constant peril of contamination by gene drift. Iowa State University recommends a 1000 ft buffer zone to protect against GE pollen drift [see study by Charles Huburgh at www.iowagrain.org]. A half mile by 1000 ft is fifty acres, Naylor noted - fifty acres that Naylor can't grow on because his neighbor has GE corn planted up to the fence. Naylor also cited emerging evidence that non-GE varieties of corn seed are testing positive for GE genes, so you can't guarantee a seed is non-GE even if it is a non-GE variety. [In one study Pioneer non-Bt corn has tested 62% positive for GE genes; only organic untreated seed tested GE free].
We next heard from Elizabeth Cronise, a Washington antitrust attorney representing Naylor and other farmers in an on-going lawsuit against Monsanto. The suit, which is currently in the midst of massive document production by Monsanto, may create major problems for the industry. The suit charges that Monsanto and other biotech companies fixed the price for GM seeds, which is per se illegal, and built a cartel. The scheme allowed them to raise $800 million in five years in technology fees, potentially refundable by a court to the farmers, if the court agrees with the plaintiffs. The lawsuit also alleges that Monsanto rushed Roundup Ready products to market in the US, knowing that they were not export approved in Europe, because the herbicide Roundup goes off-patent this year. That means that companies can start selling generic Roundup (glyphosate), robbing Monsanto of its profits from the world's largest selling pesticide. But with the advent of Roundup Ready crops, Monsanto required farmers to sign contracts forcing them to use only Roundup pesticide, not generic varieties (also an illegal tie-in, the suit alleges). All a cleverly designed scheme to keep profits from Roundup flowing after the patent runs out, unless this suit succeeds in unraveling it. The lawsuit raises environmental issues too, contending Monsanto inadequately tested for environmental and health effects. Monsanto claims it has performed twenty studies that confirm the safety of GE soybeans, but declines to produce them to the public. Cronise is currently in St. Louis reviewing Monsanto documents, and has plans to depose 300 witnesses before the trial scheduled for July 2001. You can download the complaint and get periodic updates on the suit at www.cmht.com.
Perhaps the most intriguing and disturbing presentation came from Todd Leake, of the Dakota Resource Council on GE wheat. Whereas GE corn is already totally out of Pandora's box and close to contaminating virtually all of the nation's non-organic acreage, a similar consequence for GE wheat is still preventable. Leake pointed out that wheat is the world's most widely eaten grain, and the stuff of religious sacrament. But it, too, like the rest of the world's food stuffs, is at risk of becoming Monsanto's corporate intellectual property. Roundup Ready wheat has been approved for field trials in several states, and there are plans to put it on the market in 2003. It would be impossible, Leake noted, to segregate GE wheat. It will mix in storage, in the harvesting machinery and in distribution, and will cross-pollinate in the field. Now the entire Canadian canola crop is considered GE, and a same fate may greet GE wheat.
Lastly, we heard from Jane Akre, the former Fox TV investigative reporter who, with her husband Steve Wilson, were fired by Fox when they refused to go along with Fox's editorial desecration (under pressure from Monsanto) of their report on the health problems with Bovine Growth Hormone. Akre was fresh from her $425,000 verdict against Fox in a Florida Jury trial, but still bruised from the force of corporate strong-arming that came to bear in the trial. She anticipates years of appeals before she sees a penny of the damages the jury awarded her, and marveled at Fox's unabashed claim that it was "completely vindicated" by the verdict (which found for Akre but not for Wilson). "They lie about lying about the news," Akre quipped. Akre noted that Fox's interesting theory on appeal is that it is "not against a law or regulation to slant the news," hence they cannot be found quilty of retaliating against her for reporting their conduct to the FCC. In the face of the marked absence of national media attention to their trial, Akre and Wilson set up a website, www.foxbghsuit.com, to report on developments. Akre noted that Monsanto is the biggest hitter on their website. Akre's advice to prospective litigants: "I would look long and hard before turning to litigation. It isn't anythign a family can handle. It's way too much."
Last year, the Farmer Summit released a Farmer's Declaration on Genetic Engineering, signed by over thirty farm groups, including MOFGA. This year, the farm groups kicked off a Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering that will provide farmers with accurate information on genetic engineering and the impacts it will have on agriculture. Very useful and readable fact sheets for distribution to farmers are in draft form, and will soon be finalized.
In summary, there was a strong sense throughout the various sessions of this summit that the battle against biotech dominance of agriculture, though fierce, was winnable. Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of the Organic Consumers Association [www.purefood.org] perhaps best summarized this perspective when he commented that, "GE food is the Achilles' heel of industrial agriculture, and industrial agriculture is the Achilles' heel of corporate global dominance." [I read Cummins' new book, Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers, on the way back from the conference. It is an excellent and readable guide; my only complaint is that in summarizing state activism and legislative activity, Cummins fails to mention that Maine was the first state legislature to consider a GE labeling bill, supported by MOFGA back in 1993, and twice reintroduced since. ]
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