Friday, December 14, 2007


Bill Passes by an Overwhelming Majority of 79 to 14;Coalition of Consumer, Farmer, and Animal Welfare Groups Praise the Senate’s Action

Washington, DC December 14, 2007 – A broad coalition of consumer, farmer, and animal welfare organizations today applauded passage of a provision in the Senate’s Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) that would delay the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) endorsement of the use of food from cloned animals. This amendment, advanced by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and co-sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), calls for a rigorous and careful review of the human health and economic impacts of bringing cloned food into America’s food supply. The senate overwhelmingly passed the bill this afternoon by a vote of 79 to 14.

“The passage of this bill with the Mikulski-Specter amendment is like a gift for the holidays,” said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. “The FDA’s flawed and cavalier approach to cloned food and its potential impacts called for a truly rigorous scientific assessment. At a time when the FDA has repeatedly failed the public, this amendment will ensure that the American consumer is considered before any special interest.”

The amendment requires that two rigorous studies be performed before the FDA is able to issue a final decision on food from clones. The amendment directs the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to convene a blue-ribbon panel of leading scientists to review the FDA’s initial decision that food from cloned animals is safe. The amendment further requires the NAS to study the potential health impacts of cloned foods entering the nation’s food supply, including the possible effects of lessened milk consumption (due to consumer avoidance of cloned food) leading to development of chronic diseases as a result. The bill also directs the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to examine consumer acceptance of cloned foods and the likely impacts they could have on domestic and international markets.

“The FDA risk assessment ignored the fact that most clones never make it to adulthood because they die in gestation or shortly after birth, and also failed to consider whether clones might need more drug treatments,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist, Consumers Union. “We agree with the Senate that the NAS should take another look at the safety questions.”

During a public comment period that ended earlier this year, the FDA heard from more than 150,000 consumers rejecting the Agency’s proposed plan to introduce clones into the U.S. food supply. In addition, dozens of members of the meat and dairy industries and nonprofit organizations urged the FDA to consider comments from the widest possible sample of Americans in consideration of the untested nature of cloning technology.

“Animal protection advocates support scientific advancement, but cloning lacks any legitimate social value and decreases animal welfare in a dramatic way,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Today, the U.S. Senate slowed down the application of this bad idea, and we hope the House follows its lead.”

“Polls have repeatedly shown that consumers are wary of food from cloned animals,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America. “We need a much more comprehensive assessment of the potential implications of allowing food from cloned animals into the food supply. The Mikulski-Specter amendment would assure that these important issues are thoroughly reviewed before FDA is allowed to issue its final risk assessment.”

Passage of this bill with the Mikulski-Specter amendment comes at a time when the public’s opposition to food from clones has never been higher. A national survey conducted this year by Consumers Union found that 89 percent of Americans want to see cloned foods labeled, while 69 percent said that they have concerns about cloned meat and dairy products in the food supply. A recent Gallup Poll reported that more than 60 percent of Americans believe that it is immoral to clone animals, while the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that a similar percentage say that, despite FDA approval, they won’t buy milk from cloned animals.

“The surveys show that the public is morally opposed to cloning. Animals suffer terribly in the cloning process, and the FDA has ignored these issues,” said Tracie Letterman, Executive Director of the American Anti-Vivisection Society. “This amendment will allow these discussions to take place.”

“With the public increasingly concerned about the treatment of farm animals,” said Julie Janovsky, Campaign Director for Farm Sanctuary, “the Mikulski- Specter amendment acknowledges the fact that cloning may lead to even harsher conditions for animals used to produce food”.

In its risk assessment of cloned food, the FDA claims to have evaluated extensive peer reviewed safety studies to support its conclusion, yet a recent report issued by the Center for Food Safety, Not Ready for Prime Time, shows the assessment only references three peer-reviewed food safety studies, all of which focus on the narrow issue of milk from cloned cows. What is even more disturbing is that these studies were partially funded by the same biotech firms that produce clones for profit. None of the studies focus on the safety of meat from cloned cows or pigs, or milk or meat from the offspring of cloned animals, and there was absolutely no data on milk or meat from cloned goats – all major issues critical to determining the safety of the proposal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Groups to Introduce Similar Cloned Food Labeling Bill Next Legislative Session

San Francisco—The Center for Food Safety and Consumers Union today sent a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger and members of the California Legislature challenging Governor Schwarzenegger’s recent veto of the California Cloned Food Labeling Act (SB 63). The bill, introduced by Senator Migden, would have required labeling of milk, meat and dairy products from cloned animals. The letter criticizes the Governor’s claim that SB 63 is pre-empted by federal law, calling this reasoning “legally unsound, disingenuous and inaccurate.” A copy of the letter can be found at:

The groups pledge to help introduce a similar cloned food labeling bill in California in the next legislative session. Federal law applies only to meat, not dairy products. The Governor’s veto only referred to the federal meat labeling law, a tacit acknowledgement of this fact. “Currently there is a blank slate in the area of food from cloned animals, and state lawmakers can create dairy labeling statutes without fear of federal preemption,” explained Rebecca Spector, Center for Food Safety’s West Coast Director.

Experts say milk, cheese and other dairy products from cloned animals will be the first such food products to reach California stores, and will make up the vast majority of the cloned food market.

There are two federal laws that address meat labeling. However according to the two groups, they do not preempt cloned meat labeling in California. “Neither of these laws even mentions cloned meat, so they simply don’t apply,” Spector said.

“Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto is a slap in the face to a majority of consumers who say they want milk and meat from cloned animals to be labeled,” said Elisa Odabashian, Consumers Union’s West Coast Director. “Without labeling, not only will consumers be unable to choose whether or not to buy cloned food, but government food safety agencies will be unable to track any long-term impacts of cloned food on human health.” According to a recent survey by Consumers Union, more than 89 percent of Americans want food from cloned animals to be labeled.

At the federal level, the groups, along with, the Consumer Federation of America, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Anti-Vivisection Society, and Union of Concerned Scientists, are also urging the inclusion of a recent amendment concerning food products from cloned animals in the 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419). Amendment No. 3524, introduced by Senators Mikulski and Specter, would ensure that the potential human health, animal health, and economic impacts associated with animal cloning that are missing from the FDA’s risk assessment are fully analyzed before any products derived from clones are introduced into the food market. The organizations are deeply concerned over the Food and Drug Administration’s issuance of an inadequate draft risk assessment that endorses the safety of milk and meat derived from cloned animals and their progeny.

The issuance of the final risk assessment, which could happen as early as January, 2008, would pave the way for the unfettered commercialization of meat and milk from cloned animals without labeling requirements.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Support Amendment to Stop Animal Cloning in the Farm Bill!

The FDA will soon make a final decision on whether food from cloned animals is safe to enter our food supply. They released their preliminary risk assessment in December and received over 145,000 public comments opposing the unlabeled introduction of meat and milk from animal clones.

We need to know more before the FDA releases cloned animals into our food supply. The health risks associated with the consumption of food products from cloned animals is not well documented or available to consumers. Denmark has already banned food from cloned animals and the entire European Union is examining this closely. The California state legislature recently passed a bill requiring labeling of products from clones animals, and though the Governor vetoed it, it is a clear sign that consumers do not want this technology on their plates.

To address these concerns, Senators Mikulski and Specter have introduced an amendment (Amendment #3524) to the Farm Bill to address the need for more information about food products from cloned animals. The studies focus on elements not included in the FDA initial risk assessment:

- Implications of permitting food from cloned animals into the food supply, particularly meat and milk exports shifts that would take place as other countries react and potentially ban exports from the United States;
- Effectiveness of programs already in place at USDA to monitor food products from cloned animals;
- Documentation of the health effects and costs attributed to milk from cloned animals in the food supply; and
- Evaluation of the potential public health effects and associated health care costs attributable to the commercialization of food from cloned animals

The FDA should not be permitted to issue the final risk assessment on the safety of cloned animals and food products derived from cloned animals until these studies are done.

Please take a moment to contact your Senators and tell them you SUPPORT Senator Mikulski and Specter’s amendment (#3524) to delay cloning until we know more.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eleven Plaintiffs File Complaint to Stop USDA’s Dangerous "Over 30 month Rule," Address Mad Cow Risks

(October 30, 2007) Billings, Mont. - R-CALF USA, along with 10 other plaintiffs, has filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the District Court - District of South Dakota, Northern Division (District Court) in an effort to prevent the agency decision from opening the Canadian border to imports of live cattle born after March 1, 1999, and beef products from cattle over 30 months of age. USDA's decision, often referred to as the OTM (over 30 month) Rule, is scheduled to take effect Nov. 19. Eleven cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) have been detected in Canadian-born cattle, seven since the beginning of last year. Individual plaintiffs include South Dakota cattle producers Herman Schumacher, Robert Mack, Ernie Mertz, and Wayne Nelson. Plaintiff organizations include: the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association; the Center for Food Safety; the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation; Food & Water Watch; Public Citizen, which has 90,000 members; and, the Consumer Federation of America, with 50 million members.

"The OTM rule creates an unjustified and unnecessary increased risk of infection of the U.S. cattle herd with BSE, and of importing beef contaminated with BSE into the U.S., which will expose U.S. consumers to increased risk of a fatal disease," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. "By USDA's own analysis, it is a virtual certainty that the OTM Rule will result in the importation of Canadian cattle infected with BSE, the meat from which will enter the U.S. food supply, and that the OTM Rule also will result in the importation of billions of pounds of meat from OTM cattle slaughtered in Canada, which almost certainly include products from cattle infected with BSE. There also lies the possibility of contamination of U.S. cattle feed caused from the use of Canadian cattle products, like blood, in the manufacturing of cattle feed."

"The OTM Rule will expose U.S. cattle producers to severe economic hardship because of the reduced marketability of U.S. beef as a result of commingling domestic product with potentially contaminated beef of Canadian origin," he continued. "We have export customers who refuse to accept beef from the United States unless it is segregated from Canadian product. R-CALF does not believe opening the Canadian border to older cattle and all beef products will increase our export markets. These all are risks that R-CALF finds unacceptable. Unfortunately, USDA seems all too willing to put the interests of a few big multinational companies ahead of the much larger concerns of the country's beef consumers and the 800,000 independent cattle producers in the United States."

"It's hard to fathom why the USDA would move to eliminate a critical protection against BSE at a time when the public is increasingly concerned about the safety of imported foods," said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America.
"The decision to allow risky older cattle from Canada to enter the U.S. shows once again that the USDA is more concerned about facilitating trade than protecting consumers' health," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "Until the U.S. strengthens the rules for preventing the spread of BSE when cattle are slaughtered, we have no business importing older cattle from a country where the disease is prevalent."

"Consumers expect the government to protect the food supply from the risk of BSE, but instead USDA has taken an illegal step that creates a new food import health risk," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety.

--BSE is an unusual disease that requires an unusually vigilant response. If cattle in the U.S. become infected, there is no drug that can keep them from dying, and there is no vaccine that can keep them from getting infected. The same is true for the human version, which is believed to come from consuming infected meat.

--The stakes are enormous: The 2003 discovery of a single case of BSE in a cow imported into the U.S. from Canada virtually shut down the U.S. beef export market, which is still trying to recover, costing the industry (and the U.S. balance of trade) billions of dollars.

--Since even a single incident of BSE infection would do serious damage to U.S. beef exports and has the potential as well to introduce an incurable disease into the U.S. cattle herd, no one should take comfort in USDAs predictions that there will be only a "negligible" amount of infected cattle and beef coming from Canada.

--Canada imported BSE-infected cattle from the UK in the 1990s. There is no indication that the U.S. ever did. Canada continues to find BSE even in cattle born as little as four years ago. Both of the only cases found in U.S.-born cattle were in animals born in the early 1990s. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cautioned that Canadian cattle are 26 times more likely to test positive for BSE than U.S. cattle.

--Worldwide experience shows that banning cattle parts from cattle feed is not enough. BSE contamination of other types of feed can infect cattle through cross-contamination at the feed mill, mis-feeding at the farm, and other unavoidable routes. Canada attributes its recent cases of BSE to just such a source, and the Canadian government this summer started keeping cattle parts out of all animal feed. But Canadian cattle parts will now be entering the U.S., where they can still be used in animal feed and can still contaminate U.S. cattle. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recently told the U.S. that it has insufficient safeguards to prevent the spread of BSE for that reason.

--No one knows how many BSE-infected cattle there are or were in Canada. We know there were considerably more than the 11 cases discovered in Canadian-born cattle, because other infected cattle had to have been butchered or rendered to result in contamination of the feed of the 11 cattle discovered in three different provinces. We also know that many cattle that ate the same feed as the cattle found to have BSE were slaughtered and likely used in part to make animal feed. R-CALF USA agrees that Canada does not appear to have a BSE epidemic as severe as that of the United Kingdom, but relatively few cases in imported Canadian cattle can still cause BSE in the U.S. cattle herd that would take many years to eradicate.

--Because there may be a lag of up to seven years or more between when a calf becomes infected and when that infection has taken over its brain enough to be detected, there can be many cases of BSE-infected cattle in Canada that are not detected before they are imported into the U.S. or before they are slaughtered in Canada for export to the United States. For the same reason, U.S. feedlots, slaughterhouses, and border inspectors do not have the ability to keep BSE-infected Canadian cattle out of the U.S. or out of the human food chain. Likewise, there is no test for BSE contamination in meat or in blood products.

"USDA is downplaying the risk of BSE, and this is one of those situations where a low probability of a very bad consequence is not acceptable," Bullard concluded. "If BSE is introduced into the U.S. herd, there is no test that can find all the infected animals and no medication that can stop its spread. Hoping that the problem will go away without demonstrable evidence that it will is folly, and knowingly importing infected cattle and meat when scientists agree we do not have sufficient safeguards in place to prevent the spread of the disease is unjustifiable."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Genetically Engineered Corn Study Shows Potential Harm To Stream Wildlife Near Farms

Center for Food Safety Calls for Further Investigation and Rigorous Testing Standards for Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops

Washington D.C., October 10, 2007 - Today, the Center for Food Safety voiced concern regarding a study issued by a team of researchers on the potential harm posed by the genetically engineered (GE) Bt variety of corn. The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, establishes that pollen and other material from Bt corn is washing into streams and river headwaters. The study further found through laboratory trials that Bt corn material is toxic to insects that play an important role in aquatic ecosystems. As a result, Bt corn may pose a serious threat to our nation's waterways and the plants, fish and animals that inhabit them.

"This is yet another example of a government agency granting clearance for a GE organism without requiring meaningful or stringent testing," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. "Bt corn is planted widely throughout the U.S. Had a study like this been done prior to the government's approval, we would not be looking at a popular crop that has the potential to broadly disrupt the environment."

Bt corn is engineered to include a pesticide-producing gene that targets the European corn borer and other pasts that can inhabit corn fields. It was licensed for use in 1996. By 2006, 40 percent of corn acreage planted in the U.S. was genetically modified with the Bt trait, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The new study further reports that in lab trails, caddisflies - insects closely related to the corn pests - are killed when exposed to the Bt toxin, and concluded that stream flies "that consume Bt corn litter may experience reduced growth, which can negatively influence fitness, because adult size of aquatic insects is directly related to fecundity."

Caddisflies are imperative to healthy, normally functioning stream ecosystems; they serve as food for fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

This report is only the latest identification of a problem posed by poor federal oversight of genetically altered crops. Contamination of many of the nation's rice farms by a GE variety has rendered much of American rice unsuitable for sale overseas. Earlier this year, a court ruled that Round-up Ready alfalfa was never fully tested by regulatory agencies to determine environmental impacts and may pose a threat to organic and conventional varieties of the crop.

"From rice to Bt corn, we are only finding out about the threats posed by GE crops after they have been cleared by government regulatory agencies," continued Mendelson. "The federal government's slipshod approach to testing threatens the environment, organic food production, and our farmer's livelihoods. It's time we all demand more accountability from biotech firms and more stringent regulations from USDA and FDA."

The report, Toxins In Transgenic Crop Byproducts May Affect Headwater Stream Ecosystems, was written by Todd V. Royer of Indiana University, Emma Rosi-Marshall of Loyola University Chicago, Jennifer Tank of the University of Notre Dame and Matt Whiles of Southern Illinois University. It was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Center for Food Safety Voices Support of Legal Action Protecting the Integrity of Organic Milk Labels

Center Says Private Legal Action Will Help Enforce Organic Labeling Requirements and Uphold Organic Standards to Maintain Public Trust

Washington D.C., October 17, 2007 - Today, the Center for Food Safety voiced support for a private class action lawsuit filed by consumers against Aurora Organic Dairy that alleges the company misled organic milk purchasers by producing milk from several of its dairy farms in violation of existing organic requirements. The class action lawsuit resulted after a two-year USDA investigation found that Aurora violated 14 provisions of the Organic Food Production Act.

"We applaud the USDA for diligently investigating consumer concerns over Aurora's practices and for initially determining that Aurora Organic Dairy willfully violated the law," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director, Center for Food Safety. As result of the investigation, USDA later entered in a consent agreement directing Aurora to stop organic production at one facility and make numerous changes in its operations.

"While the USDA has exposed Aurora, the agency action could not make whole all of the organic milk consumers who purchased Aurora milk. In situations like this where the USDA cannot act to fully protect consumers and the integrity of the organic standards, the lawsuit filed today shows that consumer watchdogs will take action."

The complaint filed today alleges that the illegal activities identified by USDA at Aurora's facilities should not have allowed the company to label its milk as "organic" and that such labeling resulted in extensive consumer deception The suit seeks to recoup damages for consumers who purchased the organic milk, and other sanctions seeking limits on Aurora's ability to market organic products.

"The action filed today will ensure that there are the teeth in the organic law. It is needed in order to ensure that American consumers can trust the USDA Organic label. It will send a powerful message that organic standards must be maintained, ensuring that those consumers who choose to buy organic are not deceived," added Mendelson.

Aurora Organic Dairy is the leading private-label organic milk processor. They supply store brands nationwide, including Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Wild Oats, Safeway, and many other grocery chains.

The Center for Food Safety is at the forefront in protecting the integrity of U.S. organic standards and food labels. In early July, the Center filed a complaint and legal petition with the USDA, urging the agency to enforce the reliability of the U.S. organic food label by preventing the misleading practice of labeling seafood imports which have not met US organic standards as "organic."

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wassup With Budweiser Using GE Rice?

Greenpeace today released the results of analysis showing the presence of an untested experimental genetically-engineered strain of rice at a mill in Arkansas which is operated by Anheuser-Busch to brew Budweiser. Greenpeace also put out a funny spoof of the "Wassup" Bud ad on You Tube.

According to the groups' press release, an independent laboratory, commissioned by Greenpeace, detected the presence of GE rice (Bayer LL601) in three out of four samples taken at the mill. The experimental GE rice is one of three rice varieties that were first found in 2006 to have contaminated rice stocks in the US. Since then, GE contamination has been found in approximately 30 per cent of US rice stocks.

"US beer drinkers need Anheuser-Busch to explain why it is not preventing use of this genetically-engineered rice in the US. If, as the company has informed Greenpeace, all of the
Budweiser exported from the US or manufactured outside of the US is guaranteed GE free then Anheuser-Busch needs to state this publicly, and explain the double standard," said Stabinsky.

Greenpeace says they informed Anheuser-Busch of the test results prior to their release and sought clear information from the company on the extent of contamination and its global policy on the use of GE ingredients. Anheuser-Busch responded that the rice is approved in the US and is not used in brewing Budweiser destined for export. The full extent of the contamination remains unclear, however.

LL601 GE rice was retroactively granted approval by the US Dept of Agriculture in an effort to reduce public concern and company liability despite 15,000 public objections. This GE rice is not approved outside the US so the Budweiser brewed with it could not be sold abroad.

Anheuser-Busch is the largest single rice buyer in the US, buying 6-10 per cent of the annual US rice crop. Budweiser is one of only a few beers having rice as an ingredient. The brand is found in around 60 countries through a mix of exports and local brewing arrangements.

"We are asking Anheuser-Busch to make a global commitment to produce all of its beer GE free. Anything less will leave a bad taste in the mouth of Budweiser drinkers." said Doreen Stabinsky of Greenpeace.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

USDA Report on Biotech Rice Reaffirms Agency's Do-Nothing Approach to GE Crop Contamination

In a long-awaited report released Friday afternoon on widespread contamination of the U.S. rice supply by an unapproved genetically engineered (GE) variety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would take no enforcement action against Bayer, the producer of the untested GE rice. Remarkably, the USDA report also reveals that the agency has no formal rules requiring biotech companies to retain records of their experimental field trials
or to require companies to keep seed samples for genetic tests, which are essential in detecting and tracking potential sources of contamination.

“Once again we find out too late that the government is uninterested in protecting farmers, consumers or the environment from genetic crop experiments,” said Joseph Mendelson III, Legal Director for the Center for Food Safety. “Bayer’s failure to keep these untested rice genes out of our natural food supply has crippled our rice industry and left hundreds of farmers with rice they can’t sell, and without the safe seed they need. It’s shameful that USDA refuses to hold Bayer responsible.”

The genetic contamination incidents, first disclosed in August 2006, have disrupted sales and planting for rice farmers throughout the US southern rice-growing region and caused a crash in U.S. rice exports, after Europe, Japan and other buyers closed their markets to U.S. rice. The EU was a major importer of long-grain rice from the US, purchasing 198,000 tons worth $67 million in 2005.

The USDA press release is available here

Topps to close in the wake of e. coli recall

the NY Times has a long article on the Topps recall today; the last two paragraphs say:

"According to industry experts, the size of the Topps recall was probably related to the company’s practice of “carrying over” meat from one day’s production to the next, without giving the older meat a separate batch number. The practice is not in itself illegal or unsafe, the experts said, but in the event of a problem, like an identified case of E. coli, the mixing of several days’ production makes it harder for officials to know the extent of the contamination.

Michele Williams, a spokeswoman for Topps, declined to comment on whether Topps carries over meat without giving it a separate batch number. But Ms. Eamich, the Agriculture Department spokeswoman, said the company did carry over beef. "

More simply, carryover means if you have e. coli in a batch of ground beef on Monday, and you take some of Monday's batch and mix it into Tuesday's, you have now contaminated ALL of Tuesday's meat. And if you take Tuesday's and mix it into Wednesday's, that batch is now contaminated, and on and on for as long as you keep doing this. If this is standard practice, as it appears it was for Topps, a recall can stretch back indefinitely.

The phrase, "The practice is not in itself illegal or unsafe...," is a scary one. It is a sobering reminder that it is LEGAL unsafe practices like this that encourage outbreaks and mass recalls.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

News Bites

The New York Times has been on a roll this week with several good stories. Denise Caruso, Times columnist, executive director of The Hybrid Vigor Institute and author of the fabulous book Intervention, has a must-read article "A Challenge to Gene Theory, A Tougher Look at Biotech," reporting on a study challenging the 'one gene = one protein' assumption. Caruso delves into gene patenting and the very basic assumptions behind genetic engineering:

"Even more important than patent laws are safety issues raised by the consortium’s findings. Evidence of a networked genome shatters the scientific basis for virtually every official risk assessment of today’s commercial biotech products, from genetically engineered crops to pharmaceuticals.

“The real worry for us has always been that the commercial agenda for biotech may be premature, based on what we have long known was an incomplete understanding of genetics,” said Professor Heinemann, who writes and teaches extensively on biosafety issues.

“Because gene patents and the genetic engineering process itself are both defined in terms of genes acting independently,” he said, “regulators may be unaware of the potential impacts arising from these network effects.”

Yet to date, every attempt to challenge safety claims for biotech products has been categorically dismissed, or derided as unscientific.

In another NYT gem, Andrew Martin has a good overview of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in his article "Labels Lack Food's Origin Despite Law." Martin explains why COOL has been held up for so long (meat industry lobbying, for one thing), and the possibilities for implementation (again) in the new Farm Bill. Though if the 2002 Farm Bill is any indication, we're going to have to do a lot more than rely on the Ag Committee to get the law enforced. My favorite quote in the article supports the typical mantra of "voluntary" labeling:

“No one was prohibited from putting labels on products,” said former Representative Henry Bonilla, Republican of Texas, who as head of the appropriations subcommittee on agriculture pushed through delays of mandatory origin labeling. “If consumers wanted this, they could have demanded it.”

Gee, and here I thought that's what we did five years ago when the law was passed. I guess we were supposed to enforce it ourselves as well. Volunteer labeling brigade, anyone?

Not suprisingly, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending, Mr. Bonilla received $158,328 in campaign funds in 2006 from the livestock industry, making him the top recipient in Congress. He was also the top recipient in 2004, with $132,900, and ranked second in 2002, with $78,350. The article goes on to say that "Mr. Bonilla does not dispute that he delayed the labeling law from taking effect. But he said it was a bad idea..." Thankfully, Mr. Bonilla is no longer in the House of Representatives, and his seat on the subcommittee has been filled by the far more sensible Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) who ends the article with the optimistic quote, "There will be mandatory COOL by 2008 at the latest."

Irradiation in the news. Well, here we are at the close of the comment period for FDA's proposed changes to the labeling requirements on irradiated foods. As more than 28,000 citizen comments collected by the Center for Food Safety and Food and Water Watch opposing the changes are delivered to the FDA, stories abound about irradiated produce being imported into the US. The NYT (I know, enough with the the NYT already) has a story about fruit from Thailand which has been barred from US soil until now. The USDA recently announced that the Thai fruits will be accepted provided they are irradiated. A similar import restriction on mangos from India was also recently lifted under condition that they too be irradiated, though stories are already circulating about the poor quality of those irradiated mangos.

In the biggest surprise of the day, the Produce Marketing Association released a statement supporting consumer disclosure on irradiated produce, and saying of the FDA's proposed change in language "Our concern is that by changing the labeling requirements from “irradiated” to “cold pasteurized” or some other phrase may only confuse the public and could even be perceived as misleading." Ya think? Though the PMA does support the use of irradiation, it is more than refreshing to see such a trade association support consumers' right to know and choose.

Fast Track Trade Authority: Dead (Again) at 33. The president's "fast-track" trade authority expired at midnight on June 30th, and is unlikely to be returned to him by Congress. Fast-track authority allows the president to make international trade agreements without debate or amendments in Congress - just a simple yes or no vote after the executive branch has already chosen the trade partner, negotiated the terms, and even signed the agreement. It also allows "the decider" to ram through trade agreements with little, if any, input from American farmers or citizens which has proven to be more than a little detrimental. Fast-track, after all, is responsible for both NAFTA and the WTO among other damaging trade agreements. Marc R. aka Mental Massala has a great post at the Ethicurean, "International Trade Agreements and Your Food" that has a very good overview of the issue and a welcome plea to journalists and politicians to stop calling every lousy agreement "free trade."

Our friends at Public Citizen, who have been working on trade issues for years published an "obituary" for fast track trade authority that is highly informative, terribly clever and yes, a little funny.

Shameless Self-Promotion. Not to toot our own horn (too late, I hear you say), but CFS's new book, Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food has received some very good press recently. Carol Ness discussed the book with author Andrew Kimbrell in her story Food Conscious: The Shoppers GMO Guide, in the San Francisco Chronicle (it even has a short-list of the book's "Pocket Shopper's Guide" to avoiding GE foods). In other press, Alternet's Vanja Petrovich interviews Kimbrell about the book, genetically engineered food and the state of food safety (or lack thereof) in the U.S. in her story "There's A Lot You Don't Know About What's in Your Food".

Citizens, Consumer Groups Oppose Proposed Irradiation Labeling Change - 28,000 Submit Comments to FDA

More than 28,000 citizens oppose a Food & Drug Administration proposal to permit industry to mislabel irradiated food with alternate terms such as 'pasteurization’ or to remove the requirement for labeling altogether, announced consumer watchdog organizations Food & Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety today. This change by FDA would deny consumers clear information about whether they are buying food that has been exposed to high doses of ionizing radiation.

"Food irradiation is an uncontrolled experiment using millions of Americans as guinea pigs," said Heather Whitehead of the Center for Food Safety. "Given the growing scientific evidence of the dangers of irradiated food, it is unconscionable that FDA would consider hiding irradiation behind misleading words like 'pasteurization.'"

"Consumers have a right to know if their food has been exposed to ionizing radiation," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "FDA should be implementing rules that guarantee that right, not allowing the meat and irradiation industries to mislead consumers into buying something they might otherwise avoid."

Irradiation destroys vitamins, protein, essential fatty acids and other nutrients – up to 80 percent of vitamin A in eggs and half the beta carotene in orange juice, the FDA has noted. In some foods, the process forms chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer and birth defects. One group of chemicals, called 2-ACBs, has been linked to tumor growth in rats and genetic damage in human cells.

"This FDA proposal is a bad case of déjà vu," continued Whitehead. "In poll after poll, consumers have rejected the weakening of labeling rules for irradiated food. Thousands of consumers submitted comments opposing a similar proposal by FDA in 1999. Now in 2007 the comments submitted show consumers still want accurate labeling."

Consumers have long been reluctant to purchase irradiated foods. Only a small percentage of the U.S. food supply is irradiated, and efforts to sell irradiated ground beef to public schools through the National School Lunch Program have failed to produce a single order. In 2004, a leading irradiation company called SureBeam filed for bankruptcy.

The push to change the labeling rules for irradiated food is not a new one. In 2002, the Farm Bill instructed the FDA to re-examine its labeling rules, which require irradiated food to bear the radura symbol and a disclosure statement (‘treated with irradiation’ or ‘treated by irradiation.’)

“The FDA’s proposal is a gift to the irradiation industry, which has been struggling for years," Hauter concluded. "The public is no more enthusiastic about changing the label than it is about irradiated food itself."

The Center for Food Safety and Food & Water Watch urge FDA to abandon this proposed rule change. The groups also alerted consumers across the country about the agency’s dangerous proposal, resulting in more than 28,000 public comments opposing the proposal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

News Bites

Farm Bill Could Hamstring State Food Safety Agencies

Forty consumer, environmental, farmer and animal welfare groups today announced their opposition to a sweeping provision in the 2007 Farm Bill that wipes out critical state and local authority to protect food safety, the environment, and humane animal treatment. The provision, Section 123 of Title I, was quietly inserted in the House bill several weeks ago by the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee.
Read More
Take Action

Despite massive contamination and loss of markets, Bayer planting more genetically engineered rice in Arkansas
A story in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reveals that this spring, Bayer Crop-Science planted four 0. 2-acre plots of LLRICE 62 near Proctor, Newport, Stuttgart and Tillar, according to the state Plant Board. Since USDA's announcement in August that long grain rice had been contaminated with another Bayer rice variety, and a second contamination episode announced in March, according to the Democrat Gazette "sales in nearly half of all U. S. rice export markets have been harmed, resulting in everything from required testing to the complete cessation of trade, according to the USA Rice Federation".

The Arkansas Plant Board reportedly found out about the planting by filing a Freedom of Information Act request after rumors about the planting began to circulate. Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst for the Center for Food Safety was quoted as saying “After all that’s happened, it’s unbelievable that the state would give Bayer another chance to contaminate Arkansas rice."

Whole Foods goes to court
In what is becoming a rather ridiculous display of government inconsistency, Whole Foods is going to court next month to object to the FTC's block of the merger between the company and rival Wild Oats. The FTC filed a lawsuit on June 5 to block Whole Foods' acquisition of Wild Oats, saying the combination will cause "significant harm to the consumer." The suit argues that Wild Oats and Whole Foods are "one another's closest competitor" in 21 markets. This merger challenge comes despite there being NO challenge to the mergers between Monsanto and Delta Pine Land approved earlier this month (giving Monsanto a near complete monopoly on the cotton market), or the Smithfield-Premium Standard Farms merger last month (giving Smithfield control of 30% of the pork market).

Whole Foods argues that the FTC did not take mainstream supermarkets, most of which are quickly becoming competitors in the organic and natural foods market, into consideration. Aimee Witteman had a great post on the merger hullabaloo last week at Gristmill, where she lays out the inconsistencies in anti-trust cases in US food and agricultural companies, the integration of these industries, and how it might be addressed.

Our friend Sam Fromartz (author of Organic, Inc.) also has an interesting post at his blog Chews Wise, breaking down the arguments for and against - and the commentary surrounding - the embattled merger (if you have not yet added Sam's Chews Wise blog to your list of favorites or RSS feeds, we highly recommend that you do!).

Comment Period on Labeling for Irradiated Foods Set to Close July 3rd
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please take a moment to send your comment to FDA on their proposal to weaken labeling requirements, and in some cases remove labeling entirely, on irradiated foods! The last comment period FDA had on this subject generated 5,000 comments in opposition according to some reports - so many that they backed off at the time. We have already generated more than twice that many for this comment period, and we need more to ensure this risky proposal is rejected!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

New book from CFS! Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food

Are you shopping in the dark? Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food provides a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute guide on the very real dangers genetically engineered foods present to our health, the environment, and farm communities. Written by Andrew Kimbrell with a foreword by Nell Newman, this book provides you with all the necessary tools to understand this critical food issue, to choose to avoid GE foods and to become an active participant in the fight for an organic, environmentally sustainable and socially just food future. The book also contains a pull-out “Pocket Shopper’s Guide to GE Foods” that lists what products to buy in order to avoid GE ingredients. The special hard cover edition includes a DVD of the award-winning documentary film The Future of Food.

Here’s what people are saying about Your Right to Know:

“Andrew Kimbrell, America’s leading critic of genetically modified crops, has written a lively and comprehensive field guide to this treacherous new landscape that both citizens and consumers will find indispensable.” - Michael Pollan

“In this important primer, Kimbrell explains the threats that GE foods pose to our health, our environment, and our farming communities. He reminds us that the everyday decisions we make about the food we eat have the power to change the world.” – Alice Waters

“The genetic manipulators are not merely messing with your food — they’re messing with you, your children, and your environment. Kimbrell’s book and handy shopping guide gives you what you need to fight back. Digest this book... And go forth!” - Jim Hightower

“This book will be an invaluable resource to the American public in understanding the hazards of GE foods. Their informed choice to avoid these foods will have a positive impact on our farms, communities, and biodiversity worldwide.” – Vandana Shiva

“..This new book by Andrew Kimbrell is wise, sane, and reliable. It will enable you to make informed and healthy choices. It’s the answer we’ve been needing.” – John Robbins

Get your copy today!

From Port to Plate: Who's Checking for Safety?

By now, few of us haven’t heard about the recent pet food recalls, and the tragic deaths of over 4,000 pets due to contaminated wheat products imported from China. But what many of us haven’t heard is that these contaminated ingredients have also made their way into the human food supply. We also haven’t heard much about how these contaminated ingredients slipped into the U.S., what this says about the safety and security of our food supply, or the efficacy of continuing to put the politics of international trade and its ensuing corporate profits before the health and safety of the American public.

First we were told that none of the adulterated wheat gluten or rice protein had made its way into the human food supply, and then we were informed that more than 6,000 hogs had eaten contaminated “salvaged” pet food, and were to be quarantined and kept off the market. Next it was chickens - 3 million of them, slaughtered, butchered and presumably eaten by unsuspecting consumers. Then 20 million more chickens, and then another 50,000 hogs. Then we found out that melamine-contaminated feed was also used at dozens of fish farms and hatcheries in the U.S. and Canada. U.S. officials then announced that the purported Chinese wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate, were actually just wheat flour.

Food causes an estimated 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. While imports of food soared to more than 9 million shipments last year, the frightening truth is that FDA inspects less than 1% of these imports. If pets hadn’t started falling ill and dying, chances are they never would have caught the adulterated food. In a typical look-only-where-the-light-is reaction, the agency is now focusing almost entirely on inspecting imports of ingredients like wheat gluten, but the import of processed foods, meat and farmed seafood products from China has continued virtually unchecked, despite the fact that China is a major U.S. supplier of farm-raised shrimp, tilapia, catfish and other fish that more than likely received the same contaminated feed.

So why don’t we simply ban imports of food from China and other countries with food safety standards more lax than ours? And why does the U.S., the world’s largest exporter of wheat, need to import wheat products from China anyway? Importing products from countries like China, where food safety standards, employee wages, and other production costs are lower than those in the U.S. translates into massive profits for corporations. Stopping imports from an important international trade partner like China would spell disaster for big agribusiness in the U.S. In the end, it is American consumers, farmers and ranchers, and “outsourced” workers who pay the price.

With the amount of food coming into, and produced in, the country one would think FDA would be inspecting, testing and recalling contaminated products routinely, but the agency is woefully understaffed and underfunded, and often lacks the authority to do their job effectively. Even former FDA Commissioner Kessler warned at a recent Congressional hearing, "Our food-safety system in this country is broken." FDA actually developed an import-safety plan five years ago that went nowhere, and has asked for the authority to block imports from countries connected to contamination incidents until they put standards comparable to our own in place. But lawmakers wouldn’t pass it, likely because US food companies spend over a billion dollars a year lobbying against such regulations. But with food contamination incidents steadily rising, the tide seems to be turning in the halls of Congress.

This year the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent, investigative arm of Congress, added the country’s food safety system to its list of “high risk” operations, and recommended that all food safety matters be regulated by one agency. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), recently introduced a bill in the House to do just that, and Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Schumer (D-NY) have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The “Food Safety Act” would create an independent “Food Safety Administration” to oversee the nation’s food supply by combining portions of the 12 agencies that now oversee some part of food system. While talks of an independent, single food safety agency have gone on for nearly ten years, it seems at long last it may finally get some traction. Now if we could only ensure that said "Food Safety Administration" would not be in the pocket of Corporate America, we might have something.

News Bites

Monsanto pressures FDA to restrict rBGH-free labeling
Several large dairy producers and food companies have made news recently by getting rid of recombinant bovine growth hormone, also known as rBGH or rBST, from their milk supply. This is great news for consumers, since this genetically engineered growth hormone is known to cause harm to cows and may pose health risks to humans.

In yet another attack on consumers' right to know, Monsanto, the company that makes rBGH under the trade name Posilac, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to restrict the use of labels identifying “rBGH-free” or “rBST-free” dairy products. Monsanto claims such labels are "misleading" to consumers, and infer that dairy products without such a label are inferior. FDA approved the use of voluntary labels more than 12 years ago at the request of dairy companies seeking to respond to customer concerns over the use of the genetically engineered hormone. Since FDA refused to require mandatory labeling of dairy products from cows treated with rBGH, voluntary labeling by non-adopters is the only label consumers can count on to make informed decisions. If Monsanto succeeds in convincing FDA to restrict rBGH-free labeling, consumers will lose valuable information about how their food is produced. Protect your right to know - Send an email to the FDA today

Florida bans non-native and genetically altered fish in open water aquaculture
The Southern Shrimp Alliance and the Center for Food Safety praised the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FL DACS) for new rules governing farm-raising of fish in Florida's ocean waters. FL DACS created the task force in April 2005 in response to calls for stringent guidelines governing the growing open water aquaculture industry. Their draft standards, completed in April 2006, underwent rigorous review by Florida agencies for eight months. The resulting "Best Management Practices Manual" was released to the public in December 2006 for comments, and was officially finalized in May.

The Center for Food Safety strongly urged FL DACS to ban use of non-native and altered fish in open ocean aquaculture during development of the Best Practices, as Florida is already experiencing the effects from fish farm escapes. Spotted tilapia, Orinoco sailfin catfish, and the oscar are just a few of the non-native fish that have escaped from fish farms and established themselves in Florida waters. Federal regulations governing aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico are currently in the process of being drafted. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, an advisory body, is working on an open water aquaculture plan that would apply outside Florida waters.

Genetically Engineered Pharmaceutical Rice Is Not the Solution to Diarrhea
Drugs in Rice Not Approved by FDA, Will Likely Contaminate Foods

Genetically engineered, pharmaceutical rice is not a safe or cost-effective solution for infants suffering from diarrhea, concludes an exhaustive report by the Center for Food Safety, as the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) considered whether to allow planting of up to 3,200 acres of the rice in Junction City, Kansas this spring. The report discusses potential adverse health impacts of the rice-grown drugs, which have not been approved by the FDA.

Developed by California-based Ventria Bioscience, the rice is engineered with modified human genes to serve as a “biofactory” for production of synthetic human milk proteins that have antimicrobial and other drug-like properties. Ventria has proposed using the rice-extracted protein drugs to treat infants with diarrhea, and as additives in infant formulas, yogurt, granola bars and sports drinks, among other uses.

The report details Ventria’s failed attempts to gain FDA approval of its rice-grown drugs dating back to November 2003. Despite more than 20,000 comments objecting, USDA approved the planting last month.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

House Agriculture Committee to Consider Language in the Farm Bill that Would Deny State’s Rights to Protect Citizens from Risky Foods

Last week the U.S. House subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry passed new language added to the 2007 Farm Bill that would bar states or localities from prohibiting any food or agricultural product that the USDA has deregulated. The new language reads:

SEC. 123. EFFECT OF USDA INSPECTION AND DETERMINATION OF NON-REGULATED STATUS.Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no State or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the Secretary of Agriculture has—(1) inspected and passed; or(2) determined to be of non-regulated status.

The primary intent of this passage is to deny local or state rights to regulate genetically engineered crops or food (only GE crops are given "non-regulated status"). This would wipe out the restrictions passed by voters in four California counties and two cities, and could limit the powers of the California Rice Certification Act and its ability to prohibit the introduction of GE rice varieties. Local and state laws pertaining to GE crops have also been passed in Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. All of these democratically enacted laws are threatened by this language.

The biotech industry and big agribusiness have been trying to push similar bills in dozens of states across the country, and also at the Federal level with last year’s so-called “Food Uniformity” bill. Now they want to sneak it into a committee hearing and hide it in the Farm Bill.

Take Action! Contact the House Agriculture Committee

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What is the FDA Hiding?

What if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a rule that would intentionally hide information you rely on to make decisions about what to feed yourself and your family?

Or if FDA proposed changing food labeling information to something the agency knows to be misleading to consumers?

Well, FDA has announced just such a rule to weaken labeling of irradiated foods.

Currently, irradiated food must be labeled as “Treated with irradiation” or “Treated by radiation” and have on them the irradiated symbol. But now, in yet another attempt to appease industry at the expense of the public, the FDA has proposed a new rule that would allow irradiated food to be marketed in some cases without any labeling at all. In other cases, the rule would allow the terms “electronically pasteurized” or “cold pasteurized” to replace the use of “irradiated” on labels. These terms are not used by scientists, but rather are designed to fool consumers about what’s been done to their food.

Pasteurization involves heating liquids for the purpose of destroying harmful bacteria and other pathogens, and has been used safely for decades. Irradiation is a completely different process, using high-energy gamma rays, electron beams, or X-rays on meat, grains, and other foods.

Labeling irradiated foods as “pasteurized” is simply untruthful and misleading. Allowing the marketing of irradiated food without any labeling is equally misleading. Consumers have demanded irradiation labeling because they know that irradiation can create potentially dangerous chemical byproducts and reduce their foods' nutritional value.

In fact, FDA’s own research found that the proposed change would confuse consumers, stating "Research indicates that many consumers regard substitute terms for irradiation to be misleading."

What is the FDA hiding? A lot.

Consumers have a right to truthful labeling in order to make informed choices for themselves and their families. A public comment period is open until July 3, 2007.
Protect Your Right to Know: Tell the FDA Not to Weaken the Rules for Labeling Irradiated Food!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Consumers Flood FDA With Over 145,000 Comments Opposing Food From Cloned Animals

Americans urge agency to adopt a mandatory ban on untested, cloned food

(May 3, 2007) A coalition of consumer, environmental and animal welfare organizations today announced the submission of more than 145,000 comments to the Food and Drug Administration from consumers who oppose the Agency’s proposed plan to introduce food from cloned animals into the U.S. food supply.

The Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Food and Water Watch, The Humane Society of the United States, the American Anti-Vivisection Society, Citizens for Health, the Consumer Federation of America and the Organic Consumers Association joined together to send a strong, unified message to the FDA that the public opposes the introduction of cloned animals in food. Today is the last day of a public comment period that began in January in response to FDA’s proposal to allow products from cloned animals in the food supply unlabeled. Members of the meat and dairy industries, and several nonprofit organizations urged the Agency to take time to consider comments from the widest possible sample of Americans in consideration of the untested nature of cloning technology.

Recent public opinion polls show the majority of the American public does not want milk or meat from cloned animals in their food. A December 2006 poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers were uncomfortable with animal cloning. The comments submitted today strongly reinforce this national sentiment.

“Food from cloned animals has no place on our supermarket shelves or on our dinner tables,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “FDA needs to heed consumer concerns and ban animal clones in food.”

Another controversial aspect of FDA’s plan is that labeling of any kind on meat or milk products from clones or their offspring would not be required. This would rob Americans of their right to choose what they eat and feed their families.

“More than 145,000 people have said ‘No’ to unlabeled food from clones,” said Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association. “People are tired of the biotech industry meddling in the food system, tired of government rubber-stamping approvals, and tired of not having the right to choose what they eat and feed to their families.”

"This flood of public comments should send a strong signal to FDA that the public is not ready for food from animal clones, and if such food is put on the market they want it labeled" said Michael Hanson of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, and author of CU's scientific critique of FDA's risk assessment. "We hope the agency will listen and rethink their proposal in light of public sentiment and the many unanswered questions about the science of animal cloning."

“The FDA’s potential approval of meat and milk from cloned animals, and their belief that labeling of such food would be unnecessary if it were approved, flies directly in the face of the fact that a strong majority of the American public is concerned about the potential dangers that such food represents,” said Frank Herd Jr., Executive Director of Citizens for Health. “The FDA already has a questionable record with regard to its approval process; why should we believe that food from clones is safe when the ‘studies’ the FDA cites to support their position were conducted by some of the same biotech firms that would profit from the approval?” Herd added, “We at Citizens for Health advocate for the freedom to make health choices. In the event that the FDA does approve food from clones, it must require such food to be clearly labeled in order for consumers to make a truly informed choice about what they put in their bodies.”

Citing animal welfare concerns, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) have also asked the FDA to block sales of products from cloned farm animals and their offspring.

“Animals who go through the cloning process suffer terribly. Death and deformities in cloned animals is the norm, not the exception" said Tracie Letterman, Executive Director of AAVS. “Just because we can clone animals for food, doesn’t mean we should.”

“American consumers are increasingly concerned about the treatment of animals raised and slaughtered for food,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Considering the numerous studies that have shown that animals in cloning research can and do suffer, the FDA must disallow cloned animals and their progeny and surrogate mothers in food production industries.”

In its risk assessment of cloned food, the FDA claims to have evaluated extensive peer reviewed studies on the safety of food from clones to support its conclusion, yet a recent report issued by the Center for Food Safety, Not Ready for Prime Time, shows the assessment only references three peer-reviewed food safety studies, all of which focus on the narrow issue of milk from cloned cows. What is even more disturbing is that these studies were partially funded by the same biotech firms that produce clones for profit. None of the studies focus on the safety of meat from cloned cows or pigs, or milk or meat from the offspring of cloned animals, and there was absolutely no data on milk or meat from cloned goats - all major issues critical to determining the safety of the proposal.

“FDA’s willingness to allow the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals is yet another example of the Agency’s disregard for safety in the face of industry pressure,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “The FDA should not be allowed to use a skimpy body of evidence to allow this controversial product onto consumers’ dinner tables.”

Proponents of animal cloning have asserted that the technology will lead to better and less expensive dairy and meat products, but Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America says this simply isn’t true, “Consumers don’t want or need cloned animals for food. Cloning will not produce safer or cheaper milk and meat. Having cloned cows produce more milk won’t reduce milk prices. U.S. farmers already produce more milk than we drink and the government is required to buy the surplus. Since 1999, dairy support programs have cost taxpayers over $5 billion.”

The FDA has said it will review all the public comments, and will likely make a decision on food from cloned animals by the end of the year.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

FDA wants to relax rules on irradiated foods

The FDA announced today that the Agency may relax rules on labeling irradiated foods, and even suggested some irradiated products could be labeled as "pasteurized, " "cold-pasteurized," or other alternative terms than "irradiated." FDA's proposal (PDF) admits that in focus groups and polls, consumers were not buying the change in terminology, stating "Research indicates that many consumers regard substitute terms for irradiation to be misleading." Gee, I wonder why.

According to a CNN report, the proposed rule would require companies to label irradiated food only when the radiation treatment causes a 'material change' to the product. Examples include changes to the taste, texture, smell or shelf life of a food. The Center for Food Safety and Food and Water Watch released a report last year, Food Irradiation: A Gross Failure (PDF), exploring these very changes in irradiated food, finding that "published research on irradiated foods repeatedly finds that they smell rotton, metalic, bloody, burnt, grassy and generally off. The taste was described as like sulfer, singed hair, burnt feathers, burnt oil and rancid fat. " Mmmmm. Yum. That sounds pretty label-worthy to me.

Besides the obvious yuck factor, serious questions linger as to whether this food is safe. CFS's report also cites several scientific studies that show irradiating foods can form volatile toxic chemicals, such as benzene and toulene; causes stunted growth in lab animals fed irradiated foods; and a startling 2001 study that linked colon tumor promotion in lab rats to new chemical compounds that are found only in irradiated foods, known as 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs).

But FDA doesn't want to talk about those changes. That might confuse us or give rise to what the agency terms "inappropriate consumer anxiety." Though FDA repeatedly states in the proposal that consumers need to be given information in order to make informed purchasing decisions, FDA goes on to assert that "If the removal of explicit language indicating that a food has been irradiated causes people to buy irradiated products that they previously avoided, and if these products have lower prices or higher quality, then some consumers will benefit from the removal of information." Benefit from a lack of information we relied on to choose what we eat and feed to our families? Now I'm confused.

It seems pretty obvious who really benefits from a lack of labeling. Using recent food-contamination scandals as a springboard, irradiation has been touted as the solution to food-borne illness in everything from spinach to deli meats. But a good, hard look at the systemic food and agricultural problems that cause these tragic outbreaks in the first place has yet to be undertaken by government agencies. Instead they continue to approve risky band-aid solutions that are likely to cause more problems than they will ever fix, and then keep consumers in the dark about their use.

Monday, April 2, 2007

FDA grants 30-day extension for public comments on animal cloning

The FDA announced today that after several requests, they will grant a 30-day extension on the public comment period to respond to the Agency's draft assessment on allowing food products from cloned animals and their offspring into the food supply unlabeled. FDA has already received several thousand public comments on the proposal and we expect this extension to generate several thousand more.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Center for Food Safety Reveals that Milk and Meat from Clones is Untested and May Pose Health Risks to Consumers

Washington, DC (March 21, 2007) - The Center for Food Safety today issued a report critical of the Food and Drug Administration’s recent risk assessment on animal clones. The Center's review reveals that the risk assessment (which claims to show the safety of cloned food) relies almost entirely on unsupported assumptions and is based "more on faith than science." The Center is calling on FDA to issue a mandatory ban on the use of clones in food production until long-term studies demonstrate the safety of these foods and the vitally important ethical and animal welfare issues in cloning are resolved.
The Center's report "Not Ready for Prime Time: FDA's Flawed Approach to Assessing the Safety of Food from Animal Clones", was released today during a public comment period on FDA's planned approval of food from animal clones that is slated to close on April 2. The Center and numerous other organizations have requested an extension of the comment period to give Americans adequate time to review the Agency's findings and make their views heard.

The FDA says that food from clones is safe, and while they claim this view is supported by strong science, the Center for Food Safety Report actually shows that FDA found virtually no scientific studies to support the commercial release of these experimental foods. For example:

* FDA found no peer-reviewed studies on meat from cloned cows or on milk or meat from the offspring of cow clones.
* FDA found no peer-reviewed studies on meat from cloned pigs or their offspring.
* FDA found no peer-reviewed studies on meat or milk from cloned goats or their offspring.
* FDA found just three peer-reviewed studies on milk from cloned cows; all three studies showed differences in milk from clones that should have prompted further research.

"FDA's flawed approach falls far short of providing the kind of rigorous scientific assessment that Americans deserve before these experimental animals are allowed into the food supply," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center.

The report further finds that the FDA's risk assessment is based on flawed assumptions and misrepresented findings. A summary of the report, which is attached, shows that:

1. Despite FDA's claim that there is “no difference” between food from clones and their progeny and food from naturally-bred animals, most of the studies they reviewed found troubling abnormalities and defects in animal clones which could pose food safety risks.

2. Evidence from the Agency's own report and from other scientists shows that cloning does not produce identical "twins" and that cloning therefore may not be useful in breeding. In fact, studies have found that clones from the same parent differ significantly from each other and from their parent animal. A recent scientific study concluded that scientists and breeders agree that cloning may not be useful for livestock production.

3. The FDA review contradicts itself, first claiming that genetically defective clones will pose no risk to the food supply because the sick animals will be detected and removed, but then admitting that some sick and defective clones may in fact end up as food.

4. FDA says the defects seen in clones also occur in natural reproduction, differing only by degree in clones, but the Agency also finds several defects in clones that are rarely or never seen in normal animals. For example, one common abnormality in clones that can result in stillbirth or early death - or death of the mother – occurs in normal cows only once in 7,500 instances, while it may occur in up to 42% of cloned cows.

5. While the FDA claims that improvement in cloning technology is resulting in better success rates for clones, a 2005 scientific review found that success rates in cloning remain less than 5%.
6. FDA asserts that the offspring of clones - not clones themselves - will be used for food and that genetic defects in clones are “corrected” in the offspring. But - as the Center finds, the National Academy of Sciences has questioned the validity of this assumption. Even more troubling, FDA downplays or omits from their assessment studies finding that some genetic defects in clones have been reproduced in clones' offspring.

7. FDA has stated that it will not require labels on food from animal clones. But a 2004 National Academy of Sciences study noted that a national system to identify and track food from animal clones "must be implemented" before cloned foods are marketed.

View the Executive Summary (PDF)

View the full report, Not Ready For Prime Time: FDA's Flawed Approach To Assessing The Safety Of Food From Animal Clones (PDF)

In the News:
Reuters - Group Blasts FDA Plan To Allow Food From Clones

Monday, March 12, 2007

Federal Judge Orders First-Ever Moratorium On Sale Of Genetically Altered Seed

USDA approval of genetically engineered alfalfa is vacated, seed sales halted

San Francisco, CA, March 12, 2007 - A Federal judge ruled today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) 2005 approval of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa is vacated and ordered an immediate halt to sales of the GE seed. The ruling follows a hearing last week in the case brought by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approving GE alfalfa without conducting the required Environmental Impact Statement.

"We are pleased that the judge called for halt to sales of this
potentially damaging crop," said Will Rostov, a Senior Attorney for CFS. "Roundup Ready alfalfa poses threats to farmers, to our export markets, and to the environment. We expect the USDA to abide by the law and give these harmful effects of the crop full consideration."

The preliminary injunction ordered (PDF) by Judge Charles Breyer in the Federal Northern District of California today follows his ruling last month finding that USDA violated national environmental laws by approving GE alfafa without a full Environmental Impact Statement. Monsanto and Forage Genetics, the developers of the GE alfalfa seed, argued against the injunction. But while Monsanto and its allies claimed that delaying the sale or planting of their GE seed would harm farmers, the judge found otherwise. "Disappointment in the delay to their switch to Roundup Ready alfalfa is not an interest which outweighs the potential environmental harm…" posed by the GE crop, he wrote.

Today's decision is consistent with Judge Breyer's ruling of February 13th, in which Judge Breyer found that the USDA failed to address concerns that Roundup Ready alfalfa will contaminate conventional and organic alfalfa. The ruling noted that "…for those farmers who choose to grow non-genetically engineered alfalfa, the possibility that their crops will be infected with the engineered gene is tantamount to the elimination of all alfalfa; they cannot grow their chosen crop." Commenting on the agency’s refusal to assess this risk and others, the judge noted that "Nothing in NEPA, the relevant regulations, or the caselaw support such a cavalier response."

Judge Breyer will hold a hearing and is expected to decide whether to impose a permanent injunction in late April.

The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the following co-plaintiffs in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

In the Headlines

Several readers have requested that we include the news headlines in the main posts so that they will go out on the feed, rather than the sidebar of the blog. You wanted got it. Enjoy!

USDA, you got some 'splainin to do. Casting more doubt on the agency's oversight, another variety of rice in Arkansas has been contaminated by a genetically engineered variety. The recent contamination, found in a popular non-GE variety called Clearfield (CL 131), is thought to be from an unapproved GE line. USDA is barring planting of all CL 131 seed until they figure out where the unidentified genes came from, and whether or not is has been approved for the commercial market. Facing seed shortages due to last year's contamination of another popular rice variety, Cheniere, growers in Arkansas are now facing a potential severe seed shortage. Clearfield 131 and Cheniere together represent 39% of the South’s certified seed supply, so the latest incident is raising serious concerns about the availability of sufficient amounts of uncontaminated seed as planting season nears.

Patents are for toasters. This story from the Memphis Commercial Appeal features CFS' own Science Policy Analyst, Bill Freese. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a key patent in Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology, possibly stripping Monsanto of its power to profit from licensing deals. The patent is one of four that the nonprofit Public Patent Foundation asked the patent office to review last fall, alleging that the patents were granted to Monsanto without merit. It's unclear what will happen with the other three patents under review, but we'll keep you posted.

LA Times hosts cloned dinner "taste test." As the LA Times reported Sunday:

"six intrepid diners agreed to participate in cloned beef's debut on the culinary scene in a private dinner convened by The Times. Several prospective diners declined the invitation. Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation" and self-described omnivore, said: "I'd rather eat my running shoes than eat meat from a cloned animal." Spago chef Lee Hefter, who recently opened the Beverly Hills steakhouse Cut, agreed to host this dinner before abruptly changing his mind. "I don't want people to think that I would ever use it," he said. "I don't want to condone cloned beef. I don't want to eat it. I don't want it in my kitchen."

The Times' pretentious party to "taste the future of food" was ultimately held at the Tony Campanile restaurant. I don't know about you, but personally, I don't care whether or not you can taste the difference. Beef from cattle infected with Mad Cow disease doesn’t taste any different either. The concerns about cloned animals go far beyond whether or not my cloned steak will be as tasty as its conventional counterpart with my desired wine pairing. Perhaps all that "Bandol red" interfered with the "intrepid" diners' mental capacity to have a science or ethics discussion comparable to one that could be held by any high school debate club - or was it the Daphne Malvasia prosecco-style sparkling wine from Medici Ermete? Me, I'll take running shoes (and wine I can pronounce) with Schlosser any day, thank you very much.

Monsanto in the Middle. According to this story from NutraIngredients USA, Monsanto is filing a motion to intervene in a case recently won by CFS, calling on USDA to conduct a full environmental impact statement on Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready alfalfa. Monsanto said it decided to intervene "in order to give farmers the choice to use the technology." I've heard they also have several bridges for sale if you're interested.

Total Recall. DairyQueen has a great post over at the Ethicurean, "Why USDA & FDA Should Change Recall Protocols," addressing the paucity of information given to consumers when contaminated food is recalled, California's attempt to remedy the situation, and the possibility of USDA following California's lead. Where does the FDA stand? In the way.

Side note: In case you're unfamiliar with the Ethicurean, and you're thinking this is bound to be a dry read full of gross-me-out statistics, I give you this: "Why doesn’t the USDA come up with catchy names for its bacterial strains, a' la the Department of Defense? 0157:H7 could be known as Operation Gut Storm, for example." Genius.

This is Your Food on Drugs

The Washington Post published two interesting stories over the weekend concerning drug use and production in the food supply. In the first installment of "what the heck are they thinking?" FDA says it may soon approve a new drug for use in cattle, despite warnings against such approval by the American Medical Association, FDA's own scientists, and a myriad of health, consumer and food safety groups. The drug is part of a class of antibiotics that are very important to treating serious human illness, and scientists and health professionals warn that its introduction into the food supply would probably speed the emergence of microbes resistant to that important class of antibiotics, as has happened with other drugs. But FDA, in it's apparent unwavering adherence to the rules, claims it can't reject the drug on these concerns due to restrictive language in something called "Guidance #152." Anyone seen the movie Brazil? "Guidance #152?" It doesn't even have a dash or a stroke. It can't possibly be important enough to override the agency's clear directive to protect public health...wait. What's that clunking noise in the ceiling? (Update: Rick Weiss has a Q&A on the article in the WashPost HERE)

Meanwhile, the second Wash Post article has USDA backing the commercial production of a controversial variety of rice genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical proteins. The rice, created by California-based Ventria BioScience, is set to be grown and processed in Kansas (where they don't grow rice commercially), after the company was chased out of other states, including Monsanto's stomping grounds, Missouri, and Ventria's home-state California. Ventria has developed three varieties of rice, each engineered with a different human gene to produce one of three human proteins. Two of them -- lactoferrin and lysozyme -- are bacteria-fighting compounds found in breast milk and saliva. The third makes serum albumin, a blood protein used in medical therapies.

Sounds yummy, doesn't it? But not to worry, USDA says everything will be fine. Never mind that unapproved GE "pharm" crops have contaminated conventional crops in the past; or that two strains of conventional rice have now been found to be contaminated with three different genetically engineered varieties; or that pesky StarLink corn incident. USDA's track record isn't exactly spotless, and was further tarnished by two recent court judgements that CFS won against the agency for not following environmental regulations on approving GE bentgrass and GE alfalfa, but I'm sure they'll do a better job this time. In case you are not convinced, USDA is accepting public comments on the plan until March 30th. You can submit comments online at, Docket No. APHIS-2007-0006.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Top U.S. dairy company, Dean Foods, to ban products from cloned animals

Sam Fromartz, blogger, reporter, and author of Organic, Inc has an exclusive story at his blog Chews Wise on Dean Foods' announcment to ban the use of dairy products from cloned animals. Dean's announcement follows similar actions from Ben & Jerry's, Clover-Stornetta, Organic Valley, Straus Family Creamery, Stonyfield Farms, and retailers Whole Foods and Wild Oats, though Dean's decision may have the biggest impact on the commercialization of clones to date, at least in the dairy industry. Dean Foods sells dairy under more than 50 different brands, including Berkeley Farms, Borden, AltaDena, Land O' Lakes, Garelick, Hershey's Milk, Meadow Gold and Verifine. Dean also sells under many private label supermarket brands, and owns Horizon Dairy, the country's largest organic milk brand. Dean Foods is the industry leader, raking in over $10 billion in annual sales.

Read Dean's position statement over at Chews Wise

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Whole Foods and Wild Oats to Ban Meat and Milk from Cloned Animals

According to a story posted today on, Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats have said they will ban food products from cloned animals or their progeny if such foods are approved for sale. Both companies also urged the labeling of these products for consumers.

According to
the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported. "Whole Foods believes any food derived from cloned animals and offspring should be required to be labeled as such to allow consumers to make informed decisions on the meat and milk they buy," Margaret Wittenberg, vice president of communications and quality standards for the chain, told the newspaper.

Bill to label food from cloned animals introduced in the House

U.S. House Representative DeLauro (D-CT) introduced an identical, companion bill, HR 992, to the Cloned Food Labeling Act recently introduced by U.S. Senator Mikulski (D-MD). Both bills would require mandatory labeling of food products from animal clones or their offspring.

Tell Congress to label food from cloned animals!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Precedent-setting Decision May Block Planting, Sales of Monsanto Alfalfa

In a decision handed down yesterday, a Federal Court has ruled, for the first time ever, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to abide by federal environmental laws when it approved a genetically engineered crop without conducting a full Environment Impact Statement (EIS).

In what will likely be a precedent-setting ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California decided in favor of farmers, consumers, and environmentalists who filed a suit calling the USDA’s approval of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa a threat to farmers’ livelihoods and a risk to the environment. Judge Breyer ordered that a full Environmental Impact Statement must be carried out on “Roundup Ready” alfalfa, the GE variety developed by Monsanto and Forage Genetics. The decision may prevent this season’s sales and planting of Monsanto’s GE alfalfa and future submissions of other GE crops for commercial deregulation.

Judge Breyer concluded that the lawsuit, brought last year by a coalition of groups led by the Center for Food Safety, raised valid concerns about environmental impacts that the USDA failed to address before approving the commercialization and release of Roundup Ready alfalfa.
In his ruling, the judge consistently found USDA’s arguments unconvincing, without scientific basis, and/or contrary to the law. For example:

* The judge found that plaintiffs’ concerns that Roundup Ready alfalfa will contaminate natural and organic alfalfa are valid, stating that USDA’s opposing arguments were “not convincing” and do not demonstrate the “hard look” required by federal environmental laws. The ruling went on to note that “…For those farmers who choose to grow non-genetically engineered alfalfa, the possibility that their crops will be infected with the engineered gene is tantamount to the elimination of all alfalfa; they cannot grow their chosen crop.”

* USDA argued that, based on a legal technicality, the agency did not have to address the economic risks to organic and conventional growers whose alfalfa crop could be contaminated by Monsanto’s GE variety. But the judge found that USDA “overstates the law…Economic effects are relevant “when they are ‘interelated’ with ‘natural or physical environmental effects.’…Here, the economic effects on the organic and conventional farmers of the government’s deregulation decision are interrelated with, and, indeed, a direct result of, the effect on the physical environment.”

* Judge Breyer found that USDA failed to address the problem of Roundup-resistant “superweeds” that could follow commercial planting of GE alfalfa. Commenting on the agency’s refusal to assess this risk, the judge noted that “Nothing in NEPA, the relevant regulations, or the caselaw support such a cavalier response.”

“This is a major victory for farmers and the environment,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “Not only has a Federal Court recognized that USDA failed to consider the environmental and economic threats posed by GE alfalfa, but it has also questioned whether any agency in the federal government is looking at the cumulative impacts of GE crop approvals.”

“This is another nail in the coffin for USDA’s hands-off approach to regulations on these risky engineered crops,” said Will Rostov, Senior Attorney of The Center for Food Safety, which just last week won another judgment calling for USDA to provide more environmental documentation for any new GE field trials.

“This ruling will help protect my rights as a consumer to choose, and I choose organic foods whenever and wherever I can,” said Dean Hulse, Fargo, ND-based spokesperson for Dakota Resource Council and the Western Organization of Resource Councils. “The decision rejects Monsanto’s claims that transgenic crops are safe for the environment. Many people have been skeptical of those claims, and now we have a judge who’s skeptical as well – a judge who has actually studied the facts.”

The suit also cited the urgent concerns of farmers who sell to export markets. Japan and South Korea, America’s most important alfalfa customers, have warned that they will discontinue imports of U.S. alfalfa if a GE variety is grown in this country. U.S. alfalfa exports total nearly $480 million per year, with about 75% headed to Japan. The Court disagreed with USDA’s assertion that exports to Japan would not be harmed by deregulation of GE alfalfa.

“Today's ruling reinforces what Sierra Club has been saying all along: the government should look before it leaps and examine how genetically engineered alfalfa could harm the environment before approving its widespread use,” said Neil Carman of the Sierra Club’s genetic engineering committee. “That's just plain common sense.”

Alfalfa is grown on over 21 million acres, and is worth $8 billion per year (not including the value of final products, such as dairy), making it the country’s third most valuable and fourth most widely grown crop. Alfalfa is primarily used in feed for dairy cows and beef cattle, and it also greatly contributes to pork, lamb, sheep, and honey production. Consumers also eat alfalfa as sprouts in salads and other foods.

“We applaud the decision of the Court,” said Bill Wenzel of the National Family Farm Coalition. “It’s unfortunate that we have to turn to judges to do what’s right for farmers while the USDA carries water for the biotech companies.”

Pat Trask of Trask Family Seeds, a South Dakota conventional alfalfa grower and plaintiff in the case stated: “It’s a great day for God’s own alfalfa.”

The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the following co-plaintiffs in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms.

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