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.

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