Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scientist Jeopardizes Career by Publishing Paper Criticizing GMOs

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Agro-ecologist Don Lotter published a paper titled "The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science" in the 2009 edition of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food.

The paper makes a damning case against genetically modified foods, saying the technology is based on obsolete science, that biotechnology companies such as Monsanto have too much influence on government regulators and "public" universities, and that university scientists are ignoring the health and environmental risks of GM crops. Lotter calls the introduction of GM foods the "largest diet experiment in history."

Lotter has a Ph.D. in agro-ecology from the University of California, Davis, and a master of professional studies in international agricultural and rural development from Cornell University. He has taught environmental science, soil science, plant science, entomology, and vegetable crop production for Santa Monica College, Imperial Valley College, and UC-Davis.

Lotter does not have a tenured position and is currently working on an agricultural project in Tanzania. He half-jokingly describes his paper as "career destroying" because he says it will be difficult to find a position at a US university due to the general recognition at most US universities that GM foods are safe and will help "feed the world."

If you thought publishing the paper would jeopardize your prospects for finding a position, why did you write the paper?

DL: I'm proud of the paper. This topic should be taught at universities. There is an enormous gap in public knowledge about this issue.

The science of genetic engineering is based on the one gene-one protein doctrine. Please describe this and why you think it is flawed.

DL: When they discovered the technology there was a simplified view that genes were in charge of the production of proteins. It is the entire basis for going forward with genetic engineering technology.

Then the Human Genome Project showed that humans have fewer genes than simple organisms, but we also have one to two million proteins. This discovery put an end to the one gene-one protein doctrine.

But by then there had been a massive investment in transgenics. The industry moved ahead with all their PR of "feeding the world" without any scientific basis for their technology. The doctrine has crumbled away, yet the industry has gone on.

In your paper you say that the process of genetically engineering foods is also deeply flawed. Can you give some examples of why that is the case?

DL: The promoter gene used in genetically engineered crops, the cauliflower mosaic virus, is a powerful promoter of inter-species gene exchange. Scientists thought it would be denatured in our digestive system, but it's not. It has been shown to promote the transfer of transgenes from GM foods to the bacteria within our digestive system, which are responsible for 80% of our immune system function; they are enormously important. This is a huge flaw, but not even the biggest in crop transgenics.

The process of splicing genes into plant genomes, transgenics, causes serious genetic damage-mutations, multiple copies of the transgenic DNA, gene silencing. The ramifications of this damage, incredibly, have never been elucidated or even explored for that matter.

Do you think the increase in food allergies we are seeing may be due to GM foods?

DL: Yes, there is evidence pointing to it. The industry is powerful enough to stop any labeling legislation. Without labeling they can't track these problems. We know that after the introduction of GM soy in Britain, there was an increase of soy allergies there.

In your paper, you write that the lack of oversight of GM foods has been a major failure of US science leadership. What makes you believe this?

DL: In the early 1980s, the biotech companies were successful in getting to oversee the regulation of GM foods. The scientific community should have stepped in, and said this is a radical technology, but it didn't.

There has also been a restructuring of the relationship between industry and universities. The Bayh-Dole Act (which gives universities intellectual property control of their inventions) made universities more dependent on industry.

Universities saw transgenics as a big money source, and scientists who objected were harassed or pushed out.

Do you think any US university would fund studies on GM food safety?

DL: No, they are not doing that. Anyone who tries to conduct research looking at GM food safety is given trouble.

Universities should have a mandate to find problems with GM foods.

We need federal money to look at non-proprietary solutions, such as organic farming systems, to the world's problems, and we should see whether proprietary approaches (i.e. GM foods) cause problems.

Unfortunately, non-proprietary solutions don't get funding.

We can show that organic farming systems promote drought resistance; the Rodale Institute did this research. But if a GM crop had been found to resist drought, there would have been major news headlines saying that it will save the world.

Is the safety of GM food considered a given at US universities?

DL: Absolutely. The debate is not there. US scientists have abdicated their responsibility on this issue. They know problems exist but they don't want to talk about them. Most scientists say we need GM foods to feed the world.

Some social scientists are saying there are problems (with GM foods).

I think undergraduate groups will bring the debate over GM foods to universities.

What type of agricultural approaches do you think will solve the world's food production challenges?

DL: The IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development) report said that we can produce food using agro-ecological methods and successful green revolution methods. The report didn't include transgenics.

The report was signed by 60 countries, but the US didn't sign it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Internet and Newspapers as Sources for Biotech Communication

Where do public officials obtain information about science issues including agricultural biotechnology? Based on a study of two groups that included elected state officers of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization and Texas House and Senate legislators, respondents relied on the Internet and newspapers as source for agricultural biotechnology. However, Texas legislators used the Cooperative Extension Service significantly more often than did state FFA officers, whereas the FFA officers relied more on the Internet. These were the findings of Gary Wingenbach, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications at Texas A&M University.
The study published in the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, also tackled current and possible future legislators' perceptions of biotechnology. It provided a better understanding of the impact of media types when communicating the science of biotechnology to others.
View the abstract at http://www.jnrlse.org/view/2009/e08-0022.pdf.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pakistan Biotechnology Report

Despite the lack of any approved GM crop in Pakistan, it is estimated that over 90 percent of the 2009 cotton crop, covering an area of about 8.5 million acres, was planted in illegal biotech varieties, according to a new USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) GAIN report. The report also enumerated several genetically modified crops currently being developed by private companies and public research institutions in the country, including blight and insect-resistant rice, insect resistant cotton, virus-resistant tomato, potato, chickpea and pepper. According to the report, the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted approval for green house and field testing of 39 GM crop varieties.
Download the USDA-FAS GAIN report at http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/AGRICULTURAL%20BIOTECHNOLOGY%20ANNUAL_Islamabad_Pakistan_9-15-2009.pdf

Sibling Recognition in Plants

Two groups of researchers confirmed that plant siblings grown close to each other in the soil tend not to compete with each other compared to when they are grown with non-siblings. The phenomenon was observed first by Susan Dudley of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada in 2007 and was confirmed recently by Harsh Bais of the University of Delaware. "Plants have no visible sensory markers, and they can't run away from where they are planted," Bais says. "It then becomes a search for more complex patterns of recognition."
Using wild populations of Arabidopsis thaliana, Bais, together with student Meredith Bierdrzycki, confirmed that the length of the longest lateral root and of hypocotyls of siblings planted close to each other are shallower, indicating non-competition. But, when they are grown with non-siblings, they rapidly grow more roots to take up water and mineral nutrients in the soil, and compete with each other. In addition, leaves of these plant siblings often will touch and intertwine compared to strangers that grow rigidly upright and avoid touching.
When added with sodium orthovanadate, a root secretion inhibitor to the set-up, stranger recognition is abolished. Identification and control of the root recognition signal will find application in field and landscape crops.
See the news at http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2010/oct/plantsiblings101409.html . The full article will be available at: http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/cib/article/10118/

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vilsack Mistakenly Pitched "GMOs-Feed-The-World" to an Audience of Experts--Oops

From Jeffrey Smith:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was getting lots of appreciative applause and head nods from the packed hall at the Community Food Security Coalition conference today, held in Des Moines, Iowa. He described the USDA's plans to improve school nutrition, support local food systems, and work with the Justice Department to review the impact of corporate agribusiness on small farmers. But then, with time for only one more question, I was handed the microphone.
"Mr. Secretary, may I ask a tough question on GMOs?"
He said yes.
"The American Academy of Environmental Medicine this year said that genetically modified foods, according to animal studies, are causally linked to accelerated aging, dysfunctional immune regulation, organ damage, gastrointestinal distress, and immune system damage. A study came out by the Union of Concerned Scientists confirming what we all know, that genetically modified crops, on average, reduce yield. A USDA report from 2006 showed that farmers don't actually increase income from GMOs, but many actually lose income. And for the last several years, the United States has been forced to spend $3-$5 billion per year to prop up the prices of the GM crops no one wants.
"When you were appointed Secretary of Agriculture, many of our mutual friends--I live in Iowa and was proud to have you as our governor--assured me that you have an open mind and are very reasonable and forward thinking. And so I was very excited that you had taken this position as Secretary of Agriculture. And I'm wondering, have you ever heard this information? Where do you get your information about GMOs? And are you willing to take a delegation in D.C. to give you this hard evidence about how GMOs have actually failed us, that they've been put onto the market long before the science is ready, and it's time to put it back into the laboratory until they've done their homework."
The room erupted into the loudest applause of the morning.
Secretary Vilsack knew at once what kind of crowd he was dealing with. Or so I thought.
He said he was willing to visit with folks, to read studies, to learn as much as he possibly can. He pointed out that there are lots of studies, not necessarily consistent, even conflicting. He said he was in the process of working on a set of regulations and had brought proponents and opponents together to search for common ground. And he was looking to create a regulatory system with sufficient assurances and protections.
At this point in his answer, Secretary Vilsack, who has a history of favoring GMOs--and even appears to be more pro-GMO than his Bush administration predecessors--was trying to sound even handed. Then he made a tragic mistake.
After a slight pause, he added in a warm tone, "I will tell you that the world is very concerned about the ever-increasing population of the globe and the capacity to be able to feed all of those people."
Moans, groans, hisses, even boos. Not rowdy, mind you. But clearly agitated.
You see, the people in the room were among the top experts at actually feeding the world. They included numerous PhDs who had spent their careers looking deeply into the issue. Among those present were several of the authors of the authoritative IAASTD report. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, is the most comprehensive evaluation of world agriculture ever. It was a three-year collaborative effort with 900 participants and 110 countries, and was co-sponsored by all the majors, e.g. the World Bank, FAO, UNESCO, WHO. The behemoth effort evaluated the last 50 years of agriculture, and prescribed the methods that were now needed to meet the development and sustainability goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nutrition, health and rural livelihoods, and facilitating social and environmental sustainability.
And GMOs was not one of those needed methods! It was clear to the experts that the current generation of GMOs did not live up to the hype continuously broadcast by biotech companies and their promotional East Coast wing--the federal government.
In fact, the night before Vilsack addressed the conference, the same audience heard a keynote by Hans Herren, the co-chairman of the IAASTD report, during which he reiterated that biotechnology was not up to the task. And this morning, Hans Herren was in the room when Vilsack tried to play the feed-the-world card. Bad move.
Vilsack responded to the crowd's rejection by saying, "And well you all can disagree with this, but I am just telling you this. As I travel the world, I am just telling you what people are telling me. They are very concerned about this."
Thus, he distanced himself from the contentious, and fallacious, argument. He was just reporting what others had told him.
And that may in fact be his problem with understanding the serious health and environmental dangers of GMOs in general, if he is simply, as he says, repeating what others--Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont--have told him over and over again.
It's true that I have mutual friends of Tom Vilsack who like and respect him and believe him to be reasonable and thoughtful. I have seen this myself, but not on the GMO issue.
Perhaps the reaction of the experts this morning will help to jar him out of his GMOs-feed-the-world mindset. Unfortunately, he is now deeply immersed in the second of this week's food conferences here in Des Moines, the World Food Prize. It features the major GMO promoters from around the world, including Bill Gates (who gives tens of millions to GMO development in Africa), and top executives of DuPont and Syngenta. Expect to hear constant chatter about how GMOs are the solution to world hunger which, unfortunately, may undue any of the restructuring that this morning's run-in with reality may have awakened.
In the meantime, if there are Q & A sessions at meetings where Secretary Vilsack is speaking or attending, I'll do my best to get to a mic.

International bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. His first book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating, is the world's bestselling and #1 rated book on GMOs. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, documents 65 health risks of the GM foods Americans eat everyday. Both are distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Expression of Wheat Genes in Maize Kernels Improves Wet Milling Yields

The texture of maize seeds, which is dependent on the proportions of hard and soft endosperm, is an important trait that influences various end-uses of maize such as starch yield and the power required for both wet and dry milling. Maize kernels are divided into general classes based on texture: flint, popcorn, flour, dent, and sweet. Softer textured dent maize is preferred for wet-milling, which is the largest non-feed user of maize in the United States. In the US, most maize starch extraction is done by a wet milling process. The development of softer maize hybrids with higher starch extractability would therefore be of value to maize processors.
Researchers at the Montana State University and Washington State University developed maize varieties with altered maize seed texture and wet milling yield by endosperm-specific expression of puroindoline genes (Pina and Pinb) from wheat. The tryptophan-rich regions in the PIN proteins serve as a non-stick agent enabling PINs to bind to starch granule surface lipids.
Textural analysis of the maize seeds indicated that the expression of PINs decreased adhesion between starch and protein matrix and reduced maize grain hardness significantly. The researchers also found that starch yield was increased by 4.86% on average without negatively impacting starch purity.
The paper published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2009.00438.x

Genuity SmartStax Trial Plots Demonstrate Efficacy Against Corn Earworm

On going experimental field trials of genetically modified (GM) corn Genuity SmartStax has raised hopes for Midwest US corn farmers to combat earworm. The trial which involves a comparison of corn hybrids without in-plant earworm protection and the biotech corn was conducted in a trial plot with severe earworm pressure in the eastern part of Kansas.
The biotech corn Genuity SmartStax which carries traits for earworm protection as well as two herbicide-tolerance traits for improved weed control performed better and has less incidence of secondary infection by corn ear diseases. In addition, Chism Craig, Monsanto Technology Development representative, observed that when corn is planted late, it is more vulnerable to earworm migration from the South. This trial showed that the biotech corn withstood the heavy insect pressure brought by late planting.
The biotech corn is scheduled to be introduced in 2010 on 3 to 4 million acres in the USA.
See the press release for more details at http://monsanto.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=755

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Makers of Quorn, the Chicken-Flavored Fungus, Sued for Not Disclosing Dangerous Reactions

Vat-Grown Mold Tastes Like Chicken but Makes Some Violently Ill
WASHINGTON—An Arizona woman has filed a class action lawsuit accusing Quorn Foods of not disclosing on labels the fact that some people have serious allergic reactions to the main ingredient in its Quorn line of meat substitutes. That ingredient happens to be a fungus—mold, actually—discovered in the 1960s in a British dirt sample. The company grows the fungus in vats and processes it into a fibrous, proteinaceous paste. But more than a thousand people have reported to the Center for Science in the Public Interest that they have suffered adverse reactions, including nausea, violent vomiting, uncontrollable diarrhea, and even life-threatening anaphylactic reactions after eating the patties, cutlets, tenders and other products made with Quorn's fungus.

Photo Credit: Stacey Greene
"I was vomiting so hard," said Kathy Cardinale, who ate these Quorn patties.
The nonprofit food safety and nutrition watchdog group is serving as co-counsel in the case. Connecticut State Marshals are serving the company, whose U.S. headquarters are in that state, with the suit today. The case is filed in Superior Court in the Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk.
Kathy Cardinale, a 43-year-old advertising executive, ate Quorn’s Chik’n Patties on three separate occasions in 2008. Each time, within two hours of eating the product, Cardinale became violently ill. Thinking she had had a stomach virus, Cardinale didn’t realize that she was reacting to the Quorn until the third time she ate one of the patties, after which she vomited seven or eight times within two hours.
"I felt like the soles of my feet were going to come out of my mouth, I was vomiting so hard," said Cardinale. "Once I began to research Quorn online I realized I wasn’t alone and that other people had similar stories. It was unbelievable to me that the company knew this was going on and wasn’t warning consumers about these problems."

Photo Credit: Stacey Greene
Clockwise from upper left: Quorn’s shape-shifting fungus takes the form of "chik’n", "turk’y", or unspecified "grounds."
Quorn Foods, which is British-owned, markets its signature organism as being related to mushrooms, truffles, and morels, since all of those are fungi. While that’s true, it's as misleading as claiming that humans are related to jellyfish since they’re both animals, according to CSPI. Quorn's fungus is named Fusarium venenatum—"venenatum" is Latin for "venomous."
As early as 1977, a study found that some people have adverse reactions to Fusarium venenatum. That unpublished study conducted by Quorn's developer found that 10 percent of 200 test subjects who ate the fungus experienced nausea, vomiting, or other gastrointestinal symptoms, compared with five percent in a control group. The company claims the rate of illness is trivial, though a 2005 telephone survey of consumers in Britain—where the products have been marketed longer and more widely than in the United States—commissioned by CSPI found that almost five percent of Quorn eaters experienced adverse reactions. That was a higher percentage of people than that of those who reported allergies to shellfish, milk, peanuts or other common food allergens. Since 2002, more than 1,400 British and American consumers have filed adverse reaction reports on a website maintained by CSPI, quorncomplaints.org.
"It's almost unheard of for a company to market something as healthy when it actually makes a significant percentage of its customers sick within minutes or hours," said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. "It is the company's legal obligation to warn consumers about these serious adverse reactions, and getting the company to meet that obligation is the purpose of this lawsuit."
"Quorn Foods should either find a fungus that doesn’t make people sick, or place prominent warning labels about the vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, and other symptoms Quorn causes in some consumers," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not disagree that Quorn products cause sometimes-severe allergic reactions, the agency still considers the Quorn ingredient to be "generally recognized as safe."
"At a time when the public and doctors are deeply concerned about the rise in food allergies, it is deeply distressing that the FDA knowingly permitted a powerful new allergen into the food supply," said Jacobson. "We call on the FDA to revisit its policy."
CSPI's litigation department has, since its founding in 2004, sued a number of leading national food companies and has secured agreements improving food labeling, marketing, or product formulation with Anheuser Busch, Frito-Lay, Kellogg, KFC, Kraft, Sara Lee and other companies. CSPI's litigation activities helped spur the removal of artificial trans fat from restaurant food and helped return millions of dollars to consumers from makers of the dietary supplement Airborne.
Daniel Blinn of the Connecticut firm Consumer Law Group is serving as co-counsel in the case alongside CSPI’s litigation unit.

Phytohormone Helps Plants Eliminate Pesticide Residues

Scientists all over the world have been seeking new ways of minimizing pesticide residues that remain in food crops after harvest. Now, researchers from the Zhejiang University in China may have found the answer. Jing Quan Yu and colleagues, in a paper published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, reported that application of brassinosteroids to crops can help plants eliminate residues of certain pesticides.
Brassinosteroids (BR), first identified twenty years ago, have been found to play important roles in regulating plant growth and development. They have also been implicated in plant responses to environmental stresses and in plant defense against bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens.
Yu and colleagues treated cucumber plants with 24-epibrassinolide (EBR), one type of BR, then treated the plants with various pesticides, including chloropyrifos (CPF), a broad-spectrum commercial insecticide. BR significantly reduced their toxicity and residues in the plants.  "BRs may be promising, environment friendly, natural substances suitable for wide application to reduce the risks of human and environment exposure to pesticides," Yu and colleagues wrote in the paper. At present, there is no direct evidence for harmful effects of BRs on human health.
The paper is available for download at http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/jf901915a?cookieSet=1

Illegal GM Flax now in 30 countries including the UK - No official action from the FSA

GM Freeze, 8 October 2009

GM Freeze has written again to the FSA and Defra asking for urgent clarification as to how the UK Government intends to protect farms, the public and businesses from the illegal GM contamination of Canadian flax products that has now reached some 30 countries worldwide, including the UK.

GM Freeze has asked the FSA why they have not yet issued an official Food Alert regarding this contamination. This is even more surprising given the FSA initiated an EU Rapid Alert to Member States following the detection of the GM flax in the UK.

GM Freeze have asked Defra to provide responses to questions originally raised on 14 September:
- what actions Defra is taking to identify the origins of flax seed sown in the UK?
- what actions Defra is taking to ensure imports of flax/linseed are tested for this unauthorised GMO?
- what have been the results of these tests?
- what other actions are you taking in general and on these results, including to identify and destroy any contaminated crops in the UK?

In addition we've asked Defra:

- what action is being taken to ensure that seed contamination does not spread to crops and food products in the absence of monitoring of seed?
- why there appears to be no contingency planning to deal with situations such as this or the oilseed rape contamination last year?[1]

In the letter to Hilary Benn, GM Freeze ask if he can confirm reports that the contamination problem may be rectified by retroactively approving the GM flax for use in the EU and what the UK's voting position on such a proposal would be if this suggestions is tabled.

Eve Mitchell from GM Freeze commented: "This appears to be an extraordinary dereliction of duty by the FSA and the Government, and not for the first time. It's time we had a Parliamentary Committee to oversee the FSA and ensure they are doing their job to protect UK farms, businesses and the public.

"UK companies need to be told that this problem is growing and to remove any potentially contaminated products from sale. The official mechanism for this is a Food Alert from the FSA, yet a month into this incident there is still no Food Alert.

"Any suggestion that this flax should be speedily authorised to 'eliminate' the problem must be rejected as a prime example of the 'contaminate then legislate' approach favoured by the GM industry.

"The FSA claims it 'provides advice and information to the public and Government on food safety from farm to fork, nutrition and diet. It also protects consumers through effective food enforcement and monitoring'.

"If this is 'protection', UK farms, businesses and the public appear to be second in line to ensuring the GM industry isn't embarrassed."

Calls to:
Eve Mitchell, GM Freeze Coordinator +44 (0)7962 437 128 or 01381 610 740
Pete Riley, GM Freeze Campaigns Director 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341065

Notes:
[1] Scottish Parliament written answers from 6 October said:

 "EU seeds legislation requires that Member States should ensure that they are notified of the particulars of any seed (to be used for multiplication purposes as opposed to grain) weighing over 2kgs which is directly imported from Canada or any other third country. No such notifications have ever been received by Scottish Ministers regarding seed from Canada. This information is not, however, routinely compiled at EU level and the Scottish Government has no information on such notifications elsewhere in Europe", (Scottish Parliament written answer S3W-27785) (emphasis ours)

and

"EU seeds legislation does not require the monitoring of seed imports for adventitious GM presence (AGMP)". (Scottish Parliament written answer S3W-27787)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Food Safety Bill That Would Make Us Less Safe

James J. Gormley

Backyard growers who sell pumpkins and other produce on their own property, or at a local farmer´s market, will be in for a surprise if Senator Durbin´s Senate Bill 510 (S.B. 510) passes: they will be receiving a visit from inspectors.

Products not grown according to designated standards will be considered "adulterated" and their business records will be subject to warrantless searches by inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) without any evidence needed to prove that they have violated any law.

Wonder why Federal agents have imposed martial law by quarantining your town? Under S.B. 510´s House counterpart bill, H.R. 2749 (Section 133b, "Authority to Prohibit or Restrict the Movement of Food"), sponsored by Congressman Dingell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will have the power to prohibit all movement of all food within a geographic area, whether the food is in your mother´s grocery bag in her Ford Taurus or on a flatbed. No court order will be needed, just a phone call to the appropriate state official and a public announcement will be sufficient.

Are you upset that raw milk or raw milk cheeses (like feta) are no longer available in the U.S.? This could happen thanks to the "performance standards" powers that would be granted to the FDA by S.B. 510, especially since the agency has made it clear that it is vehemently opposed to the consumption of very popular raw milk products.

Shocked that U.S. food safety regulations strangely match those of other countries? Section 306 of S.B. 510 would require "Recommendations to harmonize requirements under the Codex Alimentarius."

What about food supplement manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and health food stores? Will they be ensnared in this bill´s 1984-esque net? Very possibly so.

S.B. 510 (which would cost Americans $825 million in 2010 alone) and the House of Representatives version of this bill, H.R. 2749, which did pass under suspended rules, do not address the root causes of the U.S.'s food safety problems, which were highlighted in both a recent campaign by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and by a letter to 99 U.S. senators by the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF USA).

According to consumer health advocacy group, Citizens for Health, if this Senate version passes it would:


>> Undermine DSHEA and move the U.S. one step closer to harmonizing our standards under Codex with those of restrictive regimes like the European Union. (DSHEA, or the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, says that supplements are food and are safe for consumption unless proven otherwise – ensuring that millions of Americans are able to enjoy access to safe, effective and affordable dietary supplements).

>> Give the FDA inappropriate, and unprecedented, control over farms and direct-to-consumer distributors. If passed, the bills would charge facilities an annual $500 registration fee, require additional record keeping, and expand the FDA´s authority to quarantine geographic areas for alleged food safety problems – all without significantly improving food safety.

>> Harm U.S. organic farmers by imposing overlapping regulations.

>> Hurt food supplements and health-food stores by imposing standards that are already covered by the AER (Adverse Event Reporting) Law, cGMPs (current Good Manufacturing Practices) and food facility registration.

>> Cripple local food co-ops, farm stands, independent ranchers and artisanal food producers by imposing unnecessary standards and unfair bureaucratic burdens.

Clearly, S. 510, while claiming to increase food safety would actually leave consumers more vulnerable to foodborne disease since the FDA would be required to use a mathematical algorithm-centered, risk-based food safety system called HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) rather than doing old-fashioned, effective physical, on-site inspections in plants, factory farms and slaughterhouses, where the actual food safety concerns are.

Furthermore, the U.S. has abrogated its duty to inspect and enforce food safety standards, both here and abroad, by allowing processing plants to regulate themselves under the failed HACCP system; and it has embraced policies that have driven independent U.S. farmers and ranchers out of business and replaced them with corporate-owned, industrialized food production units that are known to cut food safety corners to maximize corporate profits.

So what do we need to do? One thing consumers can do is visit Citizens for Health (www.citizens.org) for an opportunity to send a letter to senators about S.B. 510, the "food safety bill" that isn´t.