A comment on the concerns of religious vegetarians about inserting
animal genes into plants. Actually, animal genes would first be cloned
into bacteria before finally making their way into plants, in which case
you could more logically say you were inserting bacterial genes into
plants. Even that is oversimplification, though. While in the bacteria,
the gene would most likely be altered so that its
codon usage would be optimal in its final host. Thus, the sequence
which is eventually transferred to the plant isn't exactly animal or
bacterial, but something new. It may seem to some that these are
niceties, but we're dealing here with religious ideas. And religions are
prone to drawing very fine distinctions
Associate Professor, Biology
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Panel OKs bill to crack down on eco-terrorists
April 17, 2001
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Activists opposed to bioengineered foods who
destroy crops in protest could be sued for twice the value of the crop
under a bill the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Tuesday.
The measure (SB 1528) also would make it a third-degree felony carrying a
possible prison term of three years to trespass on lands used for testing
and researching food biotechnology.
In the last three years, various groups have damaged or destroyed more
than 40 private and government properties across the country where genetic
engineering was being conducted, according to an analysis by Senate staff.
The legislation must still clear the Appropriations Committee before
making it to the floor.
Postbag: GMO article told only half the story
By Sathien Tumtavitikul, MD
April 16, 2001
In your report on Greenpeace's exposure of the GMOs in food products
(Bangkok Post, April 11), it did not and could not substantiate how the
GMOs had any ill effect on human health.
Americans are far ahead in research on this subject and have been
consuming GMOs for years. To date, there has not been any scientific
evidence of health problems caused by consuming such products.
Many countries who lag behind in research and production are against GMOs
for obvious reasons, and so put up trade barriers.
If Greenpeace is sincerely concerned about the health of Thai people, it
should have exposed the real, hazardous substances contaminating foods we
consume daily, such as insecticides in vegetables and fruits, formalin in
fish and meats, hormones in chicken and pork, antibiotics in shrimp and
chicken, as well as the production of narcotics that are ruining the
brains of Thai children.
Should we ask whose interest Greenpeace is really representing?
Sathien Tumtavitikul, MD
Anti-GMO protestors target French sites
Agence France Presse
April 17, 2001
Demonstrators staged protests in several parts of France on Tuesday as
part of a worldwide day of action to demand a halt to the cultivation of
genetically engineered crops.
Protestors gathering outside the premises of the country's gene research
programme, Genoplante, in Evry, northern France, while activists stormed
an experimental farm in Aveyron in the south east.
Local authorities in the southeastern town of Cabeuil ordered a ban on all
planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from 2002 and further
demonstrations were expected later in the day in Marseilles and nearby
The protests were part of a worldwide campaign launched by Via Campesina,
a global network of farming, environmental and other organisations
including Greenpeace and France's Cofederation Paysanne (Peasants'
Confederation), whose leader Jose Bove is famous for spectacular protests
against globalisation and GMOs.
Bove has criticised the five-year Genoplante programme, whose budget of
1.4 billion francs (0.19 billion dollars, 0.21 billion euros) is largely
state-funded, for using public money to "further the interests of private
companies" and assist them in "gaining ownership of living organisms" by
patenting gene-altered crops.
Supporters of research into GMOs say genetic engineering could help make
plants more resistant to viruses, drought and highly saline soils, and
therefore boost crop yields.
But opponents say GMOs resistant to herbicides and insects could pass on
these properties to other species, with potentially disastrous
Multinational biotechnology firms are keen to introduce gene-changed crops
to developing countries in a bid to erode growing resistance to GMOs in
But Greenpeace insisted earlier this week that third world hunger was more
a political problem than an agricultural one and said gene modification
could enable biotech multinationals to produce alternatives to developing
country crops such as vanilla, thus further undermining the latters'
GM tide turns
TUESDAY APRIL 03 2001
A majority of people in Britain are happy to eat genetically modified
foods for the first time since the issue emerged three years ago. A poll
by NOP found that 48 per cent will eat GM food and 44 per cent still
refuse. Only 20 per cent believe it is significantly less safe. Last year
50 per cent rejected GM food while 46 per cent ate it.
Public Opinion Swings Towards GM Foods
April 3, 2001
As the DETR this week announces new trial sites for genetically modified
(GM) maize, a national survey conducted by NOP reveals that support for GM
foods amongst the British public has increased over the last 12 months.
Key findings include:
Half the nation would eat GM food A 10 per cent decrease in those who
believe GM foods are unsafe
Two out of three people don't feel they know enough about GM foods
Contrary to claims that there is no demand for GM food in the UK, and
major campaigns against it, 48 per cent of people questioned said that
they would eat food they knew was genetically modified. 44 per cent of
people questioned said they would not.
Comparisons with an identical poll in 2000 demonstrate an increase in
consumer acceptance. Then, 46 per cent said they would and 50 per cent
said they would not eat it.
The greatest level of support resided in the north east of England, where
60 per cent of respondents expressed a willingness to eat GM products:
broadly the divide is between willing young men in the north east and
reluctant middle aged women in the west country and Wales.
A significant swing in the dynamics of the GM debate was also apparent in
the results of the survey. While in 2000, 30 per cent of people questioned
thought GM foods were not as safe as conventional foods, this year, it was
only 20 per cent.
Professor Vivian Moses, Chairman of the CropGen panel that commissioned
the survey comments: "This survey reveals that the changing attitudes of
the public as the potential of GM crops are being recognised. It is clear
that the public wish to make up their own minds on this issue; however
with 69 per cent of people saying they are not informed enough to make a
judgement on the benefits and risks of GM crops, there is a clear demand
for information. The farmscale trials offer an opportunity to gain such
valuable information and will prove vital in evaluating this technology."
India : Tools for sustainable development
Hindu Business Line
April 18, 2001
GENETIC engineering has made possible the transfer of genes across the
species to overcome the reproductive barriers, the critical problem faced
with gene transfer by conventional breeding.
The advances in genetic engineering have opened new vistas to enhance the
biodegradable and reclamation abilities of the naturally occurring
microorganisms and higher plants. Genetically-altered bacteria have become
popular in checking oil spills the world over. Now, attempts are on to
make plants that can accumulate metals reclaim degraded soil.
The poplar tree, genetically engineered with the bacterial mercuric
reductase gene and capable of vaporising mercury from contaminated sites,
was reported by a team of Canadian scientists.
In Indian mustard, the E. coli gene gsh 11, introduced by Yong and
co-workers, was reported to have very fast biomass accumulation that led
to accumulation of 40-90 per cent higher cadmium concentration in the
Bacterial merA gene, was transferred to yellow poplar trees (University of
Georgia, US) to release mercury from the affected sites.
Attempts are on to introduce the merA gene into Arabidopsis, tobacco and
In T. caeruiescens, work is underway to transfer genes from efficient
hyper-accumulators for zinc accumulation by R. Chaney (USDA, Maryland,
Non-degradable toxic chemicals, such as naphthalene, polychlorinated
biphenyl, etc., can be degraded into salts, carbon-dioxide and water by
some of the altered bacteria.
Over the last few decades, the impact of science and technology on society
and the ecosystem has intensified the deterioration of biological wealth
as well as ecosystems, leading to the loss of biodiversity and resources.
The agriculture of the 1940s, which was eco-friendly, has now become fully
chemicalised, with new farming technologies to cope up with the demands of
the growing human needs and its commercialisation.
This problem is going to intensify with the ever-growing population,
urbanisation and rapid industrialisation. In this context, plants and
other microorganisms may play a vital and important role in reclaiming
soil and water bodies, and in tackling air pollution.
Bio- and phyto-remediation techniques are gaining importance throughout
the world to improve the quality of the environment.
In the US, site-specific clean-up of soil and water from toxins has
commenced. Also in Europe and Japan, soil and water reclamation through
bioremedials has been given high priority.
India is one of the 12 mega biodiversity centres, with great diversity in
agri-horticultural crops that includes almost 49,000 known plant species,
23,000 fungi, 30 million microorganisms, 2,500 algae and 1,800 bryophytes,
whose abilities are yet to be fully discovered in this aspect and may lead
to exploration of new avenues.
There is enormous potential and scope to develop bioremediation and
phytoremediation practices, as our soil and water bodies are heavily
polluted with toxic chemicals and our bio-ecological resources are highly
potent to rectify the problems.
Recent studies have identified several plant species of India , including
babul, subabul, tendu, shisham, ber, siris, and so on, as scavengers that
can be used for reclamation of coalmine areas.
In India , over 93.7 million hectares is covered under acidic soil ranging
from Himalayan region to coastal plains and, at present, the cultivable
agricultural lands are also turning acidic in an alarming rate.
A species introduced in 1890, water hyacinth from Brazil (Eichhornia
crassipes) is a very effective phytoremedial. It accumulates trace
elements such as copper, lead, arsenic, cadmium, nickel and mercury, and
so on, and is used as a bio-filter for cleaning polluted water.
Another exotic species, Eucalyptus, is also effective as a phytoremedial
for reclamation of polluted wastelands. The need of the hour is the search
for phyto- and bio-remedials for pollutants like smoke, ash from thermal
power plants and exhaust emissions of vehicles, and for the development of
organisms for degradation of plastics (such as poly vinyl chloride).
Plants play an important role in preventing soil erosion, desertification,
drought, checking environmental pollution, improving water retention
capacity of the soil, besides being a major part of our economy.
Nowadays, several plant species are identified which acts as scavenger and
removes the toxic chemicals and metals from the soil, besides enriching
soil quality and fertility.
Research efforts are indeed a must to ensure the applicability and
feasibility of bio- and phyto- remediation techniques in India to prevent
further environmental pollution.
The present era of super-intensive cropping system to extract the maximum
potential of our natural resources has accelerated the deterioration of
biological wealth, leading to the loss of biodiversity.
The indiscriminate use of pesticides, excessive irrigation and imbalanced
fertilisation has threatened sustainability and the ecological balance.
On the other hand, the shrinking crop area, the fast-degrading natural
resource base, declining use efficiency of inputs, issues of soil erosion,
water pollution, land degradation and dwindling input-output ratio have
rendered crop production less remunerative.
In the near future, agriculture will face formidable challenges in
providing adequate nutrition for the growing population. So, now it is the
right time to take the decision on how to increase our agricultural
productivity to cope with this situation.
Unless the latest tools of science and technology are applied for
sustainable development, hunger will persist and the gains of the Green
Revolution will be lost.
Date: 17 Apr 2001 15:33:25 -0000
From: Mary Murphy
Subject: Give them an inch, they'll take a mile
While NGOs may or may not be directly related to eco-terroriststs, one
thing is for sure:
They are eco-extortionists!
The recent Starbucks campaign is a perfect example. Starbucks CEO Orin
Smith said, "If I've got 10 percent of my customer base that's
concerned about this issue, I'm concerned." He then stated that "customers
would be given the choice of growth hormone-free milk by late this
summer," but apparently free choice is not enough. After sensing a weak
spot in Starbucks management, the extortionists are going for the throat
until all of their silly demands are met (which you can see in the Organic
Consumers Association's message below).
They will surely use the same tactic against GM crops by first demanding
labeling. Then when/if they get that they will move on to a call for an
Starbucks should have known better than to make deals with the devil. I
hope others will learn from this.
Action Alert from the Organic Consumers Association
Starbucks Under Fire: The Frankenbuck$ Campaign
By: Ronnie Cummins
April 5, 2001
First of all, thank you for your efforts and support in the launch of our
strategic and precedent-setting Starbucks campaign. On March 20 (M-20)
several thousand "Frankenbuck$" volunteers took to the streets and
sidewalks across North America, picketing, protesting, and leafleting in
front of Starbucks coffee shops in over 100 cities. In a number of cities
and college towns, activists staged press conferences enlivened by
colorful signs, street theater, and powerful speakers. In Seattle 100
protesters rallied and cheered the speeches of campaign spokespersons--in
front of a solid bank of TV cameras and news reporters--outside the
building where Starbucks was holding their annual shareholders meeting.
Even in cities where we had just
a few leafleters, we made our presence felt, making contact with Starbucks
customers and generating news stories which reached thousands of people.
Since M-20, leafleting and other pressure tactics have continued in a
number of communities, with strong indications that the campaign will soon
catch fire in Canada, Japan, and the UK. For a summary of local reports
and news coverage in many of these 100 cities (bear with us, we are still
posting them) go to the Starbucks section of our website
During Earth Day week April 15-22 we are encouraging activists to leaflet
Starbucks once again on a nationwide basis. If you are willing to leaflet
Starbucks customers in your local area please email
> and we¹ll send
you some leaflets and posters.
Extensive Media Coverage
By the end of the first week of activities, the Starbucks campaign already
had generated over 750 newspaper articles, TV news clips, and radio
reports, all the way from National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio,
Associated Press, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe,
to scores of college newspapers and community radio stations. Over 50,000
Consumer Warning leaflets have now been distributed to Starbucks'
customers by our campaign. The website of the campaign
<www.organicconsumers.org <http://www.organicconsumers.org>> received over
six million hits in March, which means that thousands of people are going
to our site every day. It is no exaggeration to say that millions of
people across the US, Canada, and Europe have now heard about our
campaign. And of course this negative publicity has Starbucks worried. On
March 28 we were attacked in both the Wall Street Journal and the
Washington Times newspaper, a sure sign that we are starting to make an
impact. As we said in our national press release for M-20, this is the
largest consumer campaign ever launched in the US around the issues of
genetic engineering and Fair Trade.
Even before March 20, Starbucks began to react in a manner that indicates
they are taking our campaign quite seriously. In a nationally syndicated
story filed by the Associated Press and Dow Jones on March 16, the CEO of
Starbucks, Orin Smith, was quoted to the effect that "the company was
hoping customers would be given the choice of growth hormone-free milk by
late this summer." As Smith stated, "If I've got 10 percent of my customer
base that's concerned about this issue, I'm concerned." National Public
Radio and other
radio stations echoed the same news story. Starbucks faxed and mailed a
letter to the OCA and our campaign allies on March 16, implying that they
intend to "source an adequate supply of high quality Fair Trade Coffee to
enable us to provide brewed Fair Trade Coffee as one of our 'Coffees of
the Day' in our stores."
However a close reading of Starbucks' official March 16 statement reacting
to our campaign (published on Starbucks' website as well on our own) makes
it clear that their positions up until now on rBGH and brewing Fair Trade
coffee may be more accurately classified as public relations statements,
rather than concrete declarations that the 32 million gallons of milk they
buy every year soon will be completely rBGH-free or that they intend to
brew Fair Trade coffee as the coffee of the day everyday in their 3500
coffee shops worldwide.
Starbucks' Claim That the OCA is Being Intransigent
Starbucks representatives claim that we are unwilling to meet with them.
This is not true. We have been talking to them over the telephone and will
continue to do so. We are willing to formally sit down and meet with them
and negotiate the details of how they can implement the policy changes we
are calling for--as soon as they demonstrate that they are acting in good
faith. To demonstrate that they are acting in good faith:
(1) Starbucks must stop saying that they believe that genetically
engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is safe, and that it's only a
perception problem on the part of a minority of their customers that rBGH
is hazardous. We have asked for Starbucks executives to meet with one of
America's top scientific experts on rBGH, Dr. Michael Hansen of the
Consumers Union. So far they have not contacted Dr. Hansen. For background
information on the hazards of Monsanto¹s Bovine Growth Hormone, see the
rBGH section of our
(2) Starbucks must address the genetic contamination of their chocolates,
baked goods, and bottled coffee beverages. In their public statements up
until now they have totally ignored our demands on removing GE ingredients
from these products. To meet our concerns they must agree to source non-GE
or organic ingredients (including soy, soy lecithin, corn sweeteners, and
cooking oils) for their chocolates, baked goods, and bottled beverages.
Once they can guarantee that they are using only non-GE or organic
then these products should be labeled as "GE-free," in a manner similar to
the labels found on Ben & Jerry's ice cream and other non-GE natural food
When we called Starbucks' head office in Great Britain on March 26, they
told us that all the food and beverages in their 170 UK coffee shops were
³GMO-free.² (Free of genetically modified organisms). They also admitted
to us that in the UK they are not selling Fair Trade coffee packages. Our
obvious response to this disclosure is that if they can sell food and
beverages in the UK which are free of genetically engineered ingredients,
then they can certainly do the same thing in North America and the rest of
the world. And of course they need to start brewing, selling, and
promoting Fair Trade coffee in Europe, as well as in North America and the
rest of the world.
(3) Starbucks must stop claiming that the reason they're not brewing Fair
Trade coffee as the flavor of the day in all of their 3500 cafes worldwide
is that there's not a large enough supply of Fair Trade or organic coffee.
Starbucks knows as well as we do that there is a massive supply of Fair
Trade and organic coffee in the world waiting for a buyer right now. As
the human rights group Global Exchange has pointed out, one-half of the
world's supply of certified Fair Trade coffee (16 million pounds annually
out of a total production of 32 million) is now having to be sold on the
commercial market at a loss--simply because coffee buyers like Starbucks
aren't buying enough of it.
Independently owned coffee shops across America and Europe are brewing
Fair Trade and organic coffee and serving it up as the flavor of the day.
Starbucks can certainly do the same. Many of these coffee shops are also
using milk and dairy products which are either organic or labeled as
rBGH-free, and serving organic baked goods or sandwiches. The ethical
bottom line is that millions of the world's 25 million coffee producers
are producing coffee the way it should be grown, sustainably and
organically. These coffee farmers need and deserve a mass market and a
fair price for their labor.
(4) Starbucks says they give lots of money to charities and that they are
socially responsible. Again they are avoiding the real issue. We are
asking them to put in writing that they will raise the wages and improve
the working conditions of the impoverished coffee workers who toil on the
plantations of their suppliers. A study referred to by the US Guatemala
Labor Education Project (USGLEP) in Guatemala in 1997 found that entire
families of coffee workers on the plantations supplying Starbucks and
other companies were typically making a grand total of $1.25 per day,
while a Guatemalan family needs at least $10 a day to survive. USGLEP
estimated in 1997 that for Starbucks to guarantee subsistence level wages
for plantation workers it would cost the company a mere penny a cup more
for their coffee. This is outrageous behavior for a company that pays its
CEO, Orin Smith,
$60,000 a week, and which rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars in
profits every year.
(5) Starbucks has said they aren't using genetically engineered coffee
beans at the present time. We simply want them to put in writing that they
will never use them.
We are happy that Starbucks seems to be taking our campaign seriously and
that; at least on the level of rhetoric, they are moving in the right
direction. Now we need a clear and unequivocal response to our demands.
Are they or are they not willing to get rid of GE ingredients, brew up
Fair Trade coffee everyday, and put into practice a code of conduct which
will improve the wages and working conditions of coffee plantation workers?
In the meantime the Organic Consumers Association and our allies intend to
go forward with Phase Two of the Starbucks Campaign, as outlined below.
(a) expanding the campaign to Canada, Great Britain, and Japan--places
where Starbucks already does a lot of business--and (b) applying continued
pressure in several hundred communities across the USA. Our campaign staff
has initiated discussions with our counterparts in Canada and the United
Kingdom, and will soon be placing calls to activists in Japan and other
nations to initiate a pressure campaign against Starbucks. We have already
seen a few protests in Canada (Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Waterloo, and
Montreal) and expect we will see more in the upcoming weeks. Two respected
Canadian public interest groups, the Sierra Club of Canada and Rights
Action, have already endorsed our campaign.
In the USA we suggest that the following tactics may be the most fruitful:
(1) Keep leafleting, but after you or others organize an initial media
event in your community, carry out follow up actions unannounced. One
tactic that works is to show up at a Starbucks location, preferably at
their busiest time of day. Go inside and see if they are brewing Fair
Trade coffee as the "flavor of the day" and listing this fact prominently
where customers can see it. See what kind of milk they're pouring into
their lattes and mochas. If they're not yet "doing the right thing,"
discreetly give all the customers in the cafe a copy of our Frankenbuck$
Consumer Warning leaflet and then walk out and do the same thing (or have
a friend do the same thing)
at another location. Standing outside and leafleting customers is still a
good tactic, especially out in front of Barnes & Noble bookstores (which
have Starbucks inside) or in the Student Center cafeterias of college
campuses, which have Starbucks outlets.
(2) Call every Starbucks café in your community on a regular basis. Have
your friends do the same thing. Ask the manager or the person in charge if
today they are brewing Fair Trade coffee as the Flavor of the Day and
advertising this fact to their customers. Ask them what kind of milk, skim
milk, and half and half they are using, and if they have a written
statement from the dairy that these products are free of genetically
engineered Bovine Growth Hormone. Ask them the same thing about their
chocolates and baked goods. If they answer your questions in the negative,
tell them you are going to boycott them until they do what consumers are
demanding. Tell them the name of the coffee shop where you will take your
business instead. If
they claim they are doing the right thing today, go down to their café, or
have someone you know do this, and see if they are telling the truth. If
you are a coffee drinker and need a fix, request that they brew you a Fair
Trade coffee, but tell them to hold the rBGH milk please. Keep in mind
that Starbucks claims it will supply organic soymilk for your coffee upon
(3) Complain to retailers that sell Starbucks products that the company
has not implemented the changes that consumers are demanding.
(4) Get your school, college, or city council to pass a resolution that
they will serve Fair Trade or organic coffee, avoid foods contaminated
with GE ingredients, and avoid doing business with sweatshops factory
sweatshops or agricultural sweatshops in the field.
If you need Starbucks leaflets or other campaign materials call our
national office (218-226-4164) or send an email to
You can also help us cut expenses by downloading and printing your own
leaflets and posters from our website and making copies. If you need
coaching or advice on how to carry out Starbucks campaign activities
Starbucks campaign coordinator Simon Harris
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support the
campaign, send your contribution to:
Organic Consumers Association
6101 Cliff Estate Road
Little Marais, MN 55614
As you can well imagine this campaign is costing us a lot of money.
Again thanks for all your hard work and support, and congratulations in
advance for participating in a campaign that we are going to win.
As our counterparts say south of the border:
Hasta La Victoria Siempre! Until the Final Victory
Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association