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June 22, 2001


Luddites ; GAO Report on Trade; Anti-Biotech Fears; Safety


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Today's Topics

* The Luddites are Coming! The Luddites are Coming!
* Agricultural Exports And Biotechnology: GAO Report
* Peaceful Protest: Police Must Ensure Rule of Law for Bio2001
* Report Shows Anti-Biotech Fears Caused by Organic Industry
* Agro-Terrorism Prevention Act of 2001 (HR 2060)
* White Papers on Biotechnology
* Corporate Conspiracy At Its Best!
* Nutrition News: A Lesson on Accuracy
* GM Food Link To Humans Is Ruled Out
* Safety Assessment of Bt Corn
* Pitchfork Brigades Are Everywhere You Look!

The Luddites are Coming! The Luddites are Coming!
- Those Who Are Blind To The Fruits Of Progress

San Diego Union Tribune, June 22, 2001. Editorial Page

That's right. The anti-technology, anti-commerce, anti-trade activists
who disrupted the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle two
years ago, who bum-rushed the Emerald City's constabulary, who caused
the city's shopkeepers millions of dollars in property damage, are
descending on San Diego.

They aim to make their noisy presence felt at the Biotechnology
Industry Association's international convention opening Sunday. The
annual gathering will bring more than 12,000 industry leaders to San
Diego, which boasts the nation's third-largest concentration of
biotech companies. The activists hope to use San Diego as a backdrop
to continue their disinformation campaign against biotechnology. To
frighten the American people into believing that bioengineered
agricultural and pharmaceutical products are a threat to public health
and well-being.

"If biotech companies have their way," claims Brian Tokar, a faculty
member at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont (where else?),
"our food will be contaminated with untested, experimental varieties
of engineered foods, and new genetic creations will continue to
proliferate in the environment with no way to recall them."

That's a fiction. The reality is that three federal agencies are
charged with ensuring the safety of biotechnology foods and crops: the
Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the
Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, the safety of biotech foods has been attested by such
authoritative bodies as the American Medical Association, the National
Research Council, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
and the World Health Organization. Former Commerce undersecretary for
trade David Aaron put it best last year when he declared, "Thirteen
years of experience with biotech products in the U.S. have shown us
that biotech foods developed and used in the U.S. present no safety
risk beyond those of their 'natural' counterparts. "Not a single
ailment has been attributed to biotech foods. Not one. Not a sneeze,
not a rash, not a headache." It's same thing with biotech drugs.

Tokar, who is expected to join some 4,000 to 8,000 activists in San
Diego, asserts, "The biotech industry promises endless medical
miracles, but there is a compelling need for skepticism here as well.
"Where will this all lead us? Designer babies? Human clones? A new
generation of eugenic attempts to 'perfect' human nature? These are
all frightening prospects, but they are clearly where biotech medicine
is trying to lead us."

I don't think so.

While Tokar and his fellow Luddites like to conjure up these scary
future scenarios -- it makes good copy, as we say in the newspaper
business -- here and now the nation's biotech pharmaceutical companies
are trying to find cures, or near cures, for heart disease, cancer,
AIDS, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other deadly or debilitating
afflictions. Indeed, the 90 to 100 biotech drugs and vaccines that are
on the market have improved the health of more than 200 million people
worldwide. And the 350 or so biotech medications in the pipeline will
save or lengthen the lives of many millions more.

The activists who take to the streets of San Diego will conveniently
ignore the obvious benefits of biotechnology. They will concentrate
instead on demonizing the corporations involved in bringing
biotechnology products to market. "The same corporations that brought
us DDT, PCBs, and Agent Orange now want to feed the world's hungry and
develop medicines to save your ailing grandma," declares The Ruckus
Society, one of the groups organizing the San Diego protests.

"The corporate colonization of life itself is the newest, most
insidious form of globalization," it adds.

So that's it. The anti-biotech activists are not so concerned about
the science or health implications of this brave new technology.
That's just a convenient subterfuge. Their real concern is further
expansion of global commerce.

They want American biotechnology companies to keep their genetically
modified foods, their bioengineered drugs, to themselves. Just like
they want such multinationals as McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Disney to
keep their hamburgers, their soft drinks and their theme parks to
themselves. To stay out of other countries.

What particularly vexes is that these anti-technology, anti-commerce,
anti-trade activists presume to speak for "the masses" throughout the
world. But it is hard to see how the masses would benefit from being
denied the more plentiful food supply and life-saving drugs that
biotechnology offers. Copyright 2001 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.


GAO Issues Report On Agricultural Exports And Biotechnology

"Agricultural biotechnology exports have already encountered
disruptions in international markets and are likely to face further
challenges," concludes a new report by the General Accounting Office.
The GAO report, "International Trade: Concerns Over Biotechnology
Challenge U.S. Agricultural Exports," outlines the potential barriers
resulting from regulations in place or being considered by the
European Union and other countries that could adversely affect exports.

Some of the developments that could impede the growth of biotechnology
exports include a slow approval process for biotech products,
specifically that no new products have been approved in the European
Union since 1998; regulations mandating labeling of biotech foods; and
required documentation to trace the presence of biotech products at
every link in the food production chain.

The report cites one of the main challenges to maintaining market
access for biotech crops is "the EU's moves to establish labeling and
traceability requirements and gain recognition of the 'precautionary
principle' in various international organizations."

Trade experts say that it is precisely the "precautionary principle"
that is crux of the problem. It is a broad concept, experts contend,
that is not rooted in science, but speculation; that it has no clear
boundaries and is broadly defined along the lines of - if something
can't be proven to be good, then it must be bad. Trade experts are
very concerned that unless U.S. policy-makers and science-based
arguments prevail, these broad philosophical musings may indeed form
the basis for restrictive regulations and procedures, leading to
higher prices for consumers and disruption in agricultural exports.

For the complete text of the GAO report please go to:


Peaceful Protest: Police Must Ensure Rule of Law for Bio2001

- San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial, June 22, 2001

The San Diego Police Department expects between 4,000 and 8,000
demonstrators to protest Bio2001, the international biotechnology
conference that will begin Sunday. Police believe the vast majority of
these protesters will be peaceful and law-abiding.

A small minority, however, may have other ideas. A few even may be
planning to repeat the violence and mayhem that increasingly attend
international conferences that are disliked by an eclectic coalition
of protest groups. The violent disruption of Seattle's World Trade
Organization conference in 1999 set the pattern. Comparable, but more
effectively countered, protests marked the Summit of the Americas in
Quebec City last April.

The proper police response here to lawful and unlawful forms of
protest should be equally unambiguous. The First Amendment rights of
peaceful, lawful protesters should be scrupulously respected. Every
reasonable effort consistent with public order and noninterference
with Bio2001 should be made to accommodate peaceful demonstrators and
to respect their right to protest lawfully.

Conversely, there should be absolutely no tolerance of illegal acts
and most especially of any violent, destructive conduct. Police should
act immediately to arrest lawbreakers and stop or deter any illegal,
criminal conduct. Prompt police action would leave no doubt that
authorities here won't allow protests to get out of hand, as has
occurred elsewhere.

The debacle in Seattle provides San Diego's object lesson in how not
to respond. Seattle police and public officials first disastrously
under-reacted, then belatedly overreacted to a few hundred
troublemakers among thousands of demonstrators protesting the WTO
conference. As a result, parts of Seattle's downtown were trashed,
entire blocks subsequently tear gassed and some WTO delegates
prevented from reaching the conference.

Nothing like that should be permitted to happen in San Diego.

Fortunately, the policy guidelines set by San Diego Police Chief David
Bejarano appear to reflect the lessons learned from Seattle. Security
planning for Bio2001 has included discussions with protest groups.
Yet, police promise a tough line against troublemakers. "Anyone that
we see breaking the law will experience the criminal justice system,"
vows a police official.

The rights of free speech, peaceable assembly and political protest
are bedrock American liberties. They'll be on open display here while
San Diego serves, proudly, as host to the Bio2001 conference. But the
rule of law also requires that protesters act legally and respect the
rights of others. We trust that San Diego's police won't hesitate to
enforce the letter of that law, too. Copyright 2001 Union-Tribune
Publishing Co.


From: Andura Smetacek
Subject: Food Scare Report


Check out this wire service release (see below) on how the Organic
Food Industry is responsible for creating biotech food scares with the
public to help sell more of their high-priced, inferior products.

I found this on the national newswires; however, few of the mainstream
media seem to have seen this story yet. It is very disturbing but not
surprising. The authors come from both sides of the political
spectrum: a former Clinton Administration official with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and a conservative public policy think tank
research director -- so the activists will have a hard time attacking
the crediblity (they will still do so, of course). In addition, the
report was presented this week to a prestigious academic agriculture
forum in Europe.

It is an extremely well documented expose of how big monied organic
retailers make tax-deductible contributions and other support to
so-called non-profits (like the Organic Consumers Association,
Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists) to help them market
their products.

Perhaps the media will, for a change, ask the Biodevastation activists
and their funding sources about this illicit use of tax-exempt status
for for profit gain.


Report Shows Anti-Biotech Fears Caused by Organic Industry

- U.S. Newswire 22 Jun 18:37

Report Shows Anti-Biotech Fears Caused By Organic Industry;
Undisclosed Links Between Businesses And 'Biodevastation' Activists

To: National Desk Contact: Alex Avery, 540-280-6521 or Christopher
Phillips, 619-300-3872, both for The Center of Global Food Issues

SAN DIEGO, June 22 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Fear-based marketing by organic
retailers is a major factor driving anti-biotechnology public opinion.
That is the conclusion of a multi-year research project presented this
week to the 5th International Conference on Biotechnology, Science and
Modern Agriculture in Ravello, Italy. Report authors Graydon Forrer
(the former director of consumer affairs at the U.S. Department of
Agriculture) and Alex Avery (director of research & education at the
Center for Global Food Issues) reveal a disturbing history of "black
marketing" by the multi-billion dollar organic industry, the apparent
goal being to create false and misleading fears about conventional
foods (including those produced using biotechnology) in order to
increase organic sales.

The research also reveals disturbing and undisclosed links between
organic industry groups and non-profit environmental and consumer
activist groups which attack conventional and biotechnology
applications in agriculture while promoting organic alternatives. The
report highlights several of the "non-profit" organizations
coordinating anti-biotechnology protests in San Diego this week as
receiving direction, funding and other resources from leading organic
and "natural" product retailers.

"Benefiting from tax exempt status, these so-called non-profits are
acting as tax-deductible marketing arms of some of the world's largest
and most profitable companies," noted Avery while observing the
Biodevastation protests in San Diego. "The names of the offending
companies would surprise many as they tout themselves as America's
most socially responsible corporations."

Addressing hundreds of agriculture researchers and food marketing
experts in Italy, Forrer stated: "To divert profit from conventionally
produced food to so-called 'organic' or 'natural' foods, organic and
natural product retailers routinely malign safe and more affordable
products to win customers over to more expensive 'organic' and
'natural' marketed products."

Organizations named in the report include Greenpeace, The Institute
for Agriculture and Trade Policy, The Organic Consumers Association,
The Center for Food Safety and The Campaign to Label Genetically
Engineered Foods. Corporate sponsors who support and direct the
efforts of these and other groups include Ben & Jerry's, Patagonia,
Whole Foods Markets, Rodale's Organic, Working Assets and Fenton

Copies of the report are available upon request and can be found on
the web at http://www.nomorescares.com/news/organic.htm

Report excerpts:

-- Organic industry marketing experts publicly acknowledge that they
benefit from food scares. "If the threats posed by cheaper,
conventionally-produced products are removed, then the potential to
develop organic foods will be limited," said Katy Hamilton, organic
food marketing consultant with Promar.

-- Andrew Kimbrell and The Center for Food Safety host a range of
well-funded anti-conventional agriculture, anti-biotechnology,
pro-organic projects, advertising campaigns and lawsuit. These
programs note funding from Patagonia and Eden Organic Foods, and their
board members include such leading organic industry members as Rodale
Organic Magazine editor Cheryl Long and organic industry lobbyist
Roger Blobaum.

-- Craig Winters and the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered
Foods is supported by dozens of leading organic retailers and product
companies, including Whole Foods, United Natural Foods and Wild Oats
Markets. In addition, Winters himself is an organic industry
representative working for Full Spectrum Health and serves on the
board of a leading natural products industry trade association.

-- Mark and Neil Ritchie at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy, which coordinated many of the protests and rallies at the
Seattle WTO Conference, have their own for-profit organic coffee
retail business as a subsidiary to their tax-exempt non-profit group.

-- "Media scares always help Bread & Circus (a Whole Foods Market
subsidiary)," claims store manager Dorothy Bauman.... Wild Oats Market
President Jim Lee admits, "...the opportunity for growth is in taking
the customer away from the conventional supermarket."

-- "Years of black propaganda from the organic fringe have had a
perceptible effect on consumer views..." Marketing Magazine.


From: "Henry I. Miller"
Subject: Protection of Research: Agro-Terrorism Prevention Act of
2001 (HR 2060)

This is something that we should support, as individuals and through
our publications, journals, institutions and professional
associations. Otherwise, the life's work of experimental scientists
will be progressively at the mercy of terrorists.  Please
consider making this bill (and similar ones) the subject of articles,
editorials, lobbying and seminars.

The proposed Agro-Terrorism Prevention Act of 2001 (HR 2060) would
impose mandatory prison sentences for violence against environmental
and life-science research, including biotechnology studies.
Congressman George Nethercutt (R-WA) introduced the bill to address
recent assaults against environmental researchers and their work. On
June 15, 2001, HR 2060 was referred to the House Science Subcommittee
on Research.

- Henry I. Miller, Hoover Institution, Stanford University


From: "terry hopkin"
Subject: Change

I must agree with Gordon Cougar, things change rapidly, perhaps that
we both are a bit long in the tooth we see just how much the world has
changed, and just what unexpected sources that have caused it. Much of
the discussion over GM food is blah blah for the sake of blah blah.
And that is the sad thing, big things we cope with, famine, disease,
pestilence, but blah blah we go to war for, kill one another for, hate
and discriminate for, color of your skin, your religion, your
nationality, whether you open the egg at the pointed or the blunt end
(poor Swift wrote 'Gulliver's Travels' for no use at all) We have them
burning, bashing. and telling us what is good for us and what we must

GM food can be superseded by something else almost overnight and this
argument and all the burning and terror will have been about as
important as a fart in gale.

- Happy Mid Summer (Sankt Hans) - Terry Hopkin

CBI White Papers on Biotechnology

The Council for Biotechnology Information

Agricultural biotechnology is still in its infancy in many respects.
As with any new technology, there are questions of science and public
policy that deserve thoughtful discussion. The Council seeks to
address emerging issues (e.g. impact on mycotoxins, monarch butterfly
research, implications of substantial equivalence, etc.) by regularly
posting documents that review and summarize credible research from
multiple sources. In most cases, the supporting or underlying studies
and reports are referenced at the bottom of each document, oftentimes
with direct links.

The documents below are intended to provide balanced, science-based
discussion that represents multiple viewpoints, or that simply explain
terms and associated points of view.

If there are any issues that you feel should be explained or addressed
in the Current Issues section, please e-mail the Council at

The documents currently available are:

* Animal Feed Safety
* Biotech Crops and Non-target Organisms
* Bt Corn and Mycotoxins
* Bt Corn and the Monarch Butterfly
* Bt Protein in Soil
* Gene Flow to Wild Plant Relatives
* Insect Resistance Management
* Plant Biotechnology Offers New Opportunities for Integrated Pest
* Substantial Equivalence in Food Safety Assessment
* Testing for Allergenicity
* The Use of Antibiotic Resistance Markers


From: Gale west
Subject: Corporate Conspiracy At Its Best!!

Dear AgBioView readers, The conspiracy theories are growing bigger
and better everyday! I hope you laugh as hard as I did when I read
the following article. Then of course, you will shake your head in
sadness for the nonsense that continues to make the headlines. --
Yours, Gale*

This article is available online at:
When Choice Becomes Just A Memory
Soon All Our Foods Will Be Polluted By Genetic Modification

Naomi Klein, The Guardian, Thursday June 21, 2001.

Europeans would be forgiven for thinking that the war against genetic
tampering in the food supply has been all but won. There are labels in
the supermarkets aisles, there is mounting political support for
organic farming, and Greenpeace campaigners are seen to represent such
a mainstream point of view that the courts have let them off for
uprooting genetically modified crops. With 35 countries worldwide that
have, or are developing, mandatory GM labelling laws, you'd think that
the North American agricultural export industry would have no choice
but to bow to the demand: keep GM seeds far away from their unaltered
counterparts and, in general, move away from the controversial crops.

You'd be wrong. The real strategy is to introduce so much genetic
pollution that meeting the consumer demand for GM-free food is seen as
not possible. The idea, quite simply, is to pollute faster than
countries can legislate - then change the laws to fit the
contamination. A few reports from the front lines of this invisible
war. In April, Monsanto recalled about 10% of the GM oilseed rape
seeds it had distributed in Canada because of reports that the seeds
had been contaminated by another modified rape-seed variety, one not
approved for export. The most well-known of these cases is StarLink
corn. The genetically altered crop (meant for animals and deemed unfit
for humans) made its way into much of the US corn supply after the
buffer zones surrounding the fields where it was grown proved wholly
incapable of containing the wind-borne pollen. Aventis, which owns the
StarLink patent, proposed a solution: instead of recalling the corn,
why not approve its consumption for humans?

And there is the now famous case of Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan
farmer who was sued by Monsanto after its genetically altered oilseed
rape seeds allegedly blew into his field from passing trucks and
neighbouring fields. Monsanto says that when the seeds took root, Mr
Schmeiser was stealing its property. The court agreed and, two months
ago, ordered the farmer to pay the company $20,000, plus legal costs.

Arran Stephens, president of Nature's Path, an organic food company in
British Columbia, told the New York Times earlier this month that GM
material is even finding its way into organic crops. "We have found
traces in corn that has been grown organically for 10 to 15 years.
There's no wall high enough to keep that stuff contained." Indeed,
there is so much genetic contamination in North American fields that a
group of organic farmers is considering launching a class action suit
against the biotech industry for lost revenues. Last week, the grounds
for this case received a significant boost. Loblaws, Canada's largest
supermarket chain with 40% of the market, sent out a letter to all of
its health food suppliers informing them that they were no longer
permitted to claim that their foods were "non-GM". Company executives
argue there is just no way of knowing what is genuinely GM free.

You can already see the handiwork in the aisles of Canada's major
supermarkets: hand-drawn black scribbles on boxes of organic breakfast
cereal where the labels used to be. At first glance, Loblaws' decision
doesn't seem to make market sense. Although roughly 70% of foods sold
in Canada contain GM ingredients, more than 90% of Canadians tell
pollsters they want labels telling them if their food's genetic
make-up has been tampered with.

In North America, super-markets are part of a broader agricultural
strategy to present labelling as simply too complicated. In part this
is because chains like Loblaws are not only food retailers but
manufacturers of their own private lines. Loblaws' line is called
"President's Choice" or "Memories of..." Company chairman Galen Weston
has warned that "there will be a cost associated" with labelling and
if Loblaws sells some products that are labelled "GM-free" it weakens
attempts to block GM labelling for the rest of its wares.

What does all this mean to Europeans? It means that your labels could
soon be as obsolete as the scratched-out ones in our supermarkets. If
contamination continues to spread in North America, and agribusiness's
current push to overturn Brazil's ban on GM seeds is successful, it
will become next to impossible to import non-GM soybeans. Backed by
predatory intellectual property laws, agribusinesses are on their way
to getting the global food supply so hopelessly cross pollinated,
polluted and generally mixed up, that legislators may well be forced
to throw up their hands.

When we look back on this moment, munching our genetically modified
health-style food, we may well remember it as the precise turning
point when we lost our real food options. Perhaps Loblaws will even
launch a new product to bottle that wistful feeling: Memories of
Consumer Choice.

Special report: GM food debate http://www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/


Nutrition News Is Important. We Help You Understand It!

June 22, 2001 Nutrition News Focus

Today's Topic: A Lesson on Accuracy
The Internet is probably the place to find more outlandish claims than
other forms of communication. Now that the hysteria over foot and
mouth disease is subsiding, it is educational to look at what the
Organic Consumers Association has to say about the problem in an
article written by a medical doctor.

This article claims that people get the disease under natural
conditions, that it survives pasteurization, and implies that milk is
the most common way for people to get infected with foot and mouth
disease. Stating that reports of deaths have not been verified gives a
clear impression that the infection can kill. However, the few
confirmed infections have been very mild and of short duration. Many
experts believe there is no potential harm to humans.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The author should know better. Even with
the latest outbreak in Europe, there hasn't been a documented
infection of humans in 35 years. Those infected have all had close
contact with infected animals. The virus is easily destroyed by
heating. Perhaps the writer and the organization that owns the Web
site don't want people to consume certain products and have suspended
their good sense.


GM Food Link To Humans Is Ruled Out

- Roger Highfield, Telegraph (UK), Thursday 21 June 2001

An analysis of the human genetic code that suggested genes could be
passed from bacteria or genetically modified food to people is
overturned by a study published today. When the first analysis of the
human genome was published earlier this year, scientists reported that
it contained 113 genes from bacteria, leading to the claim that they
may have been transferred directly as a result of infections.

The discovery raised concerns about GM food and the possibility that
genes introduced to food crops to defend them against insects alter
their herbicide tolerance and could also be transferred to people who
ate them. This interpretation is now refuted in Nature by Michael
Stanhope, James Brown and colleagues in Pennsylvania, who have shown
that the presence of such genes can be explained by descent through
common ancestors.


Safety Assessment of YieldGard - Insect Protected (Bt) Corn Event MON 810
www.monsanto.com; March 15, 2001

Executive Summary
Using modern biotechnology, Monsanto has developed insect-protected
YieldGard ? corn, event MON 810, that produces the naturally occurring
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein, Cry1Ab. YieldGard corn is
protected from feeding damage by the European corn borer (ECB,
Ostrinia nubilalis), the southwestern corn borer (SWCB, Diatraea
grandiosella) and the pink borer (Sesamia cretica).

The Cry1Ab protein produced in YieldGard corn binds to specific
receptors in the midgut of sensitive insects, but does not affect
mammals or insects that lack those receptors. Therefore, the Cry1Ab
protein has selective toxicity to specific lepidopteran insects but is
harmless to humans, fish, wildlife and beneficial insects that can
help control other pests. Bt proteins have been used safely for nearly
40 years in microbial insecticides.

The safety of the Cry1Ab protein in YieldGard corn has been thoroughly
evaluated. These tests confirm that the protein is present at very low
levels in the grain and food; is rapidly degraded in simulated gastric
fluids; shows no similarity to known allergens; and shows no harmful
effects to animals when fed at very high levels.

Compositional analyses of the grain and forage of YieldGard corn grown
in various environments over several years show that the levels of the
key nutrients in YieldGard corn are comparable to the levels found in
conventional corn hybrids. In addition, the safety of the feed
produced from YieldGard corn has been confirmed through animal feeding
trials. These studies show that animals perform in a comparable manner
when fed biotechnology-derived and conventional corn products.
YieldGard corn plants are equivalent to other corn varieties in
disease susceptibility and other agronomic and morphological
characteristics. YieldGard corn improves grain quality by reducing
insect damage in ears, one of the main pathways by which mold infects
grain, and reduces losses caused by some grain pests during storage.

The environmental assessment shows that YieldGard corn does not harm
agriculturally beneficial insects, including honeybees, ladybird
beetles, green lacewings or predatory insects and spiders. YieldGard
corn is unlikely to have any significant impact on Monarch butterfly
populations due to limited exposure. In addition, the Cry1Ab protein
produced in YieldGard corn is rapidly degraded in soil and has no
effect on soil invertebrates, including earthworms and collembola.

These studies demonstrate that the Cry1Ab protein is safe to humans,
animals, non-target organisms and beneficial insects, and that the
forage and grain of YieldGard corn plants are as safe and nutritious
as conventional corn varieties.

From: Dennis R Keeney
Subject: Pitchfork Brigades

Pitchfork Brigades Are Everywhere You Look!

- Bob Coffman, AgWeb.com 6/15/2001

Farm activist groups are gaining in numbers as general angst spreads
through agriculture. There is a new divisive mood crawling like kudzu
into every nook and cranny of a stressed industry.

Holy smokes! We had no idea so many special interest groups had so
many causes in agriculture! Sure, we knew times are tough down on the
farm; sure we know a growing number of farmers feel dis-enfranchised
from the process. Sure, we know there is a growing list of contentious
and divisive issues pelting agriculture. Sure, we know there is a
growing sense of us versus the land. Sure, we know the distrust and
animosity toward increasing regulations and environmental preferences.

But, it just had not hit us like it did this week when an activist
group made its anger known to key politicians, with a signatory list
of agencies that felt the same way about the matter. That list totaled
161 different special-interest groups, many of them best classified as
grass root activists or populist groups. Some local; some regional or
even national in constituency. All well intended. And, that list does
not even include what are normally thought of as mainstream farm
organizations or commodity groups or associations looking out for the
good and welfare of the diverse agri-business or agri-processing
communities. And, it does not take into account the political action
committees who grease the squeaky joints in agriculture.

This has become an age of special interests and class action suits and
lawsuits of every stripe in pursuit of justice for one cause or
another. Agriculture has its share; and the babble is everywhere. The
rising tide of special interest groups in agriculture speaks volumes
about the divisive nature of big versus small; mega-operations versus
the small independent farmer or rancher. The clamoring debate again
fogs over the very definition of small or family or independent farm
operations. And there is a rising emotion of injustice.

We are seeing a pitchfork brigade growing in ranks and becoming
increasingly vocal and yes, even influential. In the past week,
opponents of the way the national pork checkoff referendum mess was
handled, got prominent display in the New York Times, while down-home
opposition to a controversial nominee to a USDA post got ink in the
Washington Post.

Such small but noisy groups have learned well how the media game is
played. They are not beyond picketing the residence of the Secretary
of Agriculture. Such grassroots groups have learned how things like a
Bucket Brigade (staged in Oregon) or the Log Haul (in Montana) makes
good television. So far, protests have been less destructive or
violent than the hog shootings and milk dumpings of the 60s.

Is this all about good television rather than good policy? Or is this
the American way to redress bad policy? Wasn't that what the
farmer-led Whiskey Rebellion was all about? We just think this is
going to make very interesting theatre through the next Farm Bill
Debate, through upcoming environmental debates; and through the next
election cycle. The armies are gaining ranks on all sides