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Date:

November 6, 2006

Subject:

Tony Blair on GM; Vocalism to Vandalism; German Academy Statement; Omnivore's Dilemma

 

Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - November 6, 2006

* Verbalism and Vocalism to Vandalism: Activism in India
* Berlin Group's Position Papers on GM Crops in Developing Countries
* U. S. Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Biotechnology
* French Activist Farmer Bove Held in Custody
* Tony Blair Attacks 'Irrational Arguments' on GM Food
* Blair's Veiled Blast at 'Anti-Science' Charles
* We Need Celebrity Scientists To Inspire Young People, Says Blair
* Children Must Dream of Becoming Scientists: Tony Blair
* Blair: Do Science and Save The World
* Blair's Backing for Careers in Research Wins Mixed Response
* Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
* Radical Organic Groups Create Monster That May Devour Them


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From Verbalism and Vocalism to Vandalism: Graduation of Anti-Agribiotech Activism in India

- C Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotech Awareness and Education, Bangalore, India, Nov. 3, 2006

http://www.fbae.org/Channels/Views/from_verbalism_and_vocalism_to_vandalism.htm

A few years ago activists, allegedly belonging to the Karnataka Rytha Sangha, the State farmers' organization, burned Mahyco's trial Bt cotton fields in Karnataka, India.

On October 28, 2006, in Rampura village in Karnal, Haryana State, the Bharatiya Kissan Union (BKU), a farmers' organization, using some 400 local farmers torched Mahyco's Bt rice under field trials. Mahyco suffers a loss of Rupees one million, and needs to restart the process.

A BKU leader threatened to burn all such fields in the country where trials are underway, and said that 'On Friday (October 27), we got a tip-off from Hyderabad that such tests were underway in Karnal'. In all probability the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, an active anti-biotech group, could be the source of the tip-off. BKU seems to have also sent a team to Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), where similar trials are going on in a field.

A source considers that 'it's plain and simple misinformation that led to this'. But this is a case where ignorance is no bliss.

Though the Police were informed of the threat to burn the crop an hour in advance, they seem to have reached the field an hour after the damage was done.

The destroyed rice crop was a Bt transgenic with Cry 1Ac gene, to control the shoot-borer disease, where conventional measures have largely failed. The trials are legal for two reasons: a) on July 11, 2006, the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) permitted Mahyco to conduct multi-location limited field trials of this transgenic, at 12 sites in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh, and b) Mahyco got on lease a two-acre plot of farm land of a Haryana farmer for Rs. 15,000, to conduct these trials.

The activists cited several reasons in defense of their action:

That the farmer who leased the land was not informed of what seeds were sown and for what purpose, but one wonders if Mahyco was obliged to do this. This farmer who joined the arsonists does not lose anything, as he gets his lease money and gains the appreciation of the BKU for joining them.

The Haryana President of BKU said that the 'tests were being conducted in violation of the rules'. What and whose rules were violated? Under the statutory norms, the RCGM and other expert Committees monitor these trials for compliance of regulations and results. Mahyco maintains that they adhered to all precautions essential for conducting the field tests.

The BKU leader declared that 'such trials will be disastrous for the farmers as they will not only contaminate the soil, but also adversely affect yield from existing rice varieties'. If he meant that Bt proteins get into the soil, he is ignorant that there is ever so much of Bt proteins in the soil, as Bt is an ubiquitous soil bacterium. The leader certainly cannot explain how the yield from the existing rice varieties would be adversely affected.

Another concern expressed was that 'on-field GM trials in a region, which is the Centre of Origin, are fraught with risks to the bio-diversity of that crop and can contaminate the rice gene pool'. No part of India is the sole Centre of Origin of rice. Except the north eastern part of India and remotely possibly some districts in Orissa, no Indian region can claim to be the Centre of Diversity. For the past several decades, all rice growing regions in India have been growing different varieties of rice developed in the Green Revolution packages, and the kind of change or 'damage' to the diversity feared from GE crops, has already happened.

The statement that 'its (the GM rice's) pollen could contaminate other non-GM paddy fields in the vicinity' reflects sheer ignorance of the reproductive biology of the rice plant. Field trials are carefully planned with adequate separation distances and a refugium. The rice pollen are viable only for about five minutes during which they cannot be carried over more than a few meters and after that period they cannot 'contaminate' any other rice variety.

The farmers said multinational companies were trying to destroy Indian seeds by bringing in GM seeds. GE crops are introduced into the country adopting scientific and legal procedures and it was the private seed companies that largely sustained Green Revolution, resulting in surplus production of food grains in the country.

The statement that 'such trials were being done surreptitiously without taking into account the consequences' does not mean anything, when the feared consequences are not spelt out. Even when unadvertised field are destroyed, what would be the fate of advertised trial fields?

GE crop vandalization occurred earlier also in Europe. In the event of Golden Rice, research laboratories, trial fields and even scientific workers were attacked, striking such a fear that led to hiding a handful of prototype Golden Rice seed in a bombproof bunker in an unspecified place in Switzerland.

In the European Union countries, the Law often caches up. The Danish Terror Law was invoked in May 2006 against Greenpeace and the French Court of appeal convicted 49 activists for destroying GE maize in June 2006.

In New Zealand, in 1999 the Wild Greens Group destroyed a GM potato trial at Lincoln. In 2002, protesters trashed three years of research on GM potatoes by the Crop and Food Research (CFR). Whenever field tests were done, CFR fences the area and keeps it under 24-hour surveillance. Tight security will now be in place to protect field tests for GE vegetables.

This time in India, fortunately there is some reaction from the Official quarters: a) about a 100 arsonists and their BKU leader were booked by the Karnal District Police, on October 30, on charges of criminal intimidation and damage to property by fire; b) Karnal Superintendent of Police said the role of the police would also be probed and if they were found erring, action would be taken; c) the Haryana Government stated on October 31 that it will inquire into the burning of genetically modified (GM) crops by protesting farmers near Karnal city; and d) the Chief Minister of the State of Haryana stated that the incident of burning of the GM crops was unfortunate and it will be probed.

When the GEAC ordered to burn illegal Bt cotton crop some years ago, farmers' organizations prevented it, as any crop is sacred and cannot be destroyed. Often farmers who are expected to respect a crop are instigated to vandalize it. But destroying a legally grown private crop is a criminal act, which should not go unpunished.

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Berlin Group's Position Papers on Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries

- C Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotech Awareness and Education, Bangalore, India; krao-at-vsnl.com, Nov. 1, 2006 http://fbae.org/Channels/Views/berlin_group.htm

The Commission on Green Biotechnology is a constituent of the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities (UGASH). The InterAcademy Panel (IAP), a worldwide network of 92 Academies of Sciences, with its Secretariat in Trieste/Italy, advises citizens and politicians in their home countries on current problems of global relevance.

The 'Berlin Group' are the participants of a workshop on 'Genetically modified crops in developing countries', jointly conducted by UGASH and IAP in Berlin (May 27-29, 2006). The statement of the Berlin Group on GE crops in the developing countries was discussed on this site earlier.

The Berlin Group has now released two well discussed position papers, one on 'Are there health hazards for the consumer from eating genetically modified food?' and the other on 'Genetically modified insect resistant crops with regard to developing countries'. The significant points from these papers are summarized here.

On the question of health hazards for the consumer from eating genetically modified food, the paper states that the campaigns of opponents of agricultural biotechnology have deliberately provoked widespread public anxiety by asserting that food from genetically modified organisms is a health hazard. 'Organic' products are advertised as especially healthy. The paper asserts that evidence suggests it to be most unlikely that the consumption of the well-characterized transgenic DNA from approved GMO food harbours any recognizable health risk.

Since absolute safety is never possible, the basis for approving GM food products is the failure (after extensive prescribed testing) to find any adverse indicators. Such tests have shown that these foods are at least as safe and nutritious as the corresponding products from conventionally produced crops.

The present regulations for the approval of GM plants and their product have established a framework which a) affords an effective safety evaluation on the basis of scientific data before marketing; b) requires GM products to be labelled by law, so offering the consumer an informed choice; c) specifies monitoring procedures which will reveal unexpected effects after the introduction of GM products onto the market; and d) permit the regulatory authorities to evaluate these data at any time.

Because of the rigour with which they must be tested and the controls to which they are subject, it is extremely unlikely that GMO products approved for market in the European Union and other countries present a greater health risk than the corresponding products from conventional sources. On the contrary, in some cases such as maize, food from GM plants appears to be superior with respect to health. Since 1996, millions of people in the Americas and elsewhere have regularly been consuming GM products as part of their normal diets without any proven evidence of adverse health effects.

The second paper relates to the issue of GM insect resistant crops with regard to developing countries. Citing extensive literature, the ecological and economical aspects of the cultivation of genetically modified insect-resistant varieties of maize, rice and cotton, were evaluated, to conclude that the cultivation of these crops by smallholder farmers in developing countries can be beneficial for their earnings, their health and also the ecosystem.

Seeds incorporating Bt technology are particularly suitable for smallholder farmers, because they do not require the equipment and knowledge necessary for pesticide applications, and reduce farmers' exposure to insecticides, particularly for those using hand sprayers.

As conventional practices of the application of pesticides kill a very broad spectrum of non-target insects and have adverse effects on the agricultural ecosystems, an alternative approach is the use of GM crops resistant to pests. In just over ten years since the first GM crops were introduced, they are very popular with farmers. Some 90 per cent of those benefited were resource-poor farmers from developing countries whose increased incomes from biotech crops contributed to the alleviation of their poverty. However, the benefits of genetically modified crops in comparison with their conventional counterparts and conventional practices of cultivation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Bt technology can indeed be valuable in economic terms to smallholder farmers with relatively small fields in developing countries as well as to the large farms in developed countries. However, pest control will have to rely on integrated pest management practices, which include crop rotation, biological control, Bt technology and the sparing use of pesticides.

Against the background of an overwhelmingly negative campaign on GE crops in Europe, the Berlin Group's efforts to strike a rational balance are to be much appreciated. It is very necessary in the interests of crop biotechnology, that the scientific community from outside Europe supported the efforts of the Berlin Group. The developing countries, in whose interests the Group is deliberating, should strengthen the hands of the Berlin Group in significantly modifying public opinion in favour of modern crop biotechnology in Europe and elsewhere. Those who are interested in supporting the Group's efforts may communicate with Professor Hans-Walter Heldt, Universität Göttingen, the Co-Ordinator of the Berlin Group via e-mail at HansWalterHeldt@aol.com.

The full text of the two papers can be accessed using the following links:
http://www.fbae.org/Channels/agri_biotech/general_topics/are_there_health_hazards_for_the.htm and http://www.fbae.org/Channels/agri_biotech/general_topics/genetically_modified_insect_resi.htm.

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U. S. Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Biotechnology - Survey

- International Food Information Council’s (IFIC’s) http://ific.org/research/biotechres.cfm

After a decade of consumer attitudinal research (1997-2006), it is clear that a majority of consumers are confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply and express little to no concern about food and agricultural biotechnology. A significant majority also have no outstanding concern about labeling foods produced using biotechnology as such. Consumers are less favorable toward animal biotechnology, particularly cloning. However, higher awareness correlates with purchase intent in most cases, and the provision of context and government safety assurance has a positive effect on attitudes. Therefore, with increasing numbers of consumers who are unaware of biotechnology, there is a clear need for science-based information about the subject.

Survey at http://ific.org/research/biotechres.cfm

- IFIC Food Biotechnology Team - Susan Bond, Cheryl Toner, Jillian Goode, Jania Matthews

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French Activist Farmer Bove Held in Custody

- Reuters, Nov. 4, 2006 http://news.scotsman.com/

Bordeaux - Police detained radical farmer Jose Bove, a possible candidate for France's 2007 presidential election, on Saturday after a demonstration against genetically modified food (GMO) on private property.
Bove and some 50 other farmers went to the police to file a complaint of attempted murder against a corn producer. The owner, who was also held, had fired a gun in the air to disperse the demonstrators, police said.

Between 100 and 150 protesters went to the farm in the southern Gironde region and poured water over what they said was genetically modified corn stocked in a silo in the town of Lugos. When the owner arrived, he fired his gun and ran his car into four vehicles before the demonstrators overpowered him.

Bove, a prominent protester against globalisation and fast food, said in June he would run for president next year, hoping to rally voters on the far left.

In 2003 he spent six weeks in jail for smashing up a McDonald's restaurant and was sentenced to four months in prison last year for destroying a field of genetically modified corn in southern France.

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(Thanks to Vivian Moses for Tony Blair clips below)


UK: PM Attacks 'Irrational Arguments' on GM Food

- James Kirkup, The Scotsman, Nov 4, 2006 http://news.scotsman.com

Tony Blair yesterday risked infuriating opponents of genetically modified food - who include Prince Charles - by suggesting that their arguments are not "rational."

The Prime Minister was making a keynote speech on science, in which he called for Britain to discuss technological innovations in a more "scientifically literate" fashion.

"Government must show leadership and courage in standing up for science and rejecting an irrational public debate around it," he said, attacking those who had "distorted" facts to oppose developments such as GM food.

Mr Blair said he was encouraged by the public debate about stem-cell research: whereas the US has largely banned the practice, Britain is a world leader in the field.


The Prince of Wales has frequently questioned the value and safety of GM crops, which has irritated some government figures. Asked if Mr Blair's remarks were a criticism of the prince, the Prime Minister's spokesman said only: "We believe the debate has not been as rational as it should have been."

*******

Blair's Veiled Blast at 'Anti-Science' Charles

- Bob Roberts, The Mirror, Nov. 4, 2006 http://www.mirror.co.uk

'The anti-science brigade threatens our progress and our prosperity. They are a powerful and vocal lobby, with access to all the media'

Tony Blair yesterday put himself on a collision course with Prince Charles when he attacked Britain's "anti-science brigade". The PM laid into "powerful and vocal figures with access to all the media" who protested against GM-foods, stem cell research and animal experiments.

Charles has set himself up as an anti-science figure warning technology will kill the earth. He has also led the campaign against GM-foods by questioning their safety.

But Mr Blair warned such sentiment could damage our economic future and said those who opposed scientific progress had not conducted their arguments rationally. In a speech at Oxford, he added: "The anti-science brigade threatens our progress and our prosperity. We need political and science leadership to stand up to them.

"The anti-GM lobby does not campaign against GM human insulin because the benefits to people with diabetes is obvious. "We need to take on and defeat the vestiges of anti-science. This won't be done by lofty superiority but by engagement with the street, with science out there talking, debating, listening and educating.

"In many instances, a powerful and vocal lobby, with access to all the media channels and an interest in polarising the argument, frames the debate.

"The misconceptions, often borne of the most outrageous distortion of fact by campaigners, who in accusing others of a lack of scruple show precious little of it themselves, can be so pervasive. "They so easily take hold. Standing up to this is harder than it sounds. But it is a classic example of the struggle between short-term politics and long-term public good."

Downing Street insisted they were not trying to "personalise" the debate. But Liberal Democrat science spokesman Evan Harris said Mr Blair himself was standing in the way of progress by closing educational facilities.

He said: "The PM has presided over the imposition of massive debt on science graduates, a failure to provide specialist science teachers and allowing the closure of university science departments." And University and College Union chief Sally Hunt claimed 70 science departments had been closed down in the past seven years.

***********

We Need Celebrity Scientists To Inspire Young People, Says Blair

- Philip Webster, The Times, Nov. 4, 2006 http://www.timesonline.co.uk

Britain must stand up to the anti-science brigade by defeating them with rational argument and encouraging youngsters who want to change the world to become scientists, Tony Blair said yesterday.

The Prime Minister, declaring that he had become a born-again science enthusiast after being a "refusenik" at school, said that scientific and political leaders needed to face down the "outrageous distortion" of opponents and help people to dispel the myths, calm the fears and make moral judgments on the facts.

Talking about campaigns against GM foods (in which the Prince of Wales has been prominent), MMR, animal experiments and stem-cell research, he said that they must reject the "irrational public debate" encouraged by a powerful and vocal lobby. Standing up to it was difficult because it was a classic example of the struggle between short-term politics and long-term public good. If governments had not taken on animal rights extremists they would have lost essential scientific research.

It would be more difficult to win the argument in the genuine areas of intellectual controversy. Mr Blair said that the nuclear power debate had been reopened only just in time and there was no way to guarantee energy security or cleaner power without it.

"But the misconceptions, often born of the most outrageous distortion of fact by campaigners, who in accusing others of a lack of scruuple show precious little of it themselves, can be so pervasive. They can easily take hold."

Mr Blair, speaking in Oxford, made no reference to the Prince of Wales. His spokesman said later that he had not been talking about individuals but suggested that the public had not been engaged early enough in the GM debate.

He added: "We need our young people today to embrace science enthusiastically, to realise that challenges like climate change can only be beaten by motivated and dedicated scientists, and to understand that a career in science today is not a life all spent in a laboratory but has the best business and job prospects the modern world can offer. Science today abounds both with noble causes and with glittering prizes: reach out for them."

One of the most important steps was to make science popular again so that its leading figures were as famous as footballers and film stars. "In the 19th century, working civil engineers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel were national figures, not for writing about science but for what they achieved.

"We need our scientists today to be as celebrated and famous as our sportsmen and women, our actors, our business entrepreneurs. Scientists are stars too. This is Britain's path to the future, lit by the brilliant light of science."

George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, accused the Government of stifling innovation with central control and failing on science teaching. Speaking as he visited high-technology businesses in Cambridge, Mr Osborne said: "Tony Blair talks about encouraging more schoolchildren to study science. But after nine years of the Labour Government, we have seen science driven out of our schools and universities."

************

Children Must Dream of Becoming Scientists: Tony Blair

- Belfast Telegraph, Nov. 3, 2006

Children should be encouraged to dream of growing up to be scientists in the same way they now aspire to be footballers and stars of other sports, Prime Minister Tony Blair will say today.

In the latest of a series of speeches setting out what he sees as the key challenges facing Britain in the decades ahead, Mr Blair will focus on the central role of science in delivering prosperity for the future.

And he will say that it is in Britain's interests to "stand up for science", not only by defending scientists against the attacks of animal rights extremists and other critics who want to stop their work, but also by fostering a love of science among the younger generation.

Mr Blair, who yesterday admitted in a magazine interview that he was "very poor" at science as a youngster, will say that it is important that schoolchildren see science as a high-prestige career. Recalling a series of controversies over issues like GM crops, the MMR vaccine and animal research, Mr Blair will say that he has consistently made the case for science and backed the right of scientists to do their work unhindered.

***********

Blair: Do Science and Save The World

- Daily Record, Nov. 4, 2006 http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk

Tony Blair yesterday slapped down the "anti-science brigade" and told kids to become scientists if they want to change the world. The PM warned voters to beware of the "outrageous distortion" peddled bysome campaigners.

And he said science was vital to keeping the UK competitive - and to taking on global warming. Speaking in Oxford, Blair referred to last week's Stern Report on climate change and said: "One of its implications was that if, as an idealistic young person, you wanted to change the world, then become a scientist.

"The anti-science brigade threaten our progress and prosperity. We need political and science leadership that stands up to them."

Sceptics about modern science, including Prince Charles, claim that developments such as GM crops threaten the planet's future.

But Blair said the row over GM showed that "a rational conversation about science" was needed. He went on: "In many instances, a powerful and vocal lobby, with access to all the media channels and an interest in polarising the argument, frames the debate."

Standing up to this is harder than it sounds. But it is a classic example of the struggle between short-term politics and long-term public good." Blair's spokesman did not deny his remarks put him at odds with Charles.

***********

Blair's Backing for Careers in Research Wins Mixed Response

- Alok Jha, The Guardian, Nov. 4, 2006 http://education.guardian.co.uk

Scientists welcomed Tony Blair's call yesterday for young people to "change the world" by taking up science to find ways to fight climate change.

Critics, however, warned that poor prospects for careers in science and corporate interests in scientific research could yet undermine the prime minister's ambitions.

Mr Blair's comments were made in a speech in Oxford, the fourth talk in a series on securing Britain's future. His main message was to encourage young people to engage with science. "We need our young people today to embrace science enthusiastically, to realise that challenges like climate change can only be beaten by motivated and dedicated scientists."

He also criticised the "anti-science brigade", which he said threatened progress in Britain. "We need political and science leadership that stands up to them. If we hadn't taken on the animal rights extremists, we might well have lost essential scientific research to Britain with incalculable economic damage to the country, to say nothing of the value of the research in the treatment of disease."

Chris Higgins, director of the Medical Research Council's clinical sciences centre, said: "It is wonderful to have leadership from the top recognising the importance of science. Science is not simply about facts, as we are often told at school, but is the best way we have of discovering new things about the world."

David Lloyd-Roach, of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: "Failure to encourage young people to study science will lead to an inability in tackling climate change. Without promotion of science, we will not educate tomorrow's engineers to create the infrastructure of the future."

Peter Cotgreave, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said the government could take credit for investing in UK science. "But there is still a long way to go for science in schools."

Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat science spokesman, said the government's policies would undermine some of Mr Blair's good intentions. "He has presided over the imposition of massive debt on science graduates, a failure to provide specialist science teachers in our schools, and allowing the closure of university science departments by imposing a free market on higher education."

Sue Mayer, director of lobby group GeneWatch, said that the prime minister seemed "blind to the dangers of corporate control of science and deaf to the genuine concerns that people have about the impacts of new technologies on society".

**********************************************

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

- Jason Kottke, Jun 28, 2006 http://www.kottke.org/books (Hat Tip: Andy Apel)

Dear Mr. Pollan,

I am writing to you in the hopes that you can offer some assistance to me regarding a troubling household situation. My wife has been reading your recent book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and has allowed herself to become carried away with your admittedly persuasive argument about eating more locally and ethically raised food.

At first it was just little stuff, like buying local produce and banning foodstuffs made with high fructose corn syrup. But then there was the fist-fight at the greenmarket about the sausage that Meg suspected was not humanely made because the woman selling it did not know the names of the pigs that supplied the meat. "Just one name, you heartless b#@%h!" she screamed as security escorted her from Union Square. The restraining order prevents Meg's further presence at the market and I am barely tolerated in her stead.

Lately though, Mr. Pollan, the situation has become much worse. Meg has completely forsaken her marital duties, turning her evening attentions elsewhere. It took me a few weeks to discover what she was up to, but she finally admitted to tending a hayfield in an empty lot in Queens. Oh, didn't I tell you? Meg has purchased a cow. I don't know where this cow is located, but his name is Arthur. She's taking me to meet him before he's humanely slaughtered so that, and I quote precisely, "you know where your food comes from for a change".

After the cow news became widely known in our household, Meg turned our extra bedroom into a hay mow, which mow is the subject of our building's co-op board meeting next month. An eighth floor resident complained about the conveyor belt chucking bales into the building's alley and the straw situation in the elevator was getting on everyone's nerves. I dare not add to the register of complaints by mentioning my acute hay-fever at this point.

The loss of the bedroom was tolerable, but Meg has also planted a garden that takes up half of our living room. One day she just took out the hardwood flooring and replacing it with freshly turned soil. Did you know that you can buy a roto-tiller in Manhattan, Mr. Pollan? Well, I do know, and you can definitely buy a roto-tiller at the Home Depot on 23rd Street in Chelsea for a sum close to what your wife might get at a pawn shop for your wristwatch.

So you can see the predicament I'm in here, Mr. Pollan. Any advice you can offer to this sneezing, watchless, beleaguered soul would be greatly appreciated.

Yours very sincerely,

Jason Kottke

P.S. I hope this letter reaches you in a timely manner. Meg has determined that the USPS uses ethanol-based gasoline in their trucks, so this letter is "speeding" its way to you via grass-fed horseback. Pray for me.

*********
For another review of Pollan's book:

How the Upper Crust Eats

- Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason, November 2006

http://www.reason.com/news/show/38387.html

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Radical Organic Groups Create Monster That May Devour Them

- Harry Cline, Western Farm Press, Nov 3, 2006 http://westernfarmpress.com

Know the difference between a newborn baby and a radical "environmentalist?" You don't have to spank a whacko environmentalist to make him whimper and cry.

OK, that is a take-off on an old farmer joke, but it seemed appropriate after reading a news release from a warm and fuzzy sounding organization called the Cornucopia Institute from Wisconsin. I'd Never before heard of the outfit that bills itself as "the nation's most aggressive organic farming watchdog."

From noticing the second contact listed on the news release, I figured out who was behind the news release with the headline "Wal-Mart Declares War on Organic Farmers."

The contact was the anti-capitalist, anti-most everything in America, Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). It's the same Minnesota-based organization that spearheaded the California anti-biotech county initiatives, and who were whipped and sent packing about a year ago when Sonoma County and several other counties turned down biotech bans.

The Cornucopia Institute, OCA and others released a "report" accusing Wal-Mart of "cheapening the value of the organic label by sourcing products from industrial-scale factory farms and Third World countries, such as China."

This comes after Wal-Mart announced that it would increase the number of organic products and price them, according to the Cornucopia release, at 10 percent above conventional food costs.

Ronnie and crowd complain that Wal-Mart buys milk from 10,000 cow-certified organic dairies that get milk from "nonorganic (sp) cows" brought into the dairies. I would really like to see a non-organic cow.

They also attacked California's Natural Selection Foods/Earthbound Farms, the 24,000-acre organic food producer in the center of the recent spinach E. coli outbreak. Cornucopia's press release came in the middle of the E. coli story. This farmer/packer supplies Wal-Mart with organic produce.

OCA and company say Wal-Mart is showing "blatant disregard to the ethical expectations of consumers who helped build organic into a lucrative $16 billion industry."

Sorry Ronnie/OCA, but consumers did not really build the organic market. You and your friends did with misrepresentation of conventional agriculture to the point that a few "consumers" began to believe your propaganda.

You helped spawn this "lucrative" market (only 2 percent of the nation's food supply). However, the market is now too big for you to supply. No way Wal-Mart would rely on commune-type farms where people pull little wagons gathering tomatoes and kill insects by crunching them between two 2-by-4 organic pine blocks to supply its growing organic market.

"Between Whole Foods and hundreds of the nation's cooperatively- owned natural foods groceries, we are certainly set up for a clash of the titans," said Cummins.

Two titans? More like a clash of a pip-squeak and an 800-pound gorilla.

"Will consumers choose cheap industrial (organic) foods from factory farms or questionable Third World imports or will they continue to support ethical processors and family farmers?" Cummins asks.

You are bright Ronnie. You know the answer.

My bet is on Wal-Mart's big volume, low consumer pricing. Many of the misguided organic consumers created by Cummins and others, I believe, will decide that if it says organically certified, why not pay the lowest price at Wal-Mart instead of the high prices of places like Whole Foods.

Sorry Ronnie, capitalism has smacked you in the misconceptions you successfully created. You helped create a market that you and your friends cannot supply. You misjudged California and lost the biotech battle here.

You are going to lose this one, too. Your loss is your fault. How radically ironic.

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