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June 8, 2000


broccoli, funding, organics


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Subj: Re: Super Broccoli
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 1:29:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "George Thomas"


We seem to blindly accept that large amounts of sulphorophane are actually
good for health. Is this true? Anything in excess can be harmful. For
example, it is proposed that some enzymes get activated when this chemical
is consumed via broccoli and this leads to cancer prevention. Is there any
study on what enzymes are shut down with this chemical? Or what effect 100
fold excess of this chemical has on various enzymes of the human
metabolism? I propose that unless an extensive study is undertaken over a
period of 10 years to prove beyond doubt that excess sulphorophane is not
harmful to human health, we should not allow
this broccoli to get to the market.(Roughly the period of moratorium
demanded by Shiva on GM crops). [I just using the language of the GM
bashers- I am not serious about the 10 years; however, I would like some
testing done to prove that it is harmless when in 100 fold excess]. We
can't accept an antibiotic resistance gene sitting in a crop, but we are
willing to eat broccoli with 100 fold excess of a chemical of unproven
effect, without a murmur!

George Thomas
Centre for Biotechnology
SPIC Science Foundation
111 Mount Road, Guindy
Chennai-600 032 (Madras)

Phone: 91-44-235-0902 or 91-44-230-0280 or 91-44-235-2332Extn301
Fax: 91-44-235-1504 or 2163
email: gt@biotech.smi.ernet.in
Subj: Revealing funding sources?
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 3:11:37 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Gale Ellen West

Dear AgBioView readers:

I disagree with David Meyer's warning (Tue, 6 Jun 2000) that we should not
resort to arguments against anti-GM/biotech people based on their funding
sources. Revealing the origins of funding on both sides of the GM/biotech
debate is very important and very relevant for everyone concerned.

When sources of anti-GM/biotech funding are known, people can question
"their"profit motives along with questioning "our" profit motives. It
should be made clear to European consumers that they are simply switching
profits from traditional corporations who use traditional advertising
methods to emerging corporate enterprises who fund sensational media
stunts as advertising.

From the perspective of media exploitation of consumers, does selling
intensefear based on sensationalism and wild speculation not differ
substantially from selling GM/biotech products based on accumulated
research knowledge? Yes, especially when a substantial part of the
research knowledge is generated independently. When "they" begin funding
research to demonstrate the validityof their pro-organic arguments that's
when they will merit greater respect from everyone.

Unlike corporate advertising with the very clear goal of increasing
profits, their media goals are less than obvious. Labeling or banning
GM/biotech products are clearly not entirely sufficient. The ultimate
goal thus appears to be the total destruction of all "giant" for-profit
corporations, beginning with those in the agricultural sector. What will
replace these so-called monstrosities? Are they loudly demanding a
subsistence system of small non-profit organic farms? No, they appear
perfectly happy with organic farms that make profits at outrageous prices.
These smaller farms will eventually benefit from mergers into larger and
larger operating structures -- new multinational corporations will arise!
[And, with them new anti-capitalist political agendas?]

Mr. Meyer said, "We would do well to try to always keep discourse rational
andto educate people on that basis." This implies that revealing funding
sources is irrational and does not educate people. I would hate to go
into a court room where the lawyers would not attempt to reveal the vested
interests of their opponents! Motives ... ultimate goals ... that's part
of what everyone needs to know in order to justly judge the accused.



Subj: organics
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 3:10:29 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Greg Conko

>Dr. Thomas Bjorkman wrote:
>Kosher food is certified by many different agencies (Kosher Union, Circle
>K and others). Here in the Northeast I know that each certification
>organizations has strong adherents among consumers. There are various
>arguments about who is better or more Kosher. In many respects, this
>system is comparable to the organic certification system in place now.
>The consumers of organic food were not satisfied with the situation that
>had varying certifications standards, and some vendors selling food
>labelled organic when it did not meet any certification
>organization's standards.

Kosher is a perfect analogue for market-based provision of process-based
labeling information. As you suggest, "There are various arguments about
who is better or more Kosher." There are also various arguments about who
is more organic. And a number of consumers and certification agents are
now upset that USDA has set a single national standard that allows for no
variation. It's fine if your priorities are met by the USDA rule, but
people who want a different standard will be uniformly denied access to
commonly used term "organic."

It's probably incorrect, however, to say that the USDA rule-making was a
consumer-driven movement, or that "consumers of organic food were not
satisfied with the situation". There is reason to believe that consumers
generally (as opposed to many individual consumers) are not especially
Interested in certification per se. If they are, they need only buy
things that have a clear certification mark on them. At least some survey
data suggests that it's primarily retailers who care about certification
(see, for example, Carole Sugarman, "Organic? Industry is Way ahead of
Government," The Washington Post, December 31, 1997, p. E1 ).

USDA was required to establish organic standards under the Organic Foods
Production Act of 1990 (7 USC 6501-6522); which itself wasn't really
driven by any substantial public movement. And the big public response
(approximately 275,000 comments) to its first proposed rule, published in
the Federal Register in 1997, suggests that even the sub-set of dedicated
organic consumers still had radically different opinions about what did
and did not constitute organic production.

Under the USDA rule, if you want to use the word organic and have your
products enter interstate commerce, you have to be a registered agent with
the USDA. Any agents that are registered with the USDA must, in turn, use
USDA's standards -- even if it means applying additional rules on top of
of USDA's standards.

There is at least one (admittedly small) organic certification agency (the
Demeter Association in Massachusetts) that is now questioning the whole
concept of USDA promulgating a national organic standard. They originally
hoped that doing so would lead to better information, but now think that's
unlikely to come from this proposal. They clearly believe they, their
clients, and their clients' customers are better off now than they would
be if this rule goes into effect.

That market solutions tend to be better at addressing consumer information
needs, should be at least one lesson learned from this whole sordid mess.

Gregory Conko
Director, Food Safety Policy
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Suite 1250
1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 331-1010
Fax: (202) 331-0640