FOOD BYTES #13 October 31, 1998
News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering & Factory Farming
by: Ronnie Cummins, Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action

*** Pie in the Eye: A Bad Month for Monsanto
*** Media Matters: The New York Times Discovers the Gene Foods Controversy
*** Action Alert: Help Win the Ground-Breaking Lawsuit Against the FDA

Upcoming! Next Issue of Food Bytes--Save Organic Standards--Round Two

Monsanto Under Attack

Quote of the month:

"It's a gradual process of allaying public fears and obtaining more public
acceptance," says Monsanto U.K public and government affairs director Anne
Foster. "Gradually people will gain confidence in a new science."

After a disastrous month of internecine power struggles, a collapsed merger
with American Home Products, PR snafus, and continuing "glitches" in its
genetically engineered products, Monsanto's stock has plummeted 30%.
Despite millions of acres of its GE crops under cultivation across the
world, the Behemoth of Biotech no longer seems quite so invincible. Since
the last issue of Food Bytes the St. Louis-based multinational has suffered
a number of reverses, including the following:

*A failed $35 billion merger with American Home Products (AHP). Monsanto,
heavily in debt, has literally run out of cash. The company desperately
needs the kind of capital and sales force which a pharmaceutical giant like
AHP has in order to finance their recent multi-billion dollar acquisitions
of seed and research companies and to market the numerous genetically
engineered products in their pipeline. Without a massive influx of capital,
an over-extended Monsanto now will have no choice but to slow down its
manic rush to bio-colonize the world. In the wake of the AHP fiasco,
Citibank has agreed to front Monsanto several billion dollars in cash, and
the company announced plans to sell four billion dollars in new stocks, but
financial analysts predict that Monsanto may now be ripe for an unfriendly
takeover by one of the other larger "life science" transnationals such as
Dow, Dupont, or Novartis.

* Continuing public relations and marketing problems in Europe and around
the world. Although calls for a three to five year moratorium on planting
GE crops in Britain and across Europe apparently have been shelved, at
least for the moment, the fact that mounting public pressure has forced the
European Parliament and European Commission officials to even discuss such
a GE moratorium has Monsanto and the entire biotech industry spooked.
Across Europe genetically engineered field crops continue to be uprooted by
protestors, more and more supermarket chains are attempting to source
non-GE products, while activist organizations like Greenpeace, Friends of
the Earth, Global 2000, European Farmers Coordination (CPE), and the
Genetic Engineering Network generate steady media coverage and publicity.

* In late-September in the U.K., a special issue of The Ecologist magazine
on Monsanto was pulled off the presses and destroyed by its printer. After
finding another printer brave enough to publish the magazine, the Ecologist
then learned from leading U.K. newsstands that they would not distribute
the issue. Although Monsanto claims they haven't threatened printers or
magazine vendors, almost no one seems to believe them. As Zac Goldsmith,
the Ecologist's co-editor, stated, "Through reputation alone Monsanto has
been able, time and time again, to bring about what is in effect defacto
censorship. THeir size and history of aggression has repeatedly brought an
end to what is undeniably a legitimate and very important debate. They
believe in information, but only that which ensures a favorable public
response to their often dangerous products."

* In the United States Monsanto has begun receiving adverse publicity for
prosecuting farmers for saving Monsanto's patented herbicide-resistant
"Roundup Ready" soybean seeds. According to press reports Monsanto has
hired Pinkerton detectives to harass more than 1800 farmers and seed
dealers across the country, with 475 potential criminal "seed piracy" cases
already under investigation. A group of seed-saving farmers in Kentucky,
Iowa, and Illinois have already been forced to pay fines to Monsanto of up
to $35,000 each. Besides the cost of the seed, a $6.50 technology fee is
charged by Monsanto for each 50 pound bag of Roundup Ready seed. As
Monsanto told the Associated Press October 27, "We say they can pay (either
of) two royalties --$6.50 at the store or $600 in court,'' said Scott
Baucum, Monsanto manager for intellectual property protection.

* According to the Daily Mail (Oct 25, 1998) in the U.K., the British
government is considering charging Monsanto with violating environmental
pollution laws for a Roundup-resistant rapeseed (canola) farm test site in
Lincolnshire, where GE rapeseed plants contaminated an adjoining non-GE
rapeseed plot.

*Following in the wake of mounting worldwide criticism of Monsanto's
"Terminator Technology," the CGIAR organization, the world's largest
international agricultural research network, announced that they would
boycott all Terminator Technology seeds. According to RAFI (Rural
Advancement Foundation International) Director Pat Mooney, a leading critic
of the Terminator Technology, "It's (CGIAR's) the right decision and it is
also a courageous
decision," "Since the (Terminator) patent was granted in the United States
last March, it has attracted unprecedented opposition from farmers'
organizations, environmentalists, and agricultural scientists. More than
1,850 individuals from 54 countries have written
personal protests to the US Secretary of Agriculture demanding that the
technology be banned."

* In Brazil a judge at least temporarily blocked Monsanto's efforts to get
approval for farmers to plant Roundup Ready Soybeans. According to a
September 20 story by Bill Lambrecht in the St. Louis Post Dispatch,
"Monsanto discovered an unsettling reality last week: Anti-biotechnology
sentiments that are widespread in Europe are sprouting in South America.
Hours before a government agency met to approve Monsanto's request to plant
gene-altered soybeans, a Brazilian federal judge granted an injunction
blocking the application. For St. Louis-based Monsanto, the ruling is a
setback that would be a real defeat if the company misses the Brazilian
planting season in October and November. Brazil is a potential market worth
tens of millions in profits. With 165 million people and a thriving
economy, Brazil is a vital cog in the drive by Monsanto and its rivals to
change the genetic codes of crops--and food--around the world."

* In Canada, the controversy surrounding Monsanto's strong-arm tactics to
get government regulators to approve their controversial recombinant Bovine
Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST) has reached new levels of intensity. Recent
revelations that Monsanto apparently concealed troubling rBGH safety tests
on rats (rats fed high levels of rBGH showed damage to thyroid and prostate
tissues--potential danger signals for cancer) from government regulators in
the US and Canada have led to renewed calls by farmer and consumer
organizations in North America to have rBGH pulled from the market. In the
October 6 Rutland Herald newspaper in Vermont spokespersons for the US Food
and Drug Administration and Monsanto flatly contradicted one another--with
Monsanto claiming they gave the controversial rat studies to the FDA prior
to rBGH approval in 1993, while the FDA stated "We do not have the data
from that study."

* In San Francisco on October 27, Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro was
confronted by anti-GE protestors who smashed a tofu vegan cream pie in his
face. According to a press release by the "Anti-Genetix" splinter faction
of the Biotic Baking Brigade (BBB) issued on October 27 "The chief
executive of one of the world's biggest corporations was struck in the face
with a tofu creme pie on Tuesday night at the 'State of the World Forum'
conference in the Fairmont Hotel. The incident occurred after Shapiro gave
a keynote address on the brave new
world of genetic engineering." According to "Agent Apple" of the

"Monsanto has engaged in ruthless intimidation of critics; embarked upon an
aggressive global takeover of seed, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies,
with an aim to control world food distribution; and is conducting an
intensive PR "Greenwash" campaign in order to promote itself as an
eco-friendly corporation. We will not be fooled, and we will wage our
gastronomical struggle with epicurean passion" said Agent Apple. "Monsanto
and its subsidiaries have spread chemical death across every continent
through products such as PCBs, Agent Orange, Bovine Growth Hormone,
Nutrasweet, Equal, and Roundup (the world's biggest selling herbicide). The
corporation's toxic Superfund sites poison workers and community members,
and its dioxins will continue to cause birth defects and major
health problems for generations to come." The EPA has designated Monsanto
as a "potentially responsible party" at 93 Superfund sites.

For additional in-depth information on these news items and further info on
how Monsanto is "Under Attack," readers should regularly access our web
site and its links:

More and more activists, farmers, and consumer advocates around the world
are calling for a global campaign against Monsanto. Look for further
details in upcoming issues of Food Bytes.

The New York Times Magazine Discovers the Gene Food Crisis

On Sunday October 25 the New York Times Magazine ran as its cover story an
excellent critique of genetically engineered foods entitled "Playing God in
the Garden" by Michael Pollan. The article has attracted a great deal of
attention, not only because it's well-written, but also because the Times
has had very little coverage of the GE debate since 1994, when it devoted
considerable space to the controversy surrounding America's first biotech
food product, rBGH. The full text of "Playing God in the Garden" is on our
web site.

Since 1994, Monsanto and a half-dozen other giant chemical and
pharmaceutical companies--working hand-in-hand with compliant regulatory
agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of
Agriculture--have begun to genetically engineer the food supply of North
America and the entire world.

Starting with the controversial Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and the Flavr
Savr tomato, and proceeding to a full menu of genetically engineered
soybeans, corn, cotton, potatoes, squash, chicory, and canola (rapeseed),
the Clinton administration has sat by and allowed the commercialization of
over three dozen genetically engineered (GE) foods and crops, with
absolutely no labeling or special pre-market safety-testing required.
There are already 45 million of acres of GE crops being cultivated across
the United States, and most non-organic processed foods in American
supermarkets now "test positive" for at least trace levels of genetically
engineered ingredients.

Despite an endless stream of government and industry propaganda, consumers
in the U.S. and overseas remain troubled or anxious about these new
"Frankenfoods." As scientific evidence mounts of the potential human and
environmental hazards of this new technology --increased allergens, toxins,
and pesticide residues; as well as the creation of "superweeds,"
"superpests," and other forms of genetic pollution and environmental
damage--public concern has intensified. The biological pollution of these
new GE crops pose a real threat to organic farmers and sustainable
agriculture across the U.S. and the world.

Recent polls show 80-95% of consumers in the U.S. and Europe demanding
labeling of GE foods--primarily so that they can avoid buying them. In a
poll by the biotech corporation Novartis in February of 1997, a full 93% of
Americans said that all genetically engineered foods should be labeled. In
the same poll 73% said they felt "strongly" about mandatory labeling of
gene-altered foods, while 54% wanted to see agriculture move toward organic
production methods.

Despite overwhelming public concern, U.S. companies and regulatory agencies
remain unalterably opposed to mandatory labeling. Over the past four years
U.S. companies and government authorities repeatedly have opposed labeling
of genetically engineered crops. The Clinton administration has threatened
to sue the European Union for "restraint of trade" if they require
mandatory segregation and labeling of U.S. food exports.

As Monsanto and the gene engineers understand full well, mandatory labeling
could become the "Achilles Heel" of agricultural biotechnology. As the
head of Asgrow seed company (a Monsanto subsidiary) candidly admitted to
the press several years ago: "Labeling is the key issue. If you put a label
on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones
on it."

In response to government and industry attempts to restrict consumer
choice, on May 27, 1998 attorneys from the Center for Food Safety (a
project of the International Center for Technology Assessment ), a
Washington, D.C. based public interest organization, filed a comprehensive
lawsuit on behalf of consumers, scientists, environmentalists, chefs, and
religious groups to force the Food and Drug Administration to require
mandatory labeling and adequate safety testing of all genetically
engineered foods and crops.

"The FDA has placed the interests of a handful of biotechnology companies
ahead of their responsibility to protect public health," stated Andrew
Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety (CFS). "By failing to require
testing and labeling of genetically engineered foods, the agency has made
consumers unknowing guinea pigs for potentially harmful, unregulated food

According to attorney Joseph Mendelson of the CFS, "Current FDA and USDA
labeling policies blatantly contradict federal laws, such as the Food,
Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which mandate the labeling of 'materially altered'

The Center for Food Safety also points out that--in addition to serious
human health concerns and environmental damage--unlabeled gene foods pose a
significant threat to religious freedom and ethical choice. "Millions of
Americans feel obligated to refrain from some or all genetically engineered
foods based on their ethical and religious principles. Many Jews and
Muslims need to avoid foods with substances from specific animals, while
devout vegetarians want to avoid substances from any animal. Additionally a
considerable portion of the population is religiously motivated to avoid
all genetically engineered foods because they view the production of these
foods to be incompatible with proper stewardship of the integrity of God's
creation," according to Mendelson.

For further information on the lawsuit, you can find the Center for Food
Safety/ICTA homepage on the internet at:


***Send a fax, letter, or email to our office, supporting the May 27
lawsuit on the labeling and safety-testing of genetically engineered foods
and crops. We will forward your letter to the FDA and your Congressional
representatives. In your message tell the FDA to settle the CFS/ICTA
lawsuit by requiring all genetically engineered foods and crops to be
labeled and safety-tested prior to commercialization. In the meantime all
previously approved GE foods should be taken off the market. Tell them that
consumers have a fundamental legal right to know whether or not the foods
they are purchasing have been genetically engineered.

*** Or, if you prefer, you can contact your Congressional Representatives,
the FDA, the USDA, and the White House directly:

***Call your Congressional Representatives and ask them to introduce
legislation MANDATING the labeling of genetically engineered foods. (U.S.
Capital Switchboard 1-800-962-3524 or 202-224-3121)

***Contact the Food and Drug Administration and DEMAND labeling of all GE
foods and crops:
FDA- Telephone 301-827-4420
email of Dr. Friedman, FDA Commissioner <>

***Contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture and DEMAND labeling:
USDA- Telephone 301-734-7601
email of Daniel Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture <

***Contact Clinton and Gore at the White House and DEMAND labeling:
President Clinton's Comment Line Telephone- 202-456-1111, #1,#0
email: <>
mailing address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500

***Avoid buying genetically engineered or chemically contaminated foods
whenever possible by purchasing organic foods at your local coop or natural
foods store. Under current organic certification rules, genetic engineering
is banned. Tell your grocery store or food market to offer a full line of
organic foods, so that you and your family can avoid foods which are
chemically or genetically contaminated. Support local farmers markets or
community supported agricultural projects and buy locally-grown organic
food whenever possible. Start a garden and grow some of your own food.

***Stay informed. If you have access to the internet, stay tuned to our web
sites and links at: and

***Subscribe to our free electronic newsletter, Food Bytes, by sending an
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If you don't have access to a computer, send us $20 for a 12 month
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***Contact our office and volunteer to become an activist in our Campaign
for Food Safety or Organic Consumers Action in your local area.

Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action
860 Highway 61
Little Marais, Minnesota 55614
Tel. 218-226-4164
Fax 218-226-4157

Help support the labeling lawsuit of the Center for Food Safety. Send
donations to:
International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA)
310 D Street NE
Washington, D. C. 20002

###End of Food Bytes #13###

Ronnie Cummins
Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action
860 Hwy 61
Little Marais, Mn. 55614
Tel. 218-226-4164
Fax 218-226-4157
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