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Organic Consumers Association

Another Reason Not to Implement NAIS: Wireless Pollution from RFIDs

Web Note: To take action on this issue and alert your congressperson that you do not want NAIS included in the Farm Bill, click here. (This link takes you to OCA's Country-of-Origin Labeling Alert page, which also includes information about opposing NAIS.)

To Bill Sanda, Executive Director, Weston A. Price Foundation

I was sent your March 20th Information Alert on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and am, quite frankly, appalled. I had no idea that the use of radiofrequency ID (RFID) tags was being proposed on this scale by a federal agency but it comes as no surprise. Tom Ridge, the former Secretary of The Office of Homeland Security, has gone to the private sector and is one of the founders of a company, called Savi Technology that is being bought by Lockheed Martin and on whose board he still sits, that makes RFID's. (Ridge is also on the boards of Ridge Global, Exelon, Daon and Lucent Technologies -- all companies with a stake in RF applications. See "Former Antiterror Officials Find Industry Pays Better," New York Times, June 18, 2006, page 1.) Ridge has taken his government connections back to DC and sold the technology for such applications as imbedding in all new government passports -- for security reasons of course. This is a technology looking for uses. They have found another in farm animals, this time for ostensible safety reasons.

Mary Zanoni's summation of problems with this proposal are on the money with one exception. This is likely an unsafe technology. Last year, San Francisco stopped RFIDs from being used by that city's library system based on health concerns. I am a medical/science journalist, former New York Times writer, and author of two books on the health/environmental effects of nonionizing radiation, one of which won an award from the American Medical Writers Association. (See http://www.blakelevitt.com) What is being proposed with this system will create a constant, low-level ambient radiofrequency exposure on every farm in the US. It will require every animal to carry a pulsing transmitter that will endanger not only the animals but the farmers, workers, and visitors to that farm. These technologies fall under what are called categorical exclusions (meaning no regulation or oversight) because their power output is below a threshold for tissue heating the way a microwave oven cooks food. But that doesn't mean they aren't capable of a host of adverse nonthermal effects too.

Unfortunately, the EPA's bioelectromagnetics research program which had oversight on this was defunded 10 years ago -- just when these technologies began to burgeon, along with cellphones, towers, wireless laptops, WiFi, etc. etc. The standards in place for such exposures at the Federal Communications Commission -- a non-health, non-environment agency -- have taken no research since 1986 into consideration. There have been two unsuccessful lawsuits filed at the US Supreme Court trying to force the FCC to update their standards. There are currently proposals through several congressional offices to refund the EPA's program. Janet Newton, President of the EMR Policy Institute in Marshfield, VT (http://www.emrpolicy.org) -- an activist organization that works at the federal level -- will be in Washington, DC around June 26th. The EMR Policy Institute filed those suits with Whitney North Seymour, Jr., co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council. (Perhaps Ms. Zanoni would be interested in adding some of this legal work to her arguments here too.) You might consider meeting with Jan Newton re: this most important issue when she is in DC, and I would be happy to talk with any of your group on this.

In addition, there is a Radio Frequency Inter-Agency Work Group (RFIAWG) that has raised some important, unanswered questions re: RF safety. I have attached their statement. I have also attached a well-annotated amicus brief filed in one of the Supreme Court cases filed by the Healthy Schools Network (HSN). Though that brief specifically concerns cell tower placement near schools, the NAIS system will essentially force the same environmental exposures onto farms and animals at potentially stronger 24/7exposures. The health/environmental effects would be equivalent to those delineated in the HSN brief.

Please feel free to contact me, or Janet Newton (JNewton@emrpolicy.org) The time to coordinate the information on low-level environmental energy exposures into the larger dialogue has certainly arrived with a monster proposal like this one. I have taken the liberty to pass long this information to bioelectromagnetics scientists, researchers in other government agencies, environmental attorneys, legislators and others. Lets see if we can bring the USDA to its senses before this gets much more traction.

Best regards and thanks for calling this to people's attention,
Sincerely,
Ms. B. Blake Levitt


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