FOOD BYTES #12 September 23, 1998
News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering & Factory Farming
by: Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association/Organic Consumers Action
firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com http://www.purefood.org
* GE "Frankenfoods" & Crops: Measuring the Global Resistance
* Third Annual Global Days of Action Oct. 2-16
Slouching Toward Biodevastation: A Biotech Century?
Four and a half years after the first genetically engineered (GE) food was
forced onto the marketplace in the U.S. (Monsanto's still controversial
recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone rBGH), global "life science" corporations
are celebrating. With over three dozen unlabeled and untested GE foods and
crops commercialized in North America, with several dozen "Frankencrops"
approved for sale in Europe, Japan, and Australia, with over 25 million
acres already under cultivation, with GATT and life patenting/biopiracy
regimes tightening their noose on the global economy, civil society
involuntarily stands on the edge of a Biotech Century. If present trends
continue (with over 25% of U.S. soybeans, corn, and cotton and he majority
of Canada's rapeseed or canola already GE), the industrialization and
globalization of agriculture will be nearly complete within a decade.
Fusing together technological advances in eugenics (so-called genetic or
germ-line therapy), cloning, neutraceuticals (GE foods containing their own
drugs), and agricultural biotechnology, a transnational Biotechnocracy,
Monsanto, Novartis, Hoechst/AgrEvo, Dow, Dupont, has plans to provide most
of the world's drugs, food, and seeds--not to mention body parts, vital
organs, and cloned "designer genes."
And yet a certain uneasiness has crept into the boardrooms of the gene
engineers. The stock prices of Monsanto and the other "life science"
corporations remain high, but a spreading global economic crisis could turn
into a meltdown. Sales of "Roundup Ready" soybean seeds and Bt-spliced corn
and cotton are robust, yet even Monsanto recently ran out of cash and had
to be bought out by a larger corporation, American Home Products.
Compounding these concerns in the New World Order of ag biotech are an
increasing number of technological and environmental "glitches."
Genetically engineered, rBGH-derived milk and dairy products linked with
increased breast, colon, and prostate cancer risks; "genetic pollution" and
creation of herbicide and Bt-resistant "superweeds" and "superpests";
collateral damage to beneficial insects, pollinators, and the soil food
web; and looming on the horizon, a "Terminator Technology" that could make
the world's crop seeds infertile.
Above all the spectre that hangs over Europe, and now Japan, is citizen
resistance to genetic engineering. Besides near-panic over the growing
consumer backlash in the UK and Europe, American biotech exporters are now
deeply worried about the threat of consumer "right-to-know" labeling laws
being passed in Japan. In the September 3 issue of Agri-View, a U.S. farm
industry newspaper, agri-biotech spokespersons categorize biotech labeling
as a "rash scheme," and warn of "substantial market access problems" if the
Japanese government requires mandatory labeling--as consumer groups have
been demanding. According to Ken Hobbie, president of the Washington,
D.C.-based Grains Council labeling "threatens the long alliance" between
the U.S. and Japan on agricultural trade. "We have to get the word out to
all of U.S. agriculture about this potential situation, because it
threatens corn, beans, and a lot more."
If the "Monsanto/American Model" of Biotechnocracy cannot be forced down
the throats of European and Japanese and, ultimately, North American
consumers (i.e. no labeling or required safety-testing of GE foods and
crops) then the Biotech Century, at least in terms of agricultural
production, will be stillborn. Despite an endless stream of government and
industry PR, consumers overseas, and even in the U.S. remain troubled or
anxious about GE foods. Recent polls show 80-95% of consumers in the
industrialized world demanding labeling of GE foods--primarily so that they
can avoid buying them.
As reported in Food Bytes #11, even in the United States, a new mass
movement against genetic engineering has begun to develop. Reflecting and
spearheading this new American resistance, on May 27, 1998 attorneys from
the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), 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
In a national poll by 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. If this anti-biotech public sentiment in the U.S. can be turned
into an organized political force, as is becoming the case in Europe, the
Biotech Century will be over, even before it officially begins. For a
global summary of consumer polls on labeling genetically engineered food
Third Global Days of Action Against Genetic Engineering--October 2-16, 1998
Dear Activist Friends,
The Organic Consumers Association (formerly called the Pure Food Campaign) and
activists from around the world invite you to join us and participate in
the October 2-16, 1998 Global Days of Action against genetically engineered
foods, life patents, and factory farming. During the weeks of Oct. 2-16,
consumer, farm, animal, and public interest organizations from several
dozen nations will be holding simultaneous protests, press conferences, and
public education events in front of supermarkets, corporate headquarters,
and government offices to strengthen the growing global campaign for
sustainable agriculture and food security.
The October Global Days of Action (GDA) will be the third annual series of
coordinated international actions against agricultural biotechnology and
life patenting. The first two GDA generated significant media coverage and
strengthened the growing global network of public interest non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) concerned about food, biodiversity, and economic
The GDA, of course, are just one of the many manifestations of a growing
international challenge mounted by civil society against the "Global
Biotechnocracy" of the gene engineers and the transnational corporations.
Indeed in Europe nearly every day has now become a continental "Day of
Action" against gene foods and crops--with boycotts, direct action, and
public debate reaching unprecedented levels. In addition strong citizen
campaigns continue to develop in Japan, Australia, India, and Asia--and
now, finally, signs are emerging of a potential mass anti-GE movement in
North America, South America, and Africa as well.
In this era of intensified economic exploitation and corporate
globalization, consumers worldwide are being subjected to an increasing
industrialization and contamination of the food supply and the environment.
In this context, progressive, green, and democracy-minded people have no
choice but to organize and campaign on a transnational basis. Isolated and
fragmented, civil society is no match for Monsanto, Novartis,
Hoechst/AgrEvo, Dupont, and the other giant chemical and pharmaceutical
corporations. But by campaigning and organizing together on an
international basis we can win the battle for a sustainable future and a
So let us help strengthen our "Global Biodemocracy" Movement by carrying
out joint actions October 2-16, which will begin on Gandhi's birthday (Oct.
2) and culminate on World Food Day (Oct. 16). And following the example of
anti-GE campaigners in Europe, let's make every day a "Global Day of
Action" against genetic engineering and for sustainable and organic
Our GDA Clearinghouse has received word of a number of protests around the
USA and the world for October 2-16. Many actions are still being planned.
Here are the actions and contact people we know about so far:
New York City. On October 12, so-called "Columbus Day," there will be an
anti-Genetic Engineering rally at 11:00 a.m. at the Central Park West
entrance of the Natural History Museum, site of Monsanto-sponsored
"Biodiversity Hall." For further information contact: Maris Abelson Tel.
212-865-8928 email <Fred@inch.com>
Boston. On October 15 at 11:45 a.m. New England Resistance Against Genetic
Engineering (RAGE) will hold a rally in front of the Environmental
Protection Agency at 1 Congress Street in downtown Boston. Among other
actions, RAGE representatives will present government EPA officials with a
petition to ban GE foods. For further information contact: Nancy Oden Tel.
207-434-6228 email <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Philadelphia. On October 15 at noon there will be a protest demonstration
in front of the Federal Building, including puppets and street theatre. For
further information contact: Elizabeth Fattahipour Tel. 610-527-8882 email
Burlington, Vermont. On October 6, there will be a teach-in entitled "From
Green Revolution to Gene Revolution: The Biotech Threat to Sustainable
Agriculture" at the City Hall Contois auditorium. On October 9 at noon at
the Church Street side of City Hall there will be a rally and march,
including street theatre, costumes, and speakers. For further information
contact: Brian Tokar Tel. 802-229-0836 or 802-865-0120 email
Chicago. On October 15 in Chicago at 11:30 a.m. there will be a rally in
the Federal Plaza, followed by a march to the Board of Trade and the USDA
office. For further information contact: Bob Rudner email <email@example.com>
Port Townsend, Washington. There will be a Northwest US regional activist
meeting on October 4 from 9 a.m. to noon on "Building a Mass Movement
Against Genetic Engineering and Factory Farming" at the Provender Alliance
Annual Conference. Keynote speaker will be Ronnie Cummins of the Campaign
for Food Safety. For further information contact: Ronnie Cummins Tel.
218-226-4164 email <firstname.lastname@example.org>
St. Louis, Missouri. Event to be announced. Contact: Don Fitz Tel.
314-240-8558 email <Fitzdon@aol.com>
West Palm Beach, Florida. Event to be announced. Contact: Mary Israel Tel.
561-547-5348 email <email@example.com>
Athens, Georgia. Event to be announced. Contact: James Powell email
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Event to be announced. Contact: Louise Quigley Tel.
414-962-2703 email <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Washington, D.C. On October 7 there will be an protest against the MAI
(Multilateral Agreement on Investment) sponsored by Public Citizen's Global
Trade Watch. Issues of genetic engineering and biopiracy will be discussed
within the context of economic globalization and economic colonialism. For
further information contact: Magrete Strand-Rangnes email
Ottawa, Ontario Canada. Event to be announced. Contact: Lucy Sharrat Tel.
613-235-1672 email <email@example.com>
Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada. Event to be announced. Contact: Bob Ewing
U.K. "GeneWeek" will include a fortnight of demonstrations, actions, and
"whatever." As part of the UK GDA the group "DNA" (Diverse Nature Alert)
will be presenting "Toxic Planet," a London-based interactive art-house
experience that will run from Oct. 3-10. Contact Genetic Engineering
Network (GEN) Tel. + (44) 181-374-9516 email <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Activists in North East U.K. are also organizing an event. Contact:
Tyneside Action for People & Planet (TAPP) Latest information through their
web site at: http://www.d-n-a.net/users/dnetDDmg/subvert1.htm
Also in U.K. a national Day of Action against the Tesco supermarket chain
on Oct. 2--including stickering, trolley runs, leafletting, mutant
vegetable costumes, etc. For details contact: Tel. +(44) 845-666-2834
(voicemail box 9) Website: http://visitweb.com/totnes
As mentioned earlier, nearly every day is now a GDA in Europe. For upcoming
events Oct. 2-16 in the following countries contact:
Sweden. Contact: Martin Frid. Tel. +46-479-10010 email <email@example.com>
Netherlands. Contact Stephanie Howard at ASEED. Tel. +31-20-668-2236 email
Austria. Contact Global 2000. Daniel Hausknost Tel. +(43) 181-257-300 email
Switzerland. Contact Florianne Koechlin Tel. +(41) 61-411-2634 email
Greenpeace International (all over Europe). email
A street demonstration is planned in New Delhi for Oct. 2, among other
events. Contact: Vandana Shiva Tel. +(91) 11-696-8077 email
Events to be announced. Contact: Mika Iba Tel. (81) 333-27-6444 email
Contact: Setsuko Yasuda email <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Asia & Pacific:
Contact: Pesticide Action Network/Safe Food Campaign in Malaysia Jennifer
Mourin Tel. + (60-4) 657-0271 email <email@example.com>
If you plan to organize a joint action/press conference in your country or
local area during the second Global Days of Action, please let us know.