Organic View, Volume 1 Number 15

Organic View - An e-mail publication of the Organic
Consumers Association

The Organic Consumers Association is affiliated with the
Campaign for Food Safety

v.1 n.15 October 14, 1999
1. Bonior letter Update - Legislation Coming
2. Why Labeling?
3. Hain To Start Labeling GMO-Free
4. Cuban Organic Farming Association Wins Alternative Nobel Prize
5. Activists Gear Up For World Trade Meeting in Seattle
6. Monsanto Halts Terminator Research
7. Important Recent Articles

1. Bonior Letter Update - Legislation Coming

Thanks to the many of you who contacted your US
Representative or Senator regarding House Minority Whip
David Bonior's (D-MI) letter to the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) calling for the labeling of genetically
engineered food. (See Organic View, n.14

As we go to press, the following US Representatives have
signed on to the Bonior letter: Michael Capuano (D-MA); Bill
Clay (D-MO); Peter DeFazio (D-OR); Loyd Doggett (D-TX);
Barney Frank (D-MA); Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD); Dennis Kucinich
(D-OH); George Miller (D-CA); Patsy Mink (D-HI); ); Martin
Sabo (D-MN); Christopher Shays (R-CT); Mike Thompson (D-CA);
Tom Udall (D-NM).

The deadline for getting additional signers has been
extended. So if you have not already, please contact your
member of Congress and ask that they sign on to the Bonior
letter to the FDA. You can find the mailing address, phone,
or e-mail directly your US Representatives at:
( If you wish, you can call
the national Capitol switchboard and ask to speak to your
Representative by calling toll-free 1-888-449-3511 (just
give them your zip code if you are not sure who your Rep

Legislation Expected - Representative Dennis Kucinich
(D-OH) will be introducing a bill in the next several weeks
that calls for the mandatory labeling of genetically
engineered foods. The bill is in its final stages of
development, and we will report its specific contents as
soon as it is made available. The bill may include a
provision which would exclude farmers from liability if
genetically engineered material spreads to other farms,
focusing possible future liability litigation on the biotech
industry, rather than farmers. We will keep you updated in
the coming weeks.

2. Why Labeling?

OCA firmly believes that genetically engineered crops pose
serious environmental and human health risks that have not
been adequately tested, and are a direct threat to organic
food production.

For these reasons, we are actively working toward:
(1) the labeling of genetically engineered foods and crops
until they are removed from the market;
(2) the removal of genetically engineered foods and crops
from the market;
(3) comprehensive pre-market safety testing of all
genetically engineered foods and crops.

The largest obstacle to fighting genetically engineered
foods is the lack of consumer awareness. Poll after poll has
found that between 80 and 95 percent of US consumers want
labeling. A Gallup poll released earlier this month found
that 68 percent of consumers would actually pay more to
cover labeling costs for genetically engineered foods. That
same poll found that only 10 percent of consumers have heard
much about genetically engineered foods.

A vigorous fight to label genetically engineered foods helps
raise public awareness about the issue, identify
policy-makers who share our concerns, and educate the media.
Not least of all, comprehensive labeling would respect
consumers' fundamental right-to-know what they are eating.
Labeling would give consumers the opportunity to directly
pressure food companies that use genetically engineered
ingredients, and support those who do not. Additionally, it
lays the groundwork to demand pre-market environmental and
human health safety testing.

However, we should be clear that the labeling of genetically
engineered foods and crops does not directly protect organic
farmers. The risks of genetically engineered material
drifting to neighboring organic farms would still exist. So
would increased pest resistance to the valuable natural
pesticide Bt - a common tool for organic farmers. And of
course, the plethora of environmental and human health risks
posed by this technology would still not effectively be

Additionally, there is the possibility that labeling
language will be so vague, or in such small print, that it
will become meaningless. As efforts to label genetically
engineered foods and crops escalate in the US, let's keep in
mind the limits of labeling - and what we are all ultimately
working toward - the removal of genetically engineered foods
from our food supply.

3. Hain To Start Labeling GMO-Free

Earlier this month, Hain Food Group announced that it will
label its Little Bear line of natural snacks as genetically
engineered - free. Hain is switching the oil it uses in its
fryers from corn to safflower, a plant yet to be genetically

"The more press it gets, the more it will become an issue
for consumers," Andrew Jacobson, a senior executive of Hain
Food Group Inc. recently told the Wall Street Journal.

Several major food companies are now reacting to what they
see as growing consumer opposition to genetically engineered
foods. Heinz has announced that it hopes to avoid using
genetically modified crops in all its US products. "We're
very concerned about consumer
sentiment," a Heinz spokesperson told the Wall Street

Worthington Foods, which makes Morningstar Farms veggie
burgers, says it will no longer use genetically engineered
soybeans. Worthington Foods' responded after a Consumer
Reports' test found that Morningstar Farms veggie burgers
contained genetically engineered soy.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the food industry
is commissioning surveys to track public sentiment toward
biotechnology, and Hershey is among several companies
evaluating how quickly they could switch their factories
from genetically engineered ingredients if necessary.

4. Cuban Organic Farming Association Wins Alternative Nobel Prize

The Grupo de Agricultura Organica (GAO), the Cuban organic
farming association, which has been at the forefront of the
country's transition from industrial to organic agriculture,
was named winner of a major international prize--the Right
Livelihood Award--commonly known as the 'Alternative Nobel

The Grupo de Agricultura Organica is one of four winners of
the 1999 Right Livelihood Award, chosen from more than 80
candidates from 40 countries. GAO brings together farmers,
farm managers, field experts, researchers, and government
officials to develop and promote organic farming methods.
Its aim is to convince Cuban farmers and policy-makers that
the country's previous high-input farming model was too
import-dependent and environmentally damaging to be
sustainable, and that the organic alternative has the
potential to achieve equally good yields.

During the 1990s Cuba overcame a severe food shortage caused
by the collapse of its trade relations with the former
Soviet-bloc and the on-going U.S. trade embargo.
Self-reliant organic farming played a significant role in
overcoming the crisis.

Peter Rosset, executive director of Food First, said: "This
award shows the enormous potential of sustainable
agriculture, which is so underexploited in other countries.
The whole world should learn from Cuba." Dr. Rosset went on
to say that "in Cuba, organic is for everyone, not just for
those who can afford it."

For more information on GAO or Food First:

5. Activists Gear Up For World Trade Meeting in Seattle

After Thanksgiving, some 5,000 delegates from 134 countries
will gather in Seattle to convene a meeting of the World
Trade Organization (WTO). That meeting could have profound
implications for food safety and environmental laws in the
US, and the future of genetically engineered foods

The WTO was set up in 1995 at the formal end of the Uruguay
round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
It is now the most powerful trade body in the world,
providing legally binding rules for international commerce
and trade policy. The WTO also settles trade disputes in
closed panels, with members of the press, general public and
citizen groups prohibited from observing, much less

The WTO trade dispute panel has consistently ruled against
strong health and environmental laws. For example, it
recently ruled against the European Union, which has banned
the import of US hormone-treated beef because of health
concerns. The WTO's power has also pressured the US to water
down dolphin protections and clean air regulations,
Guatemala to weaken its implementation of the UNICEF baby
formula marketing code that protects babies from disease
caused when mothers mix infant formula with contaminated
water, and South Korea to lower food safety standards on
produce inspection and the shelf life of meat.

US Department of Agriculture and US Trade Representatives
have repeatedly told the media that they hope to use the WTO
to force open European markets to accept US grown
genetically engineered crops. The European Union has placed
a moratorium on approving new genetically engineered crops,
and the EU, Australia and Japan have developed or are in the
process of developing labeling laws.

Mass protest including some 300 organizations are planned
for Seattle. The diverse group of environmental, labor and
consumer organizations are calling for a reduction in the
WTO's powers and want to ensure that countries retain the
ability to enact and maintain their own public health and
safety laws.

For a citizen's guide to the WTO, go to:

To find out the latest information about activist opposition
to the WTO Conference in Seattle, -- subscribe to WTO News:
The Road to Seattle. Send an email to,
with the message: subscribe road_to_seattle

6. Monsanto Halts Terminator Technology

In a major move Monsanto announced earlier this month that
it would stop the development of the controversial
genetically engineered "Terminator" technology - which makes
it impossible for farmers to hold seeds over from one season
to the next by rendering the engineered seeds sterile. (See
Organic View, n 13
/old_articles/ov13.stm#terminator )

Monsanto is the second major biotech company to back away
from terminator technology. In June, the British-based
AstraZeneca company announced it would not commercialize
seed sterility technologies.

The Terminator technology would solidify control of farmers'
seeds and crop control systems, and directly threaten small,
third world farmers. According to the UN Food and
Agricultural Organization (FAO), the well-being of 1.4
billion poor people in Third World countries depend on
farm-saved seed for their food security.

The Terminator was jointly developed by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture and Delta and Pine Land Company - a cotton
company that Monsanto has being trying to take over for more
than a year but is being held up for anti-trust review.

While Monsanto announced that if it acquires Delta and Pine
Land it will not market Terminator technology, the company
said it would continue Terminator research for internal use.
And Delta and Pine said it will continue its research as
long as it remains independent of Monsanto. Additionally,
Monsanto and other biotech companies are developing
closely-related technologies which will switch on or off
genetic traits based on whether farmers use their patented

The USDA is still firmly supporting the Terminator
technology. "I think Monsanto needs to carefully reconsider
its position," Richard Parry, USDA assistant administrator
for technology transfer, told the Wall Street Journal.

7. Important Recent Articles

Below are the titles and links to interesting articles
published recently on issues related to organic food and
food safety. These articles can be found on the website of
our affiliated organization, the Campaign for Food Safety

10-12 A Group Sows Seeds of Revolt Against Genetically
Altered Foods

10-7 Hain Food's New Labeling May Prompt U.S. Shoppers to

10-5 Protest May Mow Down Trend to Alter Crops