Organic View Volume 1 Number 14

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.14 September 28, 1999


National Organic Rule Expected in January
Tyson to Irradiate Food
Loss of Genetic Diversity Threatens Agriculture,
Worldwatch Study Finds

Food Illnesses On The Rise, CDC Reports
Important Recent Articles

1. Call your US Senators and Representatives To Support
Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods!

Get Your Representative and Senators To Sign On To A Very
Important Letter to the Food and Drug Administration Being
Circulated By US Representative David Bonior

The time to act is now. Let your Congressional
Representative and Senators know that consumers want
genetically engineered food labeled. Representative David
Bonior (D-MI), the House Minority Whip, is distributing a
letter to fellow members of Congress calling for the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce the Food Drug and
Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and require that genetically engineered
foods be labeled.

You can find the mailing address, phone, or e-mail your US
Representative directly at: (
To contact your Senators, go to:( - there you
can select your state and go to both your Senators' websites
and e-mail them about this important issue. If you wish, you
can call the national Capitol switchboard and ask to speak
to your Representative or Senators by calling toll-free

This is NOT legislation that has been introduced. The Bonior
letter deals strictly with the labeling of genetically
engineered food. This letter is designed to pressure the FDA
to respond to an important lawsuit filed by a large
coalition of organizations (including the Organic Consumers
Association) calling for the labeling of genetically
engineered food. If the FDA does not respond appropriately
to the Bonior letter, expect legislation to be introduced in
the future on the issue of labeling and safety testing of
genetically engineered food.

There are over 40 genetically engineered foods on the
market. Some estimates are that up to 70 percent of foods in
the marketplace contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Consumer Reports in their September 1999 issue found
"...that genetically engineered foods are already on
supermarket shelves -- in baby formulas, tortilla chips,
drink mixes, taco shells, veggie burgers, muffin mix -- and
even in fast food fare."

Please contact your US Representative and Senators
immediately and ask that they sign on to Representative
Bonior's Dear Colleague letter to the FDA in support of
labeling genetically engineered foods. Try to get an answer
from their office - one way or the other. More than likely,
they won't be able to answer your request immediately, and
may take a few days to get back to you. If your
Representative or Senator agrees, or disagrees, to sign the
letter, please forward the name of the Member, and the
contact person in their office, to Ben Lilliston at:

The Organic Consumers Association is working with others to
get as many co-signers to the letter as possible by October
8. We greatly appreciate your help in these efforts.

2. National Organic Rule Expected in January

The USDA's National Organic Program is still working to
complete its draft of the second round of national organic
rules, following input from the rest of the Department of
Agriculture. The rules will then be passed on to the Office
of Management and Budget (OMB), where it usually takes a
minimum of 90 days to circulate among other agencies to get
comments. Most insiders at the USDA believe that the new
national organic rules will then be submitted for public
comment after the new year, sometime in January.

The national rules will replace a patchwork of state and
local organic standards that currently ensure the integrity
of organic food. The USDA's first proposed organic rule was
an unmitigated disaster, including loopholes that would have
allowed genetic engineering, irradiation, and sewage sludge
in organic food production. The agency received nearly
300,000 comments from angry consumers; with the help of
OCA's Save Organic Standards campaign, and decided to
rewrite the organic rules.

The organic food industry, conscious of the USDA's
propensity for delay, is developing its own national organic

3. Tyson To Irradiate Foods

Poultry giant Tyson announced this month that it will offer
consumers the choice of buying irradiated foods next year.
Calling the process "cold pasteurization" instead of
irradiation, Tyson hopes to convince consumers that
irradiated food reduces health risks from bacteria, and
extends the shelf life of refrigerated goods.

Only a portion of Tyson's chickens will be irradiated, and
they will be labeled according to current strong Food and
Drug Administration regulations - which require the radura
symbol and the word "irradiation" prominently displayed.
However, Tyson is working closely with others in the food
industry to push for "information panels" instead of warning
labels, the elimination of the radura symbol, and replacing
"irradiation" with the term "cold pasteurization." These
efforts represent a brazen attempt to keep important
information from food safety conscious consumers.

Earlier this summer, the Organic Consumers Association
worked with others to submit approximately 30,000 comments
to the Food and Drug Administration demanding that the
agency maintain its current strong labeling standards for
irradiated food. The FDA announced in February that it
sought public comments on whether to change or diminish the
label for irradiated food. The move signals the agency's
growing commitment to irradiation.

Irradiation is a new technology, relatively untested, and
raises several concerns for consumers. Even at low doses,
some irradiated foods lose 20% of vitamins such as C, E, K,
and B complex. Because irradiation breaks down cell walls,
irradiated foods that are stored for long periods may lose
70-80% of their vitamin content.

And it is unclear what effect eating irradiated food will
have on humans. Studies on animals fed irradiated foods have
shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney
damage. Chromosomal abnormalities occurred in children from
India fed irradiated wheat.

Despite irradiation's hazards and drawbacks, it is being
aggressively pushed by an embattled meat industry looking
for cover in the wake of numerous recent food-borne illness
outbreaks, particularly E coli and listeria. At the same
time, the industry has vigorously opposed efforts to clean
up filthy slaughter houses, slow down meat production
processing lines, stop the feeding of antibiotics and
rendered animal protein to livestock, and increase the
number of federal meat inspectors - all more productive
measures to reduce food borne-illnesses.

Tyson joins several other meatpackers, including Iowa Beef
Packers (IBP) and Cargill's Excel Corp., who will be placing
irradiated meat on the market next year. Tyson has
contracted with Titan Corp., a small San Diego, California
defense company which depends on the U.S. government for 80%
of its revenue, to irradiate its food. According to
Agribusiness Examiner, Titan is applying its military
technology to zapping the food supply with irradiation.

To tell Tyson you will not eat their irradiated food, give
them a call at: 800-233-6332. Or e-mail their consumer
relations office at:

4. Loss of Genetic Diversity Threatens Agriculture,
Worldwatch Study Finds

A new study warns that widespread losses of plant species
and varieties are directly threatening the productivity of
modern agriculture. The study by Worldwatch Institute was
sharply critical of genetically engineered crops arguing
that "biotechnology is no solution to this loss of genetic

While biotech companies have spliced in foreign genes to
make crops resistant to pests or yield greater quantities,
only nature can create such DNA - the basic building blocks
of life, according to the report's author, John Tuxill. "If
a plant bearing a unique gene trait disappears, there is no
way to get it back," said Tuxill.

The report, titled "Nature's Cornucopia: Our Stake in Plant
Diversity," found a startling decline in the varieties of
many common crops. In China, farmers were growing an
estimated 10,000 wheat varieties in 1949, but this number
had dropped to 1,000 by the 1970s. In Mexico, farmers today
are raising only 20 percent of the corn varieties they
cultivated in the 1930s.

Genetic diversity of cultivated plants is essential to
breeding more productive and disease resistant crop
varieties worldwide. Additionally, one in every four
medicines prescribed in the United States is based on a
chemical compound originally found in a plant and,
worldwide, some 3.5 billion people in developing countries
rely on plant-based medicine for their primary health care.

The Worldwatch study comes on the heels of a report by the
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) which
found that the world's seed supply is being controlled by a
shrinking number of large corporations. These same
multinational corporations are also dominating the
agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries.

The top five seed companies - AstaZeneca, DuPont, Monsanto,
Novartis, and Aventis - account for nearly two-thirds of the
global pesticide market (60%), almost one-quarter (23%) of
the commercial seed market, and virtually 100% of the
transgenic (genetically engineered) seed market.

Five years ago, none of top five Gene Giants appeared on the
list of leading seed corporations. In fact, three of the top
five companies didn't even exist. Zeneca and Astra merged to
form AstraZeneca; Rhone Poulenc and Hoechst became Aventis;
Ciba Geigy and Sandoz became
Novartis; and DuPont swallowed Pioneer Hi-Bred earlier this
year, RAFI reports.

"The Gene Giants' portfolio extends far beyond plant
breeding," explains RAFI's Pat Mooney, "From plants, to
animals, to human genetic material they are fast becoming
monopoly monarchs over all the life kingdoms,"

More information on the Worldwatch study can be found at:

More information on the Gene Giants can be found at:

5. Food Illnesses On The Rise, CDC Reports

While US regulatory agencies boast of having the safest food
supply in the world, statistics reported last month from the
Center for Disease Control show that 76 million Americans
suffer food poisoning each year and about 5,000 die from it.
The new CDC analysis also estimates that 325,000 people are
hospitalized annually for food-related illnesses.

Particularly startling is that the new CDC numbers on food
poisonings are twice as high as its most recent analysis in
1994, which put the figure at 33 million.

Among the pathogens causing the most cases of food
poisonings are the bacteria Campylobacter (associated with
contaminated, undercooked chicken) and Salmonella
(transmitted by a variety of foods, including contaminated,
undercooked eggs). Those two combined for 3.3 million cases
annually. The single largest known contributor to food-borne
illness, causing 9.2 million cases, are Norwalk-like
viruses. Discovered within the last two decades, these are
found in shellfish harvested from waste-polluted water and
can be transmitted to food by unwashed hands.

The vast majority of food poisonings go unreported because
the primary symptoms are transient vomiting and diarrhea,
which do not always prompt afflicted people to get a
doctor's help. Even then, doctors seldom conduct diagnostic
tests to identify the exact cause. Nor do they report most
diagnosed cases to state health authorities.

For more on the CDC report on food illnesses, go to:

6. 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

9-24 - US Trade Official Denies Rumors that Clinton
Administration is Considering a Proposal to Label GE Foods -

9-22 - Monsanto Braces for U.S. Protest on Gene-Altered Food
- http://www.campaignforfoodsafety.ORG/ge/agbiotech.cfm

9-14 - Genetically Modified Foods Companies Face Huge
Lawsuit -

9-1- Japan food maker to drop gene-altered soybeans -

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