GM foods and animals get protection. We get less.

“International Guidelines Will Promote “Food Safety” of Plant and Animal Biotech Products

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Friday, July 04, 2008) – The Biotechnology Industry Organization congratulates the Codex Alimentarius Commission for approving key guidelines to further promote the safety of products from agricultural plant and animal biotechnology. The Codex Commission took final action today at its 31st session in Geneva, Switzerland.

(These crops and animals have not been proved safe for human consumption. There are no quality nonbiased research studies of any duration that have been done to ensure human health long term .-editor’s notes)

The Codex Alimentarius Commission and its member countries approved

  • the Annex on Food Safety Assessment in Situations of Low-Level Presence of Recombinant-DNA Plant Material in Food (LLP Annex),
  • the Annex on Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant DNA-Plants Modified for Nutritional or Health Benefits, and
  • the Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant-DNA Animals.

“BIO and its members applaud the U.S. government and other governments around the world for moving these science-based guidelines to adoption by Codex.

“Adoption of the guidelines for risk assessment of the safety of foods derived from genetically engineered (GE) animals represents a policy breakthrough in the area of animal biotechnology. Codex standards are recognized as international benchmarks and act as models for governments in the establishment of their own food safety policies.(Chock!-editor’s note)
“Approval of the guidelines can now pave the way for the United States and other countries to develop science-based regulatory processes to govern the use of GE animals. GE animals are being developed to advance human and animal health, enhance food production, mitigate environmental impact and provide for high-tech industrial products. (Maybe we should give them sainthood!-editor’s comment)

Codex, which comprises about 165 countries worldwide, is a scientific body that develops the international standards for food safety aimed at protecting public health and promoting fair trade practices.

CA. wins potato chips vs acrylamide suit

Snack lovers, rejoice: Munching on potato chips just got a “little healthier”.

Under a settlement announced Friday by the state attorney general’s office, H.J. Heinz Co., Frito-Lay, Kettle Foods Inc., and Lance Inc. avoided trial by agreeing to pay a combined $3 million in fines and reduce the levels of acrylamide in their products over three years, officials said.

Acrylamide, forms naturally when starchy foods are baked or fried,… causes cancer in lab animals and nerve damage to workers who are exposed to high levels. The Food and Drug Administration is researching whether acrylamide in food poses a health risk.(You think it might? !!-editor)

“Everybody’s trying to figure out how to lower levels (of acrylamide) without significantly, adversely affecting taste,” said Michele Corish, an attorney for Lance, which produces Cape Cod chips

The attorney general’s office said the levels of acrylamide in most Cape Cod chips are already near the compliance level as defined by the settlement. However, Brown said Cape Cod Robust Russets contain 25 times the acceptable amount.

Corish said “Robust Russets” chips are no longer being sold.

The state also sued McDonald’s Corp.; Wendy’s International Inc.; Burger King Corp.; KFC, a subsidiary of Yum Brands Inc.; and Procter & Gamble Co. over acrylamide levels in 2005. Those lawsuits were settled after the companies agreed to either properly label their products or lower levels of the chemical.

New World – New Me

“We are at a stage in human history … we’re headed now will be different because we have exhausted planetary space and human space for us to continue to look at things through material …(eyes-editor’s note). We need to face the way we used the world for our gains, pleasures, satisfactions. … And unless we want to live in terror for the rest of our lives, we need to change our view about acquiring things. We have the opportunity to take a great leap forward in these very challenging times. We need to change our institutions and ourselves… We need to launch our imaginations beyond the thinking of the past. We need to discern who we are and expand on our humanness and sacredness. That’s how we change the world, which happens because WE will be the change.”

Dr. Grace Lee Boggs, 93, a long-time Detroit political and labor activist, author, and philosopher.

Healthier Produce – Organic vs. Conventional

“The Organic Center published a comprehensive survey of 97 peer-reviewed studies addressing this question. Conclusive comparative studies of vegetables are difficult — weather, soil type, the variety and harvesting practices all come into play. The review narrowed the studies to only those that had controlled for these features. They found that organic produce usually ranked higher in four antioxidant categories (total phenolics, total antioxidant capacity, quercetin, and kaempferol), vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Phosphorus.

Conventional produce often ranked higher for total protein and nitrates. (Note that nitrates are undesirable, so the authors considered higher nitrate levels to be a nutritional deficit.) Beta-carotine and potassium levels were about equal. The authors also found that the magnitude of the difference was generally much larger in favor of organics. When the organic sample had a higher nutrient level than its conventional counterpart, the magnitude of this difference was greater than 20% in 42% of the samples and greater than 30% in almost a quarter of the samples. For the same nutrients, when conventional produce ranked higher, the difference was greater than 20% in only 15% of the samples and over 30% in only 6% of the samples. Although the protein levels were higher in conventional samples in an overwhelming majority of cases, they were higher by more than 20% in only 17% of the cases. Condensing all of the data into ratios and finding the average, the authors found that the organic produce contained an average of 25% more of the nutrients included in the study than conventional produce.

For a copy of the Organic Center study click link below.

A quote from Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious, published by The Organic Center:
“The nutrient density of many common foods has declined gradually over time in both the U.S. and the U.K…. Declining average nutrient levels in the U.S. food supply have been brought about by what agronomists have labeled the ‘dilution effect,’ first coined in an important review article published in 1981… The remarkable increases in per acre crop yields brought about over a half-century through advances in plant breeding, the intensity of fertilizer and pesticide use and irrigation are well known. However, few are aware that this achievement has come at a cost in terms of food nutritional quality.”
– Lizzy Koltai

Full Belly Farms is a model for healthy sustainable organic farming practices.

World Food Crisis and Politics July 15, 2008

Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin reported in today’s New York Times that, “At least 29 countries have sharply curbed food exports in recent months, to ensure that their own people have enough to eat, at affordable prices.

“When it comes to rice, India, Vietnam, China and 11 other countries have limited or banned exports. Fifteen countries, including Pakistan and Bolivia, have capped or halted wheat exports. More than a dozen have limited corn exports. Kazakhstan has restricted exports of sunflower seeds.

“The restrictions are making it harder for impoverished importing countries to afford the food they need. The export limits are forcing some of the most vulnerable people, those who rely on relief agencies, to go hungry.

Bradsher and Martin explained that, “The new restrictions are just an acute symptom of a chronic condition. Since 1980, even as trade in services and in manufactured goods has tripled, adjusting for inflation, trade in food has barely increased. Instead, for decades, food has been a convoluted tangle of restrictive rules, in the form of tariffs, quotas and subsidies.

“Now, with Australia’s farm sector crippled by drought and Argentina suffering a series of strikes and other disruptions, the world is increasingly dependent on a handful of countries like Thailand, Brazil, Canada and the United States that are still exporting large quantities of food.”

From a political perspective, the Times article noted that, “Powerful lobbies in affluent countries across the northern hemisphere, from Japan to Western Europe to the United States, have long protected farmers in ways factory workers in Detroit could only dream of.

“The Japanese protect their rice industry by making it nearly impossible for imported rice to compete. The European Union severely limits beef and poultry imports, and Poland goes further, barring soybean imports as well.

“… Today’s crisis actually makes that more difficult for them. Food protests in places like Haiti and Indonesia that rely heavily on imported food have convinced many nations that it is more important than ever that they grow, and keep, the food their citizens need.”

The Times article indicated that, “The current dispute over food exports highlights choices that nations have confronted for centuries.

“One relates directly to trade: Is it best to specialize in whatever food grows best in a country’s soil, and trade it for all other food needs — or even, perhaps, specialize in services or manufacturing, and trade those for food?

Food Futures Prices Rise
“Corn and soybean prices pushed deeper into record territory before easing Friday as rain again soaked the Midwest and traders locked in profits ahead of a planting report next week.

“The early gains followed a sharp run-up in commodity prices over the previous two days, and came as oil futures touched a new high just shy of $143 a barrel.”

“Corn for December delivery nudged the all-time high up a penny to $7.96 bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade before pulling back to settle at $7.87, down one cent from the previous close.

“Soybeans for November delivery hit a new record of $15.77 a bushel on the CBOT before falling back to settle at $15.595, down 2 cents. Wheat prices also ended lower, with the September contract tumbling 30.75 cents to $9.12 a bushel on the CBOT,” the article said.

Higher feeding costs have also caused some market observers to keep a keen watch on livestock inventories, a variable that also has an impact on food prices.
Ms. Etter explained that, “On June 2, Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer said in a speech on food security at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome that biofuels contributed 2% to 3% of the overall increase in global food prices over the past year. The secretary’s report relied on data supplied by Edward P. Lazear, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“Ten days later in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, USDA chief economist Joseph Glauber said biofuels contributed up to 10% of the overall increase.

“Now, members of Congress want to know why there are two sets of numbers and whether the government used more benign numbers in Rome as a way to downplay the role biofuels have played in pushing up food prices.”

The Journal item continued with this analysis: “It turns out that Mr. Glauber’s number is higher because he looked at the overall impact on food prices of corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel. The White House analysis looked at the impact of only corn ethanol.

“That makes a difference. In the past year the price of soybeans, one of America’s biggest crops, has soared as more of the beans were used for biodiesel and since fewer acres of beans were planted last year to accommodate more acres of corn for corn-ethanol.

“A USDA spokesman, Jim Brownlee, says Mr. Schafer was not aware of a different number when he spoke in Rome.

“Because Mr. Schafer used the White House data in his speech, he should have used the word ‘ethanol’ instead of ‘biofuels’ because the numbers he used were only pertaining to corn ethanol.

“Mr. Brownlee says he probably used the word ‘biofuels’ accidentally. ‘When I read that I thought, ‘oops’, he meant to say ethanol,’ he recalls. Mr. Schafer used the word ‘biofuels’ nine times in his speech and during a question-and-answer session with reporters.

“The issue of measuring the total impact biofuels have had on global food prices has become a political thicket. Interest groups, armed with an array of studies, have gone to war over the issue.”

In other news regarding biofuels, David Irvin reported yesterday at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Online that, “Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said Congress must think through more deeply the unintended consequences of energy policy before making sweeping changes to current policy.

“‘I think it is right for us to set ambitious goals for renewable fuels, but we have to be cautious of the consequences and make sure that what we are doing is being thoughtful of the other industries that suffer those consequences,’ Lincoln said. The U. S. Department of Agriculture says the government’s ethanol policy has not caused a significant amount of food-price inflation. ‘We don’t think conditions today warrant changes,’ Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told a group of reporters and editors in Washington earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported. Corn prices rose about 80 percent in the last year, and with recent floods in the Corn Belt, the cost of a bushel of corn is now hovering above $7. That matters to meat producers like Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc., because it uses corn and soybeans to feed millions of chickens every week. Tyson will absorb $600 million of extra grain expense this year, the company has said. It also matters to consumers, because the price of meat is rising on retail shelves as manufacturers cope with the commodity inflation. Even food banks have been affected, one Springdale minister said. To what degree ethanol production affects the price of corn — and food — is a matter of debate. But the issue will almost certainly fuel a political clash after the new president takes office, as the meat industry works this year in the halls of Congress to get rid of subsidized ethanol in the United States.”

Price issues are also fostering debate about acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program.

The Associated Press reported on Friday that, “Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, praised Department of Agriculture officials for their work in the flooding’s aftermath, saying they were doing everything they could to help the state in the face of legal restrictions that limit aid.

“One unanswered question is whether the government can make Conservation Reserve Program acreage, now set aside for preservation, available for earlier haying and livestock grazing to those affected by the floods.

So much for conservation

“The Agriculture Department may modify rules for the program to allow such activities even earlier than usual when there has been flooding.”

And a Dow Jones news article from Friday (posted at DTN, link requires subscription), reported that, “U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said Friday a decision regarding early release of land out of a government conservation program is expected in the ‘next couple of weeks,’ possibly in time for fall planting.

“‘We’ve got to make a decision in the next couple of weeks and we will do so. To get the ground prepped (for winter wheat), we’ve got to start soon,’ Schafer said.”

The article explained that, “Farmers who enrolled acres in the conservation reserve program commit for that land to be out of production for a set number of years, and those who take it out early usually face penalties. With rising food prices and millions of acres of farmland flooded in the Midwest there have been calls to open that land.

“If the decision is made soon, it would allow for planting of winter wheat this fall. Even though corn and soybeans have been affected by spring flooding, opening the land to winter wheat plantings would allow livestock producers to use some of that for feed, Schafer said.”

Keith Good June, 30, 2008

Staph a. resistant strains of MRSA in pork-new crisis?

Is there antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria is in the 762 million pounds of Canadian pork that’s imported into the U.S. each year?

No one seems to know. However no one at the USDA is actually looking either. Sort of out of sight out of mind-no problem. Dr. Monina Klevens, of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined the cases of the disease reported in hospitals, schools and prisons in one year and extrapolated that “94,360 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the United States in 2005; these infections were associated with death in 18,650 cases.”

Earlier his year, Dr. Scott Weese, from the Department of Pathobiology at the Ontario Veterinary College told those attending the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases at the CDC that there was a problem. He and his colleagues had found MRSA in 10 percent of 212 samples of pork chops and ground pork bought in four Canadian provinces.

“I think it is very likely that the situation is the same in the U.S.,” he told me in a phone interview.

“Any pathogen or hazard that’s transmitted through the foods we regulate is a potential issue for us, and so you know, certainly we are aware of the study (Weese) did,” Goldman told me during an interview at a recent food-safety meeting in Seattle.

“There is no indication MRSA has been identified in swine going into the retail market. Not in this country. Not in swine or other livestock being sold for food in this country,” the doctor added.

But, none of the USDA labs that he runs are checking for MRSA in imported meat.

“We just don’t have a test for it,” Goldman said.

So, do we have MRSA in our American grown pigs?

The Food and Drug Administration says it doesn’t know.

Mike Herndon, an agency spokesman, said FDA scientists have been “following the emergence of MRSA from humans and animals in Central Europe and Canada and are monitoring the situation very closely.”

The FDA is aware of Weese’s study, but “we do not yet have similar data with regards to the MRSA situation among food animals and retail meats,” Herndon said.

There is no indication that FDA has tested meat for MRSA.

But the FDA and USDA eagerly pointed to a group called the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System as the protector of food and humans from foodborne bacteria. The coalition of scientists from several federal agencies primarily target salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli.

But the group does not currently screen for MRSA.

The National Pork Producers Council in Washington is sure there’s no problem. They told me “there is nothing to worry about; MRSA (in pigs) has not been found this side of the border” and “USDA and CDC has given our pigs a clean bill of health.”

A CDC spokeswoman told me that she could find “no indication we made that statement.”

Interestingly, the pork lobbyists have said their industry would oppose any attempt to test all livestock for MRSA, calling the testing “unnecessary to protect public health.”

Whereas our government apparently doesn’t see the need nor have the ability to see if pigs in the U.S. are carrying MRSA, Dr.Tara Smith, an assistant professor for the University of Iowa department of epidemiology, and her graduate researchers have done what is apparently is the first testing of swine for MRSA in the U.S.

They swabbed the noses of 209 pigs from 10 farms in Iowa and Illinois and found MRSA in 70 percent of the porkers.

Today, in Boston, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Abby Harper, one of Smith’s graduate assistants, presented the results of a study that she and Michael Male did on 20 workers at the Iowa swine farms.

Harper reported that 45 percent of the workers carried the same MRSA bacterium as the pigs.”