The
AGRIBUSINESS
EXAMINER
May 7, 2002   #160
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
From a Public Interest Perspective

EDITOR\PUBLISHER: A.V. Krebs
ADDRESS: PO. Box 2201, Everett, Washington 98203-0201

E-MAIL: avkrebs@earthlink.net
WEB SITE: http://www.ea1.com/CARP/
TO RECEIVE: Name and e-mail address
Contributions Welcome
 

MSGR. GEORGE G. HIGGINS:
"LABOR'S PASTOR," FRIEND OF FARMWORKERS,
MOURNED BY UNION, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS

PRESS ASSOCIATES, INC: Msgr. George G. Higgins, champion of working people for more than 60 years --- so much so that he won fame as "Labor's Pastor" --- died May 1 at his sister's home in his childhood home town of LaGrange, Illinois He was 86.

Higgins was in failing health for the last several months.  He was hospitalized January 19, but before that he made his way slowly to the podium at last year's AFL-CIO Convention and was later observed in a wheelchair attending convention events.

From invocations to picket lines to backing Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, Higgins campaigned for workers' causes as varied as Poland's Solidarnosc, the United Farm Workers' grape boycotts and the J.P. Stevens struggle.  His greatest forum was a weekly column preaching social justice, "The Yard Stick."

"What the Church can generally be counted on to do is to defend the right of labor to organize and encourage the labor movement to organize the unorganized," Higgins said in a column. The Catholic Church, he added then, must also "support the labor movement in its demand for adequate labor legislation and for the repeal or amendment of discriminatory laws."

And it will "approve of labor's request for adequate representation at every level of the economy and to criticize those employers who refuse to bargain collectively in good faith, and criticize the philosophy of unregulated economic freedom in the name of which this refusal is so often rationalized." He also told unions, in private, of labor's shortcomings.  That included urging national unions to get aboard the civil rights revolution and pointing out that often local leaders and members had to be educated to overcome discriminatory views.

One of Higgins' most important, and most notable achievements was gaining support for long workers' struggles, ranging from the UFW's grape boycott to the J.P. Stevens strike to SEIU's long and--by last year--successful campaign to unionize Los Angeles home health care workers.

"During a remarkable career that spanned much of the century, Msgr. Higgins served as a key bridge between American labor and religious communities," said UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, successor to legendary UFW founder Cesar Chavez. "He challenged both the trade union movement and the clergy to live up to their highest ideals by ceaseless advocating for the poorest and most defenseless workers in our country. During good times and bad, there was no greater champion of Cesar Chavez and the farm workers' cause than Msgr. Higgins," Rodriguez added.

Higgins started publicizing the plight of farm workers in 1951, and pushed U.S. bishops to form a special committee on farm labor in the mid-60s. The committee brought grape growers together with the UFW to eventually negotiate and sign the historic first contract between the two sides, on July 29, 1970, in Delano, California the UFW president noted.  It ended five years of strikes and boycotts.

Higgins also supported Chavez' commitment to non-violence even as growers had workers arrested in central California for breaking unconstitutional anti-picketing injunctions, while other workers were beaten and shot and two were killed, he noted. But he downplayed his role as "a ministry of presence," adding: "I've always felt my role, a limited role, was just to be there, to give them (unions) support."  He called his work for the farm workers his most satisfying accomplishment.

Rodriguez had another view of Higgins: He said the monsignor "lived the commandment from Micah in the Old Testament: `What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.'"

Higgins, born Jan. 21, 1916 in Chicago, attended Chicago Catholic schools and seminaries, then Catholic University in Washington. Ordained in 1940, Higgins joined the Church's social action office in 1944.  He stayed, rising to head it, until the church, in a widely criticized move, abolished it for budget reasons in 1980.  Higgins kept preaching for workers.

"We respect him for his strength, we revere him for his conscience, we stand in awe of his intellect and we thank him for his love," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said when Higgins died. "More than any American in the 20th century, Msgr. Higgins argued that Christian beliefs must prominently include the notion that work must be valued and workers honored," he added.

Washington, D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick celebrated a memorial mass for Higgins on May 4 and Chicago Cardinal Francis George celebrated a funeral mass for him on May 7 in Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. Higgins is survived by two sisters, Bridget Doonan and Ann Maronic, both of LaGrange, and many other nieces, nephews and their children.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A friend and an examplary Christian man and leader he shall be missed. Msgr. R.I.P.!!!
 

PROPOSED BINDING ARBITRATION FARM UNION LAW
MAY FORCE CENTRIST CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR'S HAND

MARK MARTIN, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: One of Gov. Gray Davis' most impressive political balancing acts may be threatened by a United Farm Workers push to rewrite dramatically the state's farm labor law. A proposal that would force farmers into binding arbitration with the labor union during contract disputes may ignite the biggest agriculture fight since Cesar Chavez' successful 1975 effort to allow farmworkers to unionize.

After three years of cultivating favor with both farmers and farmworkers, the plan by state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, Dem.-San Francisco, could force the always middle-of-the-road Davis to pick a side as he campaigns for re-election.

"In farm politics, the governor has been masterful at not burning bridges," said David Schecter, a professor of state and local politics at California State University at Fresno. "This could make that difficult." No political arena has showcased Davis' centrist positions more than state farm issues.

With tax breaks for farmers and advances in some working conditions for the laborers who work the fields, the governor has managed to win praise from the United Farm Workers and some ag groups, traditional combatants in Sacramento. Last month, the Democratic governor picked up endorsements from two farm groups and is actively wooing others.

The farm support is a dramatic shift from Davis' first run for the top office in 1998. Farmers remembered him most as the chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who sided with Chavez in creating farmworker unions. But since being elected, Davis has courted farmers and advanced enough of their causes to win many over. The governor hasn't ignored the fact that the $27 billion ag industry remains the largest economic engine in the state, farmers say.

"Whether we agree with him on every political issue isn't important. He's had an open door and we've had good access, so we want to support a guy who has supported us," said Charlie Hoppin, a Republican who farms 2,000 acres near Yuba City. Hoppin is chairman of the California Rice Industry Association, which endorsed Davis for re-election last month.

A big tax cut for agriculture that Davis signed into law last year remains in farmers' minds. The measure permanently repealed state sales tax on farm equipment, diesel fuel and propane. In addition to the tax cut, farm interests say they have been attracted to Davis in part because the Legislature has become increasingly hostile to the ag industry. With liberal Democrats in leadership positions in both houses, and an increasing number of Latino lawmakers sympathetic to UFW issues, Davis is more in tune with farmers' needs, they say.

"Making friends with the governor is easier than making peace with a Legislature that is ideologically opposed to many of the things ag wants," said Schecter, the Fresno State professor. "To the industry, Davis looks like a reasonable person compared to John Burton."

Pragmatic ag support for Davis is bad news for Republican Bill Simon, the governor's challenger. Simon, who touts himself as a conservative, pro-business candidate, has enlisted Secretary of State Bill Jones, a Central Valley rancher, to help him attract rural voters. "On the basis of personal philosophy, Simon is much closer to the Valley than Davis," Jones said.

Some farmers, however, say they'll stick with the governor they know. "I have no idea how Bill Simon feels about agriculture," Hoppin said.

While working to help farmers, Davis also has stayed in the good graces of the United Farm Workers. Some UFW officials grumble that the governor has backed them only on noncontroversial issues --- a measure to improve the safety of vans used to transport workers to fields, for example. But the group is endorsing him for re-election and says it will work to help his campaign.

"Gov. Davis has done a lot," said Arturo Rodriguez, UFW president. "He's listened to us, and he's included us in discussions we were excluded from in the past two administrations." The union's measure would allow the state's farm labor relations board to impose binding arbitration on contract talks between growers and unionized farmworkers.

UFW officials say growers have for years stalled contract talks with workers and they want more power to move talks along. They say 243 California ranches have voted for union representation but have not been awarded a contract. Farm groups say the measure would make the ag industry the only private enterprise in the state subject to binding arbitration, which is normally used in talks between workers and public      employers.

"We're taking this extremely seriously. This could put a tremendous cloud over grower-labor relations in California," said Roy Gabriel, the legislative director for labor affairs for the California Farm Bureau. Stuck in the middle may be the governor.

The bill will be heard in a Senate committee [May 6] and with Burton's clout, is expected to make it out of the Senate. Gabriel said fighting the bill in the Assembly is a top priority, but bureau officials already have had conversations with the governor about their concerns. Davis has not taken a position but is following the measure closely, a spokesman said. As the governor works to win votes in the crucial Central Valley, however, Capitol insiders say Davis would prefer the bill --- which would be difficult to amend to appease both sides --- never reach his desk.
 

CARGILL'S EXCEL CORP. AND HORMEL FOODS
FORM NATIONAL JOINT MARKETING VENTURE
SIGNIFYING "DIRECTION, ORDER, PRINCIPLE AND TRUTH"

BUSINESS WIRE: Hormel Foods Corporation and Cargill, Incorporated, announced . . . . that Hormel Foods and Excel Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cargill, Incorporated, have signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture to market nationally branded fresh case ready beef and pork under the existing HORMEL "ALWAYS TENDER" brand name to retailers in the United States.

The two food companies are combining their marketing and distribution capabilities and expertise through this joint venture to provide complete case ready meat solutions that address consumers' and retailers' needs. The joint venture, named Precept Foods LLC, will be based in Austin, Minnesota

The current HORMEL "ALWAYS TENDER" brand primarily includes pork. Cargill's Excel Corporation subsidiary will supply fresh beef and pork to the nationally branded program, resulting in an enhanced assortment of fresh case ready pork and beef products that will be distributed in retail supermarkets and club stores nationwide under the HORMEL "ALWAYS TENDER" brand name. Each company would independently maintain existing fresh case ready programs and other meat programs, such as Hormel Foods further-processed meat products and Excel's branded premium meat programs.

Precept Foods LLC's products --- fresh pork and beef case ready products --- will take advantage of recognized, patented processes from both Hormel Foods and Excel, which deliver a superior product to the consumers' table. The joint venture's name, Precept Foods LLC represents the shared vision of Joel Johnson, chairman and CEO of Hormel Foods, and Warren Staley, chairman and CEO of Cargill.

"The word `precept' illustrates our strategic plan for the joint venture," said Johnson. "It signifies direction, order, principle and truth --- attributes already valued and exercised by both Excel and Hormel Foods. In essence, it means that the new company is about much more than just products. It's also about offering meaningful solutions to all of the audiences we serve. With this solution-oriented tenet in mind, Precept Foods will continue the innovative traditions of Excel and Hormel Foods."

"Excel brings a consistent, quality beef product that is worthy of the Hormel name," Johnson added. "Our success in the past 111 years is the result of continually raising the bar for the standard of quality required to carry the Hormel brand."

Staley, of Cargill, said: "Livestock producers have been urging packers to market more meat through branded programs, noting that branding is a key to increasing the value of the livestock they own. This joint venture will take branding to a higher level by rounding out the successful HORMEL "ALWAYS TENDER" brand name in a full line of fresh case ready beef and pork products."

Bill Buckner, president of Excel, said Hormel Foods and Excel will remain independent competitors with respect to operations outside the joint venture. "No two retail grocery customers are alike," Buckner said. "By adding nationally branded beef to nationally branded pork, the joint venture opens additional options for retail grocers and consumers."

The joint venture combines the expertise and complementary skills of two well-established companies, both leaders in the industry. The joint venture between Hormel Foods and Excel will benefit employees, customers, producers, communities and consumers. It also uniquely positions Precept Foods to compete in the fresh case ready meat case while providing consumers a breadth of assortment from which to choose. According to Johnson, Hormel now has a full array of beef and pork offerings under the Hormel brand, and turkey under the Jennie-O Turkey Store brands.

Hormel Foods Corporation, based in Austin, Minnesota is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of consumer-branded fresh pork, food and meat products, many of which are among the best known and trusted in the food industry. The company leverages its extensive expertise, innovation and high competencies in pork and turkey processing and marketing to bring quality, value-added brands to the global marketplace. In March of 2000, the company was recognized as "Marketer of the Decade" by Meat Marketing and Technology.

In both January 2001 and January 2002, Hormel Foods was named one of "The 400 Best Big Companies in America" by Forbes magazine. The company enjoys a strong reputation among consumers, retail grocers, foodservice and industrial customers for products highly regarded for quality, taste, nutrition, convenience and value.

Cargill, Incorporated. is an international marketer, processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and industrial products and services with 90,000 employees in 57 countries. The company provides distinctive customer solutions in supply chain management, food applications and health and nutrition. Excel Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cargill, Incorporated, is the recognized leader in the beef and pork packing industry, providing innovative red meat solutions to targeted customers and consumers. Headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, Excel is a global meat company with over 20,000 employees worldwide. The company offers an extensive line of premium quality beef and pork products and programs to recognized retail and commercial foodservice markets around the world.
 

WORLD'S FISHERIES, BEING RAPIDLY DEPLETED
"OVERFISHING ON VAST SCALE IS MAIN CULPRIT"

GLEN MARTIN, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: The world's fisheries are tanking, going the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon. The causes are many, but the primary one, say marine scientists, is humankind's insatiable appetite for seafood. A recent report to the Pew Oceans Commission determined that between 25 and 30 percent of the world's fish populations are overfished, while an additional 40% are "fully exploited" --- meaning that additional pressure could result in their collapse.

Pollution and oceanic temperature fluctuations have played a role in reducing some fisheries, but scientists increasingly concur that overfishing on a vast scale is the primary culprit. . . . Paul Dayton, a professor of oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla (San Diego County) and a co-author of the Pew report, said little is being done to address the crisis.

"Everyone agrees it's a desperate situation, but the tendency is to complain rather than bite the bullet and do something substantive about it," he said. "The sea is a commons, and everyone is looking out for their own self-interest. In the simplest terms, the fight is over who will catch the last fish rather than husbanding and restoring the fisheries." There are some modest exceptions to the trend: Wild salmon and halibut are doing well in Alaska, and the California sardine fishery --- which collapsed more than 50 years ago --- has shown partial recovery.

But the overall situation is bleak, with too many people chasing after a declining number of fish. During the past 20 years, the size of the global fishing fleet has expanded dramatically, stimulated in large part by government aid programs. Estimates for the commercial fleet range upward of 3.5 million to 4 million boats.

These craft range from 150-foot-long high-seas "factory" trawlers that net thousands of tons of fish, process them on board and dock with flash-frozen packages of fish sticks in the hold to "artisanal" boats fitted with outboards that ply coastal waters in the developing world. All exert a pressure on the world's fisheries that is unrelenting.

"Approximately 50% of the global continental shelf is now trawled, with the most productive areas trawled several times a year," Dayton said. "There is no area in the world that is not feeling heavy impacts."

Trawling involves dragging large nets across the ocean floor. It was identified in a recent report by the National Research Council as a particularly harmful fishing mode because trawl nets destroy coral and rocky reefs and take huge amounts of "by catch" --- noncommercial species that include everything from shellfish to sponges to sea turtles.      "Trawling is like bulldozing a forest to catch songbirds," said Sylvia Earl, an oceanographer, deep diving record holder and explorer-in-residence for the National Geographic Society.

"The destruction to the marine environment is horrendous, and it's exacerbated by the fact that many governments --- including our own ---overcapitalized the industry," Earl said. "You have a tremendous number of boats built by low-interest loans competing after fewer and fewer fish."

Trawlers aren't the only problem, say scientists. Long-liners --- boats that spool out miles of lines fitted with thousands of baited hooks in a single set --- are wiping out swordfish and other billfish in tropical and semitropical seas worldwide.

Coastal and high-seas drift nets account for huge catches of large fish and are also responsible for "ghost nets" --- broken-off sections of net that drift in the ocean for months or years, entangling and killing dolphins, sea birds, sea turtles and sharks. The problem isn't restricted to the open ocean. Coral reefs, the essential habitat for a huge assemblage of fish and invertebrates, have been laid waste throughout southeast Asia.

"A couple of decades ago, Indonesia was a coral Eden," said John McCosker, chairman for aquatic biology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. "Today, it has been utterly destroyed by fishermen using dynamite and cyanide, except for a few reserves and resorts where you literally have armed guards patrolling the reefs."

In the tropical Pacific, dynamite is increasingly used to collect marketable fish, obliterating young fish, coral and bottom-dwelling invertebrates in the process. Cyanide is used to stun small fish for the aquaria trade, a process that also destroys coral reefs.

Another significant problem, McCosker said, is the global boom in aquaculture --- the artificial propagation of fish and shellfish. In the tropics, McCosker said, huge shrimp farms are displacing mangrove wetlands, vital nursery areas for myriad marine species. And in the temperate northern and southern latitudes, salmon farms are contaminating estuaries with waste and drugs used to fight fish diseases.

"In British Columbia, pen-raised salmon are also escaping to the wild, endangering native runs," McCosker said. "In terms of the marine environment, aquaculture is one of the biggest threats going. We don't serve shrimp or farmed salmon at academy functions anymore." Traditional fishery management approaches are proving inadequate in addressing the problem. In fact, scientists say, they are a big part of the problem.

Current management practices are based on the idea that you target the big fish, notes Paul Dayton of the Scripps Institution. But the big fish are the very ones you need to propagate the species because they are sexually mature. Fisheries management also encourages fishing on spawning populations --- large masses of fish that have gotten together to  propagate. "That's happening all over the world and (in U.S. waters) it's happening on cod, haddock, pollack, sheephead and squid," Dayton said. "It's a surefire recipe for destroying a fishery."

What to do? Most marine biologists recommend reducing the global fishing fleet through government buyouts of fishing permits and boats. Last month, the National Marine Fisheries Service spent $10 million buying groundfish permits from New England fisherman, and a similar idea has been discussed for the West Coast.

Educating consumers about "eco-friendly" and unfriendly fisheries --- as the Monterey Bay Aquarium [Califonia] does with a handy wallet card --- is another option. And an important step for intercoastal and reef species, Dayton said, is to establish rigorously protected marine reserves. Current refuges --- including those in the United States --- have inadequate protective safeguards, he said.

"Fish are wildlife, not domestic animals, and they need places to feed, reproduce and rest, just like terrestrial wildlife," Dayton said. "We have solid data that demonstrates refuges benefit both the fisheries and fishermen, because large fish continually migrate outward from the protected zones." The depletion of the world's marine fisheries is of such scope that many scientists are, in their own words, feeling depressed.

"It gets to me," conceded McCosker. "I'm amazed by how little people know about it. But I'm also amazed by how concerned they are once they start learning. Once you tap into the public consciousness, you find a tremendous commitment to changing things."
 

MONSANTO ACCUSED OF "DIRTY TRICKS"
IN ATTEMPTING TO DISCREDIT GE CORN CRITICS

THE ECOLOGIST: A dirty tricks campaign leads straight to the door of a Monsanto PR company, says Jonathan Matthews in the launch of his new column. The journal Science in reporting recently on how the Mexican "maize scandal" was driving the battle over GM crops "to new heights of acrimony and confusion," noted the part played by, "widely circulating anonymous e-mails" accusing researchers, Ignacio Chapela and David
Quist, of "conflicts of interest and other misdeeds."

These accusations surfaced first in late November on the day of Nature's publication of Chapela and Quist's findings of GM contamination of maize varieties in Mexico --- the global heartland of maize diversity. Samples of native criollo corn were found to contain a genetic  `switch' commonly used in GM crops and one sample was even found to contain a commonly inserted gene that prompts the plant to produce a poison. The results were particularly surprising as Mexico banned the growing of GM maize in 1998, and the last known GM crops were grown almost 60 miles from where the contaminated maize was found.

For the biotech industry this could not have come at a worse time. Its efforts to lift the European, Brazilian, and Mexican moratoria on GM seeds or foods were all coming to a head. Chapela and Quist came under immediate attack in a furious volley of e-mails published on the AgBioView listserv. AgBioView correspondents calling themselves "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek" claimed Chapela and Quist's research was a product of a conspiracy with "fear-mongering activists."

The conspirators' aim, apparently, was to attack "biotechnology, free-trade, intellectual property rights and other politically motivated agenda items." These claims prompted a series of further attacks from others. Prof. Anthony Trewavas, for example, denounced scientists like Chapela who had "political axes to grind." Trewavas demanded Chapela be fired unless he handed over his maize samples for checking.

This was not Trewavas's first controversial intervention in the GM debate in response to material put into circulation on AgBioView. Last October, for instance, Trewavas was named in the High Court as the source of an anti-Greenpeace letter at the centre of a libel case. Trewavas subsequently claimed that the letter originated on AgBioView. The last piece in question was posted by one Andura Smetacek, who regularly posts vitriolic attacks on critics of the biotech industry.

In Smetacek's early posts, interestingly, repeated reference is made to one particular website, CFFAR.org. Ostensibly, CFFAR --- or the Center for Food and Agricultural Research, to give it its full title --- is "a public policy and research coalition" concerned with "food and fiber production." But despite links to CFFAR.org from the websites of U.S. public libraries and university departments, there appears to be no evidence this organization really exists.

To judge by the frequent usage of words like "violence," "terrorism," and "acts of terror," the real purpose of the site is to associate biotech industry opponents with terrorism. This mission is faciliated by fabricated claims. In its "vandalwatch.org" section, for instance, CFFAR.org accuses Greenpeace of engaging in multiple attacks on British farms.

Greenpeace is accused of commandeering farmers' tractors and crashing through fences in pursuit of farmers' families. The domain registration details for CFFAR.org show the registrant to be one "THEODOROV, MANUEL," Among early signatories to a pro-agbiotech petition launched by AgBioView list editor, Prof C.S. Prakash, the following details can be found: "NAME: emmanuel theodorou. POSITION: director of associations. ORGANIZATION: bivings woodell, Inc. DEPARTMENT: advocacy
and outreach."

What kind of "advocacy and outreach" do Bivings Woodell, Inc., aka the Bivings Group, do? According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, "The Bivings Group has developed `Internet advocacy' campaigns for corporate America since 1996... Biotechnology giant Monsanto [is] among the Bivings clients who have discovered how to make the Internet work for them."

As part of its brief, Bivings designs and runs Monsanto's websites and Theodorou is believed to have been part of Bivings' Monsanto team. Mary Murphy would also seem to connect to Bivings. Or so it would seem from the evidence of a fake Associated Press article on the bulletin board of the foxbghsuit.com website. It was posted by "Mary Murphy (bw6.bivwood.com)."

Between them Smetacek and Murphy have had 60 or more attacks published, often very prominently, by Prakash on the AgBioWorld listserv. Prakash presents AgBioWorld as a mainstream science group reliant on the support of individuals and philanthropic foundations. However, a website design specialist who took a detailed look at the AgBioWorld site reported that there appeared to be evidence that part of its content was held on a Bivings' server.

Furthermore, agbioworld.org, vandalwatch.org and the Bivings'-designed thebivingsreport.com, all seemed to be the work of the same designer. Perhaps it's time for Prakash to clarify where AgBioWorld finishes and biotech industry PR begins. Come to that, the Royal Society might like to tell us why Trewavas, one of its media advisors, seems so keen to promulgate PR industry smears. And, finally, Monsanto needs to explain how its much vaunted pledge to abide by principles of openness, transparency and respect tallies with a dirty tricks campaign.
http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit_index.html
Jonathan Matthews is a co-founder of Norfolk Genetic Information Network
http://www.ngin.org.uk
 

REPORT SHOWS NATION'S MEDIA
EXHIBITS BLATANT PRO-GE BIAS

PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK UPDATES SERVICE: Thirteen of the largest newspapers and magazines in the United States have all but shut out criticism of genetically engineered (GE) food and crops from their opinion pages, according to a new report by Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy.

The report, "Biotech Bias on the Editorial and Opinion Pages of Major United States Newspapers and News Magazines," found an overwhelming bias in favor of GE foods not only on editorial pages, but also on op-ed pages, a forum usually reserved for a variety of opinions. In fact, the report found that some newspapers surveyed did not publish a single critical op-ed on GE foods and crops, while publishing several in support.

"It is a great disservice to the American public when the media filters out critical viewpoints on issues that are central to our times," said Anuradha Mittal, co-director of Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy. "This is an issue where there is significant difference of opinion among both scientists and the general public," she said, "and those differences must be represented in the media if the public is to be able to exercise its democratic right to make informed decisions about new technologies."

The report investigated 11 newspapers and three weekly news magazines between September 1999 and August 2001. Out of 40 op-eds, 31 supported GE foods and crops while only seven were critical. Two op-eds argued for labeling of GE foods. Newspaper editorials were united in supporting GE foods and crops and only diverged on the issue of labeling.

The report found that the arguments presented in support of GE crops could be grouped into several general categories:

* GE crops are good for the environment, or genetic engineering will create a world free of pesticides.

* We must accept GE crops and foods if we are to feed the poor in the Third World, because they offer the best way to boost agricultural productivity.

* There are no viable alternatives to GE crops and foods.

* GE crops are here to stay, so we should just accept them.

* The public already accepts GE, so what is all the fuss about?

* Trust scientists, they know best.

The report points out that these are essentially the same arguments used by the biotechnology industry in their advertising campaigns, and that there is an overwhelming lack of attention to widely expressed doubts concerning these arguments. Such concerns include:

* GE crops in and of themselves may represent significant risks to the environment. In addition, the reduction of insecticide use in so-called "Bt-crops" may be short-lived, and herbicide-tolerant crops may lead to increased, rather than decreased use of hazardous pesticides.

* The productivity-enhancing potential of GE crops may be greatly overstated, in fact for some crops, like soybeans, there is evidence of reduced yields. Furthermore, GE crops may be unlikely to be appropriate for, adopted by or useful for poor farmers in the Third World.

* A significant body of research exists which demonstrates the proven potential--to boost productivity, protect the environment and address hunger- --- of alternatives in the realms of integrated pest management (IPM), sustainable agriculture, agroecology, policy reform, etc. This potential in many cases may be greater than that of GE crops and foods.

* There are potential health-risks of GE foods for consumers, which may not have been adequately evaluated before the approval of these products.

(Summaries of these arguments may be found at:
http://www.foodfirst.org/progs/global/ge/
and
http://www.panna.org/panna/resources/geTutorial.html

The papers surveyed were: The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Houston Chronicle, Newsday (New York), The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. The weekly news magazines were Time, Newsweek, and The Economist.

The report is based on searches conducted on the Nexis database using the search term "bioengineered foods or genetically modified foods or genetically engineered foods or biotechnology." The findings were reduced to "editorial or op-ed or opinion or commentary."

An HTML copy of the report can be found at: http://www.foodfirst.org/media/press/2002/biotechbiasreport.html.

A PDF version can be found at: http://www.foodfirst.org/media/press/2002/biotechbiasreport.pdf.

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
 

SHORT SHORTS

INCREASE IN PRODUCT RECALLS
WHILE CONSUMERS IGNORE WARNINGS

CHRIS ADAMS, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Recalls of consumer products, food and medical goods have increased sharply recently, prompting concern because the public already ignores many recall campaigns.
 
At the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates products that account for 25 cents of every consumer dollar spent in the U.S., total recalls jumped 24% last year from the year before. At the Department of Agriculture, which regulates meat, recalls jumped 14% and are up more than threefold since 1996. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has jurisdiction over more than 15,000 kinds of consumer products, had more recalls in 2001 than in most years since 1990, and the total number of individual units recalled exceeded the number recalled in any year but 2000.

But "a majority of [recalled] products out there never come back --- they remain out there, and in some cases we're talking about cribs and portable play sets and products that kill kids," says Sally Greenberg, an attorney with Consumers Union, the nonprofit group that publishes Consumer Reports. For some goods recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, for example, the return rate is just 20%.

There are a host of reasons for the rising recall numbers. For some drugs and medical devices, manufacturing problems have led to recalls, while concern about the prospect of mad-cow disease jumping to the U.S. has led to recalls of blood and animal-feed products. The FDA in recent years oversaw recalls of dog chew toys made of pig's ears because of possible salmonella contamination. The toys posed a possible danger to toddlers and others who played with pets that were gnawing on the toys.

In the case of food, a new emphasis on ferreting out peanuts and other allergens in processed food has led to more recalls, and more sensitive testing procedures have allowed regulators to pick up contaminants such as E. coli with greater precision. It isn't clear that there is more contaminated meat out there than in past years, though. "We don't know how prevalent it was in the past because we weren't looking," says Patricia Kendall, a professor of food science at Colorado State University, Fort Collins.

Whatever the causes, it is clear that there are now so many recalls that it is difficult for both average consumers and sophisticated users -- hospitals, for example -- to know about and act on all the warnings. . . . .
 

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FOOD POISONING IN SCHOOLS
INCREASING AT 10% ANNUALLY

The incidence of food poisonings in the nation's schools are increasing at a rate of about 10% annually, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office. The study said the federal government should disclose its inspection records on food plants to the state and local agencies that buy food for schools. In 1999, the latest year for which data are available, there were 50 school-related outbreaks reported nationwide with 2,900
illnesses.

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TWO STUDIES UNDERSCORE CLAIM,
GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR GROWS

RICHARD W.  STEVENSON, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The growth in income inequality over the last several decades was particularly  pronounced in a handful of states, including New York and California, while the gap between rich and poor narrowed in only one, Alaska, a report released . . . . by two liberal research groups found.

Using Census Bureau data, the two groups, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute, looked at household incomes at the peak of each of the last three economic cycles --- in the late 1970's, the late 80's and the lat 90's --- and found that gains in the top 20% of families during those periods outstripped those in the bottom 20% in 44 states.

In five states --- Arizona, California, New York, Ohio and Wyoming --- among the bottom 20% of households actually fell in inflation-adjusted terms while it rose rapidly in the top 20%. In New York, for example, average income in the bottom 20% of households fell $794, or 5.9 percent, over the 20 years, to $12,639. During the same period, average income among the top 20% of households rose $56,812, or 54.1%, to $161,858. That meant that by the late 1990's the average income of the top fifth of households in NewYork was nearly 13 times that of the lowest fifth, up from eight times as much 20 years earlier.

In 39 states, average family income in the bottom 20% rose during the two decades, but at a slower pace than among the top 20%. In four states --- Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and South Dakota ---incomes at the top and bottom of the scale increased at about the same rates over the two decades. In Montana, average income did not change much at either the high or the low end of the scale.

In Alaska, average annual income among the lowest 20% of households rose 22.5% over the 20 years, by $3,461, to $18,818. During the same period, income among the top 20% rose 8.7 percent, or $12,318, to $154,653.

"The year 2000 marked the final year of the longest recovery on record," said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "Toward the end of the great 90's boom, we had very low unemployment and finally saw some long-awaited real gains for families at bottom of income scale. But it failed to reverse the growth of income inequality."

Elizabeth McNichol, the director of the Center on Budget and Polic Priorities' State Fiscal Project, said the figures were particular important becaus they come at a time when states are under intense pressure to close budget gap because of the weaker economy. She said states would be making important decisions about money for programs that have a direct impact on lower income families, including unemployment an health insurance, child care and transportation. . . .
 

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LARGE SALES LOSS MAY FORCE
FARMLAND CO-OP INTO BANKRUPTCY

BLOOMBERG NEWS: Farmland Industries, the largest U.S. farm cooperative, says it may file for bankruptcy after a four-year slump in fertilizer sales that shows little sign of improving. Farmland, which lost $50 million in the recent quarter, needs improved sales this spring to generate cash for a $10 million loan payment due May 31, which would avoid a default on $500 million in loans. Farmland, set up by members to market livestock and grain, may be forced to renegotiate its loans or seek bankruptcy court protection, the company said in a regulatory filing.

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CALPERS, NATION'S LARGEST PENSION FUND,
SHOWS A TASTE FOR WEST COAST WINES
 
BLOOMBERG NEWS: The California Public Employees' Retirement System plans  to invest $100 million to develop vineyards in California, Oregon and Washington with the closely held Premier Pacific Vineyards Inc. The investment, part of Calpers' $13.3 billion real estate portfolio, is the pension fund's first investment in agriculture. Premier Pacific said it would put up $10 million.
 
The venture plans to acquire land, and plant, harvest and sell grapes, then sell the developed parcels to wine producers within five to seven years.
 
Calpers, the biggest pension fund in the nation, and Premier Pacific, which is based in Napa, are betting wine makers will find it more economical to buy existing vineyards rather than invest the time and money to develop their own.
 
"The benefit to wine makers is that they don't have to tie up capital for a long period," said Richard Wollack, 56, a chief executive of Premier Pacific and an executive of CB Richard Ellis Services, a commercial property broker based in Los Angeles. By buying existing vineyards "they can get wine to market quicker."

Calpers and Premier Pacific said they would invest 80% of the venture's capital in northern California and the remainder in Washington and Oregon. They plan to grow grapes for wines that cost at least $20 a bottle.

"The principals of PPV are experienced developers of vineyards with a successful history of selling to notable wine producers," Michael McCook, Calpers' senior investment officer and head of real estate investment, said in a statement.

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JOHN K. HANSEN:
LONG-TIME FAMILY FARM ADVOCATE
ELECTED NATIONAL FARMERS UNION SECRETARY

John K. Hansen, President of Nebraska Farmers Union, was elected to serve as National Farmers Union Secretary when National Farmers Union met at their organization's national headquarters in Aurora, Colorado last week. It was NFU's first board of directors meeting since electing David J. Frederickson President at the annual convention in Irving, Texas in March.

The NFU board met to reorganize their new working committees, and to select committee chairs, executive committee members, and to elect their national secretary and treasurer. Wes Sims, President of the Texas Farmers Union, was re-elected national Treasurer. Past NFU Secretary, Dennis Wiese, President of the South Dakota Farmers Union, did not seek re-election.

Hansen, 51, a sixth generation diversified grain and livestock farmer from Newman Grove, has served as president of Nebraska Farmers Union for 12 years. Hansen previously served as Chair of the NFU Membership Committee and as Vice Chairman of the NFU Legislative Committee. Hansen will continue to serve as President of the Nebraska Farmers Union.

He said, "It is an honor for me to be selected to serve as an officer of our national organization. I appreciate the support of my fellow state presidents, and I will do my best to carry out my responsibilities as Secretary. My additional duties will give me the opportunity to help our national President, Vice President and Treasurer strengthen our state organizations. Since the Secretary position has traditionally focused on
membership issues, I look forward to doing my best to help our state organizations grow their membership bases. The stronger and more effective Farmers Union is, the better we can serve our members."

Hansen went on to say, "Our new national president understands how tough the economic situation is for many of our nation's family farmers and ranchers this spring, as they struggle to get their 2002 operating loans renewed or approved. A long time farmer himself, President Frederickson understands the risk and pressure that goes along with borrowing money to operate a farm, especially when farm gate prices are at or near all-time inflation-adjusted low prices."

Along with NFU President Frederickson of Minnesota, Vice President Alan Bergman of North Dakota, Treasurer Wes Sims of Texas, four newly selected standing committee chairs and two board of director members at large, Hansen will serve on the NFU Executive Committee. Hansen is the fourth generation member of his family to serve as a member and officer of Farmers Union.

"My family has always believed that Farmers Union is the true voice of family farm agriculture," Hansen said. "Farmers Union is the most effective grassroots general farm organization in the country, and that is why we have used Farmers Union to stand up for our interests. For the past 100 years, Farmers Union has stayed true to its mission of fighting for the economic interests and quality of life needs of family farmers, ranchers and rural America. I am honored to work on behalf of our organization, and family farmers and ranchers," Hansen concluded.
 

EDITORS NOTE:

In Issue #4 of BETWEEN THE FURROWS, an AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER  supplement, there appeared a list of various individuals and organizations who have been seeking to promote genetically engineered food while at the same time denigrating organically produced food.

This list was not compiled by the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, but was sent to the AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER by e-mail, but with no attached attribution. Ordinarily such items would be rejected out-of-hand with no such attribution, but since many of the citations were recognizably legitimate it was published.

Since it appeared last week, however, the editor has learned the source was "Genetically Modified Food --- UK and World News" at
http://www.gmfoodnews.com.
The author of the list was Susan Ellis.

THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER welcomes this information, thanks and compliments Ms. Ellis for her valuable research on this vitally important subject.
 

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Readers of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER are reminded that past issues of the
newsletter can be found at the Corporate Agribusiness Research Projectís web site on
the Internet. The CARP web site features: THE AGBIZ  TILLER, THE
AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER and "Between the Furrows."

THE AGBIZ TILLER, the progeny of the one-time printed newsletter, now becomes an
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In "Between the Furrows," besides a modern search engine, there is a wide range of
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