No. 9 · Safe Food Campaign Newsletter ·May 2001
NATIONWIDE POSTCARD CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED
Wellington, May 20 2001: A nationwide postcard campaign calling on the Government to declare New Zealands environment and food chain GE-Free has been launched this week.
The campaign is the initiative of the Coalition for a GE-Free Environment Aotearoa New Zealand, whose members include some of the countrys biggest environmental organisations as well as organic agriculture, consumer rights and community organisations. Its purpose is to give public concern in the country a voice.
Five different postcards address the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Agriculture, Environment, Health and Research, Science and Technology. The Ministers are urged to:
- ban all field trials and commercial releases of genetically engineered organisms
- keep all GE foods out of the country
- restrict genetic engineering to contained laboratories.
Annette Cotter of Greenpeace New Zealand says that a GE-Free environment is the only serious option for our country. "Countries like Thailand have already taken the sensible route and committed to a GE-Free environment and we in New Zealand should do the same to protect our environment and our clean, green reputation. Evidence from scientists before the Royal Commission clearly indicated that release is reckless, as the risks of GMOs cannot be adequately identified let alone managed."
Seager Mason of Bio-Gro, one of New Zealands organic producers organisations and certification agencies, says "GE is incompatible with our organic production, and with our conventional agricultural markets. Already organic products overseas have been contaminated by GE. New Zealand has a tremendous opportunity to position itself at the top end of world markets for organic and "green" food products. Allowing genetically engineered organisms into agriculture here would be a disaster, it would consign us to the dustbin of world markets.
Mr Mason said that US corn growers have watched their sales of corn to Europe decline from 2 million tonnes in 1997 down to less than 30 000 tonnes last year because Europeans don't want GE food. "If you apply this same loss of markets to New Zealand's dairy industry then our current 13 000 plus dairy farms would be reduced to about 200 farms."
Hilary Phillips, of Jews for GE-Free Food says that as New Zealanders, we have the right to follow our religious beliefs, which include our dietary laws.
"Genetic engineering is not eco-kosher, because it breaks the laws of kashrut (to do with food) but also the laws of kilayim (the laws of nature). A complete ban on GE foods now would remove the risk of unknowingly consuming non-kosher food and ensure our civil rights. Comprehensive labelling of GE food will remove the risk only so long as there remains a reasonable choice of non-GE foods." says Phillips.
The Minister for the Environment announced this week that the Royal Commission has been granted an extension and will be reporting back on July 27. The postcard campaign will continue until the government announces its decision, expected to be August.
"In the end it is the Government who will decide which path we as a country go down," says Susie Lees of GE-Free NZ. "This campaign is an opportunity for the many New Zealanders who aspire to a GE-Free environment and food chain to urge the government to do the right thing."
Action: The Safe Food Campaign is one of the national organisations endorsing this campaign. We enclose a set of five postcards for you to fill in and post. You will see that each postcard has space for your own words. You dont have to fill in the space - but its better if you do. The Government needs to hear what you think. You can get your family, friends and workmates to fill them out too - just make sure they get posted though. Go one better by writing a letter to the cabinet ministers and Labour MPs.
If you would like more copies of the postcards, contact us or visit the website below, where you can download them from. You can also ring 0800 4 GE FREE.
THE POLITICS OF FOOD
by Rich Wernham
There once was a time when food was simple. You grew it yourself or you traded your skills for it. If you were a good gardener you could trade the excess of your labours for other foods and services. In times of hardship, communities banded together to survive the best they could. Ahh, for the good old days!
Now of course we have large multinational organisations reaching down into every level of our existence and attempting to build our lives and food the way they see fit, with the bottomline profits the overriding factor in every decision piped through our TV screens and into our supermarket shelves. The biggest, latest and most obvious version of this coercion is of course the genetic engineering of the food supply, pushed upon us by the agroscience transnational corporations. It absolutely horrifies me when I find out about the corruption of the systems and regulatory authorities that are meant to protect us from reckless behaviour in the name of profits and progress.
One of the champions of the cause for safe food and an honest process, is Steven M Druker who is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity in the US (see his article on the next page.) He is amongst the people leading the charge in an attempt to expose and correct the scams that have been perpetrated by the top level of bureaucrats in the US Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ),
US Department of Agriculture ( USDA ) and the White House. Steven has organised a lawsuit against the FDA surrounding the illegal introduction of GE foods into the food chain, and I quote :
|US: The revolving door between industry and the US government
An executive with Monsanto, a leading developer of biotech foods, has been nominated for the second-ranking job at the Environmental Protection Agency, the White House said on Tuesday.
Linda Fisher, who worked for the EPA for 10 years before heading Monsanto's Washington lobbying office, was nominated for the post of deputy administrator. Fisher also served on a U.S. Agriculture Department advisory committee on biotech foods.
Reuters Wednesday, May 2, 2001
For other examples of the revolving door see Chris Wheelers article "Monsantos Revolving Door Update", Soil & Health March/April 2001
"The FDA has knowingly endangered public health in order to promote the financial interests of giant corporations. In doing so, it has systematically lied and flagrantly violated federal law. It is high time this national disgrace be rectified. All genetically engineered foods must be promptly removed from the market and subjected to the rigorous safety testing called for by the FDAs scientists and required by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act."
Here is an example of this blatant deception:
"Internal files of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reveal it has been deceiving the world about the hazards of genetically engineered (GE) foods for almost a decade. This shocking news came to light when a lawsuit forced the FDA to divulge copies of these files (over 44,000 pages). "
Back in 1992 the FDA acknowledged:
"The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks." Dr. Linda Kahl, FDA compliance officer, memo to FDA Biotechnology Coordinator, January 8, 1992.
But then a few months later they stated:
"The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way..." FDA Policy Statement, May 29, 1992
All of this corruption has come about because the people appointed to run the process are from the industry that they are supposed to be regulating. Also most of the political staff of George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush had or have strong and binding ties to this industry, either through campaign donations or business associations. Basically the US FDA has made a mockery of its role to protect the food supply from corporate greed in action, and as we follow along like good little puppydogs in their wake, NZers and Aussies are also exposed to these very serious risks. Due to the irreversible nature of GE, it has become a fight my colleagues and I feel compelled to fight, to try and bring some sort of sensibility to all of this.
You can check out these websites:
The Safe Food Campaign believes that people should be able to have their say on whether artificial fluoridation should take place in our regions water supply. At the moment, with all the regions supply artificially fluoridated except for Petone (see separate story), our right to choose whether an industrial waste and accumulative toxin is added to our water supply is removed.
"Trade Secrets": exposé of the chemical industry
The American public has been shaken by the March 26 screening this year of Bill Moyers television special "Trade Secrets". Producer Sherry Jones dug up confidential memos and meeting minutes of the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now the American Chemistry Council), detailing an industry campaign since the 1950s to systematically block the release of information on the toxic effects of the more than 75,000 synthetic chemicals now in our environment.
The information came to light as a result of a lawsuit by Elaine Ross and lawyer William "Billy" Baggett Jr, over the death of Elaines husband Dan at age 46, after working for 30 years at Louisiana chemical plant Conoco (later Vista). The plant produces vinyl chloride, one of the worlds most common plastics used, for example, in pipes and hoses.
The report shows that, beginning in the late 1950s, industry executives suppressed evidence that several rare cancers and other systemic illnesses were linked to exposure to vinyl chloride. Health effects were found at exposure levels much lower than those experienced by workers and, in some cases, consumers. The documents also show that government actions to limit exposure to one chemical, benzene, were delayed for years due to the chemical industrys co-ordinated efforts to undermine the scientific consensus regarding the link between benzene exposure and leukaemia.
Bill Moyers shed blood for the documentary: his blood was tested for 150 different chemicals and an astounding 84 were found. Only one of those, lead, would have been found 60 years ago. The effects of having these chemicals in our bodies is largely unknown, but there are statistics to show increased incidences of breast cancer, brain cancer among children, testicular cancer among teenage boys, infertility and learning disabilities. "We are flying blind," Moyers concludes, "except the laboratory mice in this vast chemical experiment are the children. They have no idea whats happening to them. Nor do we."
Negligence, manipulation, suppression, distortion and destruction of health and environmental data by industry have resulted in an escalation in the incidence and mortality of cancer and chronic disease among workers and the general public unknowingly exposed to toxins in the workplace, air, water and consumer products: food, household products, cosmetics and toiletries, charges Dr Samuel Epstein of the Cancer Prevention Coalition (www.preventcancer.com ).
Unfortunately there are a host of questionable chemicals still permitted for use today, in spite of the many independent studies that show various adverse effects from them. Profits continue to be put ahead of safety by businesses, and the media are manipulated by industry.
The Moyers special has become a rallying point, with a coalition of grassroots groups having formed to oppose the chemical industry. The coalition calls itself "Coming Clean" and can be contacted at www.comeclean.org . For information on "Trade Secrets", or to purchase a copy, see www.pbs.org . To view secret industry documents: www.ewg.org
|Action: Write to TVNZ and TV3, asking them to show "Trade Secrets".
PO Box 3819
3 Flower St
Brickbats and bouquets: mayonnaise
A bouquet to Eta for removing the questionable yellow colourings 102 and 110 from their mayonnaise.
A brickbat to No Frills and First Choice for continuing to use these colourings in their mayonnaise.
Next issue: we will survey ice cream. If you come across examples of products where the manufacturer has removed questionable additives or continues to use them, let us know. For a list of questionable additives, see the appendix in "Eating Safely in a Toxic World". We also have available in limited numbers a list of questionable additives "Reference Card" on handy pocket-size card, now selling for $2. This includes a list of ingredients which may contain GE food. Details here
GE Food Testing
A report from a Roundtable on GE in Kuala Lumpur, 3 April 2001
By Alison White
What genetically engineered food are we eating? We dont know for sure because testing has not been done in New Zealand and labelling is yet to happen. There is a big concern among Asian consumer organizations about the issue of genetic engineering, I noticed at the Roundtable on Genetic Engineering at Kuala Lumpur, which I had been invited to attend by Consumers International.
Food has been tested overseas to see if it contains genetic engineered organisms. Almost a quarter of the food tested by the Hong Kong Consumer Council, for example, had genetically engineered genes in it. Most manufacturers, however, when confronted with the results of these tests, said they would avoid GE food supplies. In Korea, a public uproar resulted when 82% of tofu tested was found to be genetically engineered. Korean consumers are now strongly anti-GE and carefully check the label, according to a report made by CACPK, the Korean consumers organization.
In the Hong Kong tests the most common GE organism found was GE soy, followed by GE corn. Nine of the GE soy samples had levels higher than 1% (canned soup, instant noodles, chips and soy infant formulas). Manufacturers of McCain French Fries, ProSobee Milk-Free Infant Formula and Enfamil Infant Formula said they would no longer use any GE ingredient in their products. The manufacturers of Vitasoy Fresh Soya Milk (presumably different to the product marked "organic" in NZ) said they have started to source ingredients only from companies with an Identity Preservation System. The manufacturers of Campbells Golden Corn Condensed Soup said that since the majority of the world supply of corn and soy is genetically engineered, their product was detected with GE ingredients. They further responded that should GE ingredients be required to be labelled, they would have it labelled. (Hong Kong does not yet have a labelling system for GE food, but is currently proposing one.)
It is important to stress that even though the same brands may be available in NZ, these tests were done in Hong Kong, which may be quite different to results if tested in NZ.
Consumers International has repeatedly called for a moratorium on the use of GE in food production because of the lack of safeguards in the development and use of GE. They are very concerned about some of the practices of biotech and agribusiness corporations promoting GE especially in developing countries. Governments, for example, have been strong-armed via "negotiations" and the implied threat of trade retaliation. Articles are published which play on the sentiments of the public, suggesting that the benefits of GE will be felt by the poor starving children in Asia and Africa, while downplaying the issues of patenting and seed/chemical dependency. Judges in India were offered US junkets under the guise of workshops. In late 2000 journalists and government regulators from five South-East Asian countries "toured the United States to observe how genetically modified crops were developed and used."
We have certainly not been spared these practices in New Zealand. It has taken us a while to get some sort of labelling scheme for GE food, for example. And this wont come into force until December this year. Unfortunately, however, the labelling scheme will not cover all food which has been genetically engineered. If people want to avoid eating GE food, they should avoid products which contain soy and corn ingredients especially. The safest way is to buy food which is organic.
A longer report can be obtained from Alison, ph (04)476-8607, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Poisoned by Pesticides
Recent visit by international anti-pesticide campaigner Ann-Marie Donaca
by Jacky Pearson
Ann-Marie Donaca recently gave a public talk, May 7th, at the National Library, Wellington. Her aim is to spread the word about cancer-causing toxins in the home, school and daycare environment.
One year ago she suffered a rare and aggressive "terminal" cancer of which she has been cured. After much medical investigation and research she found her cancer was caused by DDT and diazinon pesticides. She grew up on a USA Mid-Western farm which had used these chemicals prolifically. She pointed out that, even though DDT had been phased out in the 1970s in the US, it still remains in the soil and every time the farmer ploughs the fields DDT from lower depths resurfaces getting into the crops and blowing away into the atmosphere. (NZ deregistered DDT only in 1989.) Now 50, Ann-Marie embarked on an urgent cleansing programme. The chemicals were eliminated from her tissues, an alkaline and oxygenated diet was instigated because cancer cells cannot thrive in these conditions, and she went on an intensive nutritional therapy, including large doses of B6 and B12, which allow nutrients to work better. Her numerous tumours were reduced and killed off and she is now dedicating her life to telling as many people as she can about the hazards of toxin build up in our bodies and our environment.
Extremely well researched, she pointed out that only a fraction of toxins that we come across have ever been tested. Of particular concern is for the build-up of mercury. It can be found in pesticides, foods, immunisations, some childrens medicines, industrial wastes to name but a few categories. The major source for most people, however, is in their amalgam fillings, as 55% is pure mercury. A 700 page document published and given out free to USA citizens on request is dedicated to the hazards of mercury on the human body, ("Toxicological Profile for Mercury, FDA US). The report points out that the human body has zero tolerance to mercury and that amalgam fillings should not be put in the under 6 years olds due to their immature immune systems.
She is also concerned about fluoride, and has uncovered a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the USA that states that in areas where local water is artificially fluoridated, treated cancer risks increase by 5%. Other heavy metals in our environment include arsenic which can be found in fabric protectors in child day care centres.
She is a very inspirational speaker and overturns the concept that certain diseases have no cure. She is working on a book and has a video "To Do No Harm". Her website can be visited at members.aol.com/annmariedonaca
"Environmental Toxins and Your Child's Learning: Oil and Water"
Every mother, every prospective mother, wants to do everything in her power to ensure that she has a healthy baby. Despite her best efforts however, the insidious nature of environmental toxins can compromise her babys ability to learn, lower her childs IQ level and contribute to behavioural problems, so concludes a group of physicians in their new report entitled "In Harms Way". They write that they "believe we can no longer ignore the mounting evidence that chemical exposures contribute to the epidemic of developmental disabilities" in children.
The report goes on to document some of the scientific and medical information on the toxins that the majority of American children are exposed to and links this information to statistics showing the increasing rates at which children are suffering from disabilities such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and uncontrollable aggression. In her article on the report, Rachel Massey writes that these disorders "currently affect an estimated 12 million children under age 18 in the U.S. --almost one child in five" and even more alarming is the rate at which these disorders are increasing. She states that "autism rates have risen from around 4 per 10,000 in the early 1980s to between 12 and 20 per 10,000 in the 1990s" and that "the number of children taking the drug Ritalin for ADHD has approximately doubled every 4 to 7 years since 1971."
"In Harms Way" cites a study in Mexico that compared pesticide exposure levels of children living in two agricultural communities. One community utilized chemicals to a far greater degree than the other; and the children living in that community "scored substantially lower on measures of memory, physical stamina and coordination, and had trouble with ordinary childrens activities such as drawing a simple picture of a person." These children also "displayed more aggressive behavior than their unexposed counterparts."
The study also states that the toxic effect pesticides have on insects is similar in nature to effects they have on humans and animals; indeed "animal studies show that neurotoxic pesticides can produce permanent changes in brain structure and functioning when exposures occur on a single critical day of development." Included in "Harms Way" is discussion on the effects of combinations of pesticides; that "certain combinations of pesticides produce changes in thyroid levels that are not observed when the chemicals are tested individually, and thus the combination may produce unexpected developmental effects".(see REHW #648) The effects of the cocktail of pesticides which we are exposed to every day have not been studied.
For the bulletins see www.rachel.org
From: "Children in Harms Way", by Rachel Massey, (Rachels Environmental & Health News #712), quoting "In Harms Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development", Ted Schettler, Jill Stein, Fay Reich, Maria Valenti, and David Wallinga. Cambridge Mass.: Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, May 2000.
If you would like to see full copies of Rachel Masseys article or the study in Mexico, ask us.
Petone wins back unfluoridated water
Residents from Petone, an area of Lower Hutt, were put back on unfluoridated water on March 12. The suburb was required to take the same supply as the rest of the Wellington region when the Buick Street pumping station was closed by the Wellington Regional Council last year. Due to strong protest from Petone residents, the Regional Council and Hutt City Council were forced to replumb the pumping system at a cost of about $360,000. An $85,000 stylised "waterglass" feature is to be built on the corner of Jackson and Buick Streets later this year to display and dispense Petones precious water.
GE Pollution in Tasmania
During the three years prior to Tasmanias moratorium on open GE trails, 12-14 approvals were granted for glyphosphate tolerant canola. The public was not informed of these, and Tasmanias Agriculture Minister said he thought that 12-14 approvals meant 12-14 sites, rather than the 58 sites where the trials were set up. Upon inspection of these sites, 11 breaches of federal regulations were found. These included the failure to remove seeds after trials, and thousands of GE canola plants growing wild. (Trials must now be carried out under containment- netting). It is not known whether this widespread GE contamination can be brought under control, nor is it known if its even possible for Tasmania to now go GE free. The Tasmanian Greens say that government negligence is as much to blame as is the disregard agri-business has shown for federal regulations and the moratorium.
(Source: email@example.com )
Britain : Number of GE trials doubles
The UK government has decided to go ahead with 96 new GE trials, outraging farmers and environmentalists. Ministers have ignored protests, accepting that the trials will contaminate nearby crops, leaving the government open to damage claims from farmers whose crops may be unsaleable as a result. (All big British supermarkets now refuse to take GE-contaminated food). Ignoring pleas to leave a 3 km exclusion zone around GE crops, the British Ministry of Agriculture has increased the maximum margin from 50 m to 100 m. Bees have been found to carry GE pollen up to 3 miles, so unless this margin is increased, organic farmers could be put out of business. The purpose of these new GE trials is "to check on cross-contamination of crops, and the effect of GM crops on weeds and wildlife".
(Source: The Guardian Weekly 15-2-01, page 10)
USA : Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser
Percy Schmeiser is a victim of genetic pollution, but because of patent laws, the US court says he must pay Monsanto US$10,000 for licensing fees and up to US$75,000 in profits from his 1998 crop. Mr Schmeisers crops were contaminated by nearby Roundup-resistant canola, and even though he didnt make use of Monsantos technology, the court ruling says he is guilty of using seed without a licensing agreement. For more information about his case see: www.percyschmeiser.com.
Last year Monsantos GE seeds were planted on 41.6 million hectares (103 million acres) worldwide, and toll-free hotlines have been set up to encourage people to snitch on anyone they suspect of GE seed-saving.
(Source: Rural Advancement Foundation International / RAFI )
Survey Shows New Zealanders Want Organics
63% of New Zealanders want New Zealand to be organic in 20 years time, according to a survey by Consumer Link. This survey result confirms one commissioned last year by the meat company Affco New Zealand which found that 70% of farmers, 78% of city dwellers and 71% of rural people believed the future of New Zealand agriculture lay in organics. "Whatever the finding of the Royal Commission, New Zealanders have already rejected genetic modification in favour of organics. It is time for the government to reflect the publics attitude by reducing funding for GM research, increase funding for organic research and actively promote farmers wishing to convert to organics," says Ian Ewen-Street, Green Party MP.
Source: Media release Ian Ewen-Street 27/2/01
Italy: Most Oppose Genetic Foods
Organic foods are rising in popularity due to worries over the impact of intensive farming on food safety. According to the Italian Farm Ministry survey, 67% of 1,200 people surveyed, of which 400 were farmers, were against using genetically modified organisms in food production. 80% of those questioned said they would be willing to spend a little extra to acquire good-quality traditional or organic produce.
Source: Reuters News Service 21/3/01
Nelson City votes to be GE Free
By Susie Lees of GE Free Nelson
Nelson City Council has voted to declare Nelson a GE Free City. This move follows a campaign extending over the last four years to make Nelson a GE free zone. The Council voted on a resolution put forward by the Mayor on 5 April 2001 to declare Nelson a GE Free City.
Fifteen months prior, the City narrowly lost the GE Free vote when councillors voted 6:5 (one councillor absent) against the resolution, whilst agreeing to urge the government to implement a moratorium, a Royal Commission and research into the implications and impact of GE organisms and products.
Since then GE Free Nelson has been heavily involved in the Royal Commission, being described as 'vocal' and becoming well known for their stance of zero tolerance. After their submission to the Royal Commission of Inquiry on 30th January, GE Free Nelson in a coordinated action with Greenpeace raised the GE Free flag at the centre of New Zealand and presented a map showing the level of support to the Mayor.
With the decision of the council to support the local community petition signed by over 4000 people, we are supported in our aim to involve government on decisions regarding the bio-integrity of organisms and food crops in our environment as a matter of urgency.
We are not fully aware yet of what this will mean for Nelson but this declaration is only the start of Nelson's positive steps to take the Precautionary Approach in respect to genetic engineering of food and the use of GMOs in our environment.
We would like to thank the Nelson City Council for their 'visionary move, and all those local people who have continued to support the GE Free aim over the years. We hope that the GE free declaration will inspire other communities to encourage their councils to declare themselves GE Free.
Letter to Safe Food
Allergies and an organic diet
Dear Safe Food Campaigners,
A testimony which may be of interest for your newsletter. My eldest child (Lauren now 6) was diagnosed as having an allergy to eggs three years ago. We switched to an organic diet when our third child displayed the symptoms of food intolerance. She was a perfect sleeper until 8 months old when she started to wake at night with stomach cramps, howling in agony, developed eczema and frequently had diarrhoea. Using an elimination diet and armed with a guide from the health dept on identifying food additives I tracked the culprit down to 500 (sodium carbonate or bicarbonate, used in most first stage biscuits like round wine, vanilla wine the so called "safe" biscuits). It was also in the Maggi stock I flavoured her vegetables with. Another additive which caused her problems was metabisulphite which is used as a dough softener. Since switching to more organic food the baby's eczema has disappeared. She is in good health - except when she has non-organic food at Grandma's house and comes home to a night of discomfort. Fortunately her symptoms are less severe now and she is on a low dose of an anti-anaphylactic (allergy) drug.
I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease two years ago. When we switched to a totally organic diet I was amazed that a SENSE OF WELLNESS I did not know I had lost returned. It took me by complete surprise. Now if I eat food with additives my nose runs and I find myself sneezing (hayfever-like symptoms). Since switching to an organic diet my health has been excellent.
But perhaps what is more interesting is our oldest child Lauren who has multiple allergies. (Similar symptoms as described above). For years we have avoided all trace of egg in our food. After reading "Eating Safely in a Toxic World" I decided to see whether she would react to organic eggs the same way she did to conventional eggs. Was it the chemicals in the normal eggs she was reacting to or the egg itself? So I baked a cake with 4 organic eggs, gave her a slice and she did NOT react. I DID! I SAW RED!!! Needless to say we are now organic converts!!
From Simone Colwill, Auckland