Monday, October 04, 2004


A few things to read during my absence: you probably saw Stephen Labaton's article on the front page of the 9/26 Times [now archived]:

After a case of mad cow disease surfaced in Washington State late last year, federal regulators vowed to move swiftly to adopt rules to reduce the risks of further problems and restore confidence in the nation's meat industry.

Some rules were adopted this year. But a few weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration, after heavy lobbying from the beef and feed industries, took steps to delay -- and to the concern of food safety groups, possibly kill -- completion of the most controversial and perhaps most expensive proposal for cattle companies.

That proposal would sharply restrict what could be included in animal feed. Shortly after the administration slowed its consideration of the rule, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association broke its nonpartisan tradition and endorsed President Bush for re-election.

Meanwhile, Schwartzie vetos Jackie Speier's bill that would have forced the California DHS to reveal meat recall information to consumers. The state can't do that, because then the USDA would withhold the information from them; and if they didn't, the meat companies would refuse to tell the USDA. The federal government has essentially no authority over meat packers.

It's even worse in Canada: the CBC discovered that the Canadian mad cow was ground up for animal feed -- and Canada has yet to enact even a rudimentary ruminant feed ban.

Elsewhere, our newly old friend Harry Cline really goes off the deep end on anyone who doesn't believe in biotech; The New Farm reports that the culprit for 9 years of stagnant soybean yields may very well be glyphosate tolerance [plus, bonus article -- actually entertaining! -- on pulque]; the story of PLoS, as BIOS ("open-source biology") launches; the current issue of open-access Electronic Journal of Biotechnology features an interesting review of attempts to engineer Bt toxins for improved insecticidal activity.

That will have to do.


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