Friday, February 27, 2004

oh shit

At least one beef producer has realized that its own stupidity is costing it money [NYT]
A beef producer in Kansas has proposed testing all its cattle for mad cow disease so it can resume exports to Japan, but it is encountering resistance from the Agriculture Department and other beef producers.
More from [sub. req.]:
Creekstone's proposal has been met with unusually blunt and public opposition from USDA. Lisa Ferguson, a senior staff veterinarian at USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told the on Wednesday that attempts by Creekstone to market any product as being 100 percent BSE-tested would be illegal because USDA has not yet licensed any of the rapid diagnostic tests used by the European Union, Japan or South Korea.

On Thursday, the agency was apparently backpedaling on its position, declining mainstream media requests to interview Ferguson and other officials, and issuing a statement saying it received Creekstone's proposal and was "evaluating the several implications of the proposal, including the legal, regulatory, trade and other considerations" before responding.

USDA officials said they have "strong concerns" about the possibility of false positives that could result from rapid testing and the potential adverse impact possible false positive readings could have on consumer confidence in beef, livestock markets and overseas trade.

[this is extra funny because the usda tests are much less accurate than the rapid ones used in Japan]
Creekstone CEO John Stewart told the on Thursday that he was "appalled and disgusted" by what he said were USDA's "delaying tactics" in helping to resolve the difference between Creekstone's plans to expand BSE testing and USDA's vow to not allow it.

"I understand the political concerns USDA is facing, but that's not our problem," Stewart said. "We are not going to fold up our tent and go home on this issue. It's time for USDA to fess-up, admit they are wrong, and make some good decisions."

Why does the USDA hate America?

More meat via tidepool: CWD ("mad deer") in Slate; carnivore ethics in Seattle Weekly

And Alan Guebert has the quote of the week

"Well, we're basing our statement that the (Washington State mad cow) animal was downer on the fact that there are records from the Food Safety Inspection Service veterinarian who examined this animal before slaughter. He examined her in a recumbent position on the trailer that brought her to the livestock market. Having said that, there is nothing saying that an animal that is down cannot get up. So in fact both accounts could potentially be true." Dr. Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator USDA Veterinary Services Program, Feb. 23.

I get listerious;
or, lazy internet research

Over at the cheese diaries, Anne is debating the microbiology of her refrigerator. Her fear of listeria lead me to wonder about some things. First of all, as Steingarten has shown for American cheese (and Ed Behr for french époisses), pasteurized milk is actually the culprit for many listeriosis outbreaks. I was not able to track down an easy database to check this out more thoroughly, but at least one randomly chosen outbreak from 2000 confirms my suspicions. From MMWR:
Various members of the Hispanic immigrant community made the Mexican-style fresh soft cheese from raw milk in their homes. Inspectors found unlabeled homemade cheese in all three of the small local Latino grocery stores they visited in Winston-Salem. In addition, many persons regularly sold the cheese in parking lots and by going door-to-door. Owners of two local dairies reported selling raw milk. Milk samples were obtained from these two Forsyth County dairies and from three dairies in neighboring counties. L. monocytogenes isolates were obtained from nine patients, three cheese samples from two stores, one cheese sample from the home of a patient, and one raw milk sample from a manufacturing grade dairy. All 14 isolates had indistinguishable PFGE patterns, indicating a common link.

NCDA&CS conducted an investigation at a manufacturing grade dairy farm to determine the potential source of L. monocytogenes contamination. NCDA&CS collected milk samples from all 49 cows in the herd and samples from the bulk milk storage tanks. Milk from each cow was tested for somatic cell count to identify mastitic cows. Milk from each cow also was tested for presence of L. monocytogenes. Repeated testing did not identify any cow with milk confirmed positive for L. monocytogenes, suggesting that the cows were not infected and that L. monocytogenes may have originated from environmental contamination.

In other words, they couldn't find it in the cows or the dairies, but they did find it in one milk sample -- but they won't say where it's from. They also fail to demonstrate that all the cheeses were made with the raw milk. In short, as they are forced to admit/obfuscate, the contamination was most likely environmental: i.e., dirty processing of clean milk -- which means it's irrelevant whether it was pasteurized or not.

My second question was to what extent listeria can develop after a long time, like a couple months in the fridge. I was unable to find a good source for that either, but I learned some interesting things from Ariel Maoz, et al., "Temporal Stability and Biodiversity of Two Complex Antilisterial Cheese-Ripening Microbial Consortia," Applied and Environmental Microbiology 69, no. 7 (July 2003), p. 4012-4018.

When the traditional "old-young smearing" procedure is used for the production of red-smear cheeses, pathogenic microorganisms such as Listeria monocytogenes may also be transferred from the mature to the fresh cheeses. Due to its ubiquitous nature, its ability to grow at refrigeration temperatures, and its tolerance to low pHs (below pH 5.0) and high (up to 10%) sodium chloride levels, it is very difficult to control L. monocytogenes in a cheese environment.
The "ubiquity" suggests that we all eat low levels of listeria all the time, and, as with many bacteria, the problem arises when you hit a much more serious than usual infestation. Therefore, long storage times could create a problem where there was none, if the conditions change to encourage a modest amount of listeria to blossom into an enthusiastic colony. Anyway, the authors investigate the antilisterial effects of two different "microfloral consortia" (i.e., the other bacteria) from red-smear cheeses, which are not defined but appear to include limburger and vacherin mont d'or (they found over 400 different strains!):
The antilisterial activity of consortium R as determined in situ on soft cheese is displayed in Fig. 3. In both experiments A and B, L. monocytogenes WSLC 1364 grew to high numbers on the control cheeses (M) from initial contamination levels of 40 and 60 CFU/ml of brine, respectively. At the same initial contamination levels, the pathogen was inhibited completely by consortium R. Except for one positive enrichment at day 41 (experiment A), it was also inhibited completely at initial contamination levels of 340 (experiment A) and 270 (experiment B) CFU/ml of brine, respectively. These results indicate a stable antilisterial activity of consortium R over 6 months. In experiment B, the antilisterial activity of consortium R was tested additionally at an initial contamination level of 1,600 CFU/ml of brine. Even then it showed a total inhibition of L. monocytogenes. The high incidence of Listeria on red-smear cheeses indicates that many of the industrial surface consortia exhibit no significant antilisterial activity or, alternatively, are contaminated by resistant Listeria strains....

Data on the in situ antilisterial activity of consortium K, derived at the beginning (sampling point A) and at the end (sampling point B) of the 6-month period, are depicted in Fig. 3. In both cases consortium K inhibited L. monocytogenes at initial contamination levels of 75 (sampling point A) and 70 (sampling point B) CFU/ml of brine. At contamination levels of 240 (sampling point A) and 280 (sampling point B) CFU/ml of brine, however, listerial growth could not be inhibited to the same extent. While comparison with the control consortium M still demonstrates a certain inhibitory effect, Listeria analysis yielded positive results after about 3 and 2 weeks. Our data demonstrate significant differences between consortia R and K, revealing a lower antilisterial potential of the latter, which decreased additionally within 6 months. Interestingly, this change in antilisterial activity was accompanied by a significant change of the species within each consortium.

What this means is that we don't know why some cheeses are able to fend off listeria and others can't. The authors dowplay the effect of biodiversity on antilisterial activity, because consortium K lost out to the listeria at high contamination levels. However, the uselesness of the (much less diverse) control consortium (M) by comparison suggests that biodiversity is a significant factor -- something best achieved with raw milk. Of course, it would be relevant to know what "normal" listeria concentrations are like, becasue if they are like the higher numbers that overwhelmed K, then the debate is academic. The fda's dose-response model predicts a median death rate of 1 in 769,231 servings at 1 x 1010 cfu/serving (the whole paper is here), but you'd have to know a lot more math than I do to correlate that with the levels Moaz et al. give for their brine. The FDA found levels that high in less than .01 percent of every dairy category, including soft fresh cheese and unpasteurized milk.

In sum, nothing conclusive, but this all does tend to reinforce the suspicion that if anything, raw milk may be safer than pasteurized, if handled properly. Also, it is possible to turn something harmless into something dangerous in your fridge. Please read the scary things at the CDC and the FDA for actual medical advice.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Ann, reality; reality, Ann. So nice of you to join us.

After doubling its testing for mad cow disease in response to the first case in the United States, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman says the government may expand its survey beyond the 40,000 animals now planned.

Testifying Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on agriculture, Veneman did not specify how many more animals might be tested as part of what she called 'a very aggressive surveillance plan.' The tests will include some apparently healthy animals, she said, in addition to those thought to be at high risk.

[AP ]

bad decisions

The rehydration process is going slower than expected, thanks to drastic markdowns on some rapidly disintegrating Sardon de Duero. Still, I feel lucky compared to our anonymous coreligionist:
Our time-tested method of killing our previous hangover through a process of reimbibification was actually rather successful last evening, up until about 10:30, when we crossed over the line that separates drinking to feel better and drinking to, you know, get drunk.
The worst decision of the day, however, goes to Harold Bloom:
Ms. Wolf's recollection of the night in 1983 when she and Mr. Bloom allegedly got drunk on Amontillado and he made an invasive pass at her was the first part of the story.
Amontillado ? I'm not passing judgment one way or another, because all you english majors look the same to me, but what the fuck are they reading in those Yale lit. classes? [NYO via the hag; also, slate]

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The trip was lovely, thank you, though rehydration is apparently going to take several days. You east coast people really need to turn the heat down. And stop plying me with whiskey. No, I take the second part back. Also, your new mall is funny, but that Whole Foods is really not very exciting. Nor is at least one restaurant, according to the Times's ineffectively incognito new reviewer:
I might order a glass of sake, stay for the gougères, then feign illness and steal across Columbus Circle to Jean Georges...
Ouch. We did not see young Mrs. Latte while being separated from our money nearby, but we did, apparently, run into Claire Danes, although I didn't recognize her, or really remember who she was, and why it was so scandalous that she was making out with that guy.

Some more, um, meaty things that happened in my absence:

A class-action decision against Tyson is going to to be huge:

SCOTT KILMAN, WALL STREET JOURNAL: The lawyer who won a $1.28 billion antitrust verdict against Tyson Foods Inc. intends to try parlaying that victory into a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. cattle industry.

David A. Domina, the lead attorney in the class-action case heard by a federal jury in Alabama, said he will now ask the judge to limit significantly the ability of the nation's biggest meatpacker to use contractual arrangements to control cattle before they are ready to be slaughtered -- a booming practice that agriculture economists call captive supplies.

If U.S. District Senior Judge Lyle E. Strom agrees, the nation's meatpacking giants could be forced to return to the way they did business two decades ago --- scrambling each day to buy enough cattle to keep their plants busy. Regulators would likely impose the same rules on Tyson's biggest rivals to maintain orderly markets, agriculture officials said.

Alan Guebert has more on the case, along with more mad cow follies:
And even after USDA knew the plant didn't take downer cows, it altered its lucrative BSE-testing offer to Ellestad because it was "so needful of getting samples" to prove that it was doing some -- and, evidently, any was fine by it -- testing.

Even more remarkable--and against unfathomable odds -- a BSE-positive animal walks into the Moses Lake slaughterhouse Dec. 9 and is tested before ascending to hamburger heaven. Two weeks later, USDA claims the animal was a downer despite an already clear line of established evidence to the contrary.

Ever loyal Annie, however, stuck to her guns. On Feb. 19, Veneman maintained the cow was a downer.

This is not at all surprising. The current gang at USDA, like the gang at the White House, seem almost pathological in their belief that the public and the press must disprove their lies before they admit the truth.

More importantly, they believe, if we let their words, actions and ideas go unchallenged or if we fail to completely rout their white lies, half-lies and bald-faced lies, well, then it's our own dumb fault that we then are misled.

Jim Barnett reports that congress is starting to wonder about these discrepancies; and the Cali. Senate freaks out about the the USDA's "memorandum of understanding".

Finally, Muir et al. find still more problems for GM fish [Science NOW | PNAS paper]

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

'avin' the painters in, luv?
Yes, it's that time of the month: I'm AWOL for the next week, during which time you may amuse yourselves with the links to your immediate right, which now consist almost solely of things I actually enjoy reading. You may also dull your pain with the morphine of the nation's food sections, easily accessible via Sauté Wednesday -- now featuring a handy collection of links explaining how to eat hamburgers without turning your nervous system into a limp puddle of... hamburger riven by the terrible crystaline beauty of uncountable amyloid plaques.
What, solipsism is uniquely american? Oh, you mean masturbation. Please God, make it stop. [Slate via the newly effusive tmftml, whose posse is also appropriating my favorite word. douchebags. here are my tendentious ruminations on the subject from before Pollit climbed in the gutter with Denby.]
Congress is paying attention, shockingly [Post]
"If indeed it is true that the only . . . infected cow in the nation was walking around, then clearly it's not safe to assume that all infected cattle will be downers," Marin said. "That in turn has serious implications for the Agriculture Department's surveillance program and serious ramifications for the information that has been shared with the public."
And Cali is in the vanguard again, of couse [Bee]
Criticized for its handling of a recent mad cow beef recall, California has asked the federal government about reworking the agreement that keeps recall details secret.

Los Angeles County bypassed the pact when it investigated a Southern California jerky manufacturer that processed more than half a ton of possibly tainted beef, The Bee has learned....

Los Angeles public health officials learned that Glenoaks received the beef despite a state process that keeps distribution details from becoming public unless affected businesses agree....

The USDA refuses to give any specific meat recall information to the 39 states that haven't signed its memorandum of understanding.

And then there's the "science" [Missoulian]
"I would say that what we know is about 15 percent of what's going on," said Suzette Priola, who works as an investigator in the Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases at the NIH's Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton. She is chairwoman of the Food and Drug Administration's Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) Advisory Committee.
15% seems optimistic, after yesterday's PNAS paper -- pretty good to have already generated one nobel prize. Suzette was also on npr yesterday. [some links via tidepool].

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

More on Mendocino's Measure H; more EU GM follies [something "new" happens with the EU almost every day -- I figure if you care about it more than I do, you can figure it out for yourself; but this is actually kind of amusing]
The Oregonian does the math:
In just 4 ounces, a typical burger patty is packed with the meat and fat of 50 to 100 cattle from multiple states and two to four countries.

Eat two hamburgers a week -- as the average American does -- and in a year's time the consumer samples a stampede: 5,200 to 10,400 cattle.

The Seattle Times tracks down the brains.

Meanwhile, Italians find a "new mad cow disease" [NYT | PNAS early edition]

Both the Italian cows, one 15 years old and one 11, appeared healthy. Their unusual strain was discovered only because Italy tests all cattle over 30 months old slaughtered for human food. By last August, it had tested 1.6 million and found 103 that tested positive for prions.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Misc.: cropchoice has a bunch of Schmeiser articles up, and the best report on GM soy in Argentina I've seen. IATP goes off on Open Ocean Aquaculture: "the privatization of the Continental Shelf." [Tidepool]; and, by the way, Laurie Garret's website sucks, but her writing doesn't -- see this on avian flu.
Bennett, et al., "An assessment of the risks associated with the use of antibiotic resistance genes in genetically modified plants," Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Advance Access published January 28, 2004. Abstract:
Development of genetically modified (GM) plants is contentious, in part because bacterial antibiotic resistance (AR) genes are used in their construction and often become part of the plant genome. This arouses concern that cultivation of GM plants might provide a reservoir of AR genes that could power the evolution of new drug-resistant bacteria. We have considered bacterial DNA transfer systems (conjugation, transduction and transformation) and mechanisms of recombination (homologous recombination, transposition, site-specific recombination and DNA repair) that together might productively transfer AR genes from GM plants to bacterial cells, but are unable to identify a credible scenario whereby new drug-resistant bacteria would be created. However, we cannot entirely rule out the possibility of rare transfer events that involve novel mechanisms. Hence, we also considered if occasional transfers of AR genes (blaTEM, aph(3'), aadA) from GM plants into bacteria would pose a threat to public health. These AR genes are common in many bacteria and each is found on mobile genetic elements that have moved extensively between DNA molecules and bacterial cells. This gene mobility has already severely compromised clinical use of antibiotics to which resistance is conferred. Accordingly, the argument that occasional transfer of these particular resistance genes from GM plants to bacteria would pose an unacceptable risk to human or animal health has little substance. We conclude that the risk of transfer of AR genes from GM plants to bacteria is remote, and that the hazard arising from any such gene transfer is, at worst, slight.
[via ISAAA] When I have a minute, I'll check out the pdf and see if there's anything interesting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Food Wed.
Dear LA Times: Is this Pinot Noir article an admission that your wine features have been full of shit for the past month?
Amid the current frenzy, prices frequently have little or no relationship to quality, which has been worse than spotty....

Pinot Noir is a terroir wine, meaning that the best examples express the particular mineral and climatic attributes of a property more than other varieties might. To create the illusion of exclusivity in the midst of a glut, ambitious vintners are subdividing their labels into dozens of vineyard-specific secondary labels....

Never mind that many of the latest Pinots are of disappointing quality and are overpriced: Wine drinkers are buying them, doubling sales of the varietal over the last decade.

The good news for Pinot Noir drinkers: Supply quadrupled during the same period....

"Disappointing" was the overwhelming reaction of a tasting panel The Times assembled to sample 28 of the new California Pinot Noirs....The overwhelming impression was that the wines are poor reflections of what Pinot Noir can be. Few showed any of the classic bright red fruit notes for which Pinot is known. Many were overly alcoholic, unpleasantly vegetal or simply lacking in character....

Yet while the panel came in expecting to discover more than a few exciting new wines � based on the track records of some of the producers and the reputation of some of the vineyards � general disappointment was so strong it bordered on outrage, particularly in light of the prices.

"Who do these guys think they are?" asked an incredulous Meadows.

Here's a free tip: if you want to drink a good pinot, you have to spend at least $25. [Pretty tough sell to the marketing dept., huh?] Also, when the dollar hits 3.5 euros, california wines might be worth the money.

Also in the Times, Emily Green offers a skeletal review of California olio nuovo. Shit, maybe the median Times reader's income really is a half mil.

The Chron has a useful discussion of west coast oysters, and an into to bergamot for the unititiated.

The NY Times, still apparently reeling from the belated realization that Manhattan is a mall, is a wash this week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Food for thought
Now that the USDA has moved on to more important things, mad cow is going to drop off the news radar. But nothing has been resolved, and you better think pretty hard before your next hamburger. I asked Dave Louthan how he changed from a happy slaughterer to a food safety crusader. His response was pretty impressive:
I 'm doing this because nobody else is. The North American herd is just full of BSE and the people that buy and eat meat just don't seem to understand that it's going to kill them and their kids. I've suspected there might be some BSE here and there but it didn't become real for me until I got that cow all over me.

On Dec. 24 we got word that the test on that cow came back positive. I thought well alright the USDA will be all over this. The killing will stop until they can set up a nation wide testing program. On Dec. 26 they told us at Vern's they were going to ban down cow slaughter and that would take care of the problem. I was floored, shocked, stunned, scared, and mad all at the same time. That cow was not a downer. This screamed coverup. My face turned red, my ears burned, my heart was pounding. In that exact moment I knew what was happening, I knew who was doing it, I knew why they were doing it, and I knew how to stop them. I marched straight out to the KXLY news crew locked outside the gate and I asked them "What do you want to know". The rest is history. What I didn't count on was the American consumers being so slow witted and gullible that they would just keep munching away at this tainted beef and pretending that it was happening some where else. I've realized now I'm not going to be able to save everybody but maybe I can save some lives.

Remember the big Jack-in-the-Box E-coli outbreak. I read a story in the paper when this was going on. A mother of one of the kids who died had said his last words to her before he went into a coma were "Mommy I love you". That tears my heart out every time I think about it. I MUST TRY TO STOP THAT FROM HAPPENNING AGAIN. So I have been on this 20 hours a day, everyday since Dec. 26. As far as I can tell I have made little or no progress toward getting it fixed. People just don't want to listen. Ann Veneman keeps lying and lying. Her own committee told us we have alot of sick cows here so she fired them and put another committee together made up of Ranchers, Rendering company people, For God's sake she hired a McDonalds company man. Guess what this committee's recomendations are going to be. This is blackhearted, underhanded, criminal. Would somebody please wake up the American people? The USDA is trying to kill you in the name of Profit. Thank you for your time.

Look, I've been chronicling the USDA's follies for long enough that none of this surprises or shocks me. You might even say I've resigned myself to cynicism. But Dave is right, this is a big deal. The USDA's reaction transcends incompetence, it transcends the usual calculated self-interest of the agribusiness executives who run the department. The whole point of everything they have done so far is to deny there is a problem (as Michael Hansen pointed out yesterday). This is calculatedly self-interested because it is a transparent attempt to re-open export markets, and it is incompetent because the surest way to prevent that from happening is a half-assed testing regime. (Better yet: explicitly ignore the recommendations of the international panel that the importing countries might take a little more seriously than Ann Veneman's lastest flight of fancy). But it transcends the usual USDA good-enough-for-government-work approach for 2 reasons:

1. It is based on a lie. If you believe Dave, and it is hard to think of a reason not to (don't forget at least 2 other people from Vern's Meats have confirmed the story), the cow in question was no downer, which is the only kind of cow tested, under both the old and new regimes. In other words, it is only an accident that they caught it, and BSE exists in seemingly healthy cows -- ones that will continued to be slaughtered for human consumption. This also begs the question: if they're only testing downers, and downers are now banned from the food supply, exactly how does the expanded testing improve the situation?

2. More obviously, people are going to die as a result of this. That's a pretty big deal, don't you think?

Hey douchebag. Can't you think of a better way to spend our taxes than watching cartoons with PETA?
"You don't need to be cramming food down Donald Duck's throat to have foie gras," Burton said in an interview, calling the procedure "an inhumane way to be dealing with our fine feathered friends."
sign the petition here.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Dave Louthan has his own website. Furthermore, he sent me the name and phone number of the USDA agent he says tried to intimidate him. More on Dave at MSNBC.

And today's Times explains the rather serious flaws in the USDA's improved" testing regime:

Some critics contend the United States' program indicates the Agriculture Department does not want to find a diseased cow, for fear of losing $4 billion in exports. "I'd say they were designing it to minimize the chance of finding any," said Dr. Michael C. Hansen, who studies food safety for Consumers Union.
More from the Bee:
Harvard risk analyst Joshua Cohen said that the number of BSE-infected cattle in the national herd could range between "zero and a few thousand." The reason for the wide swing, he said, is that the USDA targeted downer cows, skewing the math.

"Those factors taken together mean that (the Washington cow) could be an unusual case," Cohen said. "This wasn't a random sample. It was a sample targeted at a particular kind of cow. That means you can't project with any certainty how many other cows in the general population are sick."

Cohen co-authored a 2001 study on mad cow disease by Harvard's Center for Risk Analysis. The USDA often cites the study as proof their system is adequate.

Finally, Alan Guebert asks the $4 billion dollar question:
We may not be the sharpest butcher knife in the drawer, so please explain this brain-breaking dilemma: If USDA has found just 28 of the 81 cattle imported into the US with the Dec. 23 Washington state mad cow, why does it fervently believe the 50 or so nations that banned US beef imports after Dec. 23 will swiftly remove those bans even though we can�t account for the MICs--missing in action cows--let alone one of the other 300,000 Canadian cows now in the US?

If you have an answer, please write it on the back of a current Tyson Foods annual report--or its most recent quarterly profit statement that shows a 46% increase in earnings for the �mad cow� quarter just ended--and send it to either us or Ann Veneman.

and another thing [Post]
"Our investigation is now complete," Dr. Ron DeHaven, the department's chief veterinarian, said Monday. "We feel very confident the remaining animals, the ones we have not been able to positively identify, represent little risk."

The closure leaves officials not knowing what happened to 11 head of cattle among 25 that authorities say were most likely to have eaten the same feed as that given to a Holstein diagnosed in Washington state with mad cow after it was slaughtered on Dec. 9.

Nothing to see here people. Move along.
peaceful coexistence
So, if you're worried about eating GM food, you're fucked [nsu]:
A wide range of 'organic' food products on sale in the United Kingdom contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, according to a study due to be published in April. The revelation has prompted organisations that certify food as organic and GM-free, such as the Soil Association, to hurriedly review their procedures.

Transgenic soya was found in ten of 25 organic or health food products tested by Mark Partridge and Denis Murphy, biotechnology researchers at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd, Wales. Eight of the ten were labelled either as 'organic', which should indicate the absence of transgenic ingredients under Soil Association rules, or explicitly as 'GM-free'.

Now, there is no reason why you should find this particularly alarming (unless you are trying to make a living growing organic soy, in which case you're really fucked). Except for the fact that that the engineered DNA is transferred to your intestinal bacteria. Guess we're all GM now.

Meanwhile in ND:

Several members of a group studying farming policies related to biotech crops resigned from the panel after branding the process a failure.

The resignations Saturday were in protest of the group's proposed management practices for farmers, said Janet Jacobson, an organic farmer from Wales.

Unrelated: Monsanto shares up on analyst upgrade.

Friday, February 06, 2004

H5N1: aunt flu's visit
FAO downplays possible avian flu jump to pigs in Vietnam. Science fortuitously publishes 2 papers linking the "efficiency" of the 1918 Spanish flu (20 million dead) to "avain precursor hemagglutinin membrane glycoprotein" [GNN news story]. Deep background in free Nature "web focus".

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Sorry, I'm busy this week. Can't you figure out for yourself to go to Saute Wednesday, read Bruce's weekly thoughts, then disperse from there to the papers? plus other links, like this:
In the end, much of what passes for food writing remains "lifestyle journalism," says Warren Belasco, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County who studies food issues and food media. "I see it as a handmaiden to consumer culture, helping people refine their choices, become more expert as consumers, more discriminating."

What's been sorely lacking, Belasco says, is more incisive coverage of agriculture, "which is the world's largest industry and yet virtually invisible for the most part."

mo' mad
more mad cows [Post]
There is a "high probability" that more American cattle are infected with mad cow disease than the one found in Washington state late last year, an international panel of experts convened by the Agriculture Department said yesterday.
NCBA hoppin' mad
�Clearly, some members of the panel do not have a full understanding of the systems we have in place in the U.S,� says Dr. Gary Weber, NCBA executive director of regulatory affairs.... �It is imperative that the panel�s recommendations be evaluated in comparison to the Harvard model.�
Luckily, the onset of dementia saved them from shooting themselves in the other foot.

update: the USDA still has both feet, because you can't aim right with your head in the sand:

"I don't anticipate that we have a significant issue in this country," Veneman told reporters when asked if there could be more cases of the brain-wasting disease. She spoke after addressing a lunch for farm and agribusiness lobbyists.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Dave Louthan is on fire [Seattle P-I]
Louthan [told the WA state legislature] that despite the current focus on mad cow disease, little real industry change would occur.

"The public eye's going to look at this for about a minute and then it's going to turn away," he said.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Bioprospecting "cold rush" in the Antarctic [Guardian]
Dave Louthan, slaughterer/whistleblower, makes the Times. Claiming that USDA agents in green cars are following him isn't going to do him any favors (even if it's true). [Also, last week's Seattle Times, GAP, Columbia Basin Herald followup]

Monday, February 02, 2004

Schmeiser arguments
This Cropchoice analysis gets into the legal strategy -- to wit, Monsanto's patent on the RR gene is meaningless, except insofar as it is expressed by the seed/plant, which constitues a "higher life form": unpatentable by Canadian law. Schmeiser's argument that the RR seeds basically "fell off a truck" is not at issue, luckily for him. [also see Western Producer]

©2002-2005 by the author