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>From: "Andy Zimmerman" <[log in to unmask]>
>To: nyban <[log in to unmask]>
>Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2000 05:16:22 -0400
>Subject: GEAN Update #1 - Genetic Engineering Action Network, USA
>Issue #1          G E A N   U p d a t e      Sept. 29, 2000
>    Published by Genetic Engineering Action Network, USA
>         Editor: Andy Zimmerman, [log in to unmask]
>Taco Debacle
>Vermont: Fertile Ground Festival
>New York City: GEAN Regional Conference
>GEAN Gleanings
>This is the first issue of GEAN Update, a biweekly newsletter
>which will consider genetic engineering from a skeptical point
>of view. GEAN Update will strive to provide a snapshot of
>what's going on with the technology and its critics. Though we
>will focus on the agricultural applications of biotechnology, and
>on events in the USA, we will stray further afield when
>We aim to serve you, the interested reader. Please send us
>your feedback, and let us know if there's an item you think we
>should cover.
>Genetic Engineering Action Network, USA is an alliance of
>groups working to educate the public about the risks of
>biotechnology. For information about GEAN, contact its
>national co-ordinator, Renske van Staveren,
>[log in to unmask]
>Taco Debacle
>The faith of millions of Americans in our food system was
>shaken during the past two weeks, as news of genetically
>tainted taco shells was splashed across the nation's front
>pages and TV and computer screens. On Sept. 18, it was
>revealed by the Genetically Engineered Food Alert coalition,
>led by Friends of the Earth, that Taco Bell taco shells had
>tested positive for StarLink, a corn variety not approved for
>human consumption.
>StarLink corn, a product of the French chemical company
>Aventis, uses a gene derived from a soil bacterium to produce
>its own pesticide - a protein called Cry9C which kills corn
>borers. But because Cry9C has characteristics of a human
>allergen, the Environmental Protection Administration has
>approved StarLink only for livestock feed and industrial uses.
>In the days following this bombshell, a number of mysteries
>remained unsolved:
>How did the wrong variety of corn get into the food? The taco
>shells had a tortuous corporate history. Made from corn
>ground at a Texas mill partly owned by Archer-Daniels-
>Midland, they were processed at a Mexican factory owned by
>PepsiCo and marketed under the Taco Bell name by Kraft
>Foods, a unit of Philip Morris. Where the contamination took
>place is anyone's guess.
>What other products are similarly compromised? No one
>knows. Indeed, if Friends of the Earth had not happened to
>purchase and test these particular taco shells, the
>contamination might never have come to light.
>Can Cry9C make us ill? Again, no one knows. The protein
>molecule is the right size to be an allergen, it's heat stable,
>and it isn't degraded by stomach acid - so it could possibly
>enter the human bloodstream. But there's no direct way at
>present to test the allergenicity of substances that have never
>before occurred in food. No way, that is, except to turn them
>loose on the unsuspecting public and see what happens.
>The biotech food industry is now hunkering down. Kraft has
>recalled the offending taco shells; Taco Bell restaurants are
>finding new sources for their taco shells, some of which had
>been made from the same corn; and Aventis has announced it
>will no longer market StarLink seeds, although it's unclear
>what will be done with the StarLink corn that is being
>harvested this year.
>Some biotech boosters seem stunned by the turn of events.
>"This is not a label issue. This is not a biotech issue. This is
>an error in the food safety system," claimed Gene Grabowski
>of Grocery Manufacturers of America (Susan Kelly, "Food
>Firms Scour Supply Chain after Kraft Recall," Reuters, Sept.
>"It is a matter of hysteria," declared Senator Kit Bond (R) of
>Missouri ("Genetically Modified Food: Is It Safe?" CNN
>Crossfire, Sept. 19).
>And some activists want more: the Sierra Club has announced
>that it will now pressure Kraft, the #1 food producer in the
>U.S., to swear off all genetically engineered ingredients. You
>can join in by calling Kraft at 800 847 1997.
>As the dust settles, a couple of points have become clear:
>that once genetically modified organisms get out into the
>environment, there's no telling where they'll end up; and that
>genetically engineered food containing potentially harmful
>substances is virtually indistinguishable from the normal stuff.
>But haven't activists been saying these things all along?
>Friends of the Earth,
>Genetically Engineered Food Alert,
>Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Group, [log in to unmask]
>Environmental Defense,
>(for more on Cry9C)
>Vermont: Fertile Ground Festival
>It's leaf-peeping season in Vermont, and this year there will be
>no better place to do it than the Fertile Ground Festival, to be
>held Saturday, Oct. 7, 1 to 6 PM on the State House lawn in
>Montpelier. The festival's theme will be "Celebrating Our
>Harvest and Sowing Resistance to Genetic Engineering." It
>will feature organic farm displays, speakers, music, theater
>and a parade with Bread & Puppet Theater. Presented by
>Vermont Genetic Engineering Action Network and Institute for
>Social Ecology. Info: 802 454 9957, [log in to unmask]
>New York City: GEAN Regional Conference
>A big deal! From Friday, Oct. 13 to Sunday, Oct. 15,
>hundreds of people from the New York metropolitan area and
>beyond will convene at City University of New York Graduate
>Center, 365 Fifth Ave. at 34th St., for the first regional
>conference of Genetic Engineering Action Network, USA. A
>multimedia exhibition, expert panels and workshops will
>culminate in a street action. This will be a great opportunity for
>local activists and curious newcomers to rub shoulders with a
>bunch of the most knowledgeable people in the country on
>biotechnology issues.
>Best of all, the event is free and open to everyone. Advance
>registration is recommended at 212 817 8215 or
>[log in to unmask] Check the latest schedule at
>If you'd like to volunteer to help, please call 212 674 8918.
>GEAN Gleanings
>Norwich, England: Twenty-eight Greenpeace campaigners
>who cut down a six-acre experimental field of genetically
>engineered corn in July have been found not guilty by a jury.
>Lord Peter Melchett, organic farmer and executive director of
>Greenpeace UK, was among those acquitted. The verdict
>raised the question of whether Tony Blair's government can
>continue to test biotech crops in the face of popular opposition
>(David Brown and David Sapsted, "G.M. Battle Fears as
>Melchett is Cleared," The Daily Telegraph [London], Sept. 21).
>Millau, France: José Bové, who became a national hero in
>August 1999 when he wrecked an unfinished McDonald's
>restaurant in a protest against American agricultural and
>trade policies, was given a longer than expected sentence of
>three months in jail by a judge. He is free pending appeal
>("France's Anti Junk Food Hero Gets Jail Term for
>McDonald's Attack," Agence France Presse, Sept. 13).