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This article was originally published in January 2001

USDA Receiving Comments on GE Foods

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting public comments on how it should regulate genetically engineered crops. USDA Secretary Dan Glickman is seeking public input after a genetically engineered corn meant only for livestock made its way into the U.S. food system. This led to recalls of more than 300 products made with non-organic corn (Organic standards prohibit the use of genetically engineered ingredients.).

Glickman wants public input on whether the USDA should review or certify the performance of companies’ systems to segregate gene-altered grain from conventional crops. The USDA may also consider oversight of companies that test for certain genetic material in crops to assure reliability. Comments will be accepted by the USDA until February 28, 2001.

Currently, the USDA monitors crop field trials to make sure the crop grows in the way the manufacturer says it will. The FDA has jurisdiction over labeling and human safety issues. For more on this, see Comments should be addressed:

Re: Docket Number FGIS-2000-001a
Richard Hardy
Room 0757-S
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-3650

Are Organic Apples Better?

The U.S. government has taken steps to outlaw the use of chlorpyrifos insecticides such as Dursban and Lorsban in homes, saying they present a threat to human health; but these insecticides still will be allowed for use on commercial food crops. The chemical is used on about 75 percent of the apples grown in the United States.

Organic Farming can be Equally Profitable

A study by the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alterntive Agriculture shows that farmers who switch to organic production methods can gain profits equal to or greater than those made by conventional farming.*

Heinz Goes Organic

The H. J. Heinz Company says it will add organic foods to its line of products. Heinz recently acquired Linda McCartney’s frozen organic food line as well as several companies in India and Italy.*

Saccharin Taken Off Carcinogen List

The U.S. government has taken saccharin off its list of potential carcinogens. Experiments in 1981 showed saccharin caused bladder cancer in rats and that led the artificial sweetener to be ranked as “reasonably anticipated” to be a carcinogen. Recently, the government stated that factors causing tumors in rats do not occur in humans. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the government is “making a serious mistake” that will put children and others at risk.*

Wild Asian Ginseng Threatened

Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) appears to be on the brink as an endangered species. The American Herbal Products Association has endorsed listing Asian ginseng with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Listing would signal that Asian ginseng is on the verge of becoming threatened. Experts say that wild goldenseal and kava kava also may be edging toward endangerment from shrinking habitat and overharvesting.
*Information from NNFA, the National
Nutritional Foods Association. See the website,

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