News bites, September 2001
Sound Consumer September 2001
Got cloned milk?
Milk from cloned cows may be coming to a grocery store nearby, unless the federal government intervenes. ABC News reports that an experimental dairy farm in Wisconsin is producing some of the world’s first milk from a herd of 21 cloned cows, 17 of them from the same original animal.
Infigen, the biotech company that runs the farm, says cloned animals are not considered genetically engineered because their DNA has not been modified in any way, simply copied. The Food and Drug Administration has asked biotech companies to voluntarily refrain from selling animal products derived from clones, but there are no laws in place and there are no completed scientific studies on the milk’s safety.
A recent study found that only two to five percent of attempts to clone animals succeed and that while many clones appear normal, they harbor genes that don’t express themselves properly. Some cloned animals, including Dolly the cloned sheep, have shown strange symptoms like becoming abnormally obese.
Rich get richer
A report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) shows that the rich get richer under current federal farm subsidies. The report to the Senate Agriculture Committee shows that large and medium-sized commodity farms receive 81 percent of federal farm payments.
Because subsidies are tied to historic and current production levels, the largest payments go to a small number of established agribusinesses growing great quantities of a few crops. The corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat grown on these mega-farms, among other “commodities,” support international speculation in export trade. Surpluses drive down prices, hurting small farmers and farming communities.
The head of Monsanto’s Washington lobbying office, Linda Fisher, has been appointed deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. From 1995 to 2000, Fisher was Vice-President and Corporate Officer at Monsanto where she played a key role in addressing the public policies and public acceptance issues raised by biotechnology. The Bush Administration already includes at least four others with ties to Monsanto.
New name for pesticide plants
The EPA has issued a new final rule changing the terminology of genetically engineered crops. Plants that have been engineered to express pesticides now will be called “Plant-Incorporated Protectants.” Until the change, the EPA registered these GE crops as “Plant-Pesticides.” The biotech industry reportedly lobbied for the change for marketing reasons.