Organic View Vol.2 Number 2
An e-mail publication of the Organic Consumers Association

Affiliated with the Bio-Democracy Campaign.
v.2 n.2 February 29, 2000

Contents
1. Frito-Lay Asks Farmers Not To Plant Genetically Engineered Corn
2. Biosafety Agreement Achieves Partial Victory
3. Safe Seed Inititiative
4. EPA Told To Respond To Lawsuit
5. Gene Drift Research
6. Interesting Recent Articles

1. Frito-Lay Asks Farmers Not to Plant Genetically Engineered Corn

In the first move of its kind by a major US food company,
Frito-Lay has asked its farmers to not grow genetically
engineered corn to be used in the company's corn chips and
other food products. The Frito-Lay announcement is the most
significant sign that major US food companies are trying to
distance themselves from this uncertain technology.

A Frito-Lay spokesperson told the Associated Press that the
decision was made because consumers had expressed concern
about genetically engineered foods. ``There is some consumer
concern out there. We felt at this time it's appropriate to
ask our growers not to sell us genetically altered corn.''

In 1999, Frito-Lay (owned by Pepsico) bought 1.2 billion
pounds of corn to be used in products such as Doritos,
Fritos and Tostitos chips. More than 95 percent of the corn
purchased by Frito-Lay comes from farmers that are under
direct contract to the company.

It is unclear, however, how the company will take steps to
guarantee the other five percent of its corn is
non-engineered. In addition, Frito-Lay does buy some
ingredients in bulk, including oils, that could derive from
genetically engineered crops. The company is not
guaranteeing that its products are genetically engineered
free, and Frito-Lay has stated that it currently has no
plans to start marketing its products as
genetically-engineered free.

While a number of organic and natural food companies have
announced that they have no genetically engineered
ingredients, Frito-Lay's announcement is by far the most
significant by a major US food company. Last year, Gerber
and Heinz announced that they would not use genetically
engineered ingredients in their baby food.

An estimated 60 to 70 percent of processed foods on US
supermarket shelves have some genetically engineered
ingredients in them.

Frito-Lay is being sharply criticized by the biotech
industry and other large US food companies for its decision.
Give Frito-Lay a call: 1-800-352-4477. Or e-mail:
<consumer.affairs@fritolay.com>

Let them know that you support their decision to not grow
genetically engineered corn. Ask them to take the next step
and ensure that 100 percent of their ingredients are
genetically engineered free.

2. Biosafety Agreement Achieves Partial Victory

In Montreal last month, governments from around the world
reached agreement on the first treaty governing genetically
engineered crops. The agreement, known as the Biosafety
Protocol, was hailed as a good first step by environmental
groups.

The agreement involved over 130 nations and sets the
framework for additional negotiations over genetically
engineered foods and crops.

In a major victory for those fighting genetically engineered
foods around the world, the treaty acknowledges the
importance of the "precautionary principle" - which states
that these new foods can be rejected by other countries if
there are unanswered scientific questions pending their
safety. The US delegation has previously argued that
genetically engineered foods and crops should be considered
safe unless there is scientific proof that they are
dangerous.

The Protocol for the first time establishes on an
international level that genetically engineered foods are
distinct and different, and should regulated differently
than conventional foods.

Under the treaty, shipments containing genetically
engineered commodities must be labeled that they "may
contain" genetically modified organisms. Farmers and food
companies are not required to separate genetically
engineered seeds and other seeds. However, if engineered and
non-engineered crops are mixed together - they will have to
be labeled as "may contain." It is unclear whether this
label will serve as an incentive for US farmers to go
GE-free or for US exporters to segregate crops.

The protocol covers commodities, not foods, but most US
exports are currently commodities, including seeds.

The protocol is an outgrowth of the Convention on Biological
Diversity created during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de
Janeiro. Once 50 countries ratify the treaty and the
Protocol goes into effect, which could take two or three
years, a new round of negotiations on more specific
labeling requirements will begin. Although the US has still
not ratified the Convention, the US will have to comply with
the Protocol when exporting to countries that have ratified
the Convention.

It is expected that large agricultural interests will
challenge countries rejecting genetically engineered
commodities through the World Trade Organization (WTO). The
Biosafety Protocol does not override rules and obligations
established under the WTO. Late last year, a WTO meeting was
met with mass protests in Seattle over a number of issues,
including the establishment of trade rules over genetically
engineered foods.

3. Coalition Pushes Seed Companies To Go GE-Free

The Safe Seed Initiative has received written assurance from
50 seed companies around the country that they will "not
knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or
plants." The effort is being led by the Council for
Responsible Genetics and the High Mowing Organic Seed Farm.

Companies who support the Safe Seed Initiative sign a pledge
which states in part, "We feel that genetically engineered
varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public
release. More research and testing is necessary to further
assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds.
Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads
to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural
ecosystems and ultimately people and communities."

Seed companies who have signed the pledge include the
following:

Abundant Life Seed Foundation
Bountiful Gardens
Environmental Seed Producers
Horse Creek Seed Sanctuary
KUSA Seed Research Foundation
Santa Barbara Heirloom Nursery
Beauty Beyond Belief Wildflower Seeds
Sunnyland Seeds
New England Seed Co.
Butterbrooke Farm
The Pepper Gal
Glendale Enterprises
Florida Mycology Research Center
Seeds Trust & High Altitude Gardens
Underwood Gardens
Borries Open Pollinated Seed Corn Farm
Seed Savers Exchange
Sand Hill Preservation Center
FedCo Seeds
Johnny's Selected Seeds
Maine Seed Saving Network
Wood Prairie Farm
Pioneer Valley Seed Savers
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Barney's Ginseng Patch
Morgan County Wholesale
Garden City Seeds
Seeds of Change
Deep Diversity
Boone's Native Seed Company
Christopher Weeks Peppers
Mellinger's Inc.
Nichol's Garden Nursery
Peters Seed & Research
Territorial Seed Company
Horizon Herbs
Wild Garden Seed
Heirloom Seeds
Pepper Joe's
Bethlehem Seed Company
Heirloom Seed Project
Seeds for the South
Arethusa Seed Farm
High Mowing Organic Seed Farm
The Cook's Garden
Zwaan Seeds
Ladybug Herbs of Vermont
Garden Medicinals & Culinaries
Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants
Filaree Farm
Fungi Perfecti

CANADA:
Richters Herbs
Alberta Nurseries & Seeds
Prairie Garden Seeds
Terra Edibles
Mapple Farm
Salt Spring Seeds

For more information on the Safe Seed Initiative, contact
Kim Wilson at the Council for Responsible Genetics -
kimwilson@gene-watch.org

4. EPA Told To Respond To Lawsuit

A federal judge ruled on January 19th that the US
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has 60 days to respond
to charges made in a lawsuit filed by Greenpeace, organic
farmers, and other environmental groups regarding
genetically engineered Bt crops.

The lawsuit charges the agency with the wanton destruction
of the world's most important biological pesticide -- Bt.
This natural pesticide has been used sparingly by organic
farmers for years but is now under threat from genetically
engineered crops. Corn genetically engineered with the Bt
pesticide in each of its cells could lead to insect
resistance within 3 to 4 years, making it virtually useless
for organic farmers. By approving engineered Bt crops, the
EPA may necessitate the use of more powerful pesticides in
the near future. Studies also have shown pollen from Bt corn
to be toxic to monarch and other butterfly larvae.

Market rejection of Bt corn has cost U.S. farmers more than
$200 million in export revenue last year. A recent Reuters
poll of 400 farmers (taken at the annual meeting of the
nation's largest farm organization, the American Farm Bureau
Federation) predicted a 24 percent decline in the planting
of Bt corn and a 26 percent decline in the planting of Bt
cotton this year. Currently, Bt corn is grown on
approximately 20 million acres in the U.S., and Bt cotton on
about 7 million acres. As stated in story one of this issue,
Frito-Lay is now asking its contract farmers to no longer
grow genetically engineered Bt corn.

The original lawsuit was filed by legal counsel at the
Center for Food Safety on February 18, 1998. The lawsuit was
filed after the EPA failed to respond to a petition filed on
September 16, 1997.

For more information on the lawsuit, check out the Center
for Food Safety's site:
http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/li/BTpress.html

5. Genetic Drift Research

British researchers announced earlier last month that
genetically engineered crops can send pollen over distances
of several kilometres and spread their genes into
conventional, non-modified crops. The discovery was made by
analyzing pollen found in beehives.

The problems associated with genetic drift raise questions
of whether conventional or organic crops can be protected
from contamination.

The discovery comes after the British government mandated
200-meter buffer zones around test plots of modified canola,
corn and other crops, in order to keep the test crops'
pollen from fertilizing ordinary crops.

But activists opposed to the tests in Britain set up
pollen-catching "traps" over a wide area around a test farm
this summer. And they found no limits to how far the pollen
(and therefore the modified genes) spread. The U.K. chapter
of Friends of the Earth hired an independent group, the
National Pollen Research Unit, to put out pollen traps
beginning 400 metres from the test field. The researchers
scattered five more at increasing distances, the final one a
full 4.5 kilometres from the test crop.

As well as tracking the bees' pollen, the survey set out
traps to catch pollen blown on the wind. This found
wind-borne pollen travelled 475 metres, again well beyond
the official buffer zone.

Additional information on the flow of genetically engineered
pollen can be found at the website of the Soil Association,
based in the United Kingdom, http://www.soilassociation.org/

6. Important Recent Articles

Below are the titles and links to interesting articles
published recently on issues related to organic food and
food safety. These articles can be found on the website of
our affiliated organization, the BioDemocracy Campaign
(www.purefood.org)

2-6 - New Seed Planted in Genetic Flap -
http://www.purefood.org/ge/fritolayhalf.cfm

2-3 - Agbiotech: Trouble in the Garden (Part 1) Rachel's -
http://www.purefood.org/Corp/rach685.cfm

1-28 - Agribusiness Tells US Congress--Don't Label GE Foods
Labels on biotech foods would raise prices-US industry
http://www.purefood.org/ge/agriBusnoLabel.cfm

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