Food Safety Week
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
April 26, 1994
Volume 2, Number 8
- rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
- RESTRICTIONS ON MEXICAN FRUIT AND VEGETABLE IMPORTS
- FDA TO PROPOSE PRE-MARKET NOTIFICATION FOR BIOTECH FOODS
- RESIDUE SURVEY RESULTS RELEASED
- REPORT SAYS CAUSE FOR CONCERN OVER FOOD SAFETY UNDER GATT
- EPA URGES SOME PRIVATE WELL USERS TO TURN TO BOTTLED
- REPORT SAYS CONSUMERS PAYING FOR WATER WEIGHT IN
- SMOG COULD HASTEN FOOD PRODUCTION DECREASES
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
Last week, three members of Congress asked the congressional
watchdog General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct an
investigation into possible conflicts of interests on the part of three
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employees. Representatives
David Obey (D-WI), George Brown, Jr. (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-
VT) wrote to GAO Comptroller General Charles Bowsher requesting
his office investigate Michael Taylor, Dr. Margaret Miller and Susan
Sechen. All three had ties to Monsanto, the maker of the Posilac,
which is the first recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or BST)
product to hit the market.
The three representatives made the request after allegedly receiving
an anonymous letter from concerned employees of the FDA's Center
on Veterinary Medicine. The unsigned letter said that employees of
the CVM were afraid to speak publically about their concerns out of
fear of retribution by Center Director Dr. Robert Livingston, who they
claim "openly harasses anyone who states an opinion in opposition to
his." The letter was also sent to the GAO, Consumers Union, FDA
Commissioner David Kessler and the Inspector General.
Obey, Brown and Sanders are asking the GAO to investigate Michael
Taylor, deputy commission of policy at FDA, who formerly worked
for the law firm King & Spaulding, which represents Monsanto.
Taylor was instrumental in the development of FDA voluntary
guidelines for dairy products derived from cows treated with rBGH.
They also ask for an investigation into the activities of Dr. Margaret
Miller, deputy director of the FDA's Office of New Animal Drugs.
Miller is a former employee of Monsanto and was instrumental in the
development of rBGH. Lastly, they express concerns over the
involvement of Susan Sechen, who worked for researcher Dale
Bauman while Cornell University was conducting Monsanto-funded
tests on rBGH. Sechen is currently a data reviewer at the FDA and
worked with the data used by the agency when it determined that
rBGH is safe. "There is strong evidence that all three of these
employees may have violated at least two ethical regulations
applicable to them pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations," the
The representatives also ask that the actions of Dr. Livingston be
investigated; that the case of Dr. Richard Burroughs, a former FDA
employee who was allegedly fired for his insistence that stringent
research demands be placed on rBGH, be examined; and that all FDA
employees who have or have had some kind of involvement with
Monsanto be identified.
FDA spokesperson Jim O'Hara said all possible conflicts of interest
were reviewed and "found to be without any basis. We have looked
at these charges and feel comfortable that the appropriate
safeguards against conflicts of interest have been taken." For his
part, Michael Taylor was reluctant to comment but said, "I would
welcome any scrutiny of my actions."
In other news, a researcher at the University of Missouri's Food and
Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) told a La Crosse, WI
dairy meeting recently that the nation's average dairy herd
production levels will increase by more than 1,000 pounds as a
result of rBGH use. D. Scott Brown told participants that per cow
production is expected to rise by 1,600 pounds and 65% of all cows in
the U.S. are expected to be treated with rBGH by the year 1998. As a
result, U.S. average herd production will increase by about 1,040
Brown's analysis assumes that consumers will not decrease dairy
consumption out of concern over rBGH. In fact, he believes that it
will rise 25 billion pounds by early next century. FAPRI also admits
milk prices for farmers will drop over the next three years. Average
milk price in 1996 is expected to be approximately 60 cents a
hundredweight lower than what farmers receive now. Early next
century, as the nation's herd size falls 1.2 million head, prices will
stabilize and rise. "We'll start to work BGH through our system,"
Brown said. The study did not account for changes in dairy imports
due the the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
The largest dairy cooperative in the Northeast decided last week to
lift its self-imposed moratorium on the use of rBGH by its members.
Agri-Mark cooperative said it made the decision after pressure from
members. "Agri-Mark isn't in business to tell farmers what to do
with their farms," said Agri-Mark economist Robert Wellington.
Some members expressed anger over the decision. "I am upset with
the decision -- milk is wholesome. We're not going to use it in our
cows," said farmer Anne Burke. Wellington said the co-op would
comply with the new Vermont law, which requires co-ops that
receive milk from farmers who have treated their cows with rBGH to
be labeled as such.
The publication AGWEEK recently called for the labeling of products
derived from cows treated with rBGH. "There are compelling reasons
for the dairy industry to support such labeling. The most important
one is the consumer. It is a matter of choice, equivalent to the choice
of individual dairy producers to use or not use BST," the editorial
The National Farmers Union (NFU) of Canada approved a resolution at
its mid-March meeting calling for a two-year moratorium on the
commercialization of rBGH in Canada. The organization said it was
concerned that Agriculture Canada had not studied the full impact
the synthetic drug might have on Canadian dairy farmers. "The
assumption is that BST hormone will increase the competitiveness of
Canadian producers by allowing them to increase volume," said NFU
Vice President Carol Masse. "However, our existing volume already
meets the needs of the market."
Source: Keith Schneider, "Congressmen Seek Inquiry of Milk
Hormone Approval," NEW YORK TIMES, April 18, 1994; John
Schwartz, "Probe of 3 FDA Officials Sought," WASHINGTON POST,
April 19, 1994; Letter from Reps. David Obey, George Brown, Jr. and
Bernie Sanders to GAO, April 15, 1994; Letter from Concerned CVM
Employees to Various Parties, March 16, 1994; Joel McNair, "Forecast:
BGH to Add 1,000 Pounds to U.S. Milk Average," AGRI VIEW, April
15, 1994; Wilson Ring, "Agri-Mark to Allow Cow Hormone Use," AP,
April 19, 1994; "BST Usage Should Be Identified," AG WEEK, April 18,
1994; "NFU Calls for 2-Year Ban on BST Hormone," UNION FARMER,
RESTRICTIONS ON MEXICAN FRUIT AND VEGETABLE
In late February, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS) announced it is relaxing restrictions on many fruit
and vegetable imports from Mexico. The agency added San Luis Rio
Colorado to a growing list of areas from which certain fruits and
vegetables can be imported into the U.S. without being subject to
plant pest treatment. "This regulatory change will allow apples,
apricots, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, persimmons, pomegranates
and tangerines to be imported into the United States from the San
Luis Rio Colorado area of Mexico without treatment for plant pests,"
said B. Glen Lee of APHIS. The agency claims the area is free of any
pests that could endanger U.S. production. APHIS maintains that
only imports of oranges, peaches and grapefruits could increase
under the change, but any increase would not significantly impact
Source: "USDA Relaxes Restrictions in Fruit and Vegetable Imports
>From Areas in Mexico," USDA Ag News Service, February 28, 1994.
FDA TO PROPOSE PRE-MARKET NOTIFICATION FOR BIOTECH
At a meeting of the FDA's food advisory committee this month, an
official suggested the agency will require that food biotech
company's file a premarket notification with the agency. Participants
questioned the adequacy of current FDA policy, which does not
require that foods derived through genetic engineering be labeled as
such. "Because this (biotechnology) is a new area, FDA is going to see
how our policy holds up," said James Maryanski, biotechnology
coordinator with the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied
Nutrition. "We are going to be proposing a premarket notification"
for products of food biotechnology, he said. The Flavr Savr tomato
provided the focus for the meeting. After the meeting, the agency
said the tomato "is as safe as other commonly consumed tomatoes."
Source: "FDA Eyes Premarket Notice for New Biotech Foods,"
NUTRITION LABELING WATCH, April 11, 1994.
RESIDUE SURVEY RESULTS RELEASED
The results of a 1992 study by the USDA on pesticide residue levels
for produce was released earlier this month. The findings include:
49 chemicals were detected in 61.2% of apples, bananas and other
produce tested; nearly 40% of the produce tested contained no
residues; about 1% of the samples, 15 of which were imported and 53
of which showed residues from chemicals not approved for use on
that particular crop, had residues above the legal limits set by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and apples had the highest
incidence of residues at 88.5% while broccoli had the lowest at 35.3%.
The Clinton administration said the results show that while residues
do appear in produce, they are at "harmless" levels. Critics, however,
said the data demonstrates tolerance levels are outdated and the
standards don't account for multiple residues, such as one particular
apple which showed up with eight types of chemicals. "Some little
two-year-old chomping on that apple, it's not really a good idea," said
Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group. Al Heier of the
EPA said there is no way for researchers to determine the
cumulative effects of chemicals. William Franks of the USDA's
Agricultural Marketing Service, said, "We are finding more pesticide
residues because we are looking harder."
In February, an independent researcher was fined and sentenced to
five years in prison after he was convicted of falsifying tests which
determine the presence of pesticide residues on food. Don Allen
Craven, owner of Craven Laboratories in Austin, Texas, came under
investigation in 1990 after a whistleblower reported that tests, used
by the EPA to determine residue levels, were being falsified.
Fourteen other Craven employees pleaded guilty to felony or
misdemeanor charges as a result of the investigation by the EPA, U.S.
Attorney Generals Office and the Department of Justice. EPA said it
is in the process of replacing some of the studies and that the
nation's food supply had not been compromised. "Corporate officials
who falsify data have committed an egregious wrong and should be
subject to the severest of penalties. Incarceration is one cost of doing
business that cannot be passed on to the consumer," said EPA
Assistant Administrator for Enforcement Steven Korman.
Source: Robert Greene, "Pesticides-Food," AP, April 12, 1994; "Craven
Laboratories Owner Sentenced to Prison for Falsifying Pesticide
Tests," Email communication, March 3, 1994.
REPORT SAYS CAUSE FOR CONCERN OVER FOOD SAFETY
A report released last week by Public Citizen and the Environmental
Working Group concludes that the United States' food safety
standards will be compromised under the new GATT. The report
recommends that a three-year moratorium be placed on food safety
standard challenges under GATT and its successor, the World Trade
Organization (WTO). "Trading Away U.S. Food Safety" maintains that
it is dangerous to allow international food safety standards to be set
by the Codex Alimentarius, an independent body dominated by
industry. Many U.S. standards are stronger than Codex standards,
the report points out. Currently, there are 241 food and substances
in which Codex allows carcinogens and the U.S. does not. In another
47 cases, both the U.S. and Codex allow carcinogens, but the U.S.
tolerance level is lower.
Ralph Nader, founder of Public Citizen, said the new pact could affect
the ability of countries to ban substances it considers harmful.
Growth hormone bans, food irradiation restrictions, inspection
standards and nutrition labeling could all be challenged under GATT.
"Nothing is more likely to pull down our present U.S. consumer and
environmental protections and derail future advances than the
proposed trade deal," Nader said.
Last week, U.S. officials downplayed rumors that a challenge to the
European Union's (EU) ban on imports of U.S. beef due to the use of
growth hormones in this country would be executed soon. A British
newspaper quoted a U.S. official in early April as saying that the EU
ban is GATT-illegal and that sanctions under the super 301 trade law
would be sought. The unnamed official said any trade bans imposed
on unscientific grounds would be challenged. In response to the EU's
ban on U.S. beef imports in 1989, the U.S. drew up a list of trade
sanctions worth $100 million annually.
Barring any ratification difficulties, the GATT, which was signed by
member nations last week in Marrakesh, Morocco, is scheduled to go
into effect January 1, 1995.
Source: Nancy Dunne, "U.S. Concern on Food Safety Rules,"
FINANCIAL TIMES, April 14, 1994; "U.S. and EU Unlikely to Collide on
Beef Issue -- Action to Wait for Uruguay Round Ratification," AG
WEEK, April 18, 1994.
EPA URGES SOME PRIVATE WELL USERS TO TURN TO
Last week, the EPA issued a warning that some pumps used in
private underground wells may pose a lead risk to consumers.
Submersible pumps commonly used in private wells could
exacerbate lead contamination. Consumers with those pumps should
temporarily use bottled water and have their wells tested, the
agency said. The warning came after reports released by the Natural
Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund
concluded that under some circumstances, the lead leaching out of
pumps in deep wells exceeds federally acceptable levels for drinking
water. The federal government rarely acts on the advice of outside
organizations. Peter Cook of the EPA's groundwater and drinking
water office, said the agency will be "erring on the side of
conservatism" by issuing warnings in the future. "It's especially
important for people to be conservative when small children are
involved," he said.
Source: Andy Pasztor, "EPA Sees Lead Risk in Private Wells and
Plans To Urge Use of Bottled Water," WALL STREET JOURNAL, April
REPORT SAYS CONSUMERS PAYING FOR WATER WEIGHT IN
A report prepared for the USDA by the Research Triangle Institute in
North Carolina concluded that consumers often pay for the water
added after poultry is killed. As a result, the USDA said it will write
stricter inspection rules for poultry and re-visit a policy that allows
frozen poultry products to be labeled as fresh. In addition, the
department is also trying to determine if "water-added" labels
should be required. Under current rules governing other meat
products, the addition of water would be considered "economic
adulteration" -- the addition of a cheap ingredient to increase prices.
The water is added when the carcasses come off the lines and are put
in cold water vats in an attempt to prevent the spread of food
pathogens. The water typically contains a bacteria-killing chlorine,
which industry contends is far milder than that found in swimming
pools and evaporates quickly. "The chickens soak up to 12 percent of
their weight in this water," according to Elaine Dodge of the
government Accountability Project (GAP). The report said the
amount of water a bird absorbs could be reduced without harming
the poultry industry. The industry countered that the most
important thing is preventing food-borne illness. "The consumer
pays for some, there's no question about that," said Kenneth May of
the National Broiler Council. Consumers would pay more for
alternatives to chilling, he added.
Source: Robert Greene, "Soggy Chickens," AP, April 2, 1994;
"Interview with Elaine Dodge," THE DAILY CITIZEN, April 5, 1994.
SMOG COULD HASTEN FOOD PRODUCTION DECREASES
A recent report by a researcher at the Earth and Atmospheric
Sciences department at Georgia Tech says his projections suggest
increased air pollution could eventually damage plants enough to
adversely affect agricultural yields. The results of the study,
published in the current edition of the journal SCIENCE, show that
60% of the world's ozone pollutants are produced by North America,
Japan, China and Europe. These are also the areas where 60% of the
world's food is produced. When ozone reaches 50 to 70 parts per
billion, it begins to have an adverse effect on the growth of plant life.
"The fact that air pollution is potentially affecting such a large
fraction of the food crops grown in these areas is really a concern,"
said Chameides. Damaging levels of pollution could become chronic
in areas like China by the year 2025. Chameides emphasized that his
projections are based on computer and mathematical models and are
subject to change with governmental policy.
Source: Paul Recer, "Smog is Enemy of Agricultural Yields," AG WEEK,
April 11, 1994; "Air Pollution May Damage Food Supply in 3
Decades," NEW YORK TIMES, April 13, 1994.
TRADING AWAY U.S. FOOD AND SAFETY is a publication of the
Environmental Working Group and Public Citizen. The authors
contend that new international trade rules will affect the way
countries set food safety standards. The report is available from
Public Citizen, 215 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. 20003,
Tel: (202) 546-4996, Fax: (202) 547-7392.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON CROP PROTECTION, May 3,
1994, Gent, Belgium. FFI, contact: Dr. L. Tirry, Faculty of Agriculture
and Applied Biological Sciences, Coupure Links 653, B-900 Gent,
Belgium, Tel: (32 09) 264-6152, Fax: (32 09) 264-6239.
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND FOOD: A PUBLIC ISSUE FOR EXTENSION
EDUCATION (nationwide video conference), May 12, 1994. FFI,
contact: Gene Schriefer, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tel: (608)
CUISINE, AGRICULTURE AND SOCIAL CHANGE, June 9-12, 1994,
Tucson, AZ. FFI, contact: Gerry Walter, 59 Mumford, 1301 West
Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, Tel: (217) 333-9429, Fax: (217)
244-7503, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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