Attorney General Janet Reno has asked a federal judge to appoint an
independent counsel to look into allegations that Secretary of
Agriculture Mike Espy illegally accepted gifts from chicken mogul
Don Tyson. The FBI has been investigating whether Espy's
acceptance of free travel and sporting events tickets constitute a
violation of the 1907 Meat Inspection Act, which prohibits USDA
employees from accepting gifts from industries which they may
regulate. Reno said thus far, the FBI had not been able to make a
connection between Espy and the gifts, but added that the law
required her to appoint an independent counselor unless there "is
clear and convincing evidence" of no violation.
The allegations involve Espy and two of his aids. One of the aids,
Ronald Blackley, is alleged to have halted a department initiative
that would have imposed more stringent inspection standards on the
poultry industry. Other allegations involve the shredding of
documents on the poultry proposal within the USDA. White House
Press Secretary DeeDee Meyers said President Clinton "stands 100
percent behind" Secretary Espy.
Espy has reportedly retained a high-powered Washington attorney to
defend himself. A top aide cautioned that the move was strictly a
precautionary measure. Espy hired Reid Weingarten, who
successfully defended Commerce Secretary Ron Brown against
charges that he was offered money by the Vietnamese government
to lift trade sanctions. "There isn't at all even remotely criminal in
this matter," Weingarten said of the Espy case.
Source: Michelle Groenke, "Midwest Farming Today," UPI, August 9,
1994; "Reno Asks 'Poultrygate' Special Prosecutor," Farming Today,
UPI, August 10, 1994; Michelle Groenke, "Midwest Farming Today,"
UPI, August 10, 1994; Maggie McNeil, "Agriculture's Espy Hires
Lawyer for Poultry Probe," REUTER, July 26, 1994; "Espy Denies
Favoritism Toward Tyson Foods," REUTER, August 5, 1994; Robert
Greene, "Espy-Attorney," AP, July 27, 1994; "Lawyer Denies Any
Misconduct By USDA's Espy," REUTER, August 9, 1994.
STATE TO REVOKE LICENSE OF BUSINESS THAT USED UNAPPROVED
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has moved to revoke the
license of Y. George Roggy, whose Fumicon company has been
accused of using an unregistered pesticide on millions of bushels of
General Mills oats. Commissioner of Agriculture Elton Redalen
proposed the license revocation and a hearing by an administrative
law judge has been set for September 1. "The public health and
environment could be threatened by the continued operations of Mr.
Roggy and his company," said Bill Oemichen, assistant commissioner
of agriculture. Roggy has not commented on the move.
Last month, USDA officials said they believed Roggy substituted
Dursban, or chlorphyrifos-ethyl, for Reldan 4E, or chlorphyrifos-
methyl, in treating oats stored by General Mills. The oats were later
made into cereals. Dursban has not been approved by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use on oats. "We're very
pleased," said Austin Sullivan, vice president for corporate
communications at General Mills. "This guy's conduct was outrageous
and created a lot of problems for a lot of people." General Mills said
last month that it would take a charge against its last fiscal year
rather than try to sell the cereal stocks to the public.
Source: Tony Kennedy, "State Goes After Edina Pest Control
Contractor Accused in General Mills Tainted-Oats Case,"
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, July 26, 1994; "Charges Brought in
Pesticide Case," AGRI NEWS, August 4, 1994.
USDA ISSUES NEW POULTRY INSPECTION PROPOSAL
Last month, the Clinton administration issued a new proposal for
poultry inspection. Secretary Espy said the proposal includes
significant improvements in the system, which came into being in
1957. Under the new Poultry Enhancement Program (PEP), a single
poultry inspection system would replace the multiple types currently
in place. In addition, the PEP will revise the finished product
standards for poultry to eliminate fecal contamination; give federal
inspectors more authority to slow or stop a line; create one new
inspection position on the line; mandate the use of antimicrobial
treatments such as rinses and washes; require 100% reinspection of
carcasses; and require improved record-keeping procedures. "We
are also continuing to aggressively target our research efforts to
develop a rapid test for the detection of bacterial contamination,"
Espy added, saying he has directed the Agricultural Research Service
(ARS) to develop such a test. "This proposal is part of our ongoing
efforts to use the best available science in conjunction with good
common sense to improve the safety of our food supply," said Espy.
Maintaining that it already operates under a zero-tolerance policy,
the poultry industry responded that it would support Espy.
Consumer groups, however, said they were not convinced. "The
poultry you buy at the store may look a little better," said Carol
Tucker Foremen of the Safe Food Coalition, but "it may be heavily
contaminated with bacteria that are not visible and can be detected
only by scientific tests."
Source: Robert H. Brown, "USDA Proposes Poultry Inspection
Changes," FEEDSTUFFS, July 18, 1994; Leila Corcoran, "USDA Proposes
Stricter Poultry Inspection Standards," REUTER, July 11, 1994; "Safe
Food Isn't Too Much to Ask For," ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, July 10,
IRRADIATE BEEF, PANEL RECOMMENDS
Last month, a panel of experts recommended that the USDA approve
the use of irradiation for ground beef as soon as possible. Dr. Martin
Brotman of the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco
testified that "there are no known safety issues associated with
radiated foods." He added that it would cost an estimated $10
million for each meat processing plant to install a system for
irradiating meat. But "we must give the safest possible product to
the consumer," he added. The panel did not recommend that all beef
be irradiated; rather, it called for consumers to be given a choice
between treated beef and traditionally processed beef. Brotman
stressed that even if irradiation is approved, Americans should not
assume their beef is safe. "You cannot guarantee sterility. What you
have to do is reduce the risk." Other recommendations included: a
public education program to discourage eating raw or uncooked meat
and poultry products; research into understanding how E coli
contamination is spread; and educating doctors to be more alert to
the consequences of E coli bacteria so it is not confused with other
diseases. The forum was sponsored by the American
Gastroenterological Association Foundation.
Carol Tucker Foreman noted there were no consumer groups
represented on the panel. She said placing the burden on the
consumer to cook meat thoroughly misses the mark.
Co-sponsors of the panel include the American Meat Institute, the
Centers for Disease Control, the FDA , the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases and the National Restaurant Association. The
co-sponsors have agreed to meet in 10 weeks to pursue the panel's
An op-ed in the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR echoed the panel's
recommendations. Michael Fumento of the Competitive Enterprise
Institute said irradiation should be approved but won't be if
"activists" get in the way. Fumento said critics of irradiation simply
want more government regulation. He goes on to say that cobalt 60,
used in irradiation, is safer "than the gasoline that powers our cars or
the natural gas that heats our homes."
New Jersey Senators Bill Bradley and Frank Lautenberg introduced
legislation that would shift responsibility for meat inspection from
the USDA to a newly created independent agency. The bill also
requires safe cooking and handling instructions and sets strict
guidelines for restaurants and other commercial food services. New
Jersey Representative Robert Toricelli introduced companion
legislation in the House last spring. The move came in the wake of a
serious outbreak of E coli poisoning in New Jersey, which has made
45 people ill since June 1. "Its time to do something about it -- get
the fox out of the chicken coop," said Lautenberg.
Source: Eva Emerson, "Panel Recommends Irradiating Beef," UPI, July
13, 1994; "Radiation of Beef to Kill Bacteria Is Urged," NEW YORK
TIMES, July 14, 1994; Michael Fumento, "U.S. Should Allow
Irradiation as Means of Preserving Meat," CHRISTIAN SCIENCE
MONITOR, July 21, 1994; "New Jersey Senators Unveil Bill on Meat
Inspection," REUTER, August 2, 1994.
HEALTHY MEALS ACT PASSES HOUSE
Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that
establishes a minimum for the use of agricultural commodities in the
school lunch program. The measure was part of the Healthy Meals
for Healthy Americans Act. The House Committee on Agriculture
successfully amended the bill to mandate that at least 12% of federal
assistance provided to the school lunch program take the form of
Source: "House Approves Healthy Meals for Healthy Americans Act,"
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE NEWS RELEASE, July 21, 1994.
FRENCH GRAPE CROP HURT BY RAIN
Consumers may pay a little more for French wine in the near future.
Thunder and hailstorms have rolled across much of France over the
past few weeks, causing serious damage to many vineyards while
leaving others untouched. Experts say that price increases will
ultimately depend on the quality of the wine. This marks the second
year that the grape harvest has been affected by adverse weather.
Source: John Ridding, "Too Much Water and Wine Don't Mix,"
FINANCIAL TIMES, July 29, 1994.
PROCESSORS CAMPAIGN TO CHANGE MILK'S'S IMAGE
America's dairy processors are launching a campaign aimed at
changing milk's fat-laden image. The Milk Industry Foundation
(MIF), a coalition of industry groups, said it expects to spend about
$60 million on the campaign. The campaign will include media ads
and billboards. MIF acknowledges it faces a formidable challenge as
more adults are abandoning milk and teenagers, a seemingly
insurmountable obstacle, prefer soft drinks and iced tea. "The aim of
our effort is to have consumers put the product back in the
refrigerator. We need to address the confusion about milk and what
is and isn't in it," said Charlie Decker, president of MIF. Decker says
there is "a milk for everyone." The New York office of the public
relations firm Bozell Worldwide has agreed to take on the campaign.
Bozell is the same firm that came to the assistance of the National
Pork Council with its "the other white meat" campaign.
Source: Kevin Goldman, "Milk Processors Plan Campaign to Change
Drink's Fatty Image," WALL STREET JOURNAL, July 29, 1994.
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
Cedar Grove Cheese, based in Plains, Wisconsin, has announced plans
to expand its processing facilities. Cedar Grove made headlines this
spring when it became the first company to label its product
"Farmer-certified rBGH-Free." Bob Wills, owner of the plant, said
sales of his products, which are made with milk from cows that have
not been treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH),
are up 20%. The new plant will increase his production by 25%. "We
seem to have some momentum going," Wills said. Despite opposition
when Wills began to label the product, Wisconsin Agriculture
Secretary Alan Tracy joined him for the groundbreaking ceremony.
Wills added that he is annoyed with a state proposal to require the
FDA's suggested contextual language on labels. This means a
paragraph would have to be added which says something to the
effect that the government believes there is be no difference
between naturally occurring BGH and rBGH. The department will
hold public hearings on its labeling proposal August 23 in Green Bay;
August 25 in Eau Claire; August 30 in Milwaukee; and September 1
The Pure Food Campaign began running television ads criticizing
rBGH in Texas last week. The ads will run during showings of "The
Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Wheel of Fortune."
A recent article in the New York magazine METROLAND reveals the
dissatisfaction of one dairy farmer with Monsanto's rBGH product,
Posilac. John Shumway, who farms in western New York state, said
he had to stop using Posilac recently because of the deleterious
effects he believed it was having on his cows. "I've probably had to
sell 50 cows on it and I've got a 200-head herd so I've lost a quarter
of my dairy herd," he said. He said his profits were up while using
rBGH; however, his cows suffered from mastitis, swollen hocks and
weight loss. "Every time I went to give a shot, I had 20 cases of
mastitis. It's been devastating." Tom McDermott, a spokesperson for
Monsanto, said "We are not seeing this kind of problem. We are
obligated to report any adverse effects to the FDA." He said the
company was "doing call-outs" to maintain contact with farmers but
would not comment on how often those "call-outs" occurred. "I'm not
saying we have not received any calls from farmers who believe
their problems are related to the use of our product, but in most
cases when we investigate we find it isn't related." He said that by
following Monsanto's recommendations for good herd management,
nutrition and "udder health" maintenance, farmers will avoid the
adverse effects of rBGH. Shumway responded, "I can't really find
fault with the drug that much because it did what it said it would do
-- raise production. Now I'm about $25,000 in the red. So I hope
I've learned my lesson."
In a related story, the Wisconsin Farmers Union has announced it is
beginning to document all cases of adverse health effects on animals
treated with rBGH. Mark Kastel of WFU said his organization will
collect data on herd health irregularities from farmers who are using
it. An 800 number has been set up to handle calls from producers.
"The purpose of our data collection is to determine the actual effect
on dairy cattle being injected with the hormone," he said.
The WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL reports that groups lobbying the
labeling effort in Wisconsin spent $339,000 collectively this past
legislative session. Monsanto spent a total of $73,047 on five
lobbyists. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation led the pack,
spending $156,649. The other groups include the Wisconsin
Federation of Cooperatives, which spent $44,093; the National
Farmers Organization, which spent $22,560; the Wisconsin Restaurant
Association, which spent $21,861; the Wisconsin Dairy Products
Association, which spent $12,818; and Upjohn, which spent $8,291.
A. Gerald Barnett, Monsanto's director of governmental and
environmental affairs, defended his company's spending as an effort
to educate, not pressure, state lawmakers. Dan Poulson of the
Wisconsin Farm Bureau said his group opposed the labeling effort
because it puts milk in a bad light. The Animal Health Institute had
yet to file its lobbying report. The groups spent a total of 3,376
hours at the legislature.
Four groups recently filed a petition in the state of California, which
claims the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is
violating state law by not notifying consumers about their purchases
of rBGH milk. The petition was filed July 27 by the Consumers Union,
the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, the California Dairy
Campaign and the Natural Resources Defense Council. According to
the petition, the department is required to make public the sale of all
livestock hormone drugs. Failure to do this has denied consumers
the choice between rBGH-free milk and milk derived from cows
treated with the drug, the groups claim. "The CDFA has done
everything it can to make it impossible for consumers to just say no
to milk produced with synthetic hormones," said Harry Snyder of the
Consumers Union west coast office. CDFA Secretary Henry Voss
accused the groups of telling "half truths. CDFA is not required to
track and make public the sales of all livestock hormone drugs, but
only those which have an adverse biological effect on humans and/or
An recent op-ed piece in the WALL STREET JOURNAL criticizes the
Consumers Union for its position on rBGH. Written by a former
employee, the article states, "CU's most valuable asset -- its
credibility -- is in danger of sliding down the drain, because of the
organization's campaign against bovine somatotropin."
And finally, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI),
famous for its recent critiques of movie theater popcorn and Mexican
food, is facing conflict of interest allegations. Last month, CSPI's
newsletter NUTRITION ACTION HEALTHLETTER contained an article
essentially condoning the products of food biotechnology, such as
rBGH and the Flavr Savr. Writer David Schardt said he spent "long
hours" researching all sides of the issue and had to conclude that
rBGH and the Flavr Savr are safe. At the same time, Schardt
recommends that companies be required to demonstrate the safety
of their products to the FDA and that genetically engineered foods
carry a label "until consumers become more comfortable with
biotechnology." John Stauber, editor of the publication PR WATCH,
revealed that Bonnie Liebman, head of CSPI's nutrition department,
is married to Eric Flamm, a former staffer in the FDA's Office of
Biotechnology. Flamm now works as an analyst in the agency's Office
of Policy. A May 1993 article in THE COUNTRY TODAY has Flamm
debating the Wisconsin Rural Development Center's Kat Griffith on
labeling genetically engineered foods. At the forum, Flamm states
that the FDA "didn't see how the use of genetic engineering per se
would impart some necessary difference in food that would call for
Source: Joel McNair, "'rBGH Free' Cedar Grove to Expand," AGRI
VIEW, July 29, 1994; Joel McNair, "Rifkin Running Anti-BGH TV Ads,"
AGRI VIEW, August 5, 1994; Amy Poe, METROLAND MAGAZINE,
August 11, 1994; "Wisconsin Farmers Union to Collect Data on Animal
Health Impact of Bovine Growth Hormone," WFU NEWS RELEASE, July
26, 1994; Michael C. Buelow, "rBGH Lobbies Spend $339,000,"
WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL, August 3, 1994; "BST Opponents
Petition California," DAIRY PROFIT WEEKLY, August 8, 1994; Virginia
Ellis, "Group Calls for Disclosure on Cow Hormone," LOS ANGELES
TIMES, July 26, 1994; Larry Katzenstein, "Consumers Union
Credibility -- Good But Slipping," WALL STREET JOURNAL, August 8,
1994; David Schardt, "Diving Into the Gene Pool," NUTRITION ACTION
HEALTHLETTER, July/August 1994; "Safety Presents Thorny Problem
in Genetically Altered Food," THE COUNTRY TODAY, May 1993.
AND PST RIGHT BEHIND
Rumor has it that the FDA may soon be ready to consider porcine
somatotropin (PST), a hog hormone intended to boost feeding
efficiency and produce leaner meat. The article speculates that the
approval of rBGH has opened the door for PST. "If the bovine
product wouldn't have flown, I'm afraid all the rest of this would
have shut down as well," said John Klindt of the U.S. Meat Animal
Research Center. He said Monsanto has already had success with a
PST capsule that is inserted under the skin behind a pig's ear and
absorbed into the circulatory system. "The loin eyes are bigger and
the fat covering is less," he said. Richard Perrin, an ag economist
with the University of Nebraska, said researchers are still working on
a way to deliver PST as a feed additive. "If they were to overnight,
come up with a feed-additive version, then the cost of that would be
pretty minimal," he said. Producer Kent Gansebom, said, "I'd say at
the present time, everybody has backed away from it ... nobody is
pushing the issue at this time."
Source: "Pork's BST: Door May Be Open to PST," THE NEIGHBOR, July
TAYLOR APPOINTED TO HEAD FSIS
Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the FDA, has been
appointed to head the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) at
the USDA. His appointment was applauded by both industry and
consumer groups. Commissioner David Kessler said, "Mike Taylor
comes at issues from the public perspective. That is what this
appointment represents. It's an important shift." A conflict of
interest investigation was prompted by three representatives in
April of this year when it was revealed that Taylor was an attorney
with the law firm King & Spaulding, which represents Monsanto.
Taylor's department at the FDA was responsible for issuing labeling
guidelines for rBGH and rBGH-free milk.
Source: Carole Sugarman, "A People-Oriented Lawyer for Meat
Inspection," WASHINGTON POST, July 28, 1994; Marian Burros,
"Eating Well," NEW YORK TIMES, July 27, 1994.
HEALTHY SCHOOL LUNCH ACTION GUIDE is a publication of
EarthSave. The book serves as a comprehensive guide to making
healthy food choices for children and parents. It also explains the
structure and politics behind the USDA's school lunch program. The
guide is available for $4.00 plus $2.00 shipping. For more
information, contact EarthSave, 706 Frederick Street, Santa Cruz, CA
95062, Tel: (408) 423-4069.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
INTRODUCTION TO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS, June 27-
August 18, 1994, Davis, CA. FFI, contact: Mark Van Horn, Student
Experimental Farm, Department of Agronomy, University of
California, Davis, CA 95616, Tel: (916) 752-7645.
NATIONAL GROWTH MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE,
September/October 1994, St. Paul, MN. FFI, contact: Land
Stewardship Project, 14758 Ostlund Trail North, Marine on St. Croix,
MN 55047, Tel: (612) 433-2770.
FOOD SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY: CHALLENGES FOR AFRICA, September
12-16, 1994, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. FFI, contact: Senior Assistant
Registrar, Institute of Food Nutrition and Family Sciences, University
of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.
DOWN TO EARTH: PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF ECOLOGICAL
ECONOMICS, October 24-28, 1994, San Jose, Costa Rica. FFI, contact:
III International Conference of Ecological Economics, P.O. Box 555-
3000, Heredia, Costa Rica.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy, 1313 5th Street SE Suite 303, Minneapolis, MN 55414, Tel:
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firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to this news bulletin, the
Institute publishes a variety of news bulletins on agriculture, the
environment and international trade. All bulletins may be
reproduced and distributed freely without prior permission as long
as proper attribution is included. A copy of any publication in which
an IATP bulletin is cited would be appreciated.