Consumers who ate the General Mills cereals tainted with an
unapproved pesticide filed a class action lawsuit against the company
in Cook County, Illinois. The company revealed last month some of
its cereals were manufactured from oats that were sprayed with
chlorpyrifos-ethyl, or Dursban, which has not been approved for use
on oats by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The suit
seeks refunds for consumers of Cheerios, Frankenberry, Kix, Lucky
Charms, Oatmeal Crisp and Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs in addition to
legal fees. The company said it is dumping 50 million boxes into the
General Mills spokesperson Craig Shulstad said the suit has no merit
because the federal government ruled that consumers who ate the
tainted cereals did not face a health risk. The attorney for the
consumers, Clinton Krislov, said the company still broke labeling
laws, albeit unintentionally. "The fact that no one has been harmed
at this point isn't important," said Krislov. "People are very
concerned about what their children eat and the description on the
box didn't fit the contents." A grand jury has indicted Y. George
Roggy of the Fumicon company for using the unapproved pesticide
on the oats.
The EPA said the company had scrapped plans to petition to get the
cereal approved as animal feed. An EPA spokesperson confirmed
that shipments were being sent to landfills in Illinois, Pennsylvania
Source: "General Mills Is Dumping Tainted Oats," NEW YORK TIMES,
August 20, 1994; Tony Kennedy, "General Mills Dumping Tainted
Cereal; Lawsuit Filed," MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, August 9, 1994.
ESPY CONTINUES TO FARE POORLY
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy continues to have problems after
Attorney General Janet Reno sought an independent counsel to look
into allegations that Espy violated the 1907 Meat Inspection Act for
accepting gifts from chicken giant Don Tyson. Most recently, an
anonymous two-page letter from Food Safety and Inspection Service
(FSIS) employees declared that they do not know what is going on in
Espy's "inner circle" of people seemingly making USDA decisions. "He
does not want our input, our ideas, our years of experience which we
have always been anxious to share. We want to do what is right ...
but Mr. Espy wants an image and publicity," the memo states. "I
have not seen anything like this in the department for 20 years. The
morale in the department is obviously not good," said Representative
Pat Roberts (R-KS).
Espy said that a "handful" of top USDA employees were indifferent to
the deaths which resulted from E. coli poisoning in the Pacific
Northwest almost two years ago. Espy said that some people at the
USDA seemed to consider it "inevitable and expected" that people
would die each year from food poisoning. In response, USDA
employees said they were being used as scapegoats by Espy to cover
for his own mismanagement.
A USDA scientist said he was encouraged by federal food inspectors
to delay the development of a test to detect the presence of bacteria
on raw meat. The reason was to make the secretary look bad, said
Dan Laster, head of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay
Center, Nebraska. "There was an intent by a number of top-level
people to slow it down," he said.
Meanwhile, Don Tyson denies allegations that he was attempting to
bribe the agriculture department by giving the secretary tickets to
sporting events. The company released a statement that said it
welcomed the investigation by an independent counsel. "Tyson
Foods has nothing to hide and looks forward to being able to
demonstrate conclusively that it has done nothing wrong," the
As if that wasn't enough, last week it was announced that Espy may
have given preferential treatment to the walnut industry. The NEW
YORK TIMES ran a story which said Espy's brother received financial
assistance from the head of Sun-Diamond, a nuts and raisin company,
when he ran for Espy's vacant congressional seat in Mississippi last
year. The Teamsters union, which is on strike against the company,
has questioned whether the friendship of Espy and Sun-Diamond
lobbyist Richard Douglas was enough to make Espy award subsidies
to encourage walnut exports. At the Illinois state fair, Espy said he
was tired of the accusations and is praying for his future. "My future
is in the Lord's hands. I pray about it," he said.
Source: "Woes Multiply for Espy On and Off USDA Ranch," GANNETT
NEWS SERVICE, August 12, 1994; Robert H. Browen, "Tyson Foods
Denies Alleged Attempts to Soften Proposed Poultry Processing
Rules," FEEDSTUFFS, August 15, 1994; "Espy Declares His Innocence of
Bribery Allegations," REUTER, August 19, 1994; "Espy Says He Has No
Intention of Resigning Over Tyson," REUTER, August 17, 1994; Robert
Greene, "Meat Safety," AP, August 17, 1994; Charles Abbott, "Meat-
USDA Inspection Reform Seen Hit By Low Morale," REUTER, August
USDA WANTS TO MAKE FOOD AID PROGRAMS MORE
The USDA is contemplating ways to make food aid programs, such as
P.L. 480, more flexible and attractive to participating countries.
USDA General Sales Manager Christopher Goldthwait said after 40
years, "it is high time to take a look" at P.L. 480. The program
annually makes almost $30 billion in concessional sales, but since
1990, the countries that have participated have changed
dramatically to include the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc.
Goldthwait said the long-term, low-interest loans offered by P.L. 480
are often more attractive than commodities purchases. The USDA is
considering recommended changes to make under the 1995 Farm
Bill. Goldthwait said there is the possibility that commodities could
be offered at world market prices but with shorter repayment
periods and slightly higher interest rates. The General Accounting
Office (GAO) concurred with Goldthwait, recommending an overhaul
for P.L. 480. The GAO said P.L. 480 has had little impact on the
economic development of a recipient country
Source: Doug Palmer, "USDA Mulls Food Aid Changes in Farm Bill,"
THE NEIGHBOR, August 12, 1994.
EDITORIAL CRITICIZES NEW JERSEY DELEGATES' ACTIONS
A recent editorial in the journal FEEDSTUFFS criticizes a recent effort
by New Jersey Senators Bill Bradley and Frank Lautenberg as being
too emotional to help victims of E. coli poisoning. The two senators
sponsored the Senate version of Robert Torricelli's bill, which would
create a new agency for the purpose of meat inspection, among other
things. "It speaks to that old saw," the editorial says. "The U.S.
Department of Agriculture can't foster U.S. agriculture and protect
consumers at the same time." The article refers to the inclusion of a
minimum cooking temperature for meat as an "emotional plea."
Source: "Food Safety Too Important for Emotional Plea," FEEDSTUFFS,
August 15, 1994; "Second Lawmaker Sponsors Measure to Set Up
Independent Food Safety Agency," FEEDSTUFFS, August 8, 1994.
WISCONSIN AG DEPARTMENT CRITICIZED FOR ACCEPTING
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer
Protection is again coming under fire for its close ties to industry.
Agriculture Secretary Alan Tracy put on a dinner cruise through
Wisconsin Dells last month for more than 100 agricultural leaders
and their families. The cruise and dinner was paid for by the Swiss
Drug company Ciba-Geigy. Also contributing to the event was
Monsanto and Kraft. Ciba-Geigy is the manufacturer of atrazine, a
herbicide widely used in corn production, which Tracy's department
is supposed to regulate. The article says that in sum, Tracy and his
department have solicited more than $26,000 in donations from 29
food and consumer products companies, agriculture chemical
companies and farm trade groups.
The action has outraged urban politicians, farm groups and
environmental organizations. "It's tough for an individual farmer to
feel like they have any influence [with the department] when they
see $26,000 waved around," said Mark Kastel of the Wisconsin
Farmers Union. Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist said he believes
such actions are part of the reason why legislation to allow cities to
regulate the use of lawn chemicals was defeated. "This (the defeat)
was done because [chemical companies] wanted it done," said
Norquist. "It's not an ag department oriented toward farmers. It's
an ag department oriented toward the chemical industry."
The biggest contributor to the conference was Monsanto, maker of
recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Tracy has chosen to
remain quiet. The State Ethics Board is investigating. For its part,
Ciba-Geigy spokesperson Rex Martin said, "It was for a good cause.
We like to be believe that it helps show how good Wisconsin
Source: James Rowen, "Ag Department's Independence is
Questioned," MILWAUKEE JOURNAL, AUGUST 14, 1994.
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
Last week's reports that a New York farmer was having trouble with
his cows treated with Monsanto's Posilac have prompted charges of
misinformation. Farmer John Shumway said his herd has been
plagued by mastitis problems since he began injecting his cows with
the drug. In response, a professor at the University of Wisconsin
countered that he had no reports of adverse effects on cows from
Wisconsin farmers. Dave Dickson said it is more likely that cows
would get stronger as the result of increased milk production. "It's
like a weight-lifter increasing the amount of weight they're lifting,"
A University of Wisconsin survey showed that half of the dairy
farmer respondents said they would never use rBGH. Less than 2%
of the 600 producers who responded to the survey said they are
currently using the drug.
Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes was recently profiled in FORBES
magazine. The company said it is facing difficult times as dairy
production continues to shift westward. The article says that most of
the farmers concentrated in the Midwest "own and operate small,
inefficient family farms that typically earn about $20,000 in a good
year." Chief executive Jack Gherty says this inefficiency has been a
big headache for his company. Gherty said in 1993 he paid the
farmer-owners of the co-op $12.90 a hundredweight for their milk
whereas in Washington state, for example, farmers received closer to
$12.00 a hundredweight -- "a big difference in the commodity
business." He said he has also been unable to raise prices because of
stiff consumer competition in the area. As a result, Gherty is
working to convince farmers to increase their herd size and expand
their business. The article says that Minnesota law prohibits
corporate ownership of farmland for the most part and in Wisconsin,
"groups opposed to modern farming practices recently tried to
outlaw a popular milk-production-enhancing hormone, BST, and
were only narrowly defeated." Land O'Lakes is expanding into the
non-dairy area, producing fertilizers and feed and seeds.
Milk prices are expected to go back up over the next couple of
months. The Minnesota-Wisconsin (M-W) series price was set at
$11.41 for July, up 16 cents from June, but one cent lower than July
1993. The M-W series price is a benchmark for dairy prices across
Source: Mike Ivey, "rBGH Ills Reported in Cows," CAPITAL TIMES,
August 9, 1994; "Many Wisconsin Producers Won't Use BGH,"
Farming Today, UPI, August 17, 1994; William M. Stern, "Land O'Low
Returns," FORBES, August 15, 1994; Joel McNair, "Milk Prices to Rise
for Month or Two," AGRI NEWS, August 12, 1994.
Essential Information has A GUIDE TO HEALTH AND CONSUMER
TOLL-FREE HOTLINES. The guides are available for $1.00 from
Hotline Guides, Essential Information, P.O. Box 19405, Washington,
LIMITED TESTING FINDS FEW EXPORTED UNREGISTERED
PESTICIDE VIOLATIONS ON IMPORTED FOOD is now available
from the General Accounting Office. For a copy, write GAO,
Washington, D.C. 20548.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
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.
SYMPOSIUM ON DOWN REGULATION OF GENE EXPRESSION BY
ANTISENSE AND OTHER TECHNOLOGIES, September 9-10, 1994,
Ames, IA. FFI, contact: Tel: (515) 294-1063, Fax: (515) 294-1337.
THE METHODOLOGY OF PLANT MANIPULATION, September 11-
14, 1994, Cork, Ireland. FFI, contact: Fax: (353) 21 274 420.
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,
BIODIVERSITY, BIOTECHNOLOGY AND INTELLECTUAL
PROPERTY RIGHTS: A CITIZENS DIALOGUE, September 19,
1994, San Francisco, CA. FFI, contact: Institute for Agriculture and
Trade Policy, 1313 5th Street SE, Suite 303, Minneapolis, MN 55414,
Tel: (612) 379-5980, Fax: (612) 379-5982, Email: email@example.com.
SYMPOSIUM ON BREEDING OIL AND PROTEIN CROPS,
September 22-24, 1994, Albena, Bulgaria. FFI, contact: P. Ivanov,
Fax: (359) 57 31 4448.
MODERN AGRICULTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT, October 2-6,
1994, Rehovet, Israel. FFI, contact: Agriculture and Environment
Conference, Peltours-Te'um, P.O. Box 8388, Jerusalem 91082, Israel,
Tel: (972) 261-7402, Fax: (972) 263-7572.
RECOMBINANT DNA BIOTECHNOLOGY III, October 16-21, 1994,
Deauville, France. FFI, contact: Engineering Foundation, Room 303,
245 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017, Tel: (212) 705-7837, Fax:
FERMENTATION BIOTECHNOLOGY, October 17-21, 1994, East
Brunswick, NJ. FFI, contact: The Center for Professional
Advancement, P.O. Box 964, East Brunswick, NJ 08816, Tel: (908)
613-4500, Fax: (908) 238-9113.
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:
(612) 379-5980 Fax: (612) 379-5982 EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org or
email@example.com. 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
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