A report released early this week concluded that Monsanto, maker of
the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) Posilac, violated
federal law by illegally promoting the drug prior to approval by the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the report released by
Representative Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) office, the Inspector General of
the Department of Health and Human Services criticizes both
Monsanto and the FDA. In a statement to the press, Sanders referred
to the report as "further proof of how corporations like Monsanto get
away with manipulating the FDA and the public." Monsanto
spokesperson Thomas McDermott said he could not comment on the
report without seeing it and added that Monsanto had "made every
effort to comply with regulations prior to approval of the product."
Sanders had requested the investigation on the grounds that the
company violated federal law by promoting the drug before it was
approved by the government. The report says the FDA's Center for
Veterinary Medicine warned Monsanto in 1991 about making
advanced promotions in at least 24 instances. One such promotion
was a "BST Worksheet," upon which farmers could supposedly figure
out the profits they would make from using the drug. The report
says Monsanto continued to bend or break the rules from May 1991
through October 1993. There was no indication of what action might
be taken against the company.
Wisconsin's Family Farm Defenders were present at last week's
World Dairy Expo held in Madison, Wisconsin. While many of the
other booths present promoted new technologies for dairy farmers,
the Family Farm Defenders' display focused on keeping small
farmers in business. The group was encouraging signatures on a
petition to end the National Dairy Board, a farmer-funded board that
many believe has improperly and inadequately promoted dairy
products. A second petition called for a boycott of Monsanto
products, particularly rBGH. Delano Calton, a Missouri farmer who
was staffing the booth on the Expo's final day, said Wisconsin
consumers are to be commended for their insistence that products
derived from cows treated with the drug be labeled.
Earlier this summer, Monsanto was forced the alter its Technical
Manual for Posilac after the FDA said some of the conclusions in the
manual could be misleading. Allegedly at issue was a statement
which said the use of Posilac does not cause mastitis. According to
the FDA, the possibility of increased mastitis as a result of Posilac has
not been ruled out.
METROLAND, the paper that issued the story about New York farmer
John Shumway's problems with rBGH, said after Shumway's story
was aired by CBS Evening News, similar stories began to crop up
throughout the country. Florida farmer Charles Knight said he tried
everything recommended by University of Florida researchers and
his mastitis problem would not subside. "I've never seen anything
like this," he said. "We don't believe it's because of [rBGH]. But my
vet before that had told me he thought it was [the hormone]."
Monsanto is required to pass on to the FDA information about
farmers having problems with the drug. However, when Knight said
he phoned the FDA, they were not familiar with his case. A
Monsanto representative promised Knight she would relay the
information but had not called him back. "I'm not surprised that
Monsanto may be downplaying reports of health problems.
Monsanto has repeatedly downplayed problems with rBGH and they
have repeatedly violated the rules that govern the approval process,"
said Sanders. Knight said he stopped using the drug after he lost
nine of his cows to laminitis. He said herd health gradually
improved, but production dropped off dramatically. "It's like an
addictive drug, like they get hooked on it," he said. He said another
15% of his herd should probably be culled but he's in such dire
financial straits that he needs to hang on to what he's got. "No milk
is bad. But it's better than staying awake every night wondering
whether your milk will pass inspection tomorrow."
A recent independent survey by a consumer trend analyst showed
that 80% of consumers surveyed had some level of concern about the
use of rBGH. Mona Doyle said almost half of the people she
interviewed said they were "very concerned" about rBGH. The good
news, she said, is that there is slightly less concern now than when
she did the survey five years ago, although most people have now
heard of the drug. She added that more and more consumers seem
to be losing faith in the purity of milk and dairy products. "The need
for BST hasn't been justified to consumers. They still question the
why behind its use." She added that fruit juice companies are likely
to be the biggest beneficiaries of the loss of consumer faith in milk.
The Wisconsin Rural Development Center (WRDC) said recently that
nearly all of the milk sold in the state of Wisconsin is rBGH-free.
Denny Caneff, center president, said most of the milk sold in the state
is labeled "rBGH-free" and most farmers have signed affidavits
saying they are not using the drug. At the same time, Monsanto
maintains it is having a great deal of success getting Wisconsin dairy
producers to use the drug and that this success will increase as more
farmers learn about it. "In order for anybody to say we're not doing
well in Wisconsin, somebody would have to know what our
expectations are and we have never released our expectations," said
McDermott. Supermarkets tend to agree with WRDC. Roundy's, the
state's largest wholesale food distributor, said all of the milk it
distributes is believed to be rBGH-free. "We felt all along that the
consumer would ultimately determine the future of BGH," said one
retailer. "Based on what consumers have asked for, we have offered
no alternative." "Democracy has prevailed. Farmers and consumers
said they didn't want it, and their voices were heard," said Caneff.
A recent article in the journal FEEDSTUFFS said a predicted
liquidation of dairy cows will have a profound impact on the nation's
beef industry. The introduction of rBGH is one of the factors that is
expected to increase dairy herd culling over the next few years. Jim
Robb, an economist with the Livestock Information Center in Denver,
said if the culling rate were to approach the 3.6 million head it
reached in 1986, beef prices could fall by as much as $1.75 a
hundredweight or 2.5%.
Twenty-one major milk producing states put out 10.8 billion pounds
of milk in August, 2% more than this time last year, according to the
USDA. Per cow production was up 38 pounds over the previous year
and the number of cows on farms dropped by 65,000.
Source: David Gram, "Report Calls Monsanto BST Promotion Illegal,"
SUNDAY RUTLAND HERALD AND SUNDAY TIMES ARGUS, October 16,
1994; David Gram, "Monsanto-Hormone," AP, October 15, 1994;
"Family Farm Defenders Draw Attention at Expo," THE COUNTRY
TODAY, October 12, 1994; "Monsanto Agricultural Group Letter," June
13, 1994; "Bovine Growth Hormone Udder Failure in Florida,"
METROLAND, October 13, 1994; Pam Henderson, "Is BST Souring
Consumers?" DAIRY TODAY, October 1994; "Midwest Farming Today,"
UPI, October 4, 1994; Peter Maller, "BGH Loses Battle for State
Consumers," MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, October 3, 1994; Edward Clark,
"Potential Dairy Cow Liquidation Will Affect Beef Industry,"
FEEDSTUFFS, October 3, 1994; "Major Milk States Show 2% Increase in
Output," FEEDSTUFFS, October 3, 1994.
GENERAL MILLS SEES EARNINGS FALL
The use of an unapproved pesticide on oats that were made into
cereal by General Mills is turning out to be very costly for the
company. At its 66th annual meeting in September, shareholders
were informed that the application of chlorpyrifos-ethyl, or Dursban,
rather than chlorpyrifos-methyl, or Reldan, on some of its oat stocks
cost them at least $100 million in first quarter sales for its 1995
fiscal year. "Due entirely to the temporary disruption in cereal
operations this past summer," quarterly earnings dropped 9% per
share, the company said. Fifteen million bushels of the illegally
sprayed raw oats remain in limbo and company spokesperson Craig
Shulstad said the company is seeking approval from the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to turn the oats into animal
feed. Y. George Roggy, owner of the company accused of using the
unapproved pesticide, has been indicted and has pleaded not guilty.
His trial is set to begin in St. Paul, Minnesota October 31. General
Mills said its share of the ready-to-eat cereal market dropped from
29% to 25% as a result of the problem.
Source: Charles House, "Pesticide Fiasco Poisons Earnings at General
Mills," FEEDSTUFFS, September 26, 1994.
GAO STUDY SAYS FOOD SAFETY SYSTEM INADEQUATE
The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently concluded that better
government monitoring is needed to avoid incidents like an
unapproved pesticide being sprayed on General Mills oats. The
agency's conclusions came from two reports: one examining systems
that monitor chemical residues in meat and chicken and a second
report examining chemicals in all foods. "Chronic violators can, and
do, continue to sell contaminated animals without fear of penalty,"
said one report. In the second report, the GAO concluded, "The use of
unapproved chemicals has become a routine practice."
In addition, the studies also found that the FDA rarely enforces
violations of meat and safety residue limits reported by federal
inspectors. Between 1989 and 1992, only one prosecution, two
citations and 12 injunctions resulted from 21,429 reported violations.
Of these violations, 2,274 were repeat offenses. In addition, the
report said the inspection service may not adequately guard against
John Harman of the GAO said the fact that responsibility lies with
four agencies having different regulations for chemicals is a big
problem. He said the government's system is reactive as opposed to
preventive, lacks strong authority and inadequately controls
imported foods. Specific findings include:
% In 1991, 817 pounds of pesticides valued at $6 billion were
used in U.S. agriculture;
% Nearly 80% of livestock and poultry are treated with some of
the 748 approved animal drugs;
% Improper use of drugs is a common violation yet those guilty of
residue violations are almost never prosecuted; and
% The practice of allowing unapproved drugs or pesticides in
cases of emergency by the FDA and EPA is problematic and risky.
Reform should focus on government-monitored quality control
instead of having three different agencies catch problems through
inspections. The studies also concluded that only one agency should
be responsible for food safety.
Source: "Study Rips Food Safety Protection System," AGRI NEWS,
October 6, 1994; "Robert Greene, "Food Safety," AP, September 29,
1994; Maggie McNeil, "Food Safety System Needs Major Overhaul,"
REUTER, September 28, 1994.
BRITISH GROUP SAYS TWO IN FIVE CHICKENS SAFE
A survey by the Consumers Association in the U.K. says that only two
out of five chickens are free of disease-causing bacteria. The survey
examined poultry in 14 European nations and Britain had one of the
worst records for cleanliness. Of the 160 raw poultry samples tested,
36% were found to carry salmonella bacteria while 41% contained
campylobacter. Only Denmark and Portugal scored worse for
salmonella. Norway had the cleanest chicken, according to the
survey. None of its samples carried salmonella while 1% carried
campylobacter. The group called on the British government to do
better and recommended changes in feeding, hygiene and housing
practices. The results of the survey appeared in WHICH? magazine.
"There is absolutely no way a shopper can tell if chicken is
contaminated, so all chicken must be treated as suspect," said
WHICH? editor Charlotte Gann.
Source: Alison Maitland, "Which? Warning on Salmonella,"
FINANCIAL TIMES, October 6, 1994.
HOUSE OVERRIDES AG DEPARTMENT RULES ON SCHOOL LUNCH
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives voted to override
USDA rules which sought to decrease the amount of fat in school
lunch program lunches. The House instead approved a bill that
would give schools more flexibility in how they get rid of fat. In
June, the USDA had proposed a program that would use nutritional
analysis to design low-fat school lunches. The proposal was opposed
by school lunch program directors, who thought the system was too
complicated. The House bill bars the USDA from "imposing" its
nutrition analysis program on schools and allows them to achieve
nutritional balance through the current system based on portions of
meat, dairy and vegetables. Representative Bill Goodling (R-PA) said
he thought the USDA was trying to exercise too much power in its
effort to cut fat in school lunches. "One recess and they burn off all
those kinds of things," he said.
Source: "Child Nutrition," AP, October 5, 1994.
REORGANIZATION PROMOTES FOOD SAFETY
The reorganization of the USDA, recently approved by Congress, will
increase the profile of food safety by requiring the appointment of a
new Undersecretary for Food Safety. The USDA Reorganization Act of
1994 requires the new undersecretary to have "specialized training
or significant experience in food safety or public health programs."
Source: "New USDA Structure Splits Food Safety, Marketing," REUTER,
October 5, 1994; "Senate Passes USDA Reorganization, Crop
Insurance," REUTER, October 5, 1994.
FAO SAYS ASIA FACES SEVERE FOOD SHORTAGE
The destruction of agriculture systems due to over-fishing and
deforestation could lead to a severe food shortage in the growing
Asia-Pacific region, warned A.Z.M. Obaidullah Khan of the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently.
Obaidullah Khan was joined by Malaysia's Agriculture Minister Datuk
Seri Sanusi Junid in his dire prediction, who said, "These trends will
worsen the supply of food and agriculture production in 1995-96 if
carryover stocks for 1995 are small and harvests for the 1994-95
season are adversely affected." Obaidullah Khan said funds for
agriculture and development are being cut while population growth
is soaring. By the year 2020, the demand for rice will rise from 520
million tons a year to 800 million tons as both population and income
levels rise. FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf was also present at
the 22nd annual regional conference of the FAO. Diouf cited a lack of
agricultural funding and demonstrable benefits to funding
institutions. He also said the Manila conference should focus on food
security because an estimated 800 million people in the world do not
have enough to eat. Delegates from 35 countries were present at the
Source: "FAO Official Warns of Severe Asia Food Crisis," REUTER,
October 4, 1994; "Asia's Economic Growth Threatens Food," Farming
Today, UPI, October 5, 1994.
CONSUMER GROUPS PLEASED WITH USDA ATTEMPTS TO COMBAT E.
Consumer groups are reportedly pleased with USDA efforts aimed at
stemming E. coli poisoning outbreaks due to contaminated meat.
Addressing a meat industry convention last month, new Food Safety
and Inspection Service director Michael Taylor said the USDA will
begin testing beef for E. coli soon. He added that new regulations
would require every meat and poultry processing plants to establish
a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system (HACCP). "We
will address but not limit ourselves to E. coli," Taylor said.
Meat industry groups were not so pleased with the move. Their
position is pathogens should be reduced, but they cannot be
eliminated except through cooking. "You can't test your way to safer
food," said Patrick Boyle of the American Meat Institute.
In what appears to be follow-through on Taylor's promise, this week
government inspectors announced they will begin sampling ground
beef in an effort to determine how much contamination exists. Five
thousand samples will be taken from grocery stores and meat
processing plants by USDA employees. The purpose of the sampling
is to try and get the meat and poultry industry to be more
responsive to consumers' concerns about meat safety. "We're trying
to set an example and stimulate companies to put in preventive
measures," said Taylor.
In other news, USDA researchers are exploring the possibility
stuffing poultry with non-threatening microorganisms to get rid of
disease-causing bacteria. The technique involves overloading the
intestines of young chickens with beneficial bacteria, which reside
alongside salmonella and campylobacter. "The idea is to have the
good bacteria crowd out the bad bacteria," said one researcher.
There are two stages to the technique: the first involves spraying
young chicks with a solution containing good bacteria; the second
involves feeding chicks plenty of water to strengthen the infusion.
The researchers say the approach has shown that bad bacteria is
nearly eliminated from young birds' intestines. USDA's Agricultural
Research Service has applied for a patent on the system.
Source: Eddie Evans, "Consumer Groups Pleased by New E. Coli
Regulations," REUTER, October 4, 1994; Michael Landwebber, "Farm
Scene," AP, September 28, 1994; Robert Greene, "Meat Safety," AP,
October 16, 1994.
EPA, ENVIROS REACH SETTLEMENT OVER DELANEY
Last week, the EPA announced it had reached a settlement with
environmental groups, which could lead to a phase-out of several
pesticides used on foods over the next two years. Thirty-six
pesticides that are known to cause cancer will be phased out under
the settlement. The list of 36 includes widely used chemicals such as
atrazine, alachlor, captan, dicofol, benomyl, lindane and trifluralin.
In addition, the EPA will also have to review an additional 49
chemicals thought to be carcinogenic over the next five years. The
settlement is the result of a 1989 lawsuit brought by the National
Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, the AFL-CIO and other
groups over the EPA's unwillingness to enforce the Delaney Clause,
which prohibits the use of cancer-causing chemicals in processed
foods. A U.S. District Court will hold a hearing on the settlement this
fall. In the meantime, the chemical industry will be able to submit
comments. The settlement will likely produce some broad-based
pesticide reform legislation during the next congressional session.
Farmers involved in the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, a
nationwide effort aimed at getting sustainable agriculture policy
options implemented in the 1995 Farm Bill, reacted favorably to the
announcement. "This action by the EPA is probably the catalyst that
many farmers need to get their creative juices flowing on alternative
management systems," said Carmen Fernholz, a Minnesota farmer
and member of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society.
Dean Swanson, a Wisconsin farmer who has produced without
pesticides for 15 seasons added, "We're still here, while a lot of our
neighbors have gone out of business over the last 15 years. And
that's without commercial fertilizers or pesticides."
Source: "A Push on Pesticides," WASHINGTON POST, October 17,
1994; "Farmers React to EPA Plan on Pesticides," SUSTAINABLE
AGRICULTURE COALITION PRESS RELEASE, October 14, 1994;
"Environmentalists, Labor, U.S. Government Announce Agreement to
Phase Out Dozens of Cancer-Causing Pesticides, PESTICIDE ACTION
NETWORK UPDATES SERVICE, October 14, 1994.
BRITISH STUDY LINKS BSE AND CJD
This month, the British government released a study it says shows a
statistical link between eating meat and the incidence of Creutzfeldt-
Jakob Disease (CJD), the human equivalent of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad cow disease. The
researchers said the link was a result of the way the study had been
done, rather than a direct correlation between eating meat and
contracting CJD. The study was released by the government's "CJD
surveillance unit" in Edinburgh, Scotland. It showed no occupational
link; however, victims of CJD were more likely than control subjects
to have been regular eaters of meat, particularly veal, said Dr. Robert
Will, the unit's director. He added that there was a high incidence of
"recall bias," where relatives of people thought to have CJD, which
turned out to have Alzheimer's, were asked about the victims meat
consumption patterns. The relatives, thinking their family members
were suffering from CJD, probably exaggerated levels of meat
consumption, he said. The study concludes, "There is no conclusive
evidence of any chance in CJD that can be attributable to BSE."
Researchers said the apparent rise in CJD since the 1970s is a result
of the disease becoming more recognizable in people originally
thought to be suffering from senile dementia.
A British company recently announced it has developed a test that
could eventually help in determining whether a cow is infected with
BSE. Proteus International PLC issued a statement which said its
technique has proven 100% accurate in confirming previous
diagnoses on the brains of dead cattle. Professor Richard Lacey of
Leeds University said the announcement was important and called it
"a breakthrough in that it could lead to control of the problem."
Proteus said it is too early to tell if the test would have any human
application. The company said its test works on highlighting in dead
tissue the mutated protein believed to cause BSE. A future test could
determine the presence of BSE in live animals, a company
spokesperson said. "Our test has the potential to yield a more
definitive diagnosis," said Jurek Sikorski. Proteus believes the
potential market for a BSE diagnostic test is about $100 million a
A recent report by the British Agriculture Ministry said 32.42% of
British herds have experienced at least one case of BSE since 1986.
Nearly 52% of dairy herds and 14% of beef herds had experienced
BSE. As of July 15, 133,102 cases of BSE had been reported on
As a result of BSE threats, British and Irish beef exports to Germany
have experienced a "significant reduction." The Irish livestock and
meat board, or CBF, said consumption in Germany had fallen
dramatically over the summer but is making a slow recovery.
"However, for the year as a whole, Irish beef sales are likely to be
well under the 1993 levels," said a recent report.
And finally, a British zoologist reports that animals in the wild may
be at risk of contracting mad cow disease. Dr. James Kirkwood said
the growing interest in reintroducing captive species to the wild
could put animals at risk of contracting the disease. He said thus far,
19 cases of BSE and like illnesses have been found in eight species of
captive wild animals in Britain. Affected species include the antelope
family members such as the nyala, gemsbok, oryz, eland and kudu,
large cats like the puma and cheetah, and the ostrich. The animals
are catching the disease from infected cattle feed or diseased cattle
carcasses. The Ministry of Agriculture said it supports Dr. Kirkwood's
conclusions. Will Travers, a representative of the group Zoo Check
which sponsored a House of Commons motion in 1990 to curb
dangers of the disease that was rejected, said, "It is extraordinary
that no one has recognized the problem until now."
Source: Clive Cookson, "Disease Link With Meat TInconclusive,'"
FINANCIAL TIMES, October 9, 1994; Jude Webber, "British Company
Pioneers Test for TMad Cow Disease,'" REUTERS, October 13, 1994;
"Mad Cow Disease Has Hit 1 U.K. Farm in Three Since 1986," REUTER,
October 17, 1994; Sean MacConnell, "BSE Scare Leads to Fall in Irish
Beef Sales to Germany," IRISH TIMES, September 21, 1994; Nick
Fielding, "BSE Threat to Animals in the Wild," THE SUNDAY MAIL,
October 9, 1994.
New from the General Accounting Office: NUTRITION MONITORING:
PROGRESS IN DEVELOPING A COORDINATED PROGRAM (GAO/PEMD-
94-23) and FDA REGULATION: COMPLIANCE BY DIETARY
SUPPLEMENT AND CONVENTIONAL FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS
(GAO/HEHS-94-134). For copies, write GAO, Washington, D.C. 20548.
The Consumers Union of Japan produces a bi-monthly compilation of
Japanese news stories pertaining to food safety and inspection and
other consumer issues. Summaries of current Japanese policy
initiatives, both national and international, are also included. Annual
subscriptions for overseas subscribers are $25/year. For more
information, contact Consumers Union of Japan, Asaga Building 2F, 1-
10-16 Meguro Hon-cho, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152, Japan.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
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.
SECOND INTERNATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY EDUCATION CONFERENCE,
October 25-30, 1994, San Francisco, CA. FFI, contact: Kristine Bruns,
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tel: (608) 263-4431, Fax: (608)
ENVIRONMENTAL RISK ASSESSMENT: POLITICS AND
POLICYMAKING, November 1-2, 1994, Arlington, VA. FFI, contact:
Inside EPA, P.O. Box 7167, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, D.C.
20044, Tel: (800) 424-9068, Fax: (703) 416-8543.
EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUES FOR CONTAMINATED GROUNDWATER AND
SOIL TREATMENT, November 14-17, 1994, Madison, WI. FFI, contact:
Engineering Registration, 702 Langdon Street, Madison WI 53706,
Tel: (800) 462-0876, Fax: (800) 442-4214.
THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE BIOSAFETY
RESULTS OF FIELD TESTS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED PLANTS AND
MICROORGANISMS, November 13-16, 1994, Monterey, California.
FFI, contact: Dr. Alvin Young, USDA, Office of Agricultural
Biotechnology, Tel: (703) 235-4419, Fax: (703) 235-4429.
THE GENETIC REVOLUTION, November 17-19, 1994, San Diego, CA.
FFI, contact: Scherago International, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 1003, New
York, NY 10001, Tel: (212) 643-1750, Fax: (212) 643-1758, Email:
PREPARING SCHOOLS FOR THE GENETIC REVOLUTION, November 18-
19, 1994, Lincoln, NE. FFI, contact: Symposium Registration, Center
on Children, Families and the Law, University of Nebraska, 121 South
13th Street, Suite 102, Lincoln, NE 68588, Tel: (402) 472-3479,
BRIGHTON CROP PROTECTION CONFERENCE: PEST AND DISEASES,
November 21-24, 1994, Brighton, UK. FFI, contact: Conference
Associates and Services Ltd., 55 New
Cavendish Street, London W1M 7RE, U.K.
SYSTEMS-ORIENTED RESEARCH IN AGRICULTURE AND RURAL
DEVELOPMENT, November 21-25, 1994, Montpelier, France. FFI,
contact: Ms. Ann Lichens-Park, Tel: (202) 401-4892; Fax: (202) 401-
PLANT MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY, December 14-17,
1994, New Delhi, India. FFI, contact: Mr. G. Chatterjee, ICGEB, Nll
Campus, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi 110067, India, Tel: +91-11-
6867356; Fax: +91-11-6862316; Tlx: 3173286.
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