"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future. . .upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." - James Madison
Island of Distrust (why you should distrust the USDA)
by Karen Bergener
Island of Distrust—Why Distrust?
So how did USDA become the agency no one trusts? The creation of the NAIS, without a statute or regulations, and without informing the public, has gone a long way toward ruining whatever trust had existed. Other incidents have increased the distrust.
Both the USDA and state departments of agriculture have slaughtered entire herds or flocks whose owners knew the action was unnecessary. News of these incidents has spread through the internet and anti-NAIS gatherings. This sharing of information emboldens others to tell about their experiences. A brief look at these stories reveals why neither federal nor state agriculture agents are respected by independent farmers and ranchers.
Mad Sheep is a book chronicling the Faillace family’s creation of a sheep herd, imported from Europe in complete cooperation with Vermont state and federal agriculture agents. But then the USDA created a new disease, a variant of TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy or scrapie, a disease related to mad cow, which is not transferred between animals by contact). The USDA claimed this new disease was contagious and the Faillace’s sheep had it. Repeated testing, including clinical observation, consistently showed the sheep to be disease-free, but ultimately the USDA used a procedure that had a high rate of false positives. Based on false positives, the Faillace’s farm was quarantined. The family filed a lawsuit to challenge the quarantine, but were in compliance with the quarantine agreement when USDA arrived sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. and took away all their sheep to be killed. Once the flock was destroyed, the Faillaces legal case to stop USDA’s quarantine no longer had a purpose. They were left with attempting to recover the value of their sheep from the government. While their book differs substantially from USDA’s account, USDA has made no attempt to contradict their assertions.
The Henshaw’s awoke at 5:00 a.m. on September 12, 2006, to find USDA officials and the local game warden entering their Virginia hunting preserve to destroy their pigs. For many days the Henshaws were held under what amounts to house arrest, while the killing went on. Pigs that weren’t shot were trapped and starved. In the end, the family was left with the smaller pigs the agents could not kill, and were instructed to finish the job. People who visited the site reported finding dead animals and blood everywhere, along with human feces and trash left by the raiders.
In a New England state, a horse breeder was visited by a state agriculture agent and an agent from the USDA. The breeder asked the USDA agent to cover her feet prior to stepping out of her truck and onto his property. The state ag agent agreed with the breeder. The angered USDA agent left, and then quarantined the horse breeder’s farm for many months. The breeder lost a season’s worth of sales because no horses could leave his property.
In another eastern state, a poultry breeder who had long questioned state agriculture authorities, decided to have his flock tested for avian influenza (bird flu), in order to sell birds at local auctions. The test came back positive. The breeder requested repeat testing, and while that occurred, his flock was quarantined. So much, so good. However, getting back each set of test results should have taken days, but in fact took several weeks. The results of tests number two and three were negative, but the quarantine kept the breeder from selling birds the entire summer, leaving him with a huge flock to feed through the next winter.
Last year Longhorn cattleman Darol Dickinson of Ohio sold a cow. On a section of the official state health paper that said, “eartag no. or other official identification, name or description,” the veterinarian issuing the health paper wrote the cow’s registered name. A year later a USDA official arrived at Darol’s farm and cited him for failure to put an identifying number on the form. He was required to fill out numerous forms admitting guilt and detailing each fact for further prosecution. Although Darol had never had a USDA violation in Ohio, the next time something happens he will be treated as a second time offender, which is someone USDA considers to have “wanton, habitual disregard of the law.” His offense is that a veterinarian wrote the cow’s name on the form instead of a number. The USDA agent told Darol the vet will have a hearing and may lose his license. Never was a question raised about the animal’s health or protection of other farmers, only choosing the “wrong” option on a Health Certificate form.
Most of us know additional tales of abuse, as well as stories of USDA agents who are incompetent to advise about farming or livestock. A stable owner up East asked the local Extension office to help her decide if she should apply for pasture improvement funds. Two USDA agents came to her stable and inspected her property. They told her that they could fund assistance for one-quarter acre. Then, they said, she should take her 30 horses and rotate them through that quarter acre, in pairs, 30 minutes each. She told them her boarding stable offers turn-out six days a week, eight hours a day. They were unfazed. She asked if either of them had ever owned horses. Neither had.
Island of Distrust—Who Controls USDA?
Over the past 40 years, the power of the executive branch of government—both federal and state—has slowly but inexorably increased. Books have been written about how it has happened, but basically Congress has abdicated its role and allows agencies to do as they please. Somewhere in these agencies, however, we would hope to find rational minds that would control these abuses. But no. To see why, we need to look at who is involved.
It’s all the same people. USDA, state agriculture departments, and agriculture industry groups and their employees are all members of the same industry organizations. Look at the organizations close to the USDA and the state agriculture departments:
The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), the chief non-government proponent of NAIS and its architect, is a nonprofit charitable organization with a mission “to be the forum for building consensus and advancing solutions for animal agriculture and to provide continuing education and communications linkages to animal agriculture professionals.” Not a bad sounding goal. However, its major event every year is a Technology Conference at which the sole subject is National Animal Identification and the technology to implement it.
The United States Animal Health Association (USAHA), which describes itself as “a science-based, non-profit, voluntary organization. Its 1,400 members are state and federal animal health officials, national allied organizations, regional representatives, and individual members. USAHA works with state and federal governments, universities, veterinarians, livestock producers, national livestock and poultry organizations, research scientists, the Extension service and seven foreign countries to control livestock diseases in the United States. USAHA represents all 50 states, 7 foreign countries and 18 allied groups serving health, technical and consumer markets.” Okay, not bad either. Except that USAHA, despite being a “science-based” organization, has produced no scientific basis for implementing NAIS, and neither has NIAA, USDA, or any state agriculture department.
The membership of NIAA and USAHA look like mirrors, because they are essentially all the same people: American Farm Bureau, Holstein Association, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Quarter Horse Association, American Horse Council, American Sheep Industry Association, American Veterinary Association... and that’s just the first letter of the alphabet. USDA has three memberships in USAHA, with the Department of Homeland Security slacking at only one membership (USDA and DHS share responsibility for the Animal and Plan Health Inspection Service, which is running NAIS). Currently 39 state agriculture departments are listed as members of NIAA and 16 state funded universities. Every state’s state veterinarian is a member of USAHA.
Yes, it’s true. Your tax dollars support memberships in these organizations.
Now before you decide an evil empire is at work here, let’s state the obvious: people in a profession join professional organizations so they can network. Corporations hope to get business contracts. Officials wish to get scientific information and share knowledge to decrease their workloads and costs. And no doubt you can find animal health information on the websites of both NIAA and USAHA. We’ll put aside whether you agree with what they publish, such as information that feeds the on-going hysteria over bird flu. So there are plausible reasons for people to belong to these organizations and keep bumping into each
Island of Distrust—Island Mentality
So what’s the problem? Well, imagine a herd of cattle dropped on an island and left to breed for a couple decades (yes, that’s how long they’ve been designing the NAIS)—we all know the results of in-breeding. People who run the animal agriculture industry are on their own island. USAHA has gone so far as to characterize anti-NAIS forces as ”opposition by animal owning entities outside mainstream animal agriculture.” So they’re on their island, and we aren’t.
Now, keep in mind that state agriculture agencies receive large amounts of funding from the USDA for various “projects,” just one of which is the NAIS. Research your own state budget; you might be surprised to find out how much. Now employees of the state ag departments go to USAHA meetings and “advise” USDA on policies it should implement to safeguard animal health.
This island of single-minded people produces self-serving results. In USAHA’s October 2006 meeting, a committee recommended USDA adopt an interim rule that would stop interstate transport of cattle from states that do not have “a requirement that all breeding age cattle be officially identified by means of official tag or registration brand or tattoo at each change of ownership, other than movements direct to slaughter, or movements through one approved market and then direct to slaughter.” Adopting such a rule would mean that animals never leaving their local area, much less the state, would have to be “officially identified” or else the entire state would face the economic consequences of restricted interstate trade.
Although no valid health reason or cost-benefit basis exists for such a program, it would certainly create incentives for states to implement at least a partial NAIS. And if it is done by an “interim rule,” the agency can bypass the normal notice and comment period for rulemaking.
We don’t know yet if USDA will follow USAHA’s recommendation, but think about it: USAHA members advise USDA to implement a policy that will increase use of identification technology (with a resulting push for the technology to be easily read, and uniform across all states), and the same people are in NIAA, meeting with microchip manufacturers and database companies. The outcome is fairly easy to predict.
Doesn’t USDA, a government agency established to serve the citizens, know that it’s no longer trusted by independent farmers? It seems not. At public briefings set up by Extension to explain NAIS, farmers are saying, “We don’t trust state ag or USDA, so we don’t want them to have our information.” And the agents are dumbfounded. The island’s inhabitants don’t know what the outside world thinks of them.
USDA has gone too far to regain the trust of many independent farmers. Wanton destruction of property—our animals—by USDA and state officials occurs too often. And with USDA on its own island, with no input from real outsiders, we have little hope for change. With this climate, the NAIS will never work—and farmers cannot support it. And they’ll refuse to participate in other USDA programs, such as answering the Agriculture Survey. USDA has become increasingly irrelevant to the independent farmer—an agency for corporate agriculture.
Can USDA be changed? Do we want it to? Some say abolish USDA entirely. Others say overhaul it. That is up to you to decide. But the fact remains that most of us don’t trust what USDA will do with the information in the NAIS database. If farmers don’t trust USDA, they won’t comply with NAIS and it will never work. And that is why the answer from farmers on NAIS is No NAIS, no way, no how.
Karin Bergener of Freedom, Ohio, is an attorney and a cofounder of the Liberty Ark Coalition dedicated to defeating NAIS. This article appeared in The Evener 2007 issue of Rural Heritage.
USDA Ignoring Security Rules While Dispensing Advice to Farmers
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility News Release (www.peer.org)
For Immediate Release: July 27, 2006
Contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337
PERSISTENT HOMELAND SECURITY PROBLEMS AT AGRICULTURE — USDA Ignoring Security Rules While Dispensing Advice to Farmers
Washington, DC — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has failed two straight audits over its unsafe handling of highly toxic agents at the same time the agency is distributing a detailed Homeland Security “checklist” to farmers, ranchers and dairy operators, according to agency documents released today by Sinapu and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The audits, conducted by the Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General in 2005 and 2006, concern a branch of the agency, ironically named Wildlife Services, which exterminates wildlife at the request of farmers and ranchers. In 2004, the last year for which figures are available, Wildlife Services killed 2.7 million animals, principally birds, using an array of lethal chemical agents ranging from sodium cyanide to aluminum phosphate, deployed across the country as bait, in fumigants, sprays and gases.
The Inspector General repeatedly found the agency in violation of the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act for failing to secure “dangerous biological agents and toxins,” including not keeping accurate inventories whereby theft, unauthorized sale or other losses of these toxins could be detected. Other violations included regular access to toxins by unauthorized persons, distribution of chemical agents to untrained individuals and inadequate security plans. All ten of the Wildlife Services sites audited by the Inspector General were found to be out of compliance with bioterrorism regulations.
“The larger question is why the federal government is scattering highly dangerous toxicants all across the county as a wildlife control strategy,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, pointing, as an example, to Compound 1080 (sodium monoflouroacetate), an odorless, colorless, water-soluble agent used to poison coyotes in some states that has raised concerns as a potential chemical warfare threat to water supplies. “For reasons of public safety, as well as environmental integrity, the Department of Agriculture needs to move away from its ‘poison first’ mentality for wildlife management.”
Despite the performance by its Wildlife Services arm, USDA is dispensing advice to farmers in a 20-page “Pre-Harvest Security Guidelines and Checklist 2006” covering a wide range of topics, from storage of agricultural chemicals to trimming trees and shrubs so that “people [cannot] easily hide around the farm” to conducting security checks on pasture lands. Other Homeland Security awareness advice includes installing alarms and motion detectors, as well as issuing “visitor badges.”
“The Department of Agriculture itself poses a bigger homeland security threat than any possible infiltration of Iowa by Al Qaeda,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the USDA has not acted to follow many of the Inspector General’s recommendations or to punish the responsible Wildlife Services managers. “USDA ought to stop giving out homeland security advice until it starts following the most basic bio-security precautions.”
In addition to the lack of toxic controls, the groups have raised concerns about aviation accidents stemming from the Wildlife Services aerial gunning program as well as dangers to people, pets and “non-target” wildlife due to the agency’s indiscriminate se of traps, poisoned bait and other eradication techniques.
WHY IS THE NAIS BEING PUSHED ON AMERICANS? FOLLOW THE ROYALTY TRAIL...
THE USDA AND PARTNERS HAVE HUNDREDS UPON HUNDREDS OF PATENTS, BUT FREEDOM OF INFORMATION WAS REMOVED SO NOW THE PROFITS AND THE PARTNERS ARE PROTECTED FROM DISCLOSURE. IT IS WRONG FOR A REGULATOR (USDA) TO ALSO BE A COMPETITOR AND IN BUSINESS WITH THOSE THEY CAN FAVOR WITH REGULATIONS, MANDATES AND RULES TO WIPE OUT OR CONTROL THE MARKETPLACE AND COMPETITORS. IT IS WRONG FOR SMALL/MEDIUM FARMERS, HOMESTEADERS, AND ANIMAL OWNERS TO BE REGULATED BY AN AGRICULTURAL GOVERNMENT BUREAU WHO IS IN DIRECT COMPETITION WITH THEM! EXAMPLE OF PATENTS HELD BY THE USDA:
Patent Title: Leader-Proteinase Deleted Foot-and-Mouth Disease Viruses and Their Use as Vaccines
North Atlantic Area
Plum Island Animal Disease Center
See also: US Patent Office Full Record
Patent Number: 5824316
Docket Number: 795
Serial Number: 8653037
Date Patented: 10/20/1998
The invention is a genetically engineered virus that can be formulated into an effective vaccine for preventing foot-and-mouth disease in cattle and swine. The DNA sequence containing the genetic information for a virus protein is removed, allowing the scientist to produce a weakened version of the virus that can be used as a vaccine. This method produces a deleted virus which is able to assemble and grow in cells in culture.
The genetically engineered foot-and-mouth disease virus induces an FMDV-specific antibody response in inoculated animals that protects them against disease. The invention can be used to combat foot-and-mouth disease which causes painful blisters on the tongue, nose or snout, and feet of livestock, which results in severe economic losses.
Please refer to USPN 5,824,316 (Docket #0007.95), which issued on October 20, 1998. Foreign rights are not available.
Marvin J. Grubman
Foot and Mouth Disease Research
Greenport, NY 11944-0848
(631) 323-3329 / Fax: (631) 323-2798
Peter W. Mason
(Same as first inventor)
(631) 323-3177 / Fax: (631) 323-2798
Maria Elisa Piccone
(Formerly with ARS)
(Formerly with ARS)
Delta and Pine Land Co. (Scott, MS) Now Monsanto; The United States of America, as represented by the Secretary of (Washington, DC) USDA, own the patent....5% of royalties goes to USDA (that's PROFIT going to the USDA from PRIVATE business!). This is what made Monsanto the powerhouse it is today world wide. GMO seeds in partnership with USDA.
Of course it is - GM seeds are ruled harmless because the USDA made the them for a profit.
United States Patent
Oliver , et al.
March 3, 1998
Control of plant gene expression
A method for making a genetically modified plant comprising regenerating a whole plant from a plant cell that has been transfected with DNA sequences comprising a first gene whose expression results in an altered plant phenotype linked to a transiently active promoter, the gene and promoter being separated by a blocking sequence flanked on either side by specific excision sequences, a second gene that encodes a recombinase specific for the specific excision sequences linked to a repressible promoter, and a third gene that encodes the repressor specific for the repressible promoter. Also a method for making a genetically modified hybrid plant by hybridizing a first plant regenerated from a plant cell that has been transfected with DNA sequences comprising a first gene whose expression results in an altered plant phenotype linked to a transiently active promoter, the gene and promoter being separated by a blocking sequence flanked on either side by specific excision sequences to a second plant regenerated from a second plant cell that has been transfected with DNA sequences comprising a second gene that encodes a recombinase specific for the specific excision sequences linked to a promoter that is active during seed germination, and growing a hybrid plant from the hybrid seed. Plant cells, plant tissues, plant seed and whole plants containing the above DNA sequences are also claimed.
Oliver; Melvin John (Lubbock, TX); Quisenberry; Jerry Edwin (Idalou, TX); Trolinder; Norma Lee Glover (Quanah, TX); Keim; Don Lee (Leland, MS)
Delta and Pine Land Co. (Scott, MS); The United States of America as represented by the Secretary of (Washington, DC)
June 7, 1995
Current U.S. Class:
800/268; 435/320.1; 435/418; 435/419; 536/23.6; 536/24.1; 536/24.5; 800/287; 800/288; 800/314
C12N 015/29; C12N 015/82; A01H 004/00; A01H 005/00
Field of Search:
536/24.1,23.6,24.5 435/320.1,240.4,172.3 800/205,250
SEEDS OF CONTROVERSY
Some Worry Sterile Seeds May Mean Disaster for Farmers
Some farmers are worried that genetic engineering may be turning their land from fields of plenty into fields of peril.
By Erin Hayes
R E E D, Ky., Aug. 2, 1999 — This is how it has worked for centuries: farmers harvest a crop and hold back some of the seeds to plant next year’s crop.
In nature’s cycle, one harvest creates the next. But science has come up with a method to stop that cycle and to make crops sterile. It is the result of genetic engineering. Researchers have found a way to implant a kind of genetic switch in crops that can terminate their ability to reproduce. Its critics have dubbed it “terminator technology” and they are appalled by it. Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists calls it, “a technology that doesn’t improve yields, doesn’t increase the nutritional value of food, but does only one thing. And that is it sterilizes the plants. It produces dead seed.”
But big agribusiness companies are very interested in it. “We believe this technology has the potential for agricultural biotechnology in terms of gene control devices in plants,” says Jack Watson of Monsanto.
Companies such as Monsanto want that control. They argue they spend millions on research, creating genetically altered crops and that their profits come from selling farmers the seed. To protect those profits, Monsanto now patents much of that seed, actually making it illegal for farmers to save and reuse it. When farmer David Chaney did just that, Monsanto sent a private detective to his farm. Monsanto sued him and dozens of other farmers. They also bought radio time to warn others that offenders stand to lose hundreds of dollars per acre.
But if the seed-sterilizing technology gets approved, Monsanto would not need to investigate or sue. It would have a genetic lock, guaranteeing farmers would have to buy its seed every season. That has many alarmed. The World Bank’s agricultural network has banned the technology fearing that sterile seeds could spell disaster for millions of farmers and creating the possibility of a localized famine.
“The small farmers in the developing world who still rely extensively on their ability to hold back their seeds … who can get wiped out by one bad season, would suddenly find themselves with no seeds for the next year and no money to buy new seeds,” says Ismael Serageldin of World Bank.
Another concern: the potential for the sterilized crops to sterilize normal crops. “If cross-pollination occurred and my neighbor was to go using genetically engineered crops with the Terminator genes, they could destroy my crops,” says one farmer. Another says, “I don’t think it’s in the best interests of mankind.”
BUT WHAT HAS FARMERS REALLY UPSET IS THAT THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA) ACTUALLY HELPED INVENT THE GENETICALLY ALTERED SEED.
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for determining whether genetically altered food or food additives are safe for people or animals to eat.
The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for determining whether changing a crop so that it produces its own pesticide is safe for the surrounding environment and for human consumption.
The Department of Agriculture is the agency assigned to ensure that the plant grows in the field the way the manufacture promises it will.
GOVERNMENT GETS CUT OF ROYALTIES
It’s not a subject they like to discuss, but when pressed, Eileen Kennedy of the USDA admitted “We were part of the research group developing that. Absolutely.”
The primary reason: to help companies protect their bottom line. “Recoup a part of their investment that private sector R&D [research and development] money is going into the development of that seed,” says Kennedy.
Monsanto has promised to call for public debate on the merits of the technology. “And until that takes place in the public realm and until we have an opportunity to analyze those impacts, we will not commercialize the technology,” says Watson.
What will the federal government stand to gain? Well, consider: By contract, if the genetically altered seed goes commercial, agriculture officials could make a lot of money. "TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT OF THOSE ROYALTIES WOULD GO TO THE INDIVIDUAL INVESTIGATORS," SAYS KENNEDY. "TO USDA SCIENTISTS."
To some, the promise of opportunity. To others, a threat that could, at the very least, irrevocably alter life on the farm.
USDA EMPLOYEES EARN EXTRA FROM GM CROPS - 10/02/04
In response to our item yesterday about the enormous waste of public and foundation monies on GM crops, Craig Sams has written to point out, "the fact that the US government funds research and that USDA employees then get royalties from the patents on that research is an outrage. How on earth can they be expected to make rational choices when a pro-GM choice (which is patentable) can increase their income up to the annual cap of $150,000 a year and a non-GM choice leaves them with nothing but their salary?"
Here's Craig's supporting evidence. The Terminator information is given added interest with Terminator being one of the issues currently up for discussion at COP7.
The Terminator gene in particular, but ANY USDA DISCOVERED GENE CONSTRUCT IN GENERAL, CAN GENERATE HUGE PROFITS FOR USDA RESEARCHERS, AS OUTLINED IN THE FOLLOWING TWO EXTRACTS:
On March 3, 1998, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Delta and Pine Land Company, a Mississippi firm and the largest cotton seed company in the world, announced that they had jointly developed and received a patent (US patent number 5,723,765) on a new, agricultural biotechnology. Benignly titled, "Control of Plant Gene Expression”, the new patent will permit its owners and licensees to create sterile seed by cleverly and selectively programming a plant’s DNA to kill its own embryos. The patent applies to plants and seeds of all species. The result? If saved at harvest for future crops, the seed produced by these plants will not grow. Pea pods, tomatoes, peppers, heads of wheat and ears of corn will essentially become seed morgues. In one broad, brazen stroke of his hand, man will have irretrievably broken the plant-to-seed-to-plant-to-seed cycle, THE cycle that supports most life on the planet. No seed, no food -- unless -- unless you buy more seed. This is obviously good for seed companies. AS IT TURNS OUT, IT IS ALSO GOOD FOR THE US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULATURE (USDA).
In a recent interview with RAFI, the Canada-based Rural Advancement Foundation International, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) spokesman, Willard Phelps, explained that the USDA wants this technology to be "widely licensed and made expeditiously available to many seed companies." The goal, he said, is "to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open up new markets in Second and Third World countries." The USDA and Delta & Pine Land Co. have applied for patents on the terminator technology in at least 78 countries! Once the technology is commercialized, THE USDA WILL EARN ROYALTIES OF ABOUT 5% OF NET SALES.
"I THINK IT WILL BE PROFITABLE FOR USDA," PHELPS SAID. (ROYALTIES? PROFITS? FOR A DEPARTMENT OF THE US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?)
Upper limits on earnings:
There’s a ceiling of $150,000 per annum of royalty income that a USDA researcher is permitted to earn. The way people in the private sector get around it is to defer part of the income or treat it in some way so that it ends up as part of the researcher’s pension. Details at: http://www.newscientistjobs.com/site/ns/recnews/article.jsp?id=recruit73
Another way in which the USDA differs from an academic institution is in its relationship with industry. The USDA is eager to pass technology on to the private sector, and researchers work closely with companies. But they are not allowed to create start-ups the way many university professors are now encouraged to do. Once an idea is ripe for implementation, the USDA casts about for an industrial partner. Then, typically, the government retains the patent and the company gets the first licensing rights to the technology. Researchers cannot invest in these companies, but they do get a 25 per cent share of the licensing royalties up to a maximum of $150,000 a year.
THE USDA HOLDS THE PATENT ON THE BSE (MAD COW) TEST AND REFUSES TO LET PROCESSORS USE IT!
[March 23, 2006]
2ND LD: U.S. BEEF PRODUCER SUES USDA TO SEEK BLANKET BSE TESTING
(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)WASHINGTON, March 23_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: ADDING INFO ON PRESS CONFERENCE)
Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC filed a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, seeking permission to voluntarily test all its cattle for mad cow disease in line with requests by Japanese and other customers.
The major U.S. producer, known for its high-quality Black Angus beef, said it filed the complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, noting that the USDA has refused over two years to allow it to conduct the blanket testing for the brain-wasting illness, formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.
It is the first such lawsuit in the United States, thus rekindling debate here about BSE testing that may also affect the ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and Japanese governments toward Japan resuming imports of American beef.
Creekstone Farms Chief Executive Officer and Founder John Stewart told a press conference that his company has been lobbying for USDA permission since Japan imposed an import ban on U.S. beef in December 2003, when the United States discovered its first BSE case.
Stewart stressed the company is taking the move to "satisfy customers" mainly in Japan that wants the blanket BSE testing.
In 2004, the USDA turned down Creekstone Farms' request, arguing the blanket testing has "no scientific grounds" -- a position also maintained during its negotiations with Japan.
The USDA has refused to accept Tokyo's demand to test all cattle for exports to Japan, thus eventually leading Japan to cave in and even to ease its domestic blanket-test requirements despite strong opposition, mainly among consumer groups.
Taking the USDA's side, many large U.S. meatpackers remain opposed to blanket testing, which will cost them heavily as Japan was the largest importer of American beef before the ban was imposed.
But Stewart said some other U.S. meatpackers support Creekstone Farms' move and are likely to soon follow suit to seek permission for the blanket testing.
Stewart said Kansas Gov. Kathlene Sebelius also supports Creekstone Farms.
"If BSE testing is an additional attribute that our customers want, free enterprise should allow us to provide this additional element," Stewart said.
"In a country where free enterprise, satisfying consumers, building businesses through thoughtful marketing and innovation are encouraged, I find it very difficult to understand why our government would not be supportive of this important effort," he said.
Before Japan imposed the ban, Creekstone Farms exported about 30 percent of its products, and shipments to Japan accounted for 70 percent of the exports.
Under a compromise deal reached with the United States allowing no BSE testing, Japan lifted the two-year-old ban in December on condition that imports would be limited to meet from cattle aged up to 20 months with the brains, spinal cords and other specified BSE-risk materials removed prior to shipment.
But Japan reimposed the ban on U.S. beef only after a month on Jan. 20 because backbone material, prohibited under the agreed requirements, was discovered in a veal shipment at Narita airport.
In the process of lifting its original ban, the Japanese government eased its domestic requirements to exclude cattle aged up to 20 months from BSE testing to pave the way for resuming imports of U.S. and Canadian beef.
But local authorities are continuing the blanket testing of all slaughtered cattle in Japan.
The USDA tests a small percentage of the total cattle herd under a given statistical background. But samples are mostly submitted on a voluntary contract basis, and the department is now planning to scale down the surveillance system.
In the January incident, Washington had admitted a failure in its inspection system for compliance with the agreed export requirements.
But it also maintains that the veal shipment was a "unique" case and posed no food safety risks under U.S. safeguard rules, which require removal of risk materials only from cattle aged 30 months or older.
The U.S. explanations came amid lingering concerns in Japan, mainly among consumers, about the safety of American beef as the ineligible shipment came only a month after the original ban was lifted.
Meanwhile, the United States has also been pressing Japan to raise the age limit for imports to 30 months in line with the U.S. standard."
QUESTION: Why won't the USDA ALLOW THE PROCESSORS TO TEST ALL CATTLE AT SLAUGHTER IF THEY WANT TO? TESTING AT SLAUGHTER IS THE *ONLY* WAY TO *KNOW* FOR SURE IF THE COW IS BSE FREE OR NOT. COWS TAGGED THROUGH THE NAIS WILL NOT STOP BSE! TELL YOUR CONGRESSMEN - WE WANT TESTED COWS, NOT TAGGED!
UPDATE SPRING 2007: CREEKSTONE FARMS GET JUDGEMENT AGAINST THE USDA!! JUDGE RULES THAT AMERICAN CITIZENS SHOULD BE ABLE TO TEST THEIR ANIMALS AT ANY TIME THEY WANT TO AND THE GOVERNMENT CAN'T STOP THEM. THE USDA HAS APPEALED.
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE MIKE JOHANNS' BIG AG MONEY CONNECTIONS
UPDATE SEPT. 2007: MIKE JOHANNS RESIGNED IN ORDER TO RUN FOR THE SENATE IN NEBRASKA. VOTERS WITH ANIMALS IN NEBRASKA NEED TO REMEMBER WHAT JOHANN'S DID TO THEM THROUGH THE USDA AND THE NAIS.
AGRICULTURE SECRETARY (2005-2007)
a.. Corporate Connections:
Archer Daniels Midland; Kraft (Altria); TYSON FOODS; CON-AGRA
Raised on a dairy farm in Iowa, Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns was nominated by President Bush to take over the Department of Agriculture from Secretary Ann Veneman. First elected in 1998, Johanns became the first Republican to win a second term as governor in the state in more than four decades, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics. A little more than $108,000 of the $2.3 million Johanns raised between 1999 and 2002 CAME FROM AGRICULTURE COMPANIES including Archer Daniels Midland, Kraft and TYSON FOODS and the Nebraska-based CON-AGRA, Follow the Money reported. While these businesses are key to the state’s economy, THEY ARE ALSO SUBJECT TO FEDERAL REGULATIONS SET BY THE DEPARTMENT THAT JOHANNS WILL BE HEADING. THE BULK OF JOHANNS' CAMPAIGN WAR CHEST CAME FROM INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTORS WHO GAVE A COMBINED TOTAL OF MORE THAN $900,000, OR 38 PERCENT OF HIS TOTAL, Follow the Money reported.
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Dennis Eckart, Chair
USDA Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology (ACAB)
At the July meeting of the ACAB, you asked members of the committee to send you their views on the USDA's role as co-holder of patents on the Terminator and related technology protection systems. We submit the following in response to that request.
I. USDA should abandon the patents it co-holds with Delta and Pine Land for the Terminator technology, and related technology protection systems.
After carefully reviewing the USDA materials and listening to the discussion at the recent ACAB meeting, and in light of overwhelming public comment opposing its use, we continue to believe that the USDA should abandon the patents covering the genetic seed sterilization technology (Terminator) that it co-holds with the Delta and Pine Land Company. Our understanding from those discussions is that the USDA is legally able to abandon the patents and/or terminate its obligations under the CRADA, (unilateral termination clause section). For reasons that remain unclear to us, the Agency has decided not to exercise those options but instead to push forward and execute an agreement with Delta and Pine Land on the terms under which the patents will be licensed in the marketplace.
We are steadfast in our view that USDA's continued association with the Terminator patent is a fundamental mistake because the technology is potentially dangerous to biodiversity and global food security. Terminator technology has only one primary purposeto allow private companies to exert greater control over the seed markets and extract more income from farmers forced to buy their products on an annual basis. In an era when the private agricultural research sector threatens to swallow the public, this is the wrong way to spend public money and the wrong message to send about how genetic engineering will be applied and whom it will benefit.
Scarce public resources should be spent to complement, not duplicate, efforts of the private sector. Since development of technology protection systems is being widely pursued in the private sector, there is no need for the USDA to stimulate or duplicate this research. Rather than stimulate, in fact, in this case, the public sector should act to modulate the monopolistic effects of the technology.
Abandoning the patent would also send the right message about how biotechnology will be used. The prospect of a quasi-monopolist seed industry forcing the world's farmers to adopt Terminator seeds has caused justified outrage around the world, especially among the millions of poor farmers who rely on saved seed. It is hard to think of more effective way to fan the flames of fear that agricultural biotechnology will be misused than to assist a company that currently controls 70% of the cotton seed market to secure an even stronger hold over the market. Dissociating itself from the Terminator would signal the US' commitment to develop genetic engineering to serve the common good rather than the agendas of multinational corporations.
II. If the USDA refuses to not abandon the "Terminator" patent, it should attempt to persuade its CRADA partner to establish conditions on the patent license to address concerns about the technology and limit potentially pernicious effects.
Although we recognize that the US is not a party to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) the USDA and its CRADA partner should observe and support the recommendation made by the Fifth Conference of the Parties to CBD for a moratorium on all field-testing and commercialization of genetic use restriction technology (including the Terminator). We further recommend the following:
A) The technology should not be licensed to companies, which control greater than 40% market share for a food and fiber crop species within their national seed market.
B) The technology should be not be licensed at all for use in crops capable of out-crossing with sexually compatible wild or cultivated neighboring plants. For self-pollinated crops, this technology should only be licensed for crops with demonstrated out-crossing rates of 2% or less.
C) Any royalties or licensing fees coming to USDA should be placed in a trust fund administered by the USDA with an external stakeholders panel approval. The sole purpose of this fund should be to support research examining the socio-economic impacts and the environmental and health risks of the Terminator or other technology protection system technologies and be directed to planting breeding for non (GE) crops.
D) Delta and Pine Land and USDA should agree to not apply for and enforce patent rights against, farmers or groups of farmers in developing countries and should not market or sell any Terminator seeds in such countries.
E) The Terminator should only be licensed for use in crops with newly developed traits. It should not be licensed for use on heirloom crops and their crosses or on conventionally bred varieties of crops or any varieties of crops existing on or before the year 2002.
F) The Terminator and other technology protection systems should not be licensed for use in any minor crops.
G) A review of the license agreement and its consequences by the USDA and the Justice Department for impacts upon the competitiveness in the seed industry, upon farmers choices in the market place and for any possible antitrust implications, with a commitment to forego any applications, which are found likely to increase seed industry consolidation.
H) Any license agreement should include an explicit commitment that products using the Terminator technology will not be eligible for the notice-only field testing under the Plant Pest Act; that a full permit process will be required for all field tests and commercial release of such products; and that the permit process will include a full Environmental Impact Statement encompassing evaluation of all health, environmental and socio-economic impacts.
III. The USDA should revise the policies guiding its decisions to enter into CRADAs in the future.
The USDA's participation in CRADAs should be an outgrowth of its understanding of the appropriate relationship between public and private research establishments. As the global flagship of publicly funded agricultural research, USDA should convene a stakeholder task force on the role of public funded agricultural research in an era of oligopolistic control of the food system and use that workshop as the basis of a statement on the role of USDA's agricultural research.
Once that is completed, the USDA should develop a system for evaluating whether proposed new CRADAs fit within the scope of USDA's mission as a publicly funded research establishment.
Submitted by the Following ACAB members, as of 8/25/00 (organizations listed for information only)
Carolyn Brickey (National Campaign for Pesticide Policy Reform)
Carol Tucker Foreman (Consumer Federation of America)
David Fredrickson (Minnesota Farmers Union)
Rebecca Goldburg (Environmental Defense)
Michael Hansen (Consumer Policy Institute)
Neil Harl (Iowa State University)
Mary- Howell Martens (Martens Organic Farm)
Mark Lipson (Organic Farming Research Foundation)
Margaret Mellon (Union of Concerned Scientists)
Michael Sligh (Rural Advancement Fund International)
Margaret Wittenberg (Whole Foods Market)
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **
More coming on this -
THE USDA IS NOT THE FRIEND OF THE INDEPENDENT ANIMAL OWNER!