OT-Europeans destroy McDonald's restaurants as a symbol of American multinational arrogance--and American farmers pay the price.

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Europeans destroy McDonald's restaurants as a symbol of American multinational arrogance--and American farmers pay the price.

Two interesting and related articles from today's New York Times.

While I certainly don't advocate destroying anyone's property, I can see a certain attraction in pelting a McDonald's with rotten fruit.

----------Alexi, who spends many hours growing his own tomatoes so that he doesn't have to eat the plastic ones sold in the supermarket.


Fearful Over the Future, Europe Seizes On Food

Fearful Over the Future, Europe Seizes On Food

August 29, 1999


PARIS -- Fist raised, mustache bristling, Jose Bove looked defiant as he handed himself in to French police in the southern town of Montpelier a few days ago. "My struggle remains the same," this farmer declared to an appreciative crowd. "The battle against globalization and for the right of peoples to feed themselves as they choose."

A Parisian-turned-sheep-farmer who moved to southwest France 20 years ago, Mr. Bove emerged this month as a sort of Subcomandante Marcos of the French countryside, the leader of a self-styled, anti-imperialist revolt over food. His crime, committed on Aug. 12, was to lead the ransacking and demolition of a McDonald's restaurant nearing completion in the southwestern town of Millau.

It was only the most conspicuous of a rash of recent protests against McDonald's, targeted not so much for anything the company has done but as a symbol of the United States and of what Mr. Bove has called "the multinationals of foul food." His efforts have struck a chord. French labor unions, ecologists, communists and farmers have joined to demand his immediate release, burying other differences in a shared politico-gastronomic outcry.

An army, Napoleon noted, marches on its stomach, and the European forces gathering this summer in protest against what is seen as American-led globalization have abruptly focused on food. Where it was once the deployment of American Pershing-2 missiles that caused alarm, it is now McDonald's, Coca-Cola, genetically modified American corn and American beef fattened with growth hormones that have Europeans up in arms.

"Behind all this lies a rejection of cultural and culinary dispossession," said Alain Duhamel, a French political analyst. "There is a certain allergy in Europe to the extent of American power accumulated since the cold war's end, and the most virulent expression of that allergy today seems to be food."

Of course, it is not just culture or the kitchen that is at stake. Enormous economic interests are also involved. Large quantities of American corn and soybeans, to name just two crops, have been "genetically modified" over the years - - that is, rendered more productive, more hardy, less vulnerable to fungal and viral pests through scientific alteration, including the addition of genes.

No discernible harm to Americans has occurred. But if Europe and possibly other parts of the world reject or ban such products, the economic consequences may be measured in the billions of dollars. Already, a federal judge in Brazil has banned sales of the Monsanto Corporation's Roundup Ready soybean seeds -- gene-altered to resist fungus and weeds -- and Japan has announced that it will require labels on genetically modified food. E UROPE seems to be gripped right now by a kind of collective madness, and we don't want that to spread to the rest of the world," said Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, the head of the Senate agricultural committee, who was in Germany this month.

"In the United States, we have not seen a scintilla of ill effects, and on my farm alone we've been modifying corn and soybeans since the 1930's, raising productivity by a factor of three."

Behind the "madness" several factors appear to lurk. The specter of nature being rendered more uniform by scientists in America has meshed with a wider fear of an increasingly undifferentiated planet where national distinctions fade. Europeans see on the horizon a uniform, global culinary culture dominated by multinationals -- a Hollywood of the kitchen drowning any European distinctiveness with sheer marketing muscle.

At the same time, a rash of health scares -- including the outbreak of mad cow disease in Britain in 1996, and the discovery this year of dioxin-polluted chicken in Belgium -- has provoked widespread fear of any "tampering" with nature. This mood clearly lies behind Europe's refusal to drop a ban on American beef raised with growth hormones -- a decision that prompted the United States last month to impose a 100 percent tariff on some European food products, including Roquefort and foie gras. [The American foie gras controversy, page 7.]

That American decision -- targeting foods that nestle very close to the prickly French soul -- added fuel to a fire already raging.

Attacks or complaints directed at American food and beverages have been almost constant lately as American marketers move to exploit what they see as an underserved European market. The reasons for the attacks have differed, but not the common thread of an American target.

Coca-Cola, still reeling from the effects of a poorly handled health scare that saw supposedly contaminated drinks removed from shelves in Belgium and France, is now the object of a European Commission investigation that involved dawn raids on offices in Germany, Britain, Austria and Denmark last month. The company is suspected of abusing a dominant market position to damage its competitors. In Italy, where Coke has an 80 percent share of the cola market, a separate national investigation was begun this month.

"There is no anti-American conspiracy here," said Stefan Rating, a spokesman for Europe's competition and anti-trust policy regulators in Brussels. "That Coke is American is undisputed, but not unlawful. What we are looking into are possible abuses." Coke denies any wrongdoing, and is known to be piqued by the extent and repetitiveness of its recent European travails.

his month in Belgium, a McDonald's near Antwerp was destroyed, the latest of several attacks, and a number of McDonald's in France have had rotting fruit and vegetables dumped on them since the Clinton Administration's decision to apply punitive duties to French products.

"We are attacked because we are a No. 1 global American brand," said Alessandra di Montezemolo, a McDonald's spokeswoman in Europe. "But people should understand we are local partners in the national economies."

McDonald's, which operates 750 restaurants in France, tried to calm protests there by issuing a statement saying that "80 percent of the products we serve are made in France," adding that they were "cooked by local employees." But la France profonde -- the heartland of the imprisoned Mr. Bove -- was not impressed.

"Culinary sovereignty is imperative," said Patrice Vidieu, the secretary- general of Peasant Confederation, the growing farmers' movement founded by Mr. Bove in 1987. "What we reject is the idea that the power of the marketplace becomes the dominant force in all societies, and that multinationals like McDonald's or Monsanto come to impose the food we eat and the seeds we plant."

Mr. Vidieu's movement derives much of its intellectual inspiration and direction from Attac, a growing association founded last year in France to fight globalization and to campaign for a tax on international financial transactions that would be used to help the world's poor and fight social inequality. Among the leaders of Attac (the French acronym for the Association for Taxation of Financial Transactions in Order to Aid Citizens) are Viviane Forrestier, whose anti- globalization book "The Economic Horror" has had enormous sales in France, and editors of the prestigious Le Monde Diplomatique.

It is this merging of militants against global finance and global food that has given the current outcry some of its curious virulence. Mr. Lugar, who would like to see scientific testing of genetically modified crops in Europe, confessed to being amazed. His argument is simple. The population of the world will probably grow to nine billion from six billion by 2050. Available acreage for planting has already been identified. So, unless food productivity is increased -- which will not happen without scientific intervention -- people are going to go hungry.

"The Europeans think they are protecting humanity," he said, "but we think they want to starve the rest of the world. These are big issues. I've been telling the Europeans that there's a big difference between the Kosovo war and genetically modified corn: For many Americans corn is more important."

But Philippe Folliot, the mayor of a St. Pierre-de-Trivisy, a small town in the Roquefort-growing area, is unimpressed by such arguments. He has imposed a symbolic 100 percent tax on Coca-Cola sold in the town. "Here we cannot make plastic cheeses and hormone beef," he said. "Roquefort is unique, a symbol of our battle against the globalization of taste."

Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company


New Trade Threat for U.S. Farmers

New Trade Threat for U.S. Farmers

August 29, 1999

New Trade Threat for U.S. Farmers


ASHINGTON American farmers paid premium prices this spring to sow many of their fields with genetically engineered corn and soybeans, but now as the fall harvest nears, more of the international buyers they depend upon are saying they do not want those crops.

Consumers and food companies in a growing number of countries are shunning the new crops created by genetic engineers at such companies as Monsanto, DuPont and Novartis. Foreign consumers say they do not wish to eat the new foods like corn that have been altered to produce their own pesticide, and some companies are reacting quickly to consumers' desires even though no clear evidence exists that the crops are unsafe.

This week in Japan, for example, the Kirin Brewery Company announced that starting in 2001 it would use only corn that has not been genetically engineered. While bowing to customers' concerns, Kirin made clear that it did not think the products were unhealthy. A day later, Kirin's competitor, Sapporo Breweries, announced that it, too, would revert to traditional corn, which is an ingredient in some types of beer.

The biotechnology industry plays down the recent decisions of some food companies, saying they are overreacting to threats that aren't real. Most consumers, the industry says, do not mind these new products.

Until a few months ago, opposition to genetically altered foods was largely confined to Europe, and trade officials in the United States have been battling the European Union, which has stopped buying all American corn. But this summer, the Clinton Administration's efforts have grown increasingly urgent, in an attempt to contain the aversion to these crops that is leaping from continent to continent.

Japan, which now wants mandatory labeling of gene-altered products, is the largest importer of American crops, and Mexico, whose top producer of corn flour for tortillas is avoiding altered grain, is the second largest importer of American corn.

"This is a very significant trade threat," said Peter Scher, who directs the agricultural negotiations for the United States Trade Representative's Office. "The only thing I can tell farmers is that we are doing everything we can to sell their products overseas."

About a third of American crops, including soybeans and corn, are exported. This year, American farmers planted an estimated 60 million acres (the size of the United Kingdom) with genetically engineered corn and soybean seeds, accounting for nearly half of all soybeans in the United States and about a third of all corn.

Most farmers still expect that they will find a market for much of this year's corn and soybean crops, industry officials say. But they have already been told that seven varieties of gene-altered corn, representing about 5 percent of the expected harvest, will be rejected by corn exporters. Most of that will be ground into animal feed.

Next year's harvest looms as more troublesome, with public sentiment changing, foreign markets shrinking and the agriculture industry struggling to adjust.

For the first time this summer, many corn growers are dealing with costly new issues.

Local grain elevator operators, who buy and store wagonloads of corn to sell to the exporters, have begun asking farmers to separate some types of gene-altered corn from ordinary corn to appease international buyers.

Dennis Mitchell, a farmer in Houghton, S.D., has been an enthusiastic producer of gene-altered corn and planted 600 acres this spring, 80 percent of which is a crop altered to produce a toxin that kills the European corn borer.

He boasts that the new seeds have increased his yield by at least 15 percent, and he has received assurances from local elevator operators that he will be able to sell his grain this year.

But he is paying close attention to the tremors in the marketplace, especially now that American companies like Gerber and Heinz baby foods have announced that they will not use genetically altered corn or soy ingredients. And he is uncertain what he will do next year when spring planting season arrives.

"I wish we could get this cleared up," he said. "I certainly can't raise anything I can't market."

Such uncertainty only adds to the problems of American farmers, who point out that this year's crop prices are the lowest in more than a decade.

"This is such a hard time for us, and then you compound that with this uncertainty," said Gary Goldberg, the chief executive of the American Corn Growers Association, a group that has been opposed to some practices of the biotechnology industry. It represents 14,000 independent farmers.

"Farmers are going to get caught in the middle," he said.

Clinton Administration officials have repeatedly assured consumers that all of the genetically engineered crops that have been approved in the United States are safe for people to eat. And, indeed, there is no compelling scientific evidence that shows the foods are unsafe. But the crops are so new that there is not enough evidence to prove the foods' safety to a minority of scientists who say further studies need to be done.

Dan Glickman, the Secretary of Agriculture, said that the consumers' concerns seemed to be spreading like "an infectious disease."

"This technology," he said, "got a little bit ahead of the politics."

He and Federal trade officials have spent the summer pressing European leaders and agricultural ministers to reconsider what is essentially the European Union's moratorium on new types of gene-altered crops. They have threatened some countries with intercession by the World Trade Organization, arguing that restrictions on these foods run counter to the current science supporting their safety.

Genetic engineering is a process in which scientists splice one organism's genes into another. For example, scientists created the pesticide-producing corn by inserting a gene from a bacterium.

Most of the corn and soybeans have been altered to either produce their own pesticides or to be resistant to herbicides. The first gene-altered seeds were offered to farmers in 1996, and growers snatched them up, quickly making the new biotechnology into a multibillion-dollar business for the seed companies.

The biotechnology companies say that the food companies are caving in to pressure from environmental advocates who have written letters saying that consumers do not want these products.

"Consumers are turning away from these foods in enormously smaller numbers than the activists would have you believe," said L. Val Giddings, a vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group of more than 800 companies in Washington.

Still, farmers and trade officials point to new problems. In Mexico, which bought $500 million of American corn last year, Grupo Maseca, the company that is the leading producer of corn flour, said recently that it would avoid importing genetically modified grain. The corn flour is made into tortillas, the Mexican staple.

In South Korea, another large importer of American grain, corn-processing companies said they were considering buying corn from China instead of the United States because of concerns about the gene-altered crop.

And, in Japan, the Government passed a law requiring food companies to label products that have been genetically engineered. (In the United States, Federal officials have only recently said they will consider voluntary labeling.) Preparing for awareness generated by the labeling in Japan, a subsidiary of the Honda Motor Company said this week that it would build a plant in the United States and hire farmers to supply it only with unaltered, conventional soybeans. The soybeans, which would be exported back to Japan, would be made into tofu.

In the United States, where there has been little uproar over the foods, the baby food makers Gerber and H. J. Heinz were the first large food companies to reject the new products. Then Iams, the pet food company, said it would not buy the seven varieties of gene-altered corn that have not been approved by European regulators. Iams's announcement shut down an alternative route that farmers had for that corn that exporters will not accept.

The agricultural industry has begun responding, with exporters trying to devise new methods to bridge the growing gap between farmers and consumers. A two- price system higher prices for conventional crops and lower prices for genetically-altered crops is clearly developing. For example, this year, the Archer Daniels Midland Company has been paying some farmers an extra 18 cents for each bushel of non-altered soybeans.

The American Corn Growers Association, which represents mostly family farms, told its members last week that they should consider planting only conventional seeds next spring, unless a host of questions can be answered, including whether the United States will be able to export the genetically altered crops.

The National Corn Growers Association, which is about twice as big as the American Corn Growers Association, and has a financial partnership with Monsanto and some of the other agricultural companies, has not followed suit.

Susan Keith, the group's senior director for public policy, said that the association, which is based in St. Louis, was keeping farmers informed of what types of genetically altered corn could be the hardest to sell, but had not suggested that they consider planting only conventional seeds.

The worries about international trade have deepened farmers' fears of a bleaker economic future.

Prices for most crops are the lowest in 10 years, and farmers say they are concerned that grain prices are falling even further now that foreign consumers are turning away from genetically altered crops. But experts say prices have mostly been affected by the larger harvests in other countries, which have reduced the demand for grain from the United States. In addition, the financial crisis in Asia caused exports to fall last year and prices to drop. And overproduction of some crops continues to hurt prices.

For now, uncertainty about the next planting season is bedeviling the nation's farmers. They cannot predict where the next food backlash will surface and sometimes, even if they do, it is too late.

"It wasn't until May that farmers got word that Europe had not approved certain kinds of corn," Goldberg said. "By then, the corn was in the ground."

Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company

-- Alexi (Alexi@not-in-the-dark.com), August 29, 1999


Oops. Of course the above articles were copied for educational use only. And thanks to the writers and editors of the NY Times for doing some actual reporting on this issue. Now if they could just get with the program on Y2K.

-- Alexi (Alexi@not-in-the-dark.com), August 29, 1999.

ha,I hope corporate america chokes on it's own incredulity.corporate imperialism sucks.One great big vision of homogeneity shoved down everyone's throat.

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), August 29, 1999.

Senator Lugar's words are evidence of attempts at US economic imperialism. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few months.

His statements that genetically modified crops are the only way to feed the expected world population is also false. Genetically altered crops are not required, but what will be required is a great increase in justice, and the destruction of structural economic injustices. Senator Lugar is attempting to keep the rich rich and the poor poor.

Senator Lugar is a liar who has betrayed his oath to the Constitution and disgraced his officce of public trust and responsibility.

"The rich who oppress the poor are like a devastating storm that leaves no food."

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), August 29, 1999.

I have a question. Since all of the grain harvested generally goes to the local coop / grain elevator and is mixed in with what everyone else is bringing to the coop, how can it be guaranteed that only non-engineered corn or soybeans is being purchased by these breweries or being sent to Europe????

Just food for thought.

-- Beckie (sunshine_horses@yahoo.com), August 29, 1999.

"The population of the world will probably grow to nine billion from six billion by 2050.......So, unless food productivity is increased-- which will not happen without scientific intervention--people are going to go hungry."

That statement just trips my trigger. First medical 'science' nearly eliminates disease and spares us from death in an untold number of ways so we may all continue to increase the population and, in turn, disrupts the natural occurence of species die off. NOW, without the help of 'science' we can't feed ourselves? Am I the only person who finds a certain level of insanity to this worship of science we appear to suffer from in our culture? How on earth *did* the earth manage to function at all before the miracle of science came along? Somebody better put a collar on these people before they destroy everyone they claim to be protecting. Of course, they'll just clone things as they disappear.

The Consumer Reports has requested that all genetically engineered food be labeled as such.

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), August 29, 1999.

If they really hated our fast-food places, they could boycott. Apparently that never occurs to anyone.

When I lived in the Czech Republic my Cz. friends were endlessly whining about all the McDonalds in Prague -- at least 5 of them when I left (don't know how many currently).

And yet -- each of those restaurants were always filled with Cz customers.

If the Parisians really hate McD, all they have to do is... not eat there. Last time I was there, the place was packed with French people.

A little disconnect here... ?

-- travels (around@a.bit), August 29, 1999.

Ronald the Clown sorta looks French to me.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), August 29, 1999.

Actually Randolph, the hamburgler seems more Francais, non?

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), August 29, 1999.

Will continue:

All of the McDonald characters live in Paris.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), August 29, 1999.

Will continue: To clarify--

The Hamburgler speaks a rustic dialect.

You see, he was found crawling around the vineyards as a wee tot and taken into an orphanage.

There he was raised by vegetarian nuns.

Throughout his childhood he craved meat.

Then one day he escaped, and the rest is history.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), August 29, 1999.

Ohhhh. He's a scientist.

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), August 29, 1999.

Mayor McCheese is a recovering alcoholic and is quite pleased to be getting royalties, with which he funds his ballet company.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), August 29, 1999.

As someone who has traveled throughout Europe and Central America with her kids...YES...there were MacDonalds and Burger Kings EVERYWHERE and they were FULL. Did you know you could get beer and wine at McDonalds in Europe? Yep. Our personal trips to these places were reserved for when we'd walked countless miles and the kids were complaining madly. In Costa Rica, however, one daughter took pictures of the rain forests being cut down to make room for the cattle ranchers to create the beef that Burger King sold. When the cattle ran us off the road, she "beefed up" her complaints on this. The soil in Costa Rica isn't suitable for ANYTHING but rain-forests, so the cattle ranchers must keep moving their herds to NEW lands.

Americans have no control over what folks in other countries desire. If they WANT MacDonalds, they'll GET MacDonalds. AFAIK, MacDonalds isn't exporting their meat to other countries. The countries themselves are bearing the burden of providing the ingredients. The same holds true of Burger King.

When I was a kid, there were three mom/pop stores in our neighborhood and my dad sent ME to get cigarettes for him. We even got CREDIT at those stores if payday wasn't around the corner. Credit didn't have anything to do with a credit-card. The shop-owners knew the parents and knew their kids, and knew they'd be paid when pay-day came. Life changes. The WORLD changes. Those mom/pop stores fell when the IGA's, the A&P's, the Krogers, the Costco's, the Sam's became part of the competition. If this guy wants to compete with the demands of his society, he needs to stop complaining and produce a product that out-sells them.

-- Anita (spoonera@msn.com), August 29, 1999.

'travels' has put his finger on the heart of the issue -- the customers flock to McDonalds, pay their money and eat the food. The soybean seeds sell because the yield is so much better.

It's not the *people* who are opposed as individuals, it's the competition who are trying to oppose a superior product with jingoism. And you can always find a few hotheads to rally under any suitable slogans (just read this thread for confirmation), to join those who are losing the battle for normal economic reasons, the dynamics of the free market.

The political types (in the US as well) always have the same answer when losing battles in the free market -- restrict away the freedom. Destroy the competition physically. Raise prohibitive tariffs. Create byzantine paperwork mazes. As Linus said in the Peanuts cartoons, there's no problem so big or complicated it can't be run away from.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), August 29, 1999.

Robert--Thanks for all of the great work you do at


and your contributions to this forum.

Will--I know this topic jerks your chain, too. Even if we make it through next winter without major disruptions, the fools that manage our agricultural systems are marching us toward the cliff.

The whole issue of Industrial agriculture for me is at the heart of Y2K. If we (in the U.S.) and the rest of the world had viable local agricultural economies, we would not be facing such risky prospects due to year 2000 problems.

Our current system of agriculture is vulnerable at so many levels. It is highly dependent on petroleum inputs, which makes it vulneralbe to all the the oil disruptions that we have seen in the 1970's, and feared during the various military encounters with Iraq. This dependence on petroleum has also made the farmer dependent on a high yearly dollar volume of cash just to put a crop into the ground. The large number of farmers going bankrupt is partially a consequence of this dependence.

Our system of agriculture is geared toward monoculture, growing or raising one crop or one animal at a time, on a relatively large scale. This makes us all vulnerable to the disruptions that can strike any monoculture. One bad and unexpected virus, mold, insect infestation, etc, can wipe out a high percentage of a crop. I believe this happened to our corn crop in around 1974. Of course, we have all heard about the Irish potatoe famine of the 1840's. (I think that's the decade.)

Our dependence on pesticides and herbicides also adds both economic and ecological risk. If the bugs develop a severe resistance to available chemical weapons (as is happening with humans and the available anti-biotics) we can once again have a crop wiped out. And of course we are using pesticides that can have grave and unknown consequences to human health. (See today's NY Times on the current debate over continued use of DDT and malaria.)

Once you have a global, or even large national agricultural system, you loose the redundancy that a local market can provide. Billions of people today are dependent on grain grown in the U.S. and Canadian prairies, in Australia, Argentina, and Brazil. If a blight, a world war, or other unexpected events like Y2K wipes out or disrupts the distribution of even half of the grain output of these areas, millions of people, perhaps billions, are at risk of starvation. At the very least, a great percentage of the livestock herds in the developed world would have to be liquidated due to lack of feed.

Some countries such as France have resisted the forces of the global market and world trade agreements that have wiped out the ability of most farmers to make a living in the United States. France has had various subsidies to help keep small farmers in business. American policies have done everything possible to oppose policies like that in France, and in effect we are trying to put their small farmers out of business. Nothing personal, you understand, but if countries retain their own agricultural sector, than the multinationals cannot control the market.

Besides resisting on commonsense grounds of not wanting to incur all of the risk outlined above, there are highly valid cultural grounds for resisting the anihillation of local agricultural economies. Food shipped halfway around the world is not as fresh, or as safe, as locally grown food. Local farmers can cater to local tastes. And then there is the esthetic value of being able to drive through a countryside of real farms, and not just artificial landscapes.

As for the dangers of genetically engineered plants, this topic could fill a book. As dependent as the system is now on inputs from a small number of sources, that dependence will increase exponentially if every farmer is dependent on a small handful of companies for genetically altered seeds. Please search through previous threads if you are not familiar with this topic. I consider the dangers of this technology to be equal to the potential dangers of nuclear power and weapons technology.

Its highly ironic that in the long run industrial agriculture in not really very efficient. Amish and other traditional farmers in the U.S. are not facing anywhere near the same level of financial problems as "modern" farmers, and yet have very productive operations. These traditional farmers are not luddites, they just don't believe in using technology that makes no sense financially, or that would destroy the family and community structure that makes a meaningful life possible.



This problem is much more than one of the "free market". There was a story here in our local paper written by a farmer who had just gone to our state fair. He said that pork sandwiches were being sold at a price that was the equivalent of $12.00 a pound. Farmers were recently being paid 8 cents a pound. A tractor he needed to replace an old one cost $45,000.

The goal of the multinational agribusiness companies is to vertically control every segment of a market. Grow the corn, feed it to the hogs, raise the hogs, own the packing house. Or if an independent farmer is involved, it is as a laborer. Dictate the terms and conditions that an animal is raised under. If you read the thread I posted a few weeks ago about Chicken Sh*t, it noted that Maryland chicken farmers, while making only pennies per chicken, were completely responsible according to their contracts with the Tysons of the world for disposal of the chicken wastes--thousands of gallons of the stuff a year. Enough on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay to equal the sewage produced by the city of Chicago. A few hundred farmers with a tiny profit margin (if any) cannot afford to do this ecologically or economically.

Besides this cost shifting (shifting the cleanup costs of their business to their dependent labor and to the public in general) , the agribusiness companies push other costs onto the public. Chickens and eggs, for instance, would both be labeled as toxic if they were not agricultural products. Both are so laden with salmonella and other dangerous organisms that consumers must take precautions similar to surgeons in order to safely hand raw chicken or eggs.

-- Alexi (Alexi@not-in-the-dark.com), August 29, 1999.

If you don't like genetically-modified food, then DONT EAT IT! NOBODY'S FORCING YOU.

As for me, I think GM-ed food is better, tastier, and ultimately cheaper. And it's safe. In fact, I can't wait until newer and better modifications are made!! If I were farming, you're damn sure I'd want a crop that was more drought- and pest-resistant! You think i'd want to lose it all or waste tons of $$ on irrigation when I could simply be growing a hardier crop? Heck no!

The intrusive, monopolostic ambitions of Agribusiness Inc., though...yes I dispute their means. But there's nothing wrong with the science. It's not the guys in the labcoats who are to blame, it's the guys in the business suits. The guys in the labcoats--most of em, anyway, don't even take home a tenth of the pay that business management does. They don't understand words like "hostile takeover" or "exclusive rights" or "insider trading..."

If you ate yellow corn 10 years ago, you were eating a food that was genetically modified. How? Selective breeding, not recombinant DNA work. Corn was once much smaller and less nutricious.

Do you have a dog around your house? Dogs are genetically modified, bred for their domesticity and good naturedness. You wouldn't want a wolf running around your house, would you?

How about cows? You like cows? They were also "genetically modified" by selective breeding over thousands and thousands of years.

There's really no difference in theory between breeding and genetic engineering by recombinant DNA technology.

-- coprolith (coprolith@rocketship.com), August 29, 1999.

One thing I don't like about Agribusiness, Inc., is that livestock is fed low-levels of antibiotics, to which staph and strep become readily resistant and trickle into the aquifers from the waste runoffs.

You want to kill a strep? Nuke the bugs with all you've got. You want to get them resistant? Expose them to difficult-but-tolerable levels of teracycline and streptomycin, like farmers do today with the feed bought from places like Monsanto and ADM.

In the medical center where I work, antibiotic resistant strains are now commonplace and sometimes kill people. This would never had happened if antibiotics had not been abused and administered chronically instead of acutely.

-- coprolith (coprolith@rocketship.com), August 29, 1999.


I'm not a biologist, but I remember reading a newspaper account that was related an ariticle from Nature (I think) about genetically engineered mustard plants. The article noted a great concern because these plants seemed to be about 20 times more agressive than non-engineered varieties at passing on their genes.

You may well be right though, about the actual danger from genetically modified seeds being small or non-existant. The danger does lie in the corporations that want this technology to monopolize agriculture in a way that is not yet technically feasible.

-- Alexi (Alexi@not-in-the-dark.com), August 29, 1999.


I recognize the dangers of the free market, in that it tends to be short-sighted. And this leads to prophylactic use of antibiotics in feed stocks, wide use of monocultures, etc. These are scary and dangerous practices, profitable in the short term but risking everything in the medium term.

Still, the market can't be completely rejected. Why does the farmer continue to grow hogs at 8 cents a pound? Why not quit on the spot and become a vendor of pork sandwiches at state fairs at $12.00 a pound? Hell, why don't you and I become pork sandwich vendors at that kind of profit margin? Those sandwich vendors must be as rich as Bill Gates, right? Or at least *someone* in that food chain must be making obscene profits, and we should all quit and take *that* job, yes? Or do you suppose there might be more to it than this?

I work for a contract manufacturer. The very existence of my employer is an indication that vertical market companies haven't been doing so hot. Magazines and newspapers farm out the manufacture of the paper and ink, and farm out the printing process as well. Where I work, we are often given a hazy idea of what the product might do. We are paid to invent it and develop it (for non-recurring engineering fees), and then manufacture it (at our cost plus a negotiated percent or price), and then drop ship it to the end user (again, at cost plus). We put the "original equipment manufacturer" (OEM) name on the product, but the OEM never actually sees the product, and often doesn't even get the rights to the code or schematics!

If the product is a dud, the OEM takes a bath. If it's a big hit, the OEM makes the big profit. We make the same money either way. Huge portions of manufacturing are contracted out. Companies learned long ago to focus very narrowly on what they do best, and farm out what they don't do so well to other companies that do only *that*, and do it best.

I strongly suspect that if farmers simply gave up or went broke and the hog supply started to dry up, the price of raw hog per pound would rise sharply, attracting more hog farmers. And in cases where the demand cannot be fully satisfied (like for ivory or rhino horn) the price has skyrocketed, making poaching the few remaining animals worth risking your life.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), August 29, 1999.

Will Continue & Randolph,

The Golden Arches were designed to mimic the Arc de Triomphe? Oui?

-- Deborah (infowars@yahoo.com), August 29, 1999.

There's nothing free market in these genetically modified seeds. Too much government money has gone into their development.

Ditto for the economic pressures that encourage farmers to buy these seeds. It's arguable that such decisions are made because of distorted market signals given them by manipulation of the playing field by politicians, egged on by corporations. Why exactly do you want to raise more of something whose price is falling through the floor?

If people want to sell this kind of food, fine, but the label should clearly declare what's inside. I would not knowingly buy genetically modified foods, but I suspect I have because we have no labelling requirements here in the US, and the industry is very opposed to that.

Senator Lugar and his agri-business allies seem quite put out that the number of people who don't want gm'd foods is growing. Well, isn't that what markets are about? You offer your stuff for sale, if people want it, they buy it, if they don't want it, they don't buy it. So people aren't buying the GM'd food, and Senator Lugar et al are whining about it. Come up with a better product, then, isn't that what the free market would suggest? The market has already made its decision, as the price differential between gm'd corn and non-gm'd corn is quite substantial (18 cents may not seem like much, but with the low prices farmers are already receiving, it is significant).

As to the politics of the issue, well, given the way we use food as a carrot and a stick, we can hardly whine when others retaliate in kind.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), August 29, 1999.


Ronald the Clown grew up in the slums of Paris.

He was abused and ridiculed because of his appearance.

One misty morning Ronald was scavenging in the waste bins behind a bread shop.

He noticed some muffins had been tossed into a heap with a half-eaten omelette.

Being famished, he placed the egg, cheese and bacon between the muffin slices and made a delicious breakfast.

Ronald took that idea and ran with it!

The rest is McHistory.

-- Randolph (dinosaur@williams-net.com), August 29, 1999.

Far be it from me to criticise the free market in the absence of better alternatives, but it would seem to prudent not to heavy- handedly market hygene products in France.

The backlash against such a move would make that country even more, uh, pheremonally abdundant than now, an olfactory disaster area. Think Pepe LePieu. Think 60 MILLION Pepe LePieu's!!

-- coprolith (coprolith@rocketship.com), August 30, 1999.

I've always felt that some degree of global interconnectedness was a good idea, to keep from blowing ourselves up. But you know......somehow "One world, under McDonalds", wasn't quite what I had in mind.

-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), August 30, 1999.

Flint,I believe the issue is cultural imperialism.To the french,it's distressing to see thier culture replaced with a bland,plastic american product reality.But to thier children,our super high power marketing is too much.The new products they see on television are just too enticing.So instead of eating baguette,the kids want "wonderbread"(shudder).To a people who actualy value form over function,our homogonized pre-packaged McQuality assured mass produced crap is not as yummify-ing as it is to us drones in the states.Much like the resentment a detroit resident feels when he passes a japanese auto on the way to an unemployment line.Is that really so jingoistic?

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), August 30, 1999.


As for the dangers of genetically engineered plants, this topic could fill a book.

Okay, this forum is now a book. Start filling it.

-- Rick (rick7@postmark.net), August 30, 1999.

"The new products they see on television are just too enticing."

True, but... There may be other reasons as well.

In many countries, local restaurants are unable to compete with McD, even though their own prices are lower, because at McD: 1. the service is fast, 2. the floor & the kitchen are both clean, 3. the hours are convenient, 4. the food, whatever you think of it, is absolutely reliable, and 5. it has a nice clean bathroom that actually works.

We tend to forget, or not to realize, that in many parts of the world NONE of those things are standard.

-- travels (around@a.bit), August 30, 1999.

Besides, why should Americans give a crap about other 'inferior' cultures, if there is a buck to be made. Can't compete? Find another job, but move over because the 'big boys' have money to make.

To me, farming is NOT just a 'job'. It IS a lifestyle. It is as big a part of MY culture as the American flag is our country's symbol. Many of us feel this way. It is dying and so our *we* as we helplessly stand by watching corporate farms springing up around us. Where there is big money, you will find corporations and politicians. They are choking the life out of us and I do not blame anyone for fighting back. Take that suggestion of 'boycotting' and place it where the sun never shines. Pretty easy for some to suggest something so futile as they are functioning from their big city DEPENDENT lifestyle.

To shove *our* synthetic lifestyle down the throats of other cultures under the 'guise' of improving theirs is criminal, arrogant and absolutely shameful. To do it to our own citizens is to draw a line in the sand and dare somebody to cross it.

-excuse me-


-- Will continue (farming@home.com), August 30, 1999.

Have you learned ANYTHING in your travels, travels? I've traveled quite a bit myself. I learned how ashamed I was of MANY of my fellow Americans who were 'guests' in other countries AND cultures. I learned how different other cultures values are from arrogant, rich Americans.

The next time you travel, try looking around at something other than the menu at the Hilton.

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), August 30, 1999.

I'd find this all a lot easier to get upset over, if it weren't the French we were talking about. The French INVENTED cultural imperialism. French food is the best - the French language is the best - French art is the best - French fashion is the best, etc, etc, etc, on and on and on. The idea of the French having to eat Chicky McNuggats is somehow reassuring that there is justice in the world. C'est ce bon? Heh heh heh

-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), August 31, 1999.


I spoke to Dr. Gary Ross a couple of weeks ago at the Kansas City Botanical Garden's summer Butterfly festival. He told me that in addition to killing Monarch butterflies, genetically modified BT corn has the potential to harm or kill many of the hundreds of organisms that inhabit the soil. He said it could take years of study to know how much damage is being done here, and that no one he knows of is currently doing any such study.

Now my thoughts. We are rushing into using these technologies so that a few people can make a (very big) fast buck. No one has had TIME to study the long term consequences of this technology, because it has only existed for a few years.

Ross's biography follows.



Dr. Gary Ross Biography

Dr. Gary Noel Ross is a native Louisianian educated at Louisiana State University. He received early professional distinction as an entomologist (insect scientist) specializing in lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) at the age of 23 when his graduate research on the unusual life history of a Mexican butterfly was featured in the Science Section of Time magazine (Dec. 6, 1963). After receiving his doctorate in 1967, Dr. Ross pursued a teaching career at Southern University in Baton Rouge. In 1991, after a 24 year tenure and at the rank of Professor, he retired to devote full time to his primary passion, butterflies.

Louisiana's "Butterfly Man" enjoys an outstanding international reputation as natural history writer, photographer, lecturer, and tour leader among both professional and popular audiences. He has nearly 100 articles and/or photographs in professional journals and popular magazines such as Amiricas, Audubon, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Series, International Wildlife, Louisiana Conservationist, Louisiana Environmentalist, National Geographic, National Wildlife, Natural History, Reader's Digest, and Wildlife Conservation. His two recently published books, Gardening For Butterflies In Louisiana and Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Butterflies, are now standard references.

Dr. Ross has been the technical consultant to the Moody Institute of Science, National Audubon Society, National Geographic Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Instituto de Biologma (Mexico). Within the Baton Rouge Audubon Society (President, 1993-1995) he promotes "Fourth of July Butterfly Counts" and the establishment of butterfly and hummingbird sanctuaries throughout Louisiana.

-- Alexi (Alexi@not-in-the-dark.com), August 31, 1999.

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