Free Enterprise in Cattle

Setting a precedent that independent cattle producers hope will be replicated throughout the country in lieu of inaction by the USDA's Packers & Stockyards Administration (P&SA), the South Dakota state legislature has enacted Senate Bill 95 which will require that all packers will now have to report all prices, contracts and terms when purchasing South Dakota cattle.

The bill which Governor William Janklow (R) has promised to sign declares that, "a packer soliciting livestock for slaughter in this state may not discriminate in prices paid or offered to be paid to sellers of that livestock." Packers will now be required to report to the USDA all prices paid for livestock, both contract and direct purchased at the end of each day.

"A livestock seller who receives a discriminatory price, or who is offered only a discriminatory price for livestock based upon a violation of these provisions by a packer, has a civil cause of action against the packer and, if successful, shall be awarded treble damages," the bill also states.

Johnny Smith of Ft. Pierre Livestock Market emphasized the need to save agriculture, the state's number one industry. "This new law will stop the big meat packers from 'stealing' our cattle. The packers are bankrupting good producers with their anti-competitive bidding practices."

Cattle feeder and auction owner Herman Schumacher said, "Packers, as expected, are calling SB95 the 'anti-business' bill. Actually this will help the cattle business which has long been depressed due to predatory and monopolistic cattle buying practices. IBP has even threatened to not buy cattle in South Dakota. The vice president of procurement, Bruce Bass for IBP was quoted referring to the home state of IBP's corporate headquarters as 'the soon to be socialist state of South Dakota.'

"The opposite is true," Schumacher adds. "South Dakota now will become the 'free enterprise cattle state.' Free Enterprise is what made this country great, and it will do the same for cattle producers.The packer monopoly is bankrupting cattle producers and overcharging and short changing consumers. This is a pro-business bill. If we are able to get fair prices for producers and save our industry our rural communities will prosper too.

Currently four packers, IBP, ConAgra, Cargill and Farmland-National control 87% of the beef slaughter market.

Into Every Corporation a Little Rain Must Fall

The Advertising Standards Authority, the United Kingdom advertising industry's official watchdog, has condemned Monsanto, which has been struggling mightily in recent months to persuade skeptical British consumers that food from genetically modified crops is safe, has been condemned for making "wrong, unproven, misleading and confusing" claims in an advertising campaign.

John Arlidge, a London Observer correspondent, reports that his paper obtained a draft report on the authority's investigation into more than 30 complaints about Monsanto's advertisements. It says the U.S. giant expressed its own opinion "as accepted fact" and published "wrong" and "misleading" scientific claims.

The U.K.'s Green Party and food safety campaigners who have been campaigning for a total ban on GM food welcomed the ruling. Patrick Spring, of the Green Party, said: "Monsanto has been caught out misleading the public. They should apologize to consumers and print a retraction in full-page newspaper ads.

"If they are prepared to hoodwink the public, what have they been telling their friends in Government? We know they have been lobbying ministers and officials to try to get their products onto supermarket shelves. Have they been economical with the truth? The public need answers."

The Greens, GeneWatch, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Soil Association and members of the public wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority last year complaining that Monsanto had breached the ASA's rules.

The series of commercials, by the London-based advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, began with a full-page ad which read: "Food biotechnology is a matter of opinions. Monsanto believes you should hear all of them."

Over the next few weeks, Arlidge reports, the company went on to describe "the real benefits of biotechnology for both consumers and the environment." GM foods were "grown in a more environmentally sustainable way, less dependent on the earth's scarce mineral resources."

GM technology had undergone "rigorous tests throughout Monsanto's 20-year biotech history to ensure our food crops are as safe and nutritious as the standard alternatives." Government agencies in 20 countries, including Britain, had approved them as safe.

In its report the ASA criticized the firm for wrongly giving the impression that genetically modified potatoes and tomatoes had been tested and approved for sale in Britain. The authority also dismissed Monsanto's assertion that GM crops were grown "in a more environmentally sustainable way" than ordinary crops as unproven.

Dan Verakis, a spokesperson for Monsanto, expressed disappointment at the ASA's report but pointed out that some advertisements had already been amended.

"We were the first biotech company to attempt to explain this complicated science and to help consumer understand it better. We expected it to be controversial and we expected the activist industry to be very critical," he said. "We do not wish to mislead anyone."

And the Beat Goes On ...

"I have heard ... that people may become dependent on us for food. I know that was not supposed to be good news. To me that was good news, because before people can do anything they have got to eat. And if you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you, in terms of their cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific."

-- Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, in naming the P.L. 480 program "Food for Peace."

"We have to get away from the romantic anachronism that developing countries should strive for self-sufficiency in food."

-- John Block, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 1986.

"The U.S. today has the reach and the power of an imperial state, yet domestic perceptions have not caught up with that reality. Such lack of understanding is not healthy, but leads to isolationism."

-- Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, Davos, Switzerland, 1999.

"Perhaps for the first time in history, the world's leading nations are not engaged in a struggle with each other for security or territory. Because of these developments and the dramatic increase in our own prosperity and confidence in this, the longest peacetime expansion in our history, the United States has the opportunity and, I would argue, the solemn responsibility to shape a more peaceful, prosperous, democratic world in the 21st century."

-- Bill Clinton, San Francisco, California, February 26, 1999.

Poisoning Our Children

One of the chemical poison industry's most widely circulated claims is that individuals would have to eat massive helpings of fruits and vegetables before they would become susceptible to any toxic effects of such poisons residues. As is often the case with many of the industry's claims such is not the case according to Consumers Union.

In a recently released comprehensive study the organization, which publishes the monthly Consumer Reports magazine, using U.S. Department of Agriculture data found that a single daily serving of some produce can deliver unsafe levels of toxic chemical poison residues for young children.

Their study found that seven popular fruits and vegetables--apples, grapes, green beans, peaches, pears, spinach, and winter squash--have toxicity scores up to hundreds of times higher than the rest of the foods analyzed.

Fruits and vegetables analyzed were domestic and imported, fresh and processed. The organization analyzed the results of the testing done between 1994 and 1997 on 27 food categories, covering about 27,000 samples. A sample is about five pounds of produce. The scores were based on three factors: how many samples of a food contained individual pesticides, and the average amount and toxicity of each pesticide.

For example, just one chemical poison, methyl parathion, accounts for most of the total toxicity of the foods analyzed, and its use is increasing on crops such as apples and green beans and two out of five young children who eat a U.S. grown peach will get too much methyl parathion, the Consumers Union study found

"Our findings certainly don't mean that parents should stop giving their children plenty of healthful produce," Dr. Edward Groth, technical policy and public service director at Consumers Union, told Environment News Service, "but these findings do suggest that parents might want to be careful about the amounts and types of fruits and vegetables they serve their children." Parents should not stop serving fruits and vegetables to their children, the Consumers Union recommends, but rather advises buying organically grown produce.

The study found that domestic produce had more, or more toxic, chemical poisons than imported produce in two-thirds of the cases where imports were tested and in general, processed foods had lower residues than fresh.

Aldicarb, the most acutely toxic chemical poison, is making a comeback in potato production, the study found while DDT and other chemical poisons that have been banned for decades, including the carcinogen dieldrin, still show up regularly in residue tests. Consumers Union says there is a 77% chance that a serving of winter squash will deliver too much of a banned chemical poison to be safe for a young child as dieldrin can't be washed off.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says methyl parathion, the most frequently found chemical poisons in the Consumer Reports analysis, is commonly used on soybeans and vegetables.

All in the Family

While the nation has found itself absorbed in relatively inconsequencial scandals in the Clinton years, two of the more significant corporate scandals involving the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Corp. and Tyson Foods have gone relatively unknown by the mass media.

In the former case ADM, "Supermarkup to the World," in what has been called the "best documented corporate crime in American history," was fined $100 million for fixing the prices of food-ingredients lysine and citric acid.

At the same time Tyson Foods, the nation's number one poultry producer, pled guilty in December, 1997 to giving former USDA Secretary Mike Espy more than $12,000 in illegal gratuities. The Arkansas-based poultry giant and long-time personal and financial FOB (Friend of Bill) agreed to pay a $4 million fine, contribute $2 million to Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz's investigation and cooperate in his probe.

Neither story received the attention that they so richly deserved from the nation's press, least of all from the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.

A major underwriter for PBS programming, primarily the nightly Jim Lehrer Report, is ADM, headed by Dwayne O. Andreas, who is also a major financial contributor to both the Republican and Democratic party powerful. And now thanks to some help from colleague Sam Smith we get a much clearer picture of this "corporate incest" and why all the "news of the day" is becoming such a rare commodity in our corporatist ruled "public broadcasting" culture.

Chairperson of the Corporation for Pubic Broadcasting which funds NPR and PBS is one Diane Blair.

The name of the long-time and recently-retired lawyer for Tyson Food is James Blair.

The name of the Arkansas lawyer who arranged the notorious cattle options scheme in which novice trader Hillary Rodham Clinton made $100,000 on a $1,000 investment was James Blair (See "Oprah to People's Court: What's Paul Engler's $6.7 Million Beef," The AgBiz Tiller,

The name of James Blair's girlfriend at the time was Diane Divers Kincaid.

The name of the "official" who married Kincaid and Blair in 1979 was William Jefferson Clinton (truly a mind-boggling concept; Clinton performing a marriage ceremony!)

The name of James Blairs' "best person" at his and Diane Divers Kincaid wedding was Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A.V. Krebs is director of the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, P.O. Box 2201, Everett, Washington 98203-0201; email

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