Genetic Engineering

November 2007 genetic engineering update, Part 1

Submitted: Nov 29, 2007

Following stories have been collected by Ecological Farming Association's GE News, the indispensable electronic clipping service on genetic engineering.
Badlands Journal editorial board

New York Times
ttp://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/27/business/27sugar.html
November 27, 2007
Round 2 for Biotech Beets...ANDREW POLLACK
Each growing season, like many other sugar beet farmers bedeviled by
weeds, Robert Green repeatedly and painstakingly applies herbicides in a
process he compares to treating cancer with chemotherapy.
"You give small doses of products that might harm the crop, but it harms
the weeds a little more," said Mr. Green, who plants about 900 acres in
beets in St. Thomas, N.D. But next spring, for the first time, Mr. Green intends to plant beets genetically engineered to withstand Monsanto's powerful
Roundup herbicide. The Roundup will destroy the weeds but leave his crop
unscathed, potentially saving him thousands of dollars in tractor fuel
and labor.
For Mr. Green and many other beet farmers, it is technology too long
delayed. And the engineered beets could pave the way for the eventual
planting of other biotech crops like wheat, rice and potatoes, which
were also stalled on the launching pad. Seven years ago, beet breeders were on the verge of introducing Roundup-resistant seeds. But they had to pull back after sugar-using food companies like Hershey and Mars, fearing
consumer resistance, balked at the idea of biotech beets. Now, though,
sensing that those concerns have subsided, many processors have cleared
their growers to plant the Roundup-resistant beets next spring. It would be the first new type of genetically engineered food crop
widely grown since the 1990s, when biotech soybeans, corn and a few
other crops entered the market.
"Basically, we have not run into resistance," said David Berg, president
of American Crystal Sugar, the nation's largest sugar beet processor.
"We really think that consumer attitudes have come to accept food from
biotechnology"...

There's abundant evidence to warn people against GE crops
Sydney Morning herald, November 28 2007
http://www.smh.com.au/text/articles/2007/11/27/1196036886354.html
Announcements in Victoria and NSW that genetically engineered (GE) crops will be allowed threaten more than just the income of Australia's farmers and food companies. There is irrefutable evidence that GE foods are unsafe to eat.
Working with more than 30 scientists worldwide, I documented 65 health risks of GE foods. There are thousands of toxic or allergic-type reactions in humans, thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ and system studied in lab animals. Government safety assessments, including those of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), do not identify many of the dangers, and analysis reveals that industry studies submitted to FSANZ are designed to avoid finding them.
The process of inserting a foreign gene into a plant cell and cloning that cell into a GE crop produces hundreds of thousands of mutations throughout the DNA. Natural plant genes may be deleted or permanently turned on or off, and hundreds can change their function. This is why GE soy has less protein, an unexpected new allergen and up to seven times higher levels of a known soy allergen.
The only human feeding study conducted on GE foods found genes had transferred into the DNA of gut bacteria and remained functional. This means that long after we stop eating a GE food, its protein may be produced continuously inside our intestines.
Lab animals fed GM crops had altered sperm cells and embryos, a five-fold increase in infant mortality, smaller brains, and a host of other problems.
Documents made public by a lawsuit revealed that scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration warned that gene-spliced foods might lead to allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. When 25 per cent of US corn farmers planted GE varieties, corn sales to the European Union dropped by 99.4 per cent. All corn farmers suffered as prices fell by 13 to 20 per cent. In North America a growing number of doctors are prescribing a non-GE diet. Next year, the US natural food industry will remove all remaining GE ingredients.
Consumer buying pressure will likely force the entire food chain in North America to swear off GE within the next two years. Such a tipping point was achieved in Europe in April 1999. Australia should be taking notice of the response to GE foods throughout the world. It is certainly not the time to let the state bans expire.
Jeffrey M. Smith Executive director Institute for Responsible Technology Iowa, USA

Bush's Ag Secretary Nominee is GMO Shill
News Type: Opinion - Fri Nov 2 2007 [edited]
http://minnieapolis.newsvine.com/_news/2007/11/02/1067645-bushs-ag-secretary-nominee-is-gmo-shill
On Halloween, Pres. Bush nominated Edward Schafer for the post of Agriculture Secretary. Schafer is a two-time North Dakota governor and former co-chairman of the Governors Biotechnology Partnership. While the White House is highlighting Schafer’s experience at directing emergency aid to the 1997 flooding disaster, voters and the Senate would do well to consider his role in shielding the biotech industry from consumer product labeling laws.
According to an online search, Ed Schafer was the former co-chairman of the Governors Biotechnology Partnership. He was instrumental in getting former Pres. Clinton to back off of requirements that GM modified foods be labeled as such. See the article from The Guardian in May of 2000, titled, "Clinton bows to food producers."
There was quite a flurry of press about Mr. Schafer in 2000. You might like to look up the Salon article from its archive, "Stalking the wild Frankensalmon," from May 5, 2000. Quote:
"On Wednesday, 13 governors joined forces with the biotech industry to try to persuade American consumers to become more enthusiastic consumers of engineered food. "It makes sense to say that this isn't just the big, bad chemical companies trying to engineer something to jam down your throats," said North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer… How political is the coalition? Consider that two of the group's three Democratic governors are from states housing the headquarters of biotech gorillas Monsanto and DuPont."
And an editorial and letter to editor in Gentech, also from May 2000, has even more of his own words about the 'promised land' of GM foods...
" In 1998, the Governor let his constituents know his innermost feelings about the "new" agriculture. In his State of the State address, he said: "...today different winds blow across our fields of waving wheat. Washington has changed the rules on...agriculture."
His 1999 address included a commercial for Monsanto's pesticide: "Every day I read about a new innovation...Roundup-ready crops..."
This year, the governor made no mistake about his intentions: "Genetic engineering will make farms smaller, more specialized and more profitable."
This ill-informed politician is the chief executive of an agricultural state, North Dakota, which produces enormous surpluses. Farmers in his state are paid subsidies not to grow corn and soybeans, yet the governor believes that genetically modified foods are the keys to easing world hunger. "

Modified forests could severely impact natural land
By: Josh Grenzsund, Columnist
Oregon Daily Emerald, 24 October 2007
http://media.www.dailyemerald.com/media/storage/paper859/news/2007/10/24/Opinion/Modified.Forests.Could.Severely.Impact.Natural.Land-3053006.shtml
Oregon has a growing self-perception, and reputation, as being a leader in the local and natural food craze. While "local" may be easy to define, it is harder to define what we mean when we say "natural."
A lot of the anxiety behind consumers' demands for "natural" foods comes from fear of the unknown. Will genetically engineered organisms spread their modified genes to their formerly "wild" counterparts and irrevocably alter the "natural" world? Maybe it's already happened. According to an article from Capital Press, "The West's Agricultural Web Site," there are as many as four million genetically improved Douglas Fir "super trees" growing in about 790 test plots in Washington and Oregon.
While that may sound like a lot of pollen blowing unchecked under the summer sun, one has to choose how to interpret the information. One could side with the official line, pushed by forest products companies like Weyerhaeuser that focus on the benefits that could be had by faster reforestation after clear cutting or fire. Or one could side with the anti-modification advocates who not only push a more sensational story, but in the past have backed up their views with vandalism and arson. One such case in 2001 actually helped U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken give Stanislas Meyerhoff a 13-year prison sentence, and qualified him as a terrorist.
In contrast to the dramatic measures used by some modification opponents, the corporate story, at least according to Weyerhaeuser, says that what is occurring in Oregon's forests is quite natural and nothing to pay much mind to. Weyerhaeuser will tell the press that their trees that display remarkable disease resistance, rapid growth, and straight trunks are not actually "genetically modified," but rather are just "genetic families" that have been bred for their desirable qualities. This is reassuring. As a discerning public we have generally acknowledged that breeding is acceptable, and a slightly controlled choice of which little fir tree gets to push its straight trunk into genetic futurity is just good business. Corporations will claim that breeding better, more disease-resistant organisms will also help with humanitarian problems, from hunger to global warming. It is, in short, inevitable, desirable progress.
The problem, however, begins to develop when Weyerhaeuser markets these same straight little trees as "genetically improved" stock for when "things are too important to be left to chance." Just a little looking will reveal some of the steps that they have taken in order to assure high survivability and growth rates.
When the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at Oregon State University was still known as The Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative, they publicized their work with "Roundup® resistant" trees. Aside from the obvious involvement of Monsanto on this project, Weyerhaeuser also helps fund the tree lab at OSU.
The old TGERC Web site still has information posted about their hundreds of lines of transgenic trees that "have demonstrated high levels of tolerance and no detectable growth loss after multiple Roundup® applications…[and others]…that contain a synthetic gene from the cry3a strain of Bacillus thuringiensis…showed strong resistance to the cottonwood leaf beetle…and enhanced growth rate." Here is where forest products companies end their tale and the anti-modification advocates pick it up.
While he most inflammatory propaganda from this camp will go on about "frankenforests" of genetically modified trees that will devastate native forests and change the entire notion of what the natural world is, there are more reasoned arguments that intelligently refute the economic and humanitarian claims of corporations. The coherent core of these counter-claims takes a step back and looks not only at the trees and how they fall into the saws and pulps of our economic cycles, but how they stand as organisms within a larger cycle of plant and animal organisms in the places we call our forests.
In their publication, "Genetically Modified Trees: The ultimate threat to forests," the Friends of the Earth argue that the reason we should not genetically modify our trees, and thus our forests, is because we are not the only creatures who value trees. Insects, birds, and animals do not acknowledge property and national forest boundaries. They will eat or use whatever tree they happen to encounter and, for example, a tree with insecticide properties could pollinate across boundary lines, impact insect populations and disrupt an entire food chain.
This possibility of broad pollination raises a darker part of the issue: property. If, in two or three generations, forest life contains modified genes through cross-pollination, will the companies give up their ownership of that modified gene, or will we, the people, have to give up the trees that make up our forests?
We should not allow for that possibility. We should resist technological determinism when discussing whether or not we should modify organisms' genes, because giving in to its apparent inevitability will allow the genetic composition and fate of our world, and eventually our bodies, to be established by corporations' economic concerns. This local and worldwide issue is one in which you don't want to miss the forest for all the trees.

NAFTA and Biotech: Twin Horsemen of the Ag Apocalypse
The Last Days of Mexican Corn
By JOHN ROSS
CounterPunch, November 21 2007
http://www.counterpunch.org/ross11212007.html
Mexico City.
The single, spindly seven foot-tall cornstalk spiring up from the planter box outside a prominent downtown hotel here was filling out with new "elotes" (sweet corn) to the admiration of passer-bys, some of whom even paused to pat the swelling ears with affection. Down the centuries most of the population of this megalopolis migrated here from the countryside at one time or another over the course of the past 500 years and inside every "Chilango" (Mexico City resident) lurks an inner campesino.\
But the solitary stalk, sewn by an urban coalition of farmers and ecologists under the banner of "No Hay Pais Sin Maiz" ("There Is No Country Without Corn") in planter boxes outside the downtown hotels, museums, government palaces and other historical monuments can just as easily be seen as a signifier for the fragile state of survival of Mexican corn.
As the year ripens into deep autumn, the corn harvest is pouring in all over Mexico. Out in Santa Cruz Tanaco in the Purepecha Indian Sierra of Michoacan state, the men mow their way down the rows much as their fathers and their fathers before did, snapping off the ears and tossing them into the "tshundi" basket on their backs.
In the evenings, the families will gather around the fire and shuck the "granos" from the cobs into buckets and carry them down to the store to trade for other necessities of life. It is the way in Tanaco in this season of plenitude just as it is in the tens of thousands of tiny farming communities all over Mexico where 29 per cent of the population still lives. But it is a way of life that is fading precipitously. Some say that these indeed may be the last days of Mexican corn.
In fact, this January 1 may prove to be a doomsday date for Mexican maiz when at the stroke of midnight, all tariffs on corn (and beans) will be abolished after more than a decade of incremental NAFTA-driven decreases. Although U.S. corn growers are already dumping 10 million tons of the heavily subsidized grain in Mexico each year, zero tariffs are expected to trigger a tsunami of corn imports, much of it genetically modified, that will drive millions of Mexican farmers off their land - in NAFTA's first 13 years, 6,000,000 have already abandoned their plots - and could well spell the end of the line for 59 distinct "razas" or races of native corn.
Corn was first domesticated eight millennia ago in the Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca and Mexico remains the fourth largest corn producer on the planet but its 22,000,000 ton annual yield pales in comparison to U.S. growers who are expected to harvest near 300,000,000 tons this year, accounting for 70 per cent of the world's maize supply. A third of U.S. corn acreage is now under genetically modified seed.
Big Biotec has had its guns trained on Mexican corn for a long time but under the national biosecurity law, Monsanto and its ilk have been barred from selling their GMO seed here. Now the transnationals are putting a full court press on the CIBOGEN, the inter-secretarial committee on bio-security, to vacate the prohibition on GMO sales - the measure was originally enacted in the late '90s in an effort to protect native seed from contamination and homogenization by genetically modified materials.
This September, the CIBOGEN was on track to designate experimental GMO farms in the north of Mexico (Sonora's Yaqui Valley and the Valley of Culiacan) where there are no native corns that could be corrupted by the engineered seeds but the designation was abruptly postponed around issues of potential contamination to the great frustration of a powerhouse pro-GMO coalition motored by the Biotec giants and including the Mexican National Farming Council (big growers), the National Association of Self-Service Stores (Wal-mart - now the biggest tortilla retailer in the country), and the National Farmers Central (CNC) which groups together rank and file farmers attached to the once-ruling (71 years) PRI party.
A dubious milestone in the history of corn was reached in July when scientists at the National Genetics & Biodiversity Laboratories announced that they had successfully mapped the genome of Mexican maiz. That was the good news. The bad news is that the genome will be available to anyone who can pay the Institute's asking price.
Who owns the genome is crucial to the survival of Mexican corn. There is little doubt that the Monsanto Corporation of St. Louis Missouri would love to get its hands on this breakthrough information so that for-profit scientists could design seeds modeled upon the DNA of native corns for commercial sales.
Mexican corn is a rich source of genetic history. Millions of adaptations to specific conditions have created a seed stock with extremely variegated properties. For millennia, native seed savers have set aside corn seed that is resistant to drought whose DNA structure Monsanto will now be able to simulate in its laboratories and market under its brand.
Monsanto took a giant step in locking up the genetic wealth of Mexico this past April 18 when it signed an agreement with the National Association of Corn Producers (CNPMM), a section of the CNC that groups together big corn farmers, to establish regional seed banks in the center and south of the country. CNC members were designated "guardians of the seed" and charged with assembling collections of native corn to be housed in Monsanto-financed repositories.
(Big bucks from Cargill and Maseca-ADM have also funded the seed banks.) "Allowing Monsanto to get so close to the secrets of Mexican corn is like asking Herod to baby-sit," writes Adelita San Vicente, an activist with the "No Hay Pais" coalition in a recent agrarian supplement of the left daily La Jornada.
55 per cent of the crops needed to feed the human race are now grown by just ten corporations. The biggest players in this monopoly game are Bayer, Dow, Dupont, Syngenta (once Novartis), and Monsanto. None of these conglomerates is a seed company. They all began their corporate life selling chemicals for war and farming.
Monsanto, which dominates 71 per cent of the GMO seed market, has operated in Mexico since the post-World War II so-called "green revolution" that featured hybrid seeds ("semillas mejoradas") that only worked when associated with pesticides and fertilizers manufactured by the transnational chemical companies. Selling hybrid seeds and chemical poisons in Mexico continues to be profitable for Monsanto whose total 2006 sales here topped 3,000,000,000 pesos ($300 million USD.) It doesn't hurt that Monsanto Mexico sells hybrid seed for $2 Americano for a packet of a thousand when its states-side price is $1.34.
22,000,000 Mexicans, 13,000,000 of them children, suffer some degree of malnutrition according to doctors at the National Nutrition Institute and Monsanto insists that it can feed them all if only the CIBOGEN will allow it to foist its GMO seed on unwitting corn farmers. But the way Monsanto sells its GMO seed is severely questioned.
Farmers are forced to sign contracts, agreeing to buy GMO seed at a company-fixed price. Monsanto's super-duper "Terminator" seed, named after California's action hero governor, goes sterile after one growing cycle and the campesinos are obligated to buy more. By getting hooked on Monsanto, Mexican farmers, once seed savers and repositories themselves of the knowledge of their inner workings, become consumers of seed, an arrangement that augurs poorly for the survival of Mexico's many native corns.
Moreover, as farmers from other climes who have resisted Monsanto and refused to buy into the GMO blitz, have learned only too traumatically, pollen blowing off contaminated fields will spread to non-GMO crops. Even more egregiously, Monsanto will then send "inspectors" (often off-duty cops) to your farm and detect their patented strains in your fields and charge you with stealing the corporation's property.
When Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser came to Mexico several years back to explain how Monsanto had taken his farm from him for precisely these reasons, local legislators laughed that it was a science fiction scenario. "It is going to happen to you," the old farmer warned with all the prescience of an Aztec seer.
Mexican corn is, of course, not the only native crop that is being disappeared by global capitalism. Native seeds are under siege from pole to pole. In Iraq, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers come together to form the birthplace of agriculture, one of the very first acts of George Bush's neo-colonial satrap L. Paul Brenner was to issue the notorious Order 81 criminalizing the possession of native seeds. The U.S. military spread out throughout the land distributing little packets of GMO seeds, the euphemistically dubbed Operation "Amber Waves." To make sure that Iraq would no longer have a native agriculture, the national seed bank, located at Abu Ghraib, was looted and set afire.
The threat to native seed has become so acute that the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization is funding the construction of a doomsday vault on remote Svalbard Island in northern Norway 800 miles from the North Pole. It was thought that seeds cryogenically frozen and stored in deep underground bunkers would be insured of survival. But as the polar bears of that gelid bioregion now know only too well, nothing is safe from the globalizers' hunger to destroy the planet and what it grows.

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Three pieces of good news

Submitted: Jul 12, 2007
This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan tstand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation ofthese exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs, July 11, 2007

Three pieces of good news:

1) No biowarfare lab for Livermore Lab Site 300 near Tracy. One San Joaquin County reporter said today that he'd heard the decision was actually made in June, as scheduled, but only announced now. Possibly, the consolation warpork prize for Livermore Valley was a head-trauma clinic for Iraq veterans.

2) The House Natural Resources Committee is looking into the revolving door policy at the Department of Interior, by which Jason Peltier, a top water official, is leaving to become assistant general manager of Westlands Water District. Committee questions to Interior Secretary focus on projects Peltier has been involved in that would have benefitted Westlands.

3) Hank Shaw, capital reporter for the Stockton Record, reported yesterday on his blog that Section 123 has been removed from the Farm Bill. The section would have prohibited states or local jurisdictions from banning cultivation of genetically engineered crops within their borders. Four counties in California have such laws and others are working on them at the moment. Shaw said he confirmed the news with several reliable sources among Agriculture Committee members and committee staff. It would appear he's scooped the nation on his blog, but he hasn't written the article for his newspaper yet, nor have either the news services or GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org (the indespensible anti-GMO clipping service) yet picked up the story.
We'll see ...

Bill Hatch
----------------------

7-11-07
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA COMMUNITIES DEFEAT BIO-WARFARE AGENT RESEARCH PROPOSAL
AT LIVERMORE LAB SITE 300
For more information:
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Loulena Miles, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Bob Sarvey, Business Owner and opposition leader in Tracy, (209) 835-7162
http://www.trivalleycares.org/pressRelease/prjul07.asp

Activists and Business Owners Rejoice as Dept. of Homeland Security Rejects
Livermore Lab Application for National Bio and Agro Defense Facility
(NBAF); Claim Public Opposition Tipped the Scales

TRACY - Following a year of community outreach, meetings with elected officials, neighborhood "house parties", door to door petitioning, Tracy City Council action, and other escalating opposition, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) apparently got the message. There is no "community acceptance" for a bio-warfare agent research facility in Northern California.

Today, elected officials leaked the names of the 5 finalist locations for the Dept. of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, or NBAF. Livermore Lab's Site 300 is NOT on the list, despite heavy lobbying by the Lab and the University of California, which manages Livermore Lab
and submitted its NBAF application.

The NBAF will be one of the largest and most dangerous biodefense facilities in the world. Reportedly, the "finalist" contenders to house NBAF are located in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Local grassroots organizing carried the day in eliminating Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range from consideration. Tri-Valley CAREs, a watchdog group that monitors Livermore Lab, and its allies
generated more than 7,000 calls and letters to the Department of Homeland Security opposing a bio-warfare agent research facility at Site 300.

The group collected more than 2,000 paper petitions against the bio-facility, many of them distributed from neighbor to neighbor and through Bob Sarvey's shoe store in Tracy. In addition, the group's members
wrote numerous letters to the editor and spoke out at Tracy City Council and other key meetings.

On Tri-Valley CAREs' behalf, Working Assets Long Distance asked its local customers if they would be willing to pay a small fee to send a letter-gram telling DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to stop the bio-lab from locating at Site 300 -- and more than 3,000 did so. Hundreds more made phone calls.

A colleague organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, sponsored an Internet forum that enabled nearly 2,000 people to send their email messages opposing the facility to DHS.

And, following advocacy from community members, the Tracy City Council, Site 300's closest neighbor, voted in January 2007 to oppose the bio-lab. The City of Tracy then sent a letter to DHS announcing its opposition.

According to Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs, "The community opposition was impressive. So many bright lights came out to oppose this dangerous bio-warfare agent research proposal. I believe it was public outcry that caused Homeland Security to eliminate Site 300 from consideration."

Kelley continued, "I am ecstatic that we were able to achieve this victory and I salute all the community members who spoke out."

The proposed NBAF will cover 520,000 square feet, roughly the size of 5 Wal-Mart stores. It will house the most lethal pathogens on Earth, with both BSL-3 and BSL-4 capacity.

Biosafety Level-3 facilities experiment on infectious or exotic pathogens that are potentially lethal, such as live anthrax, plague and Q fever. Biosafety Level-4s are reserved for extremely exotic biological agents for
which there is no known cure, such as Central European tick-borne encephalitis. The biological research at NBAF will spread across a minimum of 30 acres to test on large animals, according to the DHS request for
proposals in the federal register.

Local businessman and resident Bob Sarvey said today, "I am glad that we in Tracy will not be subjected to both increased bomb testing at Site 300 and live anthrax, plague, bird flu and other pathogens. I am celebrating this victory while continuing opposition to further bomb testing with depleted
uranium at the site. The end goal is to obtain cleanup of existing contamination and safe research at Site 300."

Moreover, building this research lab at Site 300 would have meant collocating bio-warfare agent research with nuclear weapons, sending the wrong signal to the rest of the world. "Building this facility at Site 300
would have weakened the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)," stated Loulena Miles, the staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "Today, there exists a bright line, with no country locating its advanced biological warfare
research in classified nuclear weapons facilities. I am particularly joyful that the rejection of Site 300 by DHS preserves this clear and important distinction."

Miles elaborated, "If the line is ever breached, collocating 'bugs and bombs' will raise suspicions worldwide about the intent of the U.S. biodefense program. This will have a corrosive effect on universal acceptance of the BWC." The Biological Weapons Convention is the international treaty to prevent the spread of bioweapons.

Additionally, the NBAF is part of what many community groups are calling an unnecessary and dangerous "biodefense building boom."

Tri-Valley CAREs and its allies have asked Congress and the Bush Administration for a national "needs assessment" to be undertaken. This logical first step would provide the government and the public with an
accurate picture of what biodefense capabilities presently exist in the United States, and what if any additional capability is needed.

Stated Kelley, "It is shocking that no such overarching assessment exists and that each federal agency is moving forward willy-nilly with its own proposals for more labs."

This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan to stand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation of these exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles.

Homeland Security will make the final site selection for NBAF by October 2008. The Environmental Impact Statement process, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, is now slated to begin immediately.

7-12-07
Tracy Press
Tracy dropped from bio-lab list...Rob L. Wagner
http://tracypress.com/content/view/10137/2242/

Tracy didn’t make the cut to host a $450 million national lab where killer germs like anthrax, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease will be studied, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday...the federal government has selected finalists from five other states for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. The decision eliminates the potential to bring hundreds of highly skilled jobs to the city but is considered a victory by many residents who were troubled by the secrecy and possible threat posed by the project. When federal officials whittled down the list, it eliminated Tracy, the only bidder west of the Rocky Mountains. The five that are left are Flora Industrial Park in Madison County, Miss.; Texas Research Park in San Antonio, Texas; Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.; Umstead Research Farm in Granville County, N.C.; and the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. It’s likely Tracy didn’t make the cut because of its lack of community acceptance. Earlier this year, the City Council voted to oppose the project. In a Feb. 9 letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Lawrence Livermore officials and other federal officials, City Manager Dan Hobbs cited both the proximity of Site 300 to the city and residents’ public health and environmental concerns. Perhaps equally important was the lack of answers from federal officials about specific testing at the proposed facility, Sarvey said...more than 4,000 signatures and about 2,000 letters were sent to Homeland Security in opposition to the proposed project. Chris Harrington, spokesman for the University of California, which is associated with Lawrence Livermore on the project, said, "The University of California is disappointed that its proposal for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility was not selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for further review and consideration." He also said that while UC’s proposal is no longer under consideration, university officials hope Homeland Security will not rule out options to place a bio- and agro-defense facility in California in the future.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC out of the running for controversial biodefense lab...David Perlman
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/07/12/BAG61QV3GK1.DTL&hw=uc&sn=003&sc=644

The University of California lost its bid Wednesday to build a huge new biodefense lab where scientists would study highly dangerous microbes at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's property near Tracy, federal officials announced Wednesday. UC officials had lobbied strongly for selection of the Livermore lab as home for the new facility. Livermore scientists had planned to locate the lab at the Site 300 property near Tracy -- well away from the main Livermore campus. But local opposition may have helped derail the plan. Tri-Valley Cares, the activist organization that has long been a thorn in the side of the Livermore lab's nuclear weapons work, vigorously lobbied against locating the new biodefense facility anywhere near Tracy or Livermore. More than 3,000 petitions and 2,000 e-mails from Tracy residents, plus 2,000 paid telephone messages carried by the Working Assets Long Distance phone service, opposed the new lab, according to Marylia Kelley, a leader of the organization formally known as Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment. The Tracy City Council also voted to oppose the lab... The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is planned as a huge, heavily shielded structure covering more than 500,000 square feet -- larger than five average Wal-Mart stores. Within the building, under a variety of high-tech containment labs, scientists and technicians would study the effects of the world's most dangerous microbes on animals and seek new ways to protect both humans and domestic animals against the germs, according to homeland security planners. A statement from UC's Washington office said the university "is disappointed" that it was not selected and added that it is "a leader in the field of biotechnology and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the area of biosecurity research. We will continue to apply our premier scientific and technological expertise to the homeland security work of our nation."

7-11-07
Tracy Press
Tracy's dropped from bio-lab list...Cheri Matthews
http://tracypress.com/content/view/10137/2242/

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just announced that Tracy was cut from its list of proposed locations for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility.
The list was narrowed from 18 sites to five. The sites under consideration are in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Kansas gears up effort to win bio lab
By JASON GERTZEN
The Kansas City Star
http://www.kansascity.com/business/story/186415.html

“…We can make a very strong case that we are the best possible location.”
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Kansas officials aim to blend scientific strengths with political savvy after the state emerged Wednesday as a finalist for a $450 million federal biodefense laboratory.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security leaders included a proposed location on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan among spots in five states that now will undergo an intensive review. Officials plan to name a winner by the fall of 2008 for a substantial lab complex that will employ hundreds of scientists and bring a boost to the bioscience prestige and economy of the successful region.
Kansas is vying with Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi for the 500,000-square-foot facility that is to develop new measures for detecting and countering foot and mouth disease, various strains of swine fever and other pathogens with the potential to devastate the nation’s food supply.
Another Kansas site in Leavenworth County and one in Missouri near Columbia were trimmed from 17 locations across the country under consideration for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Federal officials intend to move the scientific work from an animal disease lab at Plum Island, N.Y., that is viewed as inadequate because of its aging facilities.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, viewed Wednesday’s much-anticipated announcement as a big win for his state and said he was optimistic about its prospects.
“There is still much work to be done, but our state can be proud that we are considered one of the premier centers of biological and agricultural research, businesses and education,” Roberts said. “The merits are on our side" ...

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
UGA on short list for national bio-defense facility
By KEN FOSKETT
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2007/07/11/biodefense_0711.html

The University of Georgia is a finalist for a major new bio-defense facility dedicated to combating contagious human and animal diseases.
The state's top university was among five sites chosen Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security as potential homes for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, according to Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The research facility, part of the national strategy to combat terrorism, is intended to counter threats to the nation's food supply and limit the chances of animal diseases spreading to humans.
The state of Georgia has proposed investing up to $154 million to land the project, including $10 million to attract researchers to the university system and $120 million in new UGA facilities.
"Just being on the short list is a very big win for Georgia," said Mike Cassidy, president of the Georgia Research Alliance, which supported UGA's bid. "We're thrilled" ...

7-12-07
Brownfield
M-U no longer finalist for National Bio and Agro-Defense facility
by Julie Harker http://www.brownfieldnetwork.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=BAC0E949-CF20-D683-59E70F731A958A2E

The University of Missouri-Columbia has been dropped as a potential site for a new national bio and agro-defense research facility. The Homeland Security Department narrowed its list on Wednesday to five potential sites: in Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi and North Carolina.
The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association recently came out in opposition to the Columbia location, saying it was too risky to animal and human health to have the level-four facility in such a populated area.
Other ag groups, including the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Pork Producers Association, supported the location.
----------------------

Rep. Miller News--New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Depart ment
Date:
Thu, 28 Jun 2007 13:31:15 -0400
From:
Lee, Danielle
To:
Miller, George

MEMO

To: Interested Parties
From: The office of Congressman George Miller
Date: 6/28/07
Re: New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Department

-- California water
-- Lobbyists / "Revolving Door"
-- Interior Department

Senior members of the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to the Interior Department today to request information on Administration officials' use of the "revolving door" and its possible impact on federal policymaking. The letter follows below.

For more information, please contact Daniel Weiss at (202)225-2095.

Background

Jason Peltier once ran the Central Valley Project Water Association, an organization that lobbies on behalf of federal water contractors in California. He then became one of the Bush Administration's lead officials on Western water policy, apparently overseeing projects and policy decisions that directly affected his former clients. He most recently served as the Interior Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.

This week, he accepted a job with the largest irrigation provider in the country and one of the largest water customers of the Interior Department, the Westlands Water District, despite having been directly involved in a number of federal decisions that may impact Westlands.

Mr. Peltier was profiled last year in an article in the New York Times ("For Thirsty Farmers, Old Friends at Interior Dept."), questioning his role in influencing water policy decisions. The Westlands Water District recently revived a lawsuit against the United States charging that the government should be using less water to restore the environment under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

The congressional letter comes at a time when the Bush administration's Interior Department faces increased scrutiny. Yesterday, the Washington Post revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney's political interference led to a decision to withhold water from salmon, leading to a massive fish kill with devastating consequences for the Pacific Northwest ("Leaving No Tracks"). Earlier this week, the former second-ranking official at the Interior Department, J. Steven Griles, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Today's letter

The congressional letter sent today calls for an accounting of the decisions Mr. Peltier made as an Interior official that would affect his new employer, and requests an explanation for, and documentation of, the steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in the case, as well as in a similar earlier case.

The request was sent by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the Committee.

The full text of the letter to Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, is below. The letter was copied to Earl Devany, the Department's Inspector General.

< <20070628MillerRahallDOILetter.pdf>>

***
The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Kempthorne:

We write today expressing great concern over the imminent departure of the Department of Interior's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science-Mr. Jason Peltier-who is leaving the Department to become the Chief Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation district in the country and one of the largest customers of the Bureau of Reclamation. While serving at the Department for the past six years, Mr. Peltier has played a major role in a number of California-related water issues that impact his prospective employer.

As members of Congress and Committees with oversight of the Department of Interior and its stewardship of the nation's natural resources, we are deeply troubled by the potential impact Mr. Peltier's use of
the "revolving door" will have on the Department's policymaking.

Although we have been advised that Mr. Peltier may have removed himself from decisions on some California-related water issues, former Secretary Gale Norton once described Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Peltier as dealing "frequently with California water issues" on behalf of the Department. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing Mr. Peltier's involvement with California water, the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project, and the Westlands Water District, including Mr. Peltier's:
* role in implementing the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the CALFED program;
* participation in the development of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan;
* policymaking role regarding the Central Valley Project, including the renewal and awarding of contracts for Westlands and other CVP water users; and
* involvement in Trinity River matters.

In addition, it is our understanding that Mr. Peltier is actually the second official from the Department of the Interior to have joined the Westlands Water District within the last year. We have learned that Ms. Susan Ramos, the former Assistant Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation, presently represents the interests of Westlands in negotiations with her former office, the Bureau of Reclamation.

In light of these facts, we request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in these two cases, especially regarding litigation between Westlands Water District and the United States. Specifically, we request:
1 a full-accounting of Mr. Peltier's and Ms. Ramos' efforts to negotiate their new employment, and an explanation of the actions taken to ensure that their exit plans did not and will not impact federal policymaking;
1 information demonstrating that these former government employees' new positions with Westlands Water District will not violate federal statutes prohibiting conflict of interest or "switching sides," including 18 USC §207; and
* any advice, counsel, or opinions the Department prepared on this matter.

We appreciate your prompt attention to our request, and would appreciate your response by July 27 of this year. Please coordinate the production of the requested information with Jeff Petrich, Chief Counsel, Committee on Natural Resources at (202) 225-XXXX.

Sincerely,

GEORGE MILLER NICK J. RAHALL, II

Member, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Natural Resources Committee

CC: The Honorable Earl Devany, Inspector General, Department of the Interior
----------------------

8-27-02
Environmental New Service
Bush Administration Drops Appeal of CalFed Challenge
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2002/2002-08-27-09.asp

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 27, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush administration is dropping its appeal of a federal judge's ruling that environmental groups say could harm a widely supported California water plan.
At stake is the state-federal CalFed plan, which is designed to restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta and improve water supply reliability for California. Congress is now considering legislation to authorize funding for the CalFed plan.

But in February, a federal judge in Fresno ruled that federal regulators improperly allocated water to fish and wildlife. If upheld, the decision will reduce the amount of water available for protecting the environment.

In May, the Department of Interior appealed the judge's ruling, which came in a suit filed by Central Valley agribusiness interests in an attempt to weaken the CalFed plan. Last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton withdrew the government's appeal, a decision that environmentalists say undermines the cornerstone of the CalFed plan.

"Secretary Norton is walking away from CalFed, even though she had pledged to support it," said Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "This is another environmental rollback by the Bush administration, and it has serious consequences for California."

Norton's key staffer on CalFed issues is Jason Peltier, who previously served as a longtime lobbyist for Central Valley agricultural interests. For more than a decade, as the head of the Central Valley Project Water Association, Peltier led efforts to oppose federal water reform.

Despite Peltier's efforts, President George Bush Sr. signed into law the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) in 1992. The CVPIA was a major overhaul of the federal project that delivers water to farmers and other California water users. It guaranteed that water would be made available for environmental protection.

The Department of Interior wrote rules to implement the CVPIA, which serve as the foundation of the CalFed plan.

On October 31, 1992, the day after CVPIA became law, Peltier pledged in the San Francisco Chronicle, "We'll do anything and everything to keep from being harmed. If that means obstructing implementation [of the bill] so be it."

"We call on Secretary Norton to explain the role of former water lobbyist Jason Peltier in this decision to capitulate to his former clients," said Nelson. "If Peltier is behind this, then it means he is finally delivering on his decade old promise to block implementation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Industry special interests should not be charged with protecting the environment."

NRDC and other environmental groups are appealing the ruling to the Ninth Circuit court of appeals.
-------------------

2-17-07
Water facilities transfer isn't easy
Cleaning up drainage raises complex tangle of legal, finance issues.
By Michael Doyle and Mark Grossi / The Fresno Bee
http://www2.dcn.org/pipermail/env-trinity/2007/001120.html

Serious political and pragmatic obstacles block a new proposal to shift vast San Joaquin Valley irrigation facilities into farmers' hands.

Capitol Hill skeptics hold key leadership positions. Congress is already booked up with another big Valley water plan to restore the San Joaquin River. Technical solutions are complicated.

And history, if it's any guide, suggests it's extremely hard to transfer federal water projects -- especially ones serving California.

"A proposal like this will always face challenges," Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, conceded Friday. "This is not a unanimous consent item."

Costa, nonetheless, said he finds promise in the new notion to deliver into local control the San Luis Reservoir and more than 100 miles of canals and associated pumping plants. He represents much of the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District.

Under the proposal, Westlands would join with the San Luis Water District and other districts in taking over the federal facilities.

The state of California also would play a role.

The water districts would become responsible for resolving the irrigation drainage problems now afflicting almost 400,000 acres of the Valley's west side.

In exchange, the federal government would forgive the districts' $489.6 million construction debt.

"This is an attempt, I think, to think out of the box," Costa said.

Supporters consider the proposal aired this week better than other drainage options estimated to cost as much as $2.6 billion. The government'spreferred drainage option was supposed to be announced Friday, but officials delayed it to discuss the new proposal.

Environmental critics question whether the new idea will really save taxpayer money. If the government remains liable for drainage, irrigation districts would eventually have to repay the federal Bureau of Reclamation for a drainage fix.

Bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken responded that taxpayers still would be providing the upfront funds. The government would allow interest-free payback over 50 years. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy.

"The reimbursement wouldn't begin until after the facilities for drainage are complete," McCracken added.

But even the 20-page conceptual paper now circulating on Capitol Hill acknowledges numerous difficulties.

Area lawmakers like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, still must get their potential concerns addressed.

The feds and the farmers, for instance, concede they don't yet agree on the "full scope" of how the government might be shielded from future lawsuits. The farmers originally sued over the government's failure to provide
promised drainage.

Without drainage, selenium-tainted farm runoff has accumulated -- most infamously during the 1980s in the poisoned Kesterson Reservoir in western Merced County.

The written proposal acknowledges other uncertainties, including:

Efforts to understand the financial implications of the transfer are "ongoing," while identifying the dollar value of the water and facilities is "a difficult question to answer."

Farmers and federal officials disagree over the "outstanding" issue of who is responsible for dam safety.

The potential effect on California bond and credit ratings "has not yet been addressed."

Impacts on pumping plant operations are "highly dependent" upon final negotiations.

And then there's the salt.

Many millions of tons of salt have come to the western San Joaquin Valley in irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is where the ocean meets the state's two longest rivers.

"Where will all this salt go?" asked Clovis resident Lloyd Carter, an attorney and environmentalist.

The salt will eventually damage the land unless there is some way to remove it, experts say.

Simply changing the owner won't remove the salt.

"Is this new plan really in the best interest of the taxpayers?" asked Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

Miller's skepticism is telling. He is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's chief lieutenants. Her chief of staff, John Lawrence, formerly handled Western water issues for Miller. Her chief administrative officer, Dan Beard, likewise worked for Miller and then ran the Bureau of Reclamation during the Clinton administration.

All were around the last time California farmers and their congressional allies tried to seize the Central Valley Project.

In 1995, lawmakers led by Rep. John Doolittle, R-Granite Bay, sought to sell the CVP as part of a larger budget bill. That proposal to sell off the entire Redding-to-Bakersfield water network was far more ambitious than the
new idea. Still, its fate is instructive.

One of the big proponents of the 1995 sell-the-CVP idea was Jason Peltier, then representing Central Valley Project customers.

Peltier now is a senior official in the Interior Department, which helped craft this week's proposal.

The 1995 idea eventually died, with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein cautioning then that "there are a lot of points that I think need a major hearing." This week, Feinstein said she needs time to analyze the new
proposal.

Congress this year is already being asked to approve an ambitious plan to restore the San Joaquin River, raising questions of how much California water out-of-state lawmakers are prepared to deal with.
----------------

7-10-07
Farm Bill: Genetically modified food piece excised
Hank Shaw Blog, Stockton Record
http://blogs.recordnet.com/n/blogs/blog.aspx?webtag=sr-hshaw

Lawmakers in Congress will not be debating whether to pre-empt local rules governing genetically modified foods, the consumption of foie gras or other controversial food items in this year's Farm Bill. The original draft included a provision known as Section 123, which barred any locality (i.e., Sonoma or Mendocino) from banning anything already given the vaguely papal gesture of the USDA. This provision had organic farmers in an uproar because they fear that the Monsantos and Syngentas of the world will contaminate their crops with GM crops (this happened in Oregon). Some local governments, mostly in California and New England, have banned farmers from growing these "frankenfoods" as a way to stop their spread.
Adding the GM debate to an already contentious Farm Bill battle was just too much for lawmakers, my sources say. House Agriculture Committee spokeswoman April Slayton said she doesn't know what committee chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, thinks about Section 123. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said last month he was concerned about it, especially since he is the chair of the committee's panel on organic agriculture. Is this Dennis at work? We'll see...

| »

Hun fires CARB chairman, appoints another

Submitted: Jul 03, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger probably didn't fire California Air Resources Board Chairman Robert F. Sawyer because Valley citizens spent the last several months looking for win-win, public-private solutions to air pollution in the Valley while the regional board voted to extend the deadline for air cleanup 11 more years. The governor probably didn't fire Sawyer because local anti-pollution activists had followed the advice of Merced County supervisors who say the public should come to them as politely as developer lobbyists, or Merced City Councilman Rick Osorio, who says anti-WalMart Distribution Center activists should not come to council meetings and wag fingers in the faces of council members, but should -- as Councilman Carl Pollard recommends -- go out into the community and raise consciousness. In other words, go anywhere but where the decisions are made.

The governor probably fired Sawyer, whose board approved the Valley regional air board decision, because the public went to both regional and state air board hearings and protested this outrage against public health and protested the blatant lies told by the regional board executive director. He may also have listened to state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter on the subject of Valley air pollution and the witless corruption of the regional air board. The governor may also have been influenced by a large number of honest expressions of disgust with the regional air board in letters to the editor in Valley newspapers, as well as editorials including a blunt one in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nope. The chances are better that the governor responded to old-fashioned political pressure from the public, which faces intimidating slurs like "asthma terrorists" and "socialists" from public officials when they testify.

Developers and their bought local legislatures in the San Joaquin Valley have mounted a massive campaign, including much subtle propaganda, to convince the Valley public that professionally facilitated "value-free" consensus groups spouting a brand of niceness that would make the Buddha puke, will find a plan to create a slurbocracy and gain all the federal highway funds developers and public officials desire, while simultaneously cleaning up the air quality in the worst pollution region in the nation.

These are the same business and political leaders that have caused a financial hemorrhage in mortgage defaults that currently leads the nation on a per capita basis as the speculative housing boom continues to bust.

Locally, the boom was more accentuated due to the presence of our anchor tenant, UC Merced, which came to the Valley to give us all college educations. One of the curious sociological facts that emerge among a population below the national and state norms for college degrees is the touchingly sweet belief that UC tells the truth.

UC does not tell the truth and it hasn't, possibly since it began work on the Atomic Bomb. UC Merced has a memorandum of understanding with UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which now appears to be in the final running as a site for a biodanger-level 3 and 4 biowarfare laboratory near Tracy that will study the most infectious diseases on earth, including those for which there are no cures yet available. The UC flak on this biowarfare facility is that it will be primarily devoted to animal diseases and might replace Plum Island NY Animal Disease Laboratory, which also engages in expert propaganda about its defensive intent.

These labs aren't secure and cannot be made secure.

Three infectious germs, Bb (Lyme Disease), West Nile virus, and duck enteritis virus -- all foreign germs -- have infiltrated the American landscape. All three emerged from the same geographic locus. All three occurred in the vicinity of a high-hazard, high-containment foreign germ laboratory with demonstrably faulty facilities and pitiable biological safety practices -- flaws that cause proven germ outbreaks in the past, and infections amongs its employees. The public is asked to accept that none of these three outbreaks is connected to Plum Island.
That's what one calls blind faith...
Lab 257, Michael Christopher Carroll, p. 38.

UC flak is already busy guiding our blind faith in public-private, win-win partnerships between lethal animal pathogens and agricultural industries. Among the blindly faithful, according to UC's "agricultural division’s government and external relations director, Steve Nation," is the California Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, a woolgrowers association and Foster Farms.

On July 3, the Hun appointed Mary Nichols to become the new chairperson of the California Air Resources Board to appease the clamor of the same environmental groups that worked so hard to replace Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, with Rep. Jerry "HiTech" McWarpork.

Presumably, the Hun and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez can once again sit on a Capitol balcony puffing cigars in peace like two Boston lawyers.

However, the northern San Joaquin Valley public is not made restful by the Hun's most political choice. We remember Nichols as secretary of the state Resources Agency in the Gov. Gray Davis administration, where she played the role of top conductor in the orchestration to steamroll any and all state and federal environmental law and regulation that stood in the way of the UC Merced permitting process. Whatever Nichols might have done elsewhere on behalf of state natural resources, here in the former Condit Country she corrupted the law and her agency's duties.

From Nichols, we look for smooth flak on Valley air pollution and no action. Nor do we look for any help from her regarding the Livermore Lab's program to accelerate bomb testing eight-fold, vastly increasing the amount of radioactive waste, where the biowarfare lab is proposed.

Badlands editorial staff
---------------------

6-29-07
Fresno Bee
State air board chief is let go...E.J. Schultz, Bee Capitol Bureau
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/72738.html

Gov. Schwarzenegger on Thursday fired the chairman of the California Air Resources Board, days after the governor criticized the board for agreeing to delay a clean-air deadline for the San Joaquin Valley. Robert Sawyer, a Democrat and former university professor, was forced out after an 18-month reign in a signal that the governor isn't happy with the board's direction. Environmentalists came to his defense, saying he was a scapegoat. "We think that the board as a whole and its staff need to be more aggressive," said Bill Magavern, senior representative for Sierra Club California. "Sawyer wasn't the problem." Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of Western United Dairymen, also termed Sawyer's dismissal "disappointing."..."From our industry's perspective, we've long advocated a science-based approach to air regulation," Marsh said. "It's just disappointing that a scientist with that kind of prestige, who reviewed issues and used a science-based approach, won't be on the board any more. If you're going to have a meaningful reduction in smog and ozone, you have to follow the science. You can't just make stuff up."

7-3-07
Fresno Bee
ARB official quits in air rift...E.J. Schultz
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/75973.html

The executive director of the California Air Resources Board quit Monday -- and on her way out the door accused Gov. Schwarzenegger's top aides of blocking efforts to clean the air and fight global warming. "I believe the governor cares deeply about air quality, but no one in his inner circle does," Catherine Witherspoon said in an interview with The Bee. Witherspoon's departure comes less than a week after Schwarzenegger fired air board Chairman Robert Sawyer.... Witherspoon said that was a "cover-up." In reality, she said, Schwarzenegger's aides were worried that Sawyer was moving too aggressively on rules to implement the state's new global warming law, known as AB 32. "The real reason for firing him was climate-change policy," she said. Sawyer "sought to adopt more early-action measures than the Governor's Office wanted."

7-2-07
Contra Costa Times
Thousands of cancer-stricken nuclear workers' claims languish...AP
http://www.contracostatimes.com/search/ci_6277685

A government program designed to compensate cancer-stricken nuclear workers has paid only 38 percent of the thousands of claims is has received since 2001...vast majority of the 148,181 claims filed by the terminally or seriously ill have languished or been denied since the government started the federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, The Contra Costa Times reported. The program was created to provide money, medical expenses and lost wages to Cold War-era workers exposed to radioactive or toxic materials while on the job...the government initially thought it would cover more than 3,000 workers at a cost of $13 million a year for a decade. To date, $2.8 billion has been paid to claimants, and millions more have been spent on administrative costs. Former Sandia/California National Laboratories employee Gerry Giovacchini applied for compensation in 2002 after learning he had tumors in his neck, arm, eyes and spinal column. Five years later he is still waiting to see if he'll be paid. For 14 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Tom Chatmon oversaw the transport of plutonium, uranium and other radioactive materials. He developed multiple myeloma, a cancer linked to radiation exposure. His claim was denied in November. "At the time, I didn't know anything about plutonium or uranium," said Chatmon. "We were told we weren't dealing with anything dangerous." Seventy-three percent of compensation decisions for former employees of Lawrence Livermore Lab have been denials. At Lawrence Berkeley Lab, its 76 percent denials. Giovacchini and other have also dealt with the labs' inability to locate key medical and other records so that they can prove their cases.

6-29-07
UC Merced cancer research gets a boost...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13739491p-14323632c.html

Researchers at UC Merced say two recently awarded seed grants will help jump-start the campus' much-anticipated cancer research program. The grants, which total $90,000, were awarded last week to UC Merced by the UC Cancer Research Coordinating Committee and will fund the research for one year, according to Maria Pallavicini, dean of UC Merced's School of Natural Sciences. Pallavicini was the recipient of a $40,000 grant, which will be used to study how stem cells change in the formation of cancerous tumors. Pallavicini and Manilay's research will be conducted in labs on UC Merced's campus and could shed light on how stem cells are altered in cancer. UC Merced Professor Jennifer Manilay received a $50,000 grant to study the role of hormone and receptor pairs in the development of T-cells. The grants are the first UC Merced has received to fund cancer research... The grants are the first UC Merced has received to fund cancer research. UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang said in May that a business plan and economic impact study for the new medical school will likely be submitted to University of California's Office of the President sometime this summer...a price tag of $200 million and could be completed by 2013.

1-24-07
Tracy Press
Supes vote to back bio-lab…John Upton
http://tracypress.com/content/view/7317/2/

Acting on the advice of its agricultural committee, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday to support an anti-biological terrorism laboratory that could be built southwest of Tracy to research incurable fatal diseases that affect both animals and people. Superintendent Steven Gutierrez voted against his colleagues, saying it was too early to determine whether the research activities would help safeguard and support the general public. “What research activity” Gutierrez said. “You don’t know what they’re going to do.” The Department of Homeland Security and Lawrence Livermore have not yet announced what types of diseases will be studied at the bio-lab, how the pathogens will be shipped in and out of the bio-lab, or whether accidents will be publicly reported. The Tracy City Council is expected to vote on whether it supports the bio-lab proposal at its meeting Feb. 6. Lawrence Livermore is managed by the University of California. The university’s agricultural division’s government and external relations director, Steve Nation, said after the meeting that the agricultural industry strongly supports the proposed bio-lab. He said the California Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, a woolgrowers association and Foster Farms support the bio-lab …

7-3-07
Capitol Notes
Former, And Future, Air Board Chair
http://www.kqed.org/weblog/capitalnotes/2007/07/former-and-future-air-board-chair.jsp

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, seeking to end the controversy over his administration's interaction with the California Air Resources Board, today named a new leader of the agency... the same person who led the agency under former Governor Jerry Brown. At a news conference this afternoon, the governor announced that he has appointed Mary Nichols to be the chairperson of the ARB, replacing Robert Sawyer, whom Schwarzenegger fired last week.
Nichols has a long tenure in and out of state and federal government, last serving as secretary for Resources under former Governor Gray Davis. Environmental groups quickly praised the selection of Nichols. And it seems likely that she will quell some of the enviro groups' anger that surfaced this week about the alleged relationship between the governor's inner circle and ARB officials. In particular, the last few days have brought to light allegations that the governor's top advisers have attempted to micromanage, and slow down, the ARB as it makes its initial decisions on reducing greenhouse gases under AB 32...

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Slightly troubling

Submitted: Jun 18, 2007

The United States has 3,066 counties, represented by the National Association of Counties. Its 50 states have 50 governors, represented by the National Governors Association.

The proposed Farm Bill presently includes a section that would prevent counties or states from passing laws banning or restricting genetically modified organisms within their borders. The section was shoe-horned into the bill during hearings in the House Agricultural Committee Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry, Leonard L. Boswell, (D-IA) Chairman. California representatives Dennis Cardoza, Jim Costa and Joe Baca sit on this committee. It is claimed that nobody knows how this section got into the bill. Cardoza expressed himself as "slightly troubled by this language ..."

Section 123 of the Farm Bill treads on the authorities of state and local government. When a similar bill was introduced in the California Legislature in the last session, an unusual coalition of environmental groups and California counties developed, which defeated it. The Pomboza (Cardoza and former Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy) were busy trying to gut the Endangered Species Act at the time, and were no doubt "closely monitoring" the clout of their opponents, which would have included opponents to the state bill against local anti-GMO ordinances authored by state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization perhaps sees this section as the last, best chance to destroy its enemy, the anti-GMO groups that constantly proliferate as the real science comes in on the bogus claims for "Frankenfoods" and market resistance for GMO agricultural exports. But it is worth asking states' attorney generals and county counsels throughout the nation if this section doesn't raise a Constitutional issue. The career of Section 123 of the 2007 Farm Bill will tell us a little more about what kind of democratic republic we have left.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------

6-18-07
Stockton Record
Farm Bill may ease modified crop ban...Hank Shaw
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070618/A_NEWS/706180320

"Frankenfoods"...Section 123 of the federal bill bars state or local governments from banning anything the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already approved. It sounds benign, but the proposal would sweep away existing bans on genetically modified crops in four California counties and block bans proposed in at least 16 other states. The proposed measure has sparked uproar among the sustainable agriculture community, especially among organic farmers, and the office of House Agriculture Committee member Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, has received more than 3,000 e-mails protesting the provision. Cardoza leads the committee's panel on organic agriculture and says he, too, has concerns about Section 123. "I am slightly troubled by this language, with respect to the fact that it was put in, ... towards the end of the legislative process, without proper debate and consideration," Cardoza said. "I will be monitoring this section closely as the Farm Bill process continues to determine how it might affect laws already on the books in California." It is unclear who inserted Section 123 into the federal legislation, but staffers working on the bill say they do not expect it to survive intact. To read the section of the Farm Bill under debate, go to: agriculture.house.gov/inside/Legislation/110/LDP_Secbysec.pdf.

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Requiem for the Honey Bee

Submitted: Jun 06, 2007

Sonny Star had an intimate chat with Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, the other day and described itself as "encouraged" that he was "leading the charge at the congressional level to get special funding to fight (Honey Bee) colony collapse disorder," but that Congress should get on with the task.

This was the finest bit of witless or cynical buffoonery yet from this newspaper, but you know Sonny.

Any species of wildlife in an endangered condition is dead meat in Cardoza's hands.

Let us speculate how it's going to work. First, independent bee scientists already have a pretty good idea about what is happening, but all the news is bad and much of it relates to a number of other ecosystems crashing in the Valley and elsewhere due to the utterly destructive win-win, public-private relationships between pesticide corporations that are now seed corporations and corporate and university biotechnology.

Migratory birds have been dying for years in the Valley due to pesticides, herbicides and now, probably GMO crops. We have no idea the extent of the ecological catastrophe unleashed by these corporations and their university partners, led by the University of California. And it is not a subject of research likely to get a dime of federal research funds as long as the Biotechnology Industry Organization exists.

Cardoza tipped his hand recently in the agricultural subcommittee he chairs when he added a section to the Farm Bill that outlaws local and state governments from passing laws against genetic engineered crops in their jurisdictions -- a flat payoff to biotechnology corporations and a finger flip in the face of progressive agriculture throughout the nation.

In Merced County, we are deeply experienced in ecological disaster due to the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge. However, Sonny's clipping files will hold almost nothing about the mid-1980s disaster that continues to take wildlife in a toxic soup of heavy metals. Nor has the solution to the problem been found, although a last-ditch atttempt to take advantage of Bush administration corruption is now underway, led by Cardoza's good friends at Westlands Water District.

Initially, Cardoza, then an assemblyman, wanted to look like he was playing nice with agriculture and natural resources. He supported the county's application for the Williamson Act in 2000, while working tirelessly behind the scenes to corrupt the permitting process of UC Merced. He supported the Natural Communities Conservation Plan-Habitat Conservation Plan for eastern Merced County, which would have permitted all the takes of endangered species UC and developers could have asked for, at bargain-basement prices. It was only when the NCCP-HCP was defeated by a coalition of local farmers and environmentalists that the Shrimp Slayer took the gloves off on behalf of the contributors to his career in Congress. Since he has been in Congress, he has introduced two bills to eliminate the critical habitat designation in the Endangered Species Act. Acting as the rear end of the famed Pomboza with former Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, he next introduced a bill to gut the entire ESA.

Let us speculate further how this is going to work. If the Honey Bee goes, the almond industry goes. If the almond industry goes, there is going to be a great deal of farm land on the market at the bottom of the real estate cycle. Although Cardoza will fail utterly by design to get any meaningful research on colony collapse disorder, he will cry to the skies for emergency funds to bail out the poor almond growers. So landowners with almond orchards will very quietly receive their disaster checks from the feds and sell their land to developers.

This will fit marvelously with the Grupe-Spanos California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, the bullet train, the eastside freeway, a peripheral canal and an eastside canal -- all aimed at turning the San Joaquin Valley into a giant urban slurb.

Valley farmers/landowners are sunk in such lagoons of hypocrisy and corruption that at one county-sponsored meeting on the problem nearly a decade ago, the representative for the local building industry association looked across the table at the representative of environmental organizations, threw up his hands and asked her why the Hell the BIA and the environmentalists were the only organizations in the room trying to protect agriculture.

There is another pork angle: the new biowarfare lab to excite Cardoza's greed: UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wants to establish near Tracy on Site 300, where the lab tests bombs containing depleted uranium. The biowarfare lab is being promoted as a possible replacement for the Plum Island USDA Animal Disease Laboratory. Cattle and poultry organizations have been brought on board because the biowarfare lab promises to be studying diseases like foot-and-mouth and Avian flu. Strong evidence suggesting Plum Island security lapses resulted in the release of ticks laden with Lyme Disease, and released W. Nile Fever and possibly Newcastle's Disease into its neighborhood, has met a solid wall of denial for reasons of "National Security." But, what the heck, it makes sense to bring these pathogens incredibly lethal to the huge, nearby cattle, dairy and poultry industries, right?

Agriculture does not control agriculture anymore than Cardoza represents agriculture. However, a pork angle exists and no doubt will be exploited. Another win-win, public-private, emergency-funded program, involving all the usual suspects led by UC will be congregated to engineer a Frankenbee to replace the Honey Bee, which is probably toast. The public will pay for the biotech fix, it will take years, by which time it won't matter anymore except for whatever damage the Frankenbee might cause other ecosystems.

It is even possible that, if UC Merced doesn't get exactly what it wants out of federal resource agencies, "for reasons of National Security" it could begin work on something to extirpate the endangered species in the way of the historical UC mission to expand in Merced. UC Merced already has an animal lab, said to be studying human diseases at an undisclosed level of biosecurity. Meanwhile, cattle, dairy and poultry industries downwind from the Tracy biowarfare lab had better play nice with developers on the UC Board of Regents, or something could happen, because biowarfare lab security isn't always perfect.

Valley agriculture has been through disasters before. Each time, it has picked itself up and gone forward, erasing any memory of the last disaster. But, these days, the historical baseline for Valley agriculture is defined by finance, insurance and real estate, a graph without any reference to Nature. One very rarely hears from farmers or ranchers descriptions of a growing season.

However, there is another historical baseline, the ecology of the Valley, which some do remember. Those people note that every advance in the so-called "development" of the Valley in the last four or five decades has been matched by the crash of ecosystems, the endangerment and extinction of species, and the disappearance of generations of farmers who spoke in terms of seasons and of politicians who would defend agriculture.

Silent Spring is high-balling down the tracks.

Badlands editorial staff
-----------------------------

Agriculture doesn't control agriculture.

Silent Spring is coming.

Kesterson showed the way.

What an irony that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, should be This is a man whose entire political resume has been a fight against endangered species. Even his fight against the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter, in the state Assembly, was a fight to irradicate an agricultural pest, not to save the most valuable, commercially exploited pollinator in the nation.

It appears, in Merced at least, that the issue is totally economic, concerning the almond crop. If the argument remains in that piddling political frame, the honey bee is history, because the almond crop occurs mainly in only three or four congressional districts out of 435 districts. Incidently, the almond industry would be history, too. The collapse of the population of the nation's major pollinator is a much larger issue than that, but how are other members of Congress going to feel about a member who has introduced three bills to weaken the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of the special interests in his district coming to them to ask them to save a species for the economic benefit of another special interest in his district?

I can't imagine a worse congressman to represent the interests of the honey bee or the almond industry dependent on it. After years of expressing the utmost contempt for habitat critical to the survival of species adapted to living in and near vernal pools, including species of bees that only live near vernal pools, how can Cardoza reinvent himself as the champion of an insect?

An early indication of the strength of the Shrimp Slayer's charge to save the Honey Bee is a section in the current Farm Bill added by the subcommittee he chairs. The section would outlaw state and local anti-genetic engineering laws and ordinances, a great boon to Monsanto and the other members of the powerful Biotechnology Industry Organization. There is already a reputable line of independent scientific research that Honey Bee colony collapse is related to GMO crops. Cardoza's promotion of GMO ethanol-corn varieties and his promotion of UC Merced's biotech future all suggest he would not support research into the relationship between GMOs and the Honey Bee.

If, in fact, the most fruitful line of research is that the Honey Bee is the "canary in the waving fields of golden GMO grain," US agriculture is in big trouble. Does anyone remember in the entire FDA and USDA permitting process for GMOs any discussion about something this drastic before that seed was spread across every major agricultural area in the US and Canada?

In any event, it would take a member of Congress with a touch of heroism to suggest the possibility publicly, and that ain't Cardoza. There may not even be a pork angle for University of California and UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory because Penn State seems to be the national center for bee research. However, perhaps UC could get federal funding to genetically engineer a Frankenbee to replace the Honey Bee some day.

It may be essential that the government take draconian action, as if as has been said, this disorder is the foot-and-mouth disease of the Honey Bee. Much of these efforts involve NOT doing things that are being done, rather than doing more for example. Perhaps NOT feeding commercial bee colonies GMO corn syrup might help. Perhaps, NOT stressing colonies with trips across America to California almond orchards would help. Perhaps, if contagion is proved to be an issue, more than half the Honey Bees in the nation should NOT congregate here to pollinate almonds.

While these lines of thought might make sense scientifically and agriculturally, they don't make sense politicially or economically, at least not for the 18th congressional district. This could put Cardoza in the position of harming the almond economy of his district for the greater good -- saving a species vital to all agriculture. If, as bee scientists say to dramatize their arcane research, ever few mouthfuls of food you eat is the result of bee pollination, the Speaker should put the task in the hands of a

Bill Hatch
----------------

6-5-07
Bee deaths at crisis point...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13655974p-14249127c.html

In 2005 alone, honeybees pollinated $15 billion of U.S. crops, with a third of that amount coming in California. Based on economics alone, it's essential that government get involved to help fight colony collapse disorder... Merced County is one of the largest almond-producing counties in the world, and any shortage of bees during key pollination times would be detrimental to this region's economy. It's officially a crisis — and the federal and state governments need to get involved to make sure enough money is freed up to fight the problem before it becomes a catastrophe. We're encouraged that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, is leading the charge at the congressional level to get special funding to fight colony collapse disorder. But we were discouraged to learn that Congress probably won't act on the matter until September, which wastes valuable research time. Beekeepers need help and they need it now. It's up to political leaders to get it.
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SEC. 123. EFFECT OF USDA INSPECTION AND DETERMINATION OF NON-REGULATED STATUS.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no State or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the Secretary of Agriculture has —
1 inspected and passed; or
2 determined to be of non-regulated status.

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FEMA floodplain maps redux

Submitted: Jun 02, 2007

On June 1, the Lathrop Sun-Post reported that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced paid the Lathrop City Council a visit on May 29 to warn Lathropians that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "is in the process of redrawing flood-plain maps and casting more stringent levee requirements in a post-Hurricane Katrina, climate-changing world ..."

Alarming them with pictures of immanent catastrophe, Cardoza urged the council to participate in a "regional approach" to ensure flood protection.
The Sun-Post goes on to mention that former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy just signed a $100,000 contract with Stockton to lobby for state and federal flood-protection funds.

When we hear about the "regional approach," our minds instantly turn to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. This "regional" commission, appointed two years ago by the governor, is co-chaired by Fritz Grupe, Stockton's premiere developer. Several months before Grupe was appointed to lead this regional planning effort, he hosted a fund-raising luncheon for Pombo and Cardoza. The two split about $50,000 in developer contributions and launched their next assault on the Endangered Species Act before the end of that year. They also earned the name "Pomboza" to connote their "aggressive
bipartisanship on the House Resources Committee. Since the Democratic Party took over Congress last year, the committee's earlier title, Natural Resources, has been restored.

However, another part of the mysterious political movements of the Pomboza and the regional Mr. Grupe was the successful July 2006 move by Pombo and Cardoza to block the new FEMA flood plain maps on the Delta area, at least until after the November 2006 election.

7-3-06
Sacramento Bee
Reality bites…Editorial…7-2-06
http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/v-print/story/14273956p-15083900c.html

Delaying release of FEMA maps would help politicians, not communities at risk. Egged onby developers and local politicians seeking re-election, several Central Valley congressmen are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay the release of updated maps that will provide homeowners and businesses a more accurate picture of flood risks. FEMA should resist this pressure. The government hasn’t updated most of these maps for 20 years, despite several damaging — and revealing — floods during that period. The
problem is that new maps frighten local officials… Given the money at stake, it’s highly suspicious that U.S. Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and other lawmakers are urging FEMA to delay the release of preliminary maps. As Cardoza notes, these FEMA maps are preliminary. The reason for releasing them is so communities can review them, debate them and understand how they might affect insurance and land-use plans before any final versions are approved. FEMA recently bowed to pressure in remapping flood plains in New Orleans, putting thousands at risk. It shouldn’t do the
same here — especially not for a handful of politicians who would rather enhance their
re-election chances than face the realities of floods.

Lurching back to the present, Grupe Investments, AG Spanos Construction and the Delta Building Industry Association are suing the City of Stockton, claiming that the city is discriminating against developers by demanding they pay fees to preserve farm land at a 1:1 mitigation ratio. This reminds us that the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley is really simply a partnership between developers and politicians for more irresponsible urban development in the Valley.

To wrap it up, Cardoza, acting on behalf of Pombo, Grupe, Spanos and other developers in San Joaquin County, scares the bejeezuz out of the Lathrop City Council about those dreaded FEMA floodplain maps that cannot fail to discourage more development on the Delta. (At least Lathrop is in Cardoza's district, which we misreported as being in McNerney's yesterday.)Meanwhile, McNerney jumped to Rep. Ellen Tauscher's district to talk up a VA hospital in Livermore.

None of these Congress persons are saying a word in opposition to the biowarfare lab that UC/Bechtel et al/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wants to build on Site 300, the bomb-testing range outside Tracy. Perhaps, when the proposal makes the short list this month, the Pomboza, McNerney and Tauscher can all join hands and declare a Valley War Pork Month.

Badlands editorial staff

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UC at the Terror Trough with big hogs now

Submitted: May 10, 2007
Under the new contract, the team, which includes Bechtel National Inc., BWX Technologies Inc. and Washington Group International Inc., would receive $297.5 million over the seven-year contract. The consortium also includes Battelle Memorial Institute, Texas A&M University and several small businesses...consortium is nearly identical to the group that took over Los Alamos, though the relative shares that each member has in the corporation is different. At Livermore, the University of California controls half of the six-member board, said Gerald L. Parsky, chairman of the consortium's board. -- Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2007

Yesterday, it was widely reported that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which received this year the contract to design a new generation of nuclear weapons, has new management:

BWX Technologies Inc. is in charge of cleanup at the Rocky Flats CO nuclear dump site;

Washington Group International Inc. is the new, reorganized name for Morrison-Knudsen, the Boise-based dam-building (Boulder) and war contractors since WWII:

Battelle Memorial Institute, as of 2005, has management contracts with four other national laboratories;

Texas A & M is a university based in President Bush's home state.

Bechtel is an SF-based defense contractor, charged in the Iraq War with repairing and rebuilding public utilities in Baghdad destroyed by the US invasion. This, by all accounts except its own, Bechtel failed to do and pulled out, despite being paid around $3 billion and losing a number of employees to the Iraqi resistance. The Bush administration has a appointed a number of Bechtel managers to prominent positions in the regime. For example, Riley Bechtel is one of Bush's top trade advisors.

...family-owned Bechtel Corporation is one of the world's largest
engineering-construction firms whose projects range from the first major oil pipelines in Alaska and Saudi Arabia to nuclear reactors in Qinshan, China and refineries in Zambia. Founded in 1898, the company has worked on 20,000 projects in 140 nations on all seven continents. In 2002 Bechtel earned $11.6 billion in revenue...The company and its workers contributed at least $277,050 to federal candidates and party committees in the last election cycle, about 57 percent to Democrats and 43 percent to Republicans, the center found. Bechtel gave at least $166,000 to national Republican Party committees, center figures show. -- Corpwatch.com, April 24th, 2003

Bechtel's privatization of the Cochabamba, Bolivia water system, which radically raised water rates and caused massive demonstrations in 1999-2000 helped inspire the mass movement that elected Evo Morales president of Bolivia.

The lineup of major defense contractors and a university from Bush's home state behind the University of California is impressive. We predict that the new team will easily push LLNL onto the short list for a level-4 biowarfare laboratory on Site 300, near Tracy, already radioactively contaminated. Furthermore, we imagine this new team, sophisticated hunter/gatherers of defense pork, will probably prevail and LLNL will get its biowarfare lab -- unless there is serious citizen opposition.

Why Valley poultry, dairy and livestock producers would want live Avian Flu and Foot-and-Mouth Disease nearby is beyond us, but they collective mind of Valley agriculture remains as mysterious as ever except for its attraction to a deal, any deal.

In any event, with the new management team, LLNL will claim the plutonium at Livermore, the depleted uranium used in bomb testing at Site 300 and the proposed biowarfare lab will all be perfectly safe.

The LLNL biowarfare lab is touted by the government to replace USDA-managed Plum Island Animal Disease Center, widely suspected of letting loose several animal and human diseases on American citizens, kept in ignorance "for reasons of national security." How much more closed mouthed LLNL will be under corporate domination remains to be seen. The combination of "national security" and "private property" is a lethal combination America is learning all about since the Florida "recount" in 2000.

"Let's face it," Plum Island scientist Dr. Douglas Gregg once said to a reporter, "there can be no absolute guarantee of securing the island." -- Michael Carroll, Lab 257, p. 20.

Badlands editorial staff
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5-9-07
Sacramento Bee
UC will remain major player at lab...Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/172548.html

The University of California on Tuesday survived recurring controversy to retain a hand in running the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory...renowned nuclear weapons lab, located in the shadow of Altamont Pass, will now be managed by a new partnership of corporate and university collaborators. The Energy Department calls the seven-year contract a fresh start for a lab that's sometimes squirmed under the spotlight. Called Lawrence Livermore National Security, the winning lab contractor includes as partners Texas A&M University and the engineering giant Bechtel. The University of California, which has managed Lawrence Livermore since the lab's founding in 1952, created the new corporation and remains a major player in it. With its $1.6 billion budget, Lawrence Livermore has long put its stamp on both national security and the northern San Joaquin Valley. Nearly one-quarter of the lab's 8,600 employees live in the Valley, and the lab's contaminated Site 300 test area west of Tracy typically stores an average of 10,000 pounds of high explosives. The Lawrence Livermore partnership also includes Battelle Memorial Institute, Washington Group International and several smaller firms. Battelle runs nuclear facilities including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Tracy Press
Almost new management...AP
http://tracypress.com/content/view/9125/2/

A team led by the University of California and Bechtel National Inc. was awarded the management contract Tuesday for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, despite past problems at the UC-managed lab. “The University of California knows how to do research and development,” Tyler Przybylek, senior adviser at the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in announcing the decision. “It’s the largest research institution at least in the country if not in the world.”...UC’s partnership with Bechtel will provide the management structure which has at times been lacking at the lab...decision follows a series of financial and security gaffes at the nation’s premier nuclear weapons labs — Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. For years, Los Alamos has struggled with security lapses, credit card abuses, theft of equipment and other mismanagement that subjected it to withering criticism from Congress. Problems at Livermore were never so dramatic, but it had its own issues, including the disappearance of an electronic key card and the loss of keys to perimeter gates and office doors. In March, the Bush administration selected Lawrence Livermore for a controversial new weapons program that could lead to a new generation of nuclear warheads. The new contract is for seven years with a maximum payment of $45.5 million per year, depending on performance. It allows for extensions for 13 additional years. A UC team also has the contract to manage Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which doesn’t deal with nuclear weapons.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC-lead team picked to run nuclear lab...Zachary Coile, Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/09/BAGTTPNKCU1.DTL&hw=uc&sn=0
02&sc=1000

The University of California kept its $1.7 billion contract to manage Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory for at least the next seven years by creating a
partnership with private companies and underbidding its chief competition, defense giant Northrop Grumman. university has now won both competitions to run the nation's premier nuclear weapons labs -- Livermore and Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico -- despite a checkered history that has included safety incidents, lost and mishandled classified data and, at Los Alamos, theft and fraud by employees. Energy Department officials announced the decision Tuesday, saying the bidding team led by UC and San Francisco engineering firm Bechtel appeared stronger on science and technology, making it the clear choice... "Livermore National Laboratory is a critical part of our nuclear weapons complex and has been for the last 55 years," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said...

Los Angeles Times
Consortium wins contract to run Livermore lab...Ralph Vartabedian
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-livermore9may09,1,6950677.story

The Energy Department on Tuesday awarded a seven-year contract to operate Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to an industry consortium that includes the University of California, which has run the lab since it opened in 1952. This year the lab was selected by the Energy Department to design and develop a new generation of nuclear bombs, known as the reliable replacement warhead. A report by an independent group of scientists warned that the project faced serious technical challenges. Under the new contract, the team, which includes Bechtel National Inc., BWX Technologies Inc. and Washington Group International Inc., would receive $297.5 million over the seven-year contract. The consortium also includes Battelle Memorial Institute, Texas A&M University and several small businesses...consortium is nearly identical to the group that took over Los Alamos, though the relative shares that each member has in the corporation is different. At Livermore, the University of California controls half of the six-member board, said Gerald L. Parsky, chairman of the consortium's board. ..consortium is nearly identical to the group that took over Los Alamos, though the relative shares that each member has in the corporation is different. At Livermore, the University of California controls half of the six-member board, said Gerald L. Parsky, chairman of the consortium's board. Meanwhile, three students and alumni at UC campuses in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Berkeley went on hunger strikes this week to protest the involvement of the university system in designing nuclear weapons.

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A socially responsible approach to GMOs

Submitted: May 03, 2007

Today, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that there will be no more cultivation of genetically modified crops in his country. Although full details are not out, Chavez terminated a 500,000-acre Monsanto project to grow GMO soybeans.

Brazil and Argentina are still involved in GMO soybean production.

Chavez said that a policy of food sovereignty and security established by the Venezuelan constitution was the basis of his decision.

He also announced the establishment of a "large seed bank facility to maintain
indigenous seeds for peasants' movements around the world."

Rafael Alegria, secretary of the international peasants' organisation Via Campesina, which brough the problem to the attention of Chavez, said, "The people of the United States, of Latin America, and of the world need to follow the example of a Venezuela free of transgenics", he said.

"If we want to achieve food sovereignty, we cannot rely on
transnationals like Monsanto", said Maximilien Arvelaiz, an adviser to
Chavez. "We need to strengthen local production, respecting our heritage
and diversity."

Meanwhile, last month in the US, a federal judge in Kansas City temporarily banned a genetically engineered variety of alfalfa and ruled that the US Department of Agriculture must complete an environmental impact study before releasing GMO alfalfa. He said that government and corporate lawyers presented no credible evidence that gene drift from the GMO crop would not contaminate other crops. This is the first time a GMO crop has been successfully challenged in the US. On May 4, US District Court Judge Charles Breyer permanently banned the genetically engineered alfalfa.

Yet, the University of California, Berkeley, recently signed a $500,000 deal with BP, an oil company, for biotechnology research into biofuels.

Chavez has been nationalizing Venezuelan oil reserves (seventh largest in the world) by edging BP and other transnational oil companies out of its oil fields, while at the same time providing cheap petroleum products to poor communities in the US through its subsidiary, Citgo.

Bill Hatch
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Notes

VENEZUELA: Chavez dumps Monsanto
From: owner-GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org
Sent: Thu 5/03/07 7:37 PM
To: GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org
Sunday, April 29, 2007 1:34 PM

The next genetic revolution?
We didn't want GM on our table, but the crucial question now is, will we allow it in our tanks? Robin Maynard and Pat Thomas report
GM WATCH daily list
http://www.gmwatch.org
The Ecologist, 29 March 2007
http://www.theecologist.org/archive_detail.asp?content_id=831

Court Halt on GMO Alfalfa Shows USDA Failure
By Carey Gillam
Reuters
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/031507O.shtml
Thursday 15 March 2007

5-4-07
Inside Bay Area
Court ruling bans genetically altered alfalfa...Paul Elias, AP
http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_5816665
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge on Thursday barred the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa nationwide, ruling that the government didn't adequately study the biotechnology crop's potential to mix with organic and conventional varieties. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer made permanent a temporary ban he ordered in March on alfalfa with genetic material from bacteria that makes the crop resistant to a popular weed killer. The ruling is a major victory for anti-biotech crusaders, who have been fighting the proliferation of genetically engineered crops. It is the first ban placed on such crops since the first variety — the Flavr Savr tomato — was approved in 1994. Breyer said the U.S. Department of Agriculture must conduct a detailed scientific study of the crop's effect on the environment and other alfalfa varieties before deciding whether to approve it. Alfalfa is grown on about 21 million acres nationwide. California is the nation's largest alfalfa producer, growing the crop on about 1 million acres, primarily in the San Joaquin Valley. Breyer sided with organic farmers and conventional growers who fear lost sales if their crops are contaminated by genetically engineered plants. "The harm to these farmers and consumers who do not want to purchase genetically engineered alfalfa or animals fed with such alfalfa outweighs the economic harm to Monsanto, Forage Genetics and those farmers who desire to switch to Roundup Ready alfalfa," Breyer wrote Thursday. About 136.5 million acres of the nation's 445 million acres of farmland were used to grow biotech crops last year, an increase of 10 percent over 2005 plantings, according to the industry-backed nonprofit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

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Ethanol biotech bubble

Submitted: May 01, 2007

The ethanol bubble reveals the pathological side of the political economic system as well as the housing bubble did, and no doubt the same few people involved in ethanol were involved in housing speculation not long ago. The housing bubble pushed our air quality over the edge: the San Joaquin Valley now has as bad or worse air than the Los Angeles basin. Ethanol is shaping up to be nothing but a huge water grab. The ethanol bubble will end about the time a new housing bubble begins.

There is a reason why corn is primarily a Midwest crop. The reason is called rain, as in what Central California doesn't have, being a desert.

As the GMO boys and girls get busy on engineering just the perfect corn for ethanol, gene drift will occur, as it has occurred wherever corn is grown. The ethanol-making genes will drift into corn grown for dairy sillage and get into the milk supply, here in the land free of GMO regulation, perhaps causing gases of another sort. Then UC can study the contribution milk-drinking San Joaquin Valley citizens make to air pollution, along with the bovine flatulence (adding insult to the injury of doubled corn prices and continuing low milk prices to dairymen in the largest dairy state in the nation).

But, that's OK because the honey bees are dying, so the almond growers can convert to ethanol corn and make a real killing before selling for real estate. We know nothing is going to be done about the honey bee collapse because the House subcommittee in charge is chaired by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a man who doesn't like any non-human species that shows signs of weakening. Dairies could follow behind the almonds and everybody could grow ethanol corn with the latest chemical fertilizers and diesel farm equipment.

Federal and state government doesn't solve ag insect problems anymore,it funds them:

Medfly: $150 million since 1980, now proposal for permanent program at $16 million/year; the government cannot control its entry through ports like Long Beach;

Pierce's Disease, Glassy-winged sharpshooter: now spread to 28 counties, control programs in 51 counties, population of GWSS growing, two new infestations last year, 80 research projects, $20 million a year.

No wonder UC Merced wants to start a medical school. It's following a hallowed tradition of colonization of diseases as each generation of government/corporate/university technologists goes to work on the plagues caused by the last generation of the great win-win, public-private funded technologists, and government/corporate/university propagandists keep promising us that famous Black Box. The latest is a UC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory biowarfare lab on a site where it also tests depleted uranium bombs near Tracy. So, the UC Board of Regents, under the guidance of Chairman Richard Blum, Sen. Feinstein's husband, dangle the promise of a medical school for the Valley (first conceived for Fresno in the mid-60s) and give you depleted uranium dust and a lab full of the most dangerous pathogens to local agriculture in existence, and hope nothing bad happens because Pentagon biowarfare pork it prime.

Actually, there is a black box. It is called Boomdoggle. It's not a solution for you and me, but it works for people speculating on the next Valley bubble, and who can afford to live outside the worst air pollution area in the nation. But they are the same speculators from finance, insurance and real estate special interests that control the dumbest, most corrupt air quality board in the nation.

Corporate domination of political institutions has meant economy-by-bubble, and each step of the way, working people get poorer, our common environment gets worse, and fewer people get richer. While corn growers yawp about their high prices, the subsidies are going to investors in the ethanol plants. We're a long way from biomass tax breaks now. We've entered the era of high finance in Green Pork.

Way back in 1981, Grass Valley-based folk singer, Utah Phillips, defined the problem in a song called "All Used Up."

I spent my whole life making somebody rich;
I busted my ass for that son-of-a-bitch.
And he left me to die like a dog in a ditch
And told me I'm all used up ...

They use up the oil and they use up the trees,
They use up the air and they use up the sea;
Well, how about you, friend, and how about me?
What's left when we're all used up?" -- Utah Phillips, (c) 1981, On Strike Music.

1 acre foot = 325,851 gallons = 130 gallons ethanol/acre foot (if, as Sacramento Bee editorialists wonder, the USDA figures are right).

Badlands editorial board
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4-29-07
Sacramento Bee
Can't drink ethanol...Editorial
http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/162586.html

Businesses in California are racing to build plants to make ethanol...But it will take the state's most fought-over resource -- water -- to grow the crops used to produce ethanol. Many crops can be used for that purpose, but at the moment ethanol plants are picking corn -- the most water-intensive ethanol crop there is. How much water? How much corn? The answer is startling. According to a study of California agriculture by the respected Water Education Foundation, it takes about 118 gallons of water to grow a pound of corn. And how many pounds of corn does it take to produce a gallon of ethanol? About 21 pounds of corn, according to one publication from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If these numbers are accurate, the answer is about 2,500 gallons of water. For one gallon of ethanol. There is a goal to produce about a billion gallons of ethanol in California a year. That's about 2.5 trillion gallons of water for 1 billion gallons of ethanol. Take all the water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that now goes to Southern California and Valley farms, use it to grow corn -- and it still wouldn't be enough water. First, a water-intensive crop such as corn in the Central Valley is a bad choice. Second, since there is only so much water for agriculture in California, some other existing crops won't be grown. Third, it behooves the state to grow ethanol crops in the most water-efficient manner possible and set up laws and policies that guide industry in that direction. It is downright scary to see such a rush to ethanol without a better look at the consequences.

4-28-07
Modesto Bee
Flat land
Prices stagnant despite demand for dairy acreage
By JOHN HOLLAND

Farmland in the Northern San Joaquin Valley is pretty flat — at least as property appraisers saw it last year.
Land prices leveled off despite the continuing strength of the almond industry and the demand for dairy acreage and rural homesites, said an annual report from the state chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

"It was a pretty dull year following a huge increase that took place between 2003 and 2005," chapter president Randy Edwards, an appraiser based in Hilmar, said Friday.

The report, released Wednesday in Sacramento, tracked land values around the state for dairy farms, orchards, vineyards, rangeland and other acreage that produces California's bounty.

The per-acre values ranged from $150 for dry rangeland in the state's northeast corner to $600,000 for dairy land in the path of Los Angeles-area growth.

The values varied even for a single crop in a single region, depending on soil quality, water supply and other factors.

An acre of Stanislaus County almond trees, for example, could cost as little as $10,000 if watered from a well or as much as $25,000 if supplied by the Modesto or Turlock irrigation districts.

Dairy, the top farm sector by gross value in the northern valley and statewide, continued to be a major force in land values. These farmers have been adding land for feed crops and for disposing of manure under increasingly strict rules.

The dairy industry has struggled recently, however, with low milk prices, high costs for feed and other factors, as well as the lingering effects of last summer's severe heat wave.

"It appears the market is poised for a downward correction, unless a recovery in milk prices and reduction in feed costs (primarily corn) ensues in the near future," the report said.

Almonds, the region's No. 2 farm product, continue to thrive because of efforts to market the increasing harvests. Nut growers are even moving onto less-than-ideal soil, thanks to advances in tree breeding and irrigation, the report said.

Walnut orchard values continued to be strong. The report noted that this crop has not been as vulnerable as almonds to periods of low commodity prices.

Peach orchards ticked up in value. The report said it was too early to tell whether this was because of an ongoing industry effort to trim the acreage to deal with an oversupply of the fruit.

The report said farmland prices continued to be pushed up by the demand for rural homesites — parcels much larger than city lots but often too small for commercial agriculture. This trend includes grazing land on the west and east sides of the valley, up into Tuolumne and Mariposa counties.

Edwards said the report overall shows that agriculture remains a key part of the valley economy.

"It's not the 800-pound gorilla, but it's stable, with the low spot being the dairy industry and the high spot being the almonds," he said.

The report, "2007 Trends in Agricultural Land and Lease Values," is available for $15 from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. For more information, call 368-3672 or e-mail secretary@calasfmra.com.

4-30-07
Inside Bay Area
Tracy should ponder benefits from Site 300...Tim Hunt, former editor and associate publisher of the Tri-Valley Herald. He is the principal with Hunt Enterprises, a communications and government affairs consulting firm.
(In other words, one more journalist who has become a flak and a lobbyist -- Badlands)
http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_5779417
LETTERS of support abound as the University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory seek to bring the nations premier agriculture and animal research facility to the labs Site 300 facility near Tracy. The missing letter, unfortunately, is from the nearest municipality to Site 300, the city of Tracy. The University of California is seeking what the Department of Homeland Security calls the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. There are 18 sites across the nation being considered with selection of three to five finalists scheduled in June...new site is scheduled to open in 2013 or 2014 and replace the governments current site at Plum Island off the coast of New York...homeland security department plans to build the lab to research human, zoonotic (animal to human) and animal diseases to counteract the potential terrorist threat of a weapons-grade animal diseases that have both human health effects as well as huge potential to disrupt the food supply. To conduct the research, the facility would contain secure biosafety labs at the level 3 and level 4 (most secure) levels. Forty University of California sites have BSL-3 labs, while there are seven BSL-4 labs operational in the United States. The UC effort has received a strong letter of support from Gov. Schwarznegger, as well as support from Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena, Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher and former Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews from the Tracy area, as well as a number of agriculture and animal trade groups, such as the Farm Bureau. The San Joaquin Board of Supervisors is on record favoring the facility. The sticking point is Tracy... The lab and Site 300 management have a good safety record and have significantly upgraded security since the terrorist attacks of 9/11... Theres no BSL-4 further west than Montana despite the Bay Areas growing focus on the biosciences. Agriculture and ranching are huge economic engines in California, and there also are the potential dangers that come with being the container gateway to Asia through ports in Long Beach/Los Angeles and Oakland. The only question should be whether the facility can operate safety at Site 300, because once thats determined, the lab has nothing but upside for the region and the state.

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Biotech companies in the field

Submitted: Apr 23, 2007

Sale of modified seed corn stopped
GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org
Associated Press -- April 23, 2007

Minnesota has stopped the distribution and sale of a certain genetically modified variety of Syngenta seed corn because it doesn't comply with state regulations. Farmers were told not to plant the root-worm resistant seed.

Syngenta officials told the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on Friday that 7,480 units of "Agrisure RW MIR 604" seed were distributed to 99 seed dealers in Minnesota.

Mary Hanks, a biotechnology specialist with the department, said officials still didn't know Friday how much of the seed might have been delivered to farmers or if any had been planted. She said it apparently went to dealers across the corn-growing areas of Minnesota.

While the seed in question has federal approval, Minnesota requires companies to receive a commercial use exemption before they can sell genetically modified, or GMO, seed.

Syngenta neglected to get the required state approval, Hanks said.

State Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson said he wants aggressive action by Syngenta to retrieve all the unapproved seed shipped to and sold in Minnesota, including any that might have been purchased from a dealer in another state.

Last December, Golden Valley-based Syngenta Seeds, Inc., which is part of Swiss-based Syngenta AG, agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for selling and distributing a seed corn containing an unregistered genetically engineered pesticide.

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