Genetic Engineering

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
-----------------

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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A Plague of Big Shots

Submitted: Mar 24, 2007

submitted by Bill Hatch

Big Shots are found everywhere in American society. So, viewing them from the San Joaquin Valley of California, once a great agricultural area now mindlessly converting itself as fast as violation of environmental law and regulation and common sense permits to another Western slurb, is as good a place as any to observe Big Shots.

American society is plagued with Big Shots, people that have gotten to some position of power through an excess of aggression, which they use to bully others. The rest of us all too often take the bullying in stride, hoping for a better day or, under the relentless onslaught, cave and grow permanently afraid.

All Big Shots have some self-righteous ideology, fundamentalism or doctrine to shout down at the rest of us from their positions, just a little above us one way or another.

The self-justification can be anything from “good work habits” to “the war against global terrorism.” All of it is a smoke screen for big-mouthed little cowards playing authoritarian games, throughout the sick institutional structure of this nation – from the orchard and tomato field to the packing shed to the city council to the school to the development corporation and the oil company to the White House.

We sit and read and hope somehow the “We the People” of the high-school texts will miraculously manifest that mythical unity We are said to possess to get the Big Shots off our backs, without risking anything. But, there is too much power, too much money floating around America, too many weapons in obedient hands and way too little human dignity left to stop this imperial cannibalism that is devouring millions of people in our imperial way – the toll rising, unabated by weak political resistance within the empire’s “homeland.”

Americans now confuse order and government in the “homeland” with bullying and being bullied. We elect a majority of Democrats in Congress to stop the war and their “leadership” blows us off in favor of the military contractors, the oil companies and the Israel lobby. But, will the public stand up to them? Call them by their name: hypocrites, sanctimonious bribe-takers, hacks and buffoons? Sue them? Prosecute them? Call their propaganda by its name?

America is a frightened, ruthless, unjust and ugly society full of denial and a guilt growing too large to measure, let alone accept. More than 600,000 Iraqis are dead because of a 30-year political “vacation” taken by the citizens of the USA, culminating in this atrocity. Our health care system is broken because America does not care about its people’s health. Top American political leadership is sociopathic because it serves at the pleasure of transnational corporations with no commitment to anything but their profits and the destruction of government regulation rather than the people and law. But the people are too besotted with corporate propaganda to know their rights, their interests and how to defend either. Yet, the US is losing “the war against terrorism” for the same reason it long ago lost the “war on drugs”: the Big Shots are too corrupt to win a war or stop the carnage of this one. Or rebuild New Orleans. Or save our environment. Or even put a dent in global warming.

Big Shots dominate our federal, state and local legislatures and our media corporations. The political situation in America is, in fact, much more critical than most Americans can imagine. There are entire institutions, vital to a functional society that have dropped off the map of the civilized world because they have been so rotted out by the greed of special interests, bribery and corruption. A small example, that will be familiar only to the very few remaining candid souls living in rural America, will be this year’s Farm Bill, which will demonstrate again that the Department of Agriculture is so corrupt it cannot identify national interest or even farmers’ interests. Likewise with the Food and Drug Agency, that has made unwitting guinea pigs of the entire American society and any foreign markets for our crops too stupid or oppressed to avoid it for the free, unregulated experimentation of the health effects of genetically modified organisms. Resource agencies charged with enforcing environmental law and regulation are daily corrupted by development corporations. Agency-by-agency, institution-by-institution, where can we find one that is working for the People? As glad as we may be made by tidings of churches, with congregations 10,000 strong, doing incredible feats of community outreach and care, can they replace a government that is supposed to serve 300 million people and is not supposed to be owned by transnational corporations?

American universities promote those character traits of sycophantic aggression prized by the corrupt corporate power elites that fund research for private profit rather than public benefit. High school dropouts, unlike the PhDs that staff the nation’s national laboratories, are not recorded to have produced American weapons of mass destruction that menace the world. These weapons aren’t the products of education; they are from its simulacrum, the university/corporate technology/military complex. To these must be added the “independent experts” whose regular gigs are at the brothel think tanks.

As ever, on the cutting edge of military technology, the Pentagon now conducts war by hurling immeasurable (at least by its accounting) tons of pork at the enemy, possibly hoping to crush him under the sheer weight ham and bacon. While the Pentagon appears to have crushed our side, the insurgents have long ago gone on to their own civil war.

Jake Plummer is outraged over the treatment of Pat Tillman: They knew it was friendly fire then–it makes you sick

By: John Amato on Friday, September 15th, 2006 at 4:15 PM - PDT
On HBO’s Inside the NFL, Peter King interviewed Denver QB Jake Plummer about the horrific treatment the Tillman family have received over Pat’s death. There have been four investigations into what really happened to him and now a fifth one is getting close to being completed. How reprehensible has this been for the Tillman family? Pat is killed and they were repeatedly lied to. The family is not speaking out, but Plummer is. Good for him. Somebody has to.

Video-WMP Video-QT (rough transcript)
http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/09/15/jake-plummer-is-outraged-over-the-treatment-of-pat-tillman-they-knew-it-was-friendly-fire-then-it-makes-you-sick/

King: When you first heard that they hid these irregularities, were you outraged?

Plummer: It just made you feel kinda sick that they’d cover up something like that to–for whatever reason. We were all led to believe he died in leading his troops up the hill and then they come tell us it wasn’t–it was friendly fire. What can you do– you’re at their mercy and you just feel for the family…

I mention Big Shots only because there might be lingering in the American collective unconscious – that immense psychic ocean of all that is suppressed and ignored – some residual folk memory of resentment against Big Shots. Perhaps a residual sense of the political taste that caused people to fight to the death against the British so many years ago. However, it is probable that Americans, after 30 years of corporate propaganda, have been so overwhelmingly persuaded of their unique brilliance, success and that Beautiful Freedom we all enjoy, that they all conceive of themselves as Big Shots, entitled citizens, above the masses. In our area, the masses are imagined by our fictitious Big Shots to be foreigners, Mexicans and Asians and such. Casual observation suggests, however, that when Americans, convinced of their Big Shot status, are muscled by the equally convinced, the former group – rather than getting down to political realities – tends instead to develop a severe case of the vapors. “How dare they!” etc. Generally, their croquet balls are carefully aimed and demurely stroked at a non-lethal local official, in no position to help or to harm, simply one more minor Big Shot on his or her way up or down the ladder to Big Shot Heaven. Missing the target amounts to an alliance with one’s own gravedigger, but if one doesn’t know that, there is not point in bringing it up.

“Use it or lose it,” voter registrars used to mutter in front of supermarket doors at the feckless passers-by. They didn’t use it and they did lose it. Everyman the Big Shot, on his way into WalMart, was above mere voting.

The proper American hero of today is Yossarian, the terrified WWII bombardier of Catch-22. When you tell the truth to power, power will fire back. Yossarian wasn’t crazy. Fighting fascism is dangerous work. But, having allowed this unaccountable, authoritarian power to take root on the ground, it must be defeated even though it fights back. That would take courage and spirit, and probably fewer vacations. But, of course, Catch-22 was just a funny novel written 50 years ago, which said some rather off-message things about the “greatest generation.”

Our local McClatchy Chain corporate outlet is a Big Shot with barrels of ink that is never off-message. The Chain is part of the immense advertising/public relations empire in charge of controlling our taste, distorting all issues with one aim – the destruction of a truly public perspective in favor of the very private, “special” perspective of the private profits of their paymasters and their social equals in the Club de Big Shots. In the San Joaquin Valley, the McClatchy Chain relentlessly attacks the San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement, reached between local, state and national environmental groups and farmers and local, state and federal water agencies. The idea of accord between agriculture and environmental groups is an abomination to McClatchy advertisers – principally real estate development, finance and insurance – and they cannot allow this agreement to live, which would put Sierra snow melt back into the state’s second-longest river all the way to the Delta. To this destructive end, the Chain has taken to quoting every inane utterance of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, a bullyboy for corporate agribusiness welfare. The Big Shots the Chain does not name, who are bankrolling Nunes’ attack on the settlement, are smoother and worse.

The Big Shots intend to protect their power and their wealth. That’s all they have to say now, and all they ever had to say, millions of barrels of ink ago. Where’s the “Progress”? What did agribusiness, built on federal water, crop subsidies and low wages, really accomplish? Where is the quality in those islands of wealth surrounded by poverty and economic anxiety? What was the ideal served? Where is the happiness?

Do we live to buy what we don’t need to keep corporate CEOs in the style to which they have become accustomed, averaging 300 times higher compensation than the median income of their employees? Do we live for the fame of having invaded and destroyed already crippled nations to plunder their resources? Do we live to support and applaud or suffer in fearful silence the fraud and corruption of predatory plutocrats? Were we born to become the generation that forgot the difference between news and advertising? Is our purpose in life here in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere to stand at attention and sing hymns of praise to the destroyers of the Public Trust and the builders of grotesque slurbs – just because Big Shots have the “freedom” to do it?

Is this nation’s destiny freedom for Big Shots and the shaft for the rest of us?

“Of course not, of course not,” I hear you saying.

I end in communion with the great Dodge City lawman, Bat Masterson, who went on to a distinguished career as a New York City sports writer. He wrote:

There are many in this old world of ours who hold that things break about even for all of us. I have observed, for example, that we all get the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summertime and the poor get it in the winter. -- Bat Masterson

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Bees and GMOs

Submitted: Mar 23, 2007

Some say the media is just jumping on it. Others say it's a coming disaster. Reliable sources say we won't be able the judge the true situation of America's Honey Bee population until about June, when San Joaquin Valley almond growers -- the largest employers of pollinating bees in the nation -- check the set in their orchards for nuts and mummies.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club is following a line of scientific inquiry, nearly as old as the massive plantings of genetically engineered corn, which asks the question: is bee-hive collapse related to GMOs? Whether this will prove a fruitful line of inquiry or not, apparently it is one that has been neglected by regulators and most land-grant university scientists. The bee crisis, if there is one, may be related to a crisis of funding in land-grant universities, which have become publicly subsidized labs for rent by biotechnology corporations for lack of adequate government funding and adequate public consideration of the products of the research.

Another factor may simply be the "sorcerer's apprentice" syndrome of some biologists excited about cracking this genome and that genome and seeing what they can create, without terribly close attention to the famous "unintended consequences."

The pesticide companies that bought the seed companies and exploited the new genetic science never cared much about the consequences of pesticides, from DDT forward, except when government regulation intruded on the bottom line, causing the companies to expend enormous sums for lobbying, public relations and campaign contributions.

If, in fact, convincing scientific research appears that GMOs are the cause of a serious collapse of bee hives in America, the suppression of the science and scientists who have discovered this, the propaganda campaign from the biotechnology industry, the search for members of Congress amenable to biotech industry cash, and the controversies on campus are going to be huge events in the culture, because the stakes are so high.

It would be helpful to know if the same phenomenon is also occurring in Canada and Argentina, at least, where huge GMO plantings are present.

The connection between GMOs and bee-hive collapse would seem to have some bearing on the massive, subsidized commitment to ethanol production, which uses GMO corn varieties, raising the question of unintended -- because unresearched -- consequences of "clean" ethanol emissions. Are potentially dangerous genes incinerated in the internal combustion process? Probably just a dumb question.

Results of research showing the connection between bee-hive collapse and GMOs is going to be about as popular in the corporocracy as Rachel Carson was.

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

3-13-07
Despite buzz on bees, experts disagree on seriousness of problem
By Jim Downing
McClatchy Newspapers
http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/news/nation/16893200.htm
(MCT)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Bees are dying by the billions. Nobody knows why. And the crops they pollinate - California almonds especially - are at risk.

Or at least that's been the buzz.

In the past month, the new and mysterious honeybee ailment known as "colony collapse disorder," which seems to cause entire hives of bees to leave home and never return, has made the front page of newspapers from Sacramento to New York. Fox News and National Public Radio aired reports. A "CBS Evening News" crew spent weeks following a bee-disease investigator around the nation. Even Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert took up the issue, urging investors to hoard bees.

"The fewer there are, the more they're worth," Colbert said.

Yet despite all the attention, there's little solid data on the severity of the problem.

"I'm not convinced that it's so much worse than what we saw in 2004 and 2005," said Eric Mussen, a bee specialist with the University of California, Davis.

While bees are undoubtedly in trouble this year, Mussen said, there's little evidence so far that it's anything other than the continuation of their long struggle with disease, environmental stress and the hardship of being hauled cross-country in midwinter to pollinate crops in California.

"This time the media just became much more involved in it," he said.

News accounts have cited dramatic losses of 70 percent or more reported by some commercial beekeepers from coast to coast. But because no comprehensive survey of the industry exists, it's hard to say just how many hives have been hit.

"About all we've got is anecdotes," said Troy Fore, executive director of the American Beekeeping Federation.

A clearer picture should emerge in June. That's when the U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys the developing almond crop. If the billions of bees now laboring in the almond orchards in California's Central Valley are sufficiently strong and numerous to do their work - and the weather is favorable - the trees will be laden with nuts this summer.

Bees have become big business in recent years. Each hive rents for $140 or so, and California's almond growers alone will spend roughly $200 million hiring beekeepers to let their bees loose in the orchards this year. A good chunk of the bees also are essential to the production of about $12 billion in other crops nationwide, according to a Cornell University study.

But while bees have been growing in importance as pollinators, no state or federal agency monitors them. The agencies do track honey production, but that's tied only loosely to the size of the bee labor pool, since many beehives are now managed mainly as pollinators rather than honey-makers.

What information there is on bee vigor comes mostly word-of-mouth and, lately, through the media. With the spotlight on both beekeepers and almond growers - and millions of dollars at stake - rumors have been flying.

Some beekeepers accuse others of playing down the crisis out of pride, or in hopes that their clients, the almond farmers, won't start to question the health or the value of their rented bees. Other beekeepers trumpet the die-off, calling for government relief and higher rental fees from almond growers.

The California Almond Board, on the other hand, surveyed almond farmers and issued a statement last month. While bee supplies may be fairly tight, the board said, there are enough to go around.

Years ago, Mussen said, many Central Valley counties employed a bee inspector to check the health of rented hives. That person helped resolve disputes between beekeepers and farmers and served as an informal census-taker.

Today, those inspectors are scarce. One of the few remaining is Clifton Piper, who has checked hives for the Merced County (Calif.) Department of Agriculture since 1973. He isn't sure about the big picture, either.

"It's difficult to see just how short the shortage is," he said. Beekeepers often bolster weak hives with imported packages of bees from Australia, he said. And in cold and rainy weather, it's hard to tell whether sluggish bees in a hive are sick or simply chilly.

Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a Pennsylvania bee expert participating in a nationwide research effort that hopes to better characterize colony collapse disorder, said the investigation has been somewhat hampered by beekeepers unwilling to admit that their bees are dying.

"Sometimes beekeepers are ashamed that they have a problem, so they may not be as transparent as they might be," he said.

That's not the case for Placerville, Calif., beekeeper Rich Starets. He's lost 225 of his 300 hives since November. But he places the blame squarely on his own beekeeping missteps, such as poor timing of feeding and medication. And, based on conversations with fellow beekeepers, he's convinced that the much-discussed colony collapse disorder is chiefly the result of imperfect beekeeping.

"There's plenty of guys that didn't lose two-thirds of their hives this year," he said.

While the price that a hive commands in an almond orchard has nearly tripled in just the past four years, beekeepers' costs have risen, as well. Much of the money goes to treat bees against an ever-growing variety of pests and pathogens, to feed them corn syrup and protein supplements and to pay breeders for replacement bees when hives die off.

That's a lot to keep track of, especially for a part-time beekeeper like Starets, 40, who makes most of his living fixing cell-phone towers for AT&T.

But, he said, "It's up to me ... to learn how to keep bees in a changing world."

Dozens of his now-barren hive boxes are stacked in a meadow along Green Valley Road near Shingle Springs. On a recent morning, Starets cracked one lid open, revealing a cluster of a few dozen dead bees huddled together as if for comfort. They had started to mold. A healthy hive would have 20,000 or more bees at this time of year.

Online bee discussions on sites like beesource.com and honeybeeworld.com have been brimming with speculation on the cause and extent of the die-off. There are rumors of desperate almond growers offering $300 a hive for healthy bees, and theories blaming the die-off on everything from cell-phone signals to genetically modified crops.

Researchers like vanEngelsdorp are hoping to put the speculation to rest by finding a cause or a collection of causes - aside from beekeeper error - for the reported die-off. They're currently analyzing samples from healthy and sick colonies around the country.

For his role in the race to solve the mystery of colony collapse, vanEngelsdorp has become a minor media star. He's lately been spending 70 percent of his time talking to reporters and giving radio and television interviews, he said.

"You realize that this is an opportunity to help explain how important bees are," he said.

He knew the story had reached critical mass, he said, after what he overheard during lunch at an International House of Pancakes in Florida last week.

"Across the way there were these two old ladies," he said. "And one was saying, `Did you hear all the bees are dying?'

"And I'm thinking, Wow. It made IHOP conversation."
---------------------

3-22-07
GM WATCH daily
http://www.gmwatch.org

1.Bee demise - Are GMOs the missing link?
Sierra Club press release, March 22 2007

Are honey bees the canary in the coal mine? What are honey bees trying to tell us that we should pay attention to?

One out of every three bites of food that we consume is due to the work of honeybees, serving as crucial pollinators. Yet food production may be severely impacted by the recently reported Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Beekeepers are reporting estimates as high as 80% loss of their honey bee colonies.

There's a link that's not being investigated. Highly respected scientists believe that exposure to genetically engineered crops and their plant-produced pesticides merit serious consideration as either the cause or a contributory factor to the development and spread of CCD.

Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club's Chair of the Genetic Engineering Committee states, "In searching for the cause of massive honey bee losses nationwide, we must leave no stone unturned to find the answer. Is the release of genetically engineered organisms the smoking gun?"

This past decade we are seeing releases into the environment that we have never before seen on this planet. Genetic engineering involves the artificial transfer of genes from one organism into another, bypassing the protective barrier between species. Scientists admit that unintended consequences may occur due to the lack of precision and specificity in the DNA sites on different plant chromosomes where the inserted genes randomly end up. According to the prominent biologist Dr. Barry Commoner, "Genetically engineered crops represent a huge uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic."

Regulators don't look, so they don't find. The USDA and EPA have failed to adequately assess the potential for lethal and sublethal impacts of engineered crop pesticides on pollinators like honey bees and wild bees, including the larvae brood and young bees. They have failed to study the effects of the practice of feeding honeybee colonies genetically engineered (GE) corn syrup and parts of recycled hives containing additional GE food residues.

Considering that loss of honeybee pollinators can leave a huge void in the kitchens of the American people and an estimated loss of 14 billion dollars to farmers, it would be prudent to use caution. If genetically engineered crops are killing honeybees, a moratorium on their planting should be strongly considered.

In a letter sent to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees sent yesterday, Sierra Club urges our elected officials to initiate investigations to determine if exposure to genetically engineered crops or corn syrup is the missing link.
-----------------------

2.GE and bee Colony Collapse Disorder -- science needed!
http://www.sierraclub.org/biotech/whatsnew/whatsnew_2007-03-21.asp

Contact: Sierra Club
Laurel Hopwood
216-371-9779
lhopwood@adelphia.net

Dear Senator Thomas Harkin,

We share similar concerns. The viability of a robust food supply is paramount to the American people.

One out of every three bites of food that we consume is due to the work of honeybees, serving as crucial pollinators in agriculture and farming communities. Yet agriculture and food production may be severely impacted by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a trend documented in honey bee colonies and prominently featured in a New York Times story(1). Beekeepers are reporting estimates as high as 80% loss of their honey bee colonies. Such a huge loss of the services of bees is extremely serious and beekeepers report it's a growing trend.

The cause of CCD is unknown. Although factors being considered include pesticides, mites, microbial disease and habitat decline, there's a possible link that's not being investigated. Highly respected scientists believe that exposure to genetically engineered crops and their plant-produced pesticides merit serious consideration as either the cause or a contributory factor to the development and spread of CCD.(2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) In searching for the cause of massive honey bee losses nationwide, we must leave no stone unturned to find the answer.

This past decade we are seeing releases into the environment that we have never before seen on this planet. Genetic engineering involves the artificial transfer of genes from one organism into another, bypassing the protective barrier between species. Scientists admit that "unintended consequences" may occur due to the lack of precision and specificity in the DNA sites on different plant chromosomes where the inserted genes randomly end up. According to the prominent biologist Dr. Barry Commoner and pioneer in ecology, "Genetically engineered crops represent a huge uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic."(11) Dr. David Schubert has expressed similar concerns in pointing out some of the significant holes existing in current genetic engineering technology that raise serious questions about how well we understand it and how to apply such a new emerging science.(12) An issue Dr. Schubert raises is the "unpredictability" in the artificial gene splicing technology that is routinely performed in genetic engineering because it may lead to unpredictable consequences. Are the honey bees trying to tell us about the "unintended consequences" from large-scale genetic engineering in agriculture?

Investigators have raised the possibility that honey bees are experiencing a sublethal effect such as a "suppressed immune system" from an unknown toxin. However, sublethal effects have not been fully investigated. Dennis van Engelsdorp, a bee specialist with the state of Pennsylvania who is part of the team studying the bee colony collapses, said the "strong immune suppression" investigators have observed "could be the AIDS of the bee industry," making bees more susceptible to other diseases that eventually kill them off.(1) Nonetheless, a concern is that genetically engineered crops are being ignored as a possible culprit, especially with tens of millions of acres now being planted each year of cultivars producing large concentrations of pesticides that did not exist on such a scale just a decade ago.

Currently regulators fail to require adequate analysis of transgene insertion sites. This omission results from the failure to appreciate the magnitude of genetic damage sustained by transgenic plants.(11,12) Regulators have also failed to adequately assess the potential for lethal and sublethal impacts of engineered crop pesticides on pollinators like honey bees and wild bees, including the larvae brood and young bees. Studies are needed to evaluate the impact of GE crops on sublethal effects such as learning and feeding behavior. In addition, honey bee colonies are being fed GE corn syrups and parts of recycled hives containing additional GE food residues. The effect of these feeding practices on bees needs study.

Considering that loss of honeybee pollinators can leave a huge void in the kitchens of the American people and an estimated loss of 14 billion dollars to farmers, it would beprudent to use caution. If genetically engineered crops are killing honeybees, a moratorium on their planting should be considered.

Senator Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, you are in a key position to initiate investigations to determine if exposure to genetically engineered crops is the missing link. Emergency funding for research on the pollinator decline needs to be available to researchers and the USDA.

Most sincerely,
Laurel Hopwood, Chair
Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee

References:
1. Alexei Barrioneuva, "Honeybees, Gone With the Wind, Leave Crops and Keepers in Peril," The New York Times, February 27, 2007:
http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F10B1FF8355A0C748EDDAB0894DF404482

2. Malone,L and Pham-Delegue,M. "Effects of transgene products on honey bees (Apis mellifera) and bumblebees (Bombus sp.)" Apidologie 2001,32,287-304.

3. Obrycki,J, Losey, J, Taylor,O, Jesee,L. "Transgenic insecticidal corn: Beyond insecticidal toxicity to ecological complexity." Bioscience May 2001/Vol 51 No. 5

4. Pham-Delegue, M.H., et. al. 2002. "Direct and Indirect Effects of Genetically Modified Plants on the Honey Bee," Honey Bees: Estimating the Environmental Impact of Chemicals, pp. 312-326.

5. Picard-Nioi, A.L,.et al. Pham-Delegue, M.H. "Impact of proteins used in plant genetic engineering: Toxicity and behavioral study in the honeybee." J. Econ. Entomol.997,90,1710-1716.

6. Ricarda A. Steinbrecher, "Risks associated with ingestion of Chardon LL maize, The reversal of N-acetyl-L- glufosinate to the active herbicide L-glufosinate in the gut of animals," Chardon LL Hearing, May 2002, London.

7. Mohr KI and Tebbe CC. "Field study results on the probability and risk of a horizontal gene transfer from transgenic herbicide-resistant oilseed rape pollen to gut bacteria of bees." Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2007 in press,DOI 10.1007/s00253, 007-0846-7.

8. Ramirez-Romero,R,Chaufaux,J and Pham-Delegue,M. "Effects of Cry1Ab protoxin, deltamethrin and imidacloprid on the foraging activity and the learning performances of the honeybee Apis mellifera, a comparative approach" Apidologie 36 (2005) 601-11.

9. Hilbeck,A and Schmid,J. "Another view of Bt proteins-How specific are they and what else might they do" Biopestic. Int. 2006,2,1-50.

10. Morandin,L and Winston,M. "Wild bee abundance and seed production in conventional, organic and genetically modified canola" Ecological Applications 2004,15,871-81.

11. Commoner, B. "Unraveling the DNA Myth: The spurious foundation of genetic engineering." Harper's Magazine, February 2002, 39-47.

12. Schubert, D. "Regulatory regimes for transgenic crops." Nature Biotechnology 23,785 - 787 (2005).

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The British Petroleum-University of California deal

Submitted: Mar 12, 2007

I know that the people of California will demand a better university for themselves, because without it, their options for a survivable future, let alone a future they might desire, are dim. -- Ignacio H. Chapela, Associate Professor UC Berkeley – March 2007

Meanwhile, however, the UC Board of Regents will undoubtedly rubber-stamp the BP-UC deal to produce more uncontrollable genetically engineered organisms. Among the other grave distortions of language surrounding California’s “greatest public research university in the world,” is the term conflict-of-interest. The present chairman of the Regents is Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Together, they have extracted all meaning from the term.

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

Remarks Prepared by Invitation of the Chair of the Academic Senate University of California, Berkeley

On the Berkeley-British Petroleum Proposition:
Things are Often Not what they Appear.

Presented on the Floor of the Academic Senate of the University of California, Berkeley Division.

In eight minutes.

by
Ignacio H. Chapela
Associate Professor

Things are often not what they appear.

This Session

This session, for instance. It will be portrayed as the latest expression of the vibrant democratic system of shared governance for which Berkeley was once known. Far from it, this session is a last-minute hurried afterthought by a leadership caught asleep at the wheel, a session convened only because of the rising outrage and opposition to the presence of British Petroleum on our campus.

May nobody claim that eight minutes of my clumsy words represent any kind of reasonable and legitimizing discussion. May nobody leave this room thinking that there is anything like a legitimate process in place to guarantee that this Faustian deal with the British transnational corporation is not what it portends, the last - and I believe final - coup de grace to the very idea of a university that can represent the best interest of the public.

The Technical Value of the Premises

I have tried for size the word Prostitution as best describing that for which the Chancellor and his associates would like us to sign.

When faced with this concept, I have heard the proponents of this deal simply shrug and say: "But at least we can agree that it IS a lot of money - and even perhaps some science may come out of it!" So leaving prostitution aside, why not glance at the science?

What would certainly come out of the BP-Berkeley facilities would be a large number of genetically altered, reproducing, LIVING organisms to be released in the public environment.

In Berkeley, in the Midwest and around the world. Genetically-modified (or "GMO") grasses, trees, algae, bacteria, viruses destined for intentional, large-scale release in the public environment.

These organisms do not represent Science. If anything, they may represent our failure as scientists to assume the deep inadequacies of our understanding about living organisms and the ecology of our planet. I do not need to dwell on it: read it in the front pages of your newspapers.

Despite a third of a century and more than $350 billion dollars invested in the trinket, a hurricane remains more predictable, and a wildfire remains more controllable than GMO organisms. Meanwhile, they have proven to be a disastrous economic proposition, not to speak of their environmental and social consequences.

Cognizant of this reality, BP-Berkeley proponents would wish to rename everything in their trade to give it a fresh face of novelty: GMOs should now be called "DNA circuits", pieced together from "Biobricks" through a craft not called transgenesis, but "Synthetic Biology"; decomposition, the process which has defeated many better minds in the past may be more tractable - they suggest - if it can be renamed "depolymerization". And so on.

In the BP-Berkeley spirit I would suggest we rename "science" what used to be called "magic" in my childhood: addressing a question by drawing a cloak of confusion and secrecy over it, only to extract a pre-arranged answer to the pre-arranged question.

We hear that the magic of "DNA-circuits" should also produce some science in the physics departments. BP-Berkeley proponents wish to deny it, but the proposition that more energy can be extracted from a process than what is invested into it does not follow the phoney rules of the stock market or the wild-eyed predictions of venture capitalists. Biofuels may be convenient because they shove the tragic aspects of our insatiable consumption to the invisible corners of the Third World, but they will not change the laws of thermodynamics, nor - I suspect - will they succeed in the medieval quest for perpetual motion machines.

Do we need a solution to the crazed consumerism binge of the short two centuries we have spent burning our fossil-fuel accounts?

Certainly. If we do not find it soon, the solution itself may come and get us, and we may not like it. But does the BP-Berkeley proposal address any of the questions necessary to find that solution? I believe not. At least there are very legitimate and reasonable concerns, growing by the day in the last few weeks here and abroad, that the idea of Biofuels embodied in the BP-Berkeley proposal is not only short-sighted, but fatally flawed:

For a measure, Indonesia without Biofuels used to be close to 20th in the world as producer of CO2 in the atmosphere. In a few years with biofuels it is now third, only behind the US and China.

Signing the contract with British Petroleum would yoke the university to a flawed and potentially very dangerous route at least for the next decade. Because of the investments and commitments made and because of the roads not taken, most probably much longer.

The evidence keeps coming in about the inadequacy and dangerous nature of the proposal, but we cannot afford to even see or acknowledge it, even before signing the contract, for fear of scaring the money away.

If we signed that contract, can anyone seriously imagine that Berkeley would be in a position to undertake significant research to show the problems with the BP strategy? Can anyone believe that after signing the contract we could be working on alternatives that do not involve patents, immoral profit margins, economies of scale and command-and-control governance? Look at the subservient motions of this very Senate, and answer these questions truthfully, at least to yourselves (at night, in the bathroom?).

After signing the contract with BP, will anyone ever believe our objectivity and advice as we move into the most difficult part out of the social and environmental decomposition that we live in?

Chancellor Berdahl, while signing with one hand the predecessor of the BP-Berkeley agreement, the Novartis-Berkeley deal, was writing with the other hand:

"The issue is not that Novartis may direct the research exclusively to topics that may yield profits for the company; it is, rather, that the perception of the objectivity of our faculty may be compromised and with it the confidence that their research is dedicated to the public good. Few would put a great deal of confidence, I suspect, in the objectivity of lung cancer research funded by tobacco companies."

The evidence is in, and we cannot afford to see it?

We already missed the opportunity of listening to the best advice of our faculty. In addition to Berdahl's, the following names, and what they could have contributed are but a sampler of the many important campus voices that are clearly not represented here:

Clark Kerr - the dangers of the university-industrial complex.
Nancy Peluso - probable consequences of the BP deal in Indonesia.
Miguel Altieri - ditto for the Amazon basin, plus the many non-patent alternatives to global disaster.
Michael Watts - ditto for Asia
Claudia Carr - ditto for Africa
Gordon Rausser - the difference between first right of refusal and first right of negotiation. Basics of negotiation strategies.
Bob Buchanan - the limits of microbial transgenesis
Bob Berdahl - the possible limits to privatization
Laura Nader - the impossibility of unlimited power through knowledge
David Hollinger - the unsustainability of using the university as a political workhorse
Tad Patzek
Urs Cipolat
Gray Brechin
Bob Brentano
Jennifer Miller
Iain Boal
Louise Fortmann ... the list goes on

Can we call this a "Berkeley"agreement when these and many other voices are not here?

Things are often not what they appear: there are other names.

This agreement, which many fear as an unacceptable private-public partnership, is very much a private-private partnership. Attention faculty in English, Music or Rhetoric: do not hold your breath for the financial crumbs to fall from the party table for your programs, because the chickens are all counted, and they carry name-tags around their necks.

I mean to say: the reason why you have not heard mention of even the concept of Conflict of Interest is precisely because nobody in the partnership seems to recognize the idea.

To my knowledge the last time Conflict of Interest was considered worth visiting, again involved the Novartis-Berkeley deal. One of the overseers of that Deal, Prof Jasper Rine, stated in his legal declaration on conflict of interest caused by his simultaneous involvement in private and public science-making:

" … the possibility of conflict of interest is non-existent, since the science happening in my lab at Berkeley is exactly the same as the science happening in [my outside company]" A curious but clearly faulted definition of the concept, I should point out.

It is not surprising then to see that conflict of interest levels that would have been considered unthinkable even a decade ago would not deserve even a note in the BP-Berkeley designs. The conflicts and mutual-self-serving dealings are many, large and very complex, but once again in eight minutes we are reduced to a mention of a few examples.

BP-boosters propose to focus on grasses and other "DNA circuits" controlled by a company in Walnut Creek called Mendel Biotechnology. Mendel is thus a major, little-mentioned partner in this deal. Mendel has an alliance with Monsanto, the world’s monopoly of transgenic seeds, for more than $40 milllion dollars. This long-term relationship includes a Vice President of Monsanto on Mendel’s board; in their words, their reciprocal interests are "highly aligned". So it stands to legal reason --by some standard I suppose-- that there would be no conflict of interest between BP, Berkeley, Mendel, Monsanto, and the deployment of their products for profit over more than 200 million acres of transgenic (excuse me, "Synthetic Biology") crops? In this proposal, Berkeley is nothing but a business partner with these corporations, professors entrepreneurs and students simply cheap labor, paying high fees for the privilege of giving their work to the right corporation.

Principals in Mendel's Board of Directors and Scientific Advisory Board are Prof. Brian Staskawicz, of Berkeley, and Prof. Stephen Long of the University of Illinois (the other business partner in this Proposal). Both entrepreneurs' interests inside campus and out are probably so identical that they do not need to worry about conflict of interest. Whether their students can maintain such clear alignment in their allegiance between finding out what is true and publicly desirable and finding out what is profitable might be a different question.

Chris Sommerville, CEO of Mendel, has been apparently rushed in to Berkeley through a secretive and highly irregular flash-hire process to be safely on the UC side as a professor for the signing of the agreement. His campus interviews, behind closed doors, apparently happened last Tuesday, although the Chancellor had already announced more than a month ago that he would unilaterally appoint him. Not surprisingly, there is no outward sign that the Academic Senate even knew about all this. Oh, I nearly forgot: Mr Sommerville's wife is reportedly also getting another professorial position at Berkeley through the same process - I am not sure what she does professionally.

Of course, no contract will be official without the signature of the Regents but here again, the Chair of the Regents, Richard Blum, stands in multi-million-dollar conflict of interest over his financial engagement with "development" corporations that are already signed on to begin the digging and concrete-pouring in Strawberry Canyon, as has been well documented by investigative journalist Peter Byrne.

Prof. Dan Kammen's description of the goals here is appropriate, and seems to describe the real environmental interest in the BP-Berkeley proposal: He said that the goal of the BP-Berkeley deal was "to generate an ecosystem of companies". We now have an inkling of the "biodiversity" making up this "innovation environment"; now we know that what is really meant here is a trophic web of favoritism that would have shamed the Soviet system, in an environment of profit-driven conflict of interest.

BP's Benefit

As the smell of depolymerization (British Petroleum-word for decomposition) continues to emerge from the extraordinary proposition, few stop to ask what else would BP get out of all this.

Time is short, so we are back to citing samplers from a much larger collection.

I will leave a marker here for what I think is the most important benefit to BP apart from the obvious greenwashing and the very large public subsidization of its faulty science, research development, distribution and marketing: the liability haven provided by Berkeley.

If the production of Synthetic Biology "DNA circuits" entails with it very clear risks, Berkeley is providing an unrivalled degree of protection against public scrutiny, through the abuse of the public privilege assigned to us in the Constitution of the State of California to conduct our affairs in privacy, for academic freedom's sake. This privilege can also be used, as if it were a private right to secrecy, to deflect public inquiry and to protect BP, Dow, Monsanto, Mendel, Savia, Amyris and the rest of the "ecosystem of companies" from the evident and imminent liability in Moral, Fiduciary and Legal terms associated with the release of herbicide resistant weeds, algae, all kinds of microbes, crops and the rest of it.

Thanks

It is not all bad. I want to thank the many students and faculty who are awakening to the situation of their university, the public of California and the world who understand what is at stake and will hold us accountable for it, as they are doing here tonight.

But I also want to thank British Petroleum, not for the $500,000,000.00 - which, at $600 of after-tax profit per second for last year does not represent much - but for the arrogant and reckless style with which they have come to our Campus. With this they have already helped uncover the depth and breadth of the problems with/for our university that this proposal entails. These problems were really in need of public attention, and they will get it.

I Believe that I stand here for a majority within this campus, throughout the State and in the world who also believe that the time has come to re-take control of our institutions as the only possible way forward from the enormous environmental and social catastrophe that we are already living through.

I Trust that this Academic Senate, the only legitimate body of representation for our faculty, will stand up against this last push to declare us irrelevant in the worst moment of social and environmental need.

I know that the people of California will demand a better university for themselves, because without it, their options for a survivable future, let alone a future they might desire, are dim.

Let there be light.
-----------------

Note:

Answers.com
http://www.answers.com/topic/richard-c-blum

Wikipedia: Richard C. Blum

Richard C. Blum is an investment banker and the husband of United States Senator from California Dianne Feinstein. He is the Chairman and President of Blum Capital Partners, L.P., a long-term strategic equity investment management firm that acts as general partner for various investment partnerships and provides investment advisory services. He founded the firm in 1975. He also owns 75% of the voting stock in Perini.

Educated
He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his B.S. in business administration in 1958, and an MBA in 1959, both degrees coming from the Haas School of Business.

Boards

On March 12, 2002, Blum was appointed by California Governor Gray Davis to a 12-year term as one of the Regents of the University of California. Blum also serves on the boards of the following companies:

CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. (Chairman)
Newbridge Capital, LLC (co-Chairman)
Glenborough Realty Trust

Blum has a strong interest in Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. In 1981 he attempted to climb Mount Everest from the Tibetan side with Sir Edmund Hillary. He is the Chairman and founder of the American Himalayan Foundation, which has given millions of dollars to build hospitals and schools in Tibet and Nepal.

In addition to the AHF, Blum’s not-for-profit endeavors include service as Trustee of The Carter Center; member of the Board of Trustees of The Brookings Institution; Co-Chairman of the The World Conference of Religions for Peace; Director at the World Wildlife Fund; Member of Governing Council of the Wilderness Society; and Member of the Board of Trustees of the American Cancer Foundation.

The Center for Public Integrity has reported that Blum and his wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, are making millions of dollars from Iraq and Afghanistan contracts through his company, Perini. [1] Critics have also argued that Feinstein's support of policies that are friendly to the Chinese government are because of her husband's extensive China-related business holdings.

References
Biographical sketch in the San Francisco Chronicle
Blum Capital Partners, L.P.
Blum Biography at the University of California
Richard Blum hones art of upping shareholder value. Loren Steffy; Bloomberg News; August 4, 2002.

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Democracy and genetic engineering in California

Submitted: Aug 29, 2006

The Center for Food Safety alerted us tonight that a bill to prevent counties from passing any laws pertaining to seeks and nursery stock, including genetic engineered seeds, passed the Assembly last Thursday and moves back to the state Senate this coming Thursday.

This is a bill state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter is carrying on behalf of the biotechnology industry to make sure that the four California counties that have already passed anti-GMO measures remain the only four counties that will ever have a right to defend themselves against untested, gene-polluting genetically engineered crops.

The Center for Food Safety said,

The state government currently has no regulations for genetic engineering in agriculture ... Denying local governments the right to pass laws, especially when there are no state regulations, is unconstitutional and undemocratic.

We see the critical importance of more local measures to stop the spread of unwanted GMOs in the nation's largest and by far most diverse agricultural state when considering just the latest lawsuit filed against a biotech corporation, Bayer.

Of course, Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy and chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, voted with biotechnology against all farmers in the state who would prefer selling non-GMO crops to those trying to sell GMO crops to consistently resistent foreign markets. This is one more example of how big money makes stupid policy that puts transnational corporate profits before people and family business.

As seen in the article below, although California grows a type of rice that has not yet been genetically engineered, California growers joined this lawsuit, arguing that GMOs have no respect for fence lines -- genetic drift and GMO contamination of non-GMO crops is as well proven as global warming and other facts inconvenient to corporate power.

This is an issue of democracy, or more properly the loss of it. Al Gore put it well recently, when he said: "Questions of fact that are threatening to wealth and power become questions of power ..." -- Gore lashes Out at Media Consolidation, Jill Lawless, Associated Press, Aug. 28, 2006.

We urge you all to contact your state senators to ask them to vote against this bill for the enrichment of the biotechnology industry at the expense of many of the state's farmers and at the expense of the political process.
------------------

Published on Monday, August 28, 2006 by the Associated Press
Gore Lashes Out at Media Consolidation
by Jill Lawless

-------------------

US rice farmers sue Bayer CropScience over GM rice
29 August 2006
Reuters

LOS ANGELES: Rice farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and California have sued Bayer CropScience, alleging its genetically modified rice has contaminated the crop, attorneys for the farmers said.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock, law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll said in a statement.

The farmers alleged that the unit of Germany's Bayer AG failed to prevent its genetically modified rice, which has not been approved for human consumption, from entering the food chain.

As a result, they said, Japan and the European Union have placed strict limits on US rice imports and US rice prices have dropped dramatically.

A Bayer representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

US agriculture and food safety authorities learned on July 31 that Bayer's unapproved rice had been found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri. While the United States is a small rice grower, it is one of the world's largest exporters, sending half of its crop to foreign buyers.

The genetically engineered long grain rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds.

Japan, the largest importer of US rice, suspended imports of US long-grain rice a week ago.

The US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration have said there are no public health or environmental risks associated with the genetically engineered rice.

The United States is expected to produce a rice crop valued at $1.88 billion in 2006. US rice growers are responsible for about 12 per cent of world rice trade. Three-fourths of the crop is long grain, grown almost entirely in the lower Mississippi Valley. California, the No 2 rice state, grows short grain rice.

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More benefits of a UC campus in the Valley

Submitted: Jun 01, 2006

The University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which UC manages, recently announced plans to build a level-4 bio-defense lab near Tracy. Level-4 labs store the most dangerous diseases known to man -- Ebola, dengue fever, Lassa fever and "other illnesses for which there are no known cures." (1)

Opposition to UC Davis establishing a level-4 lab in Davis was so strong -- including a unanimous vote against it by the Davis City Council -- that the federal government dropped plans to fund a $59-million National Biocontainment Laboratory there in September 2003. (2) Opponents argued that such a lab would be an attraction to terrorists and that UC doesn't have adequate security to obstruct them from spreading the lethal contents of a level-4 bio-defense lab to contaminate the surrounding community.

Proximity to a UC campus, former UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey never tired of repeating, creates an ambition to go to college. It also creates a fear of UC weapons-of-mass-destruction research and mistrust of the bland assurances of adequate security.

At least one Tracy city councilwoman, Irene D. Sundberg ... "noted that the city abuts Site 300 -- as the possible location for the second lab is known -- and new housing is planned nearby.

"'The (UC Regents) should be putting it in their backyard and not mine,' she said."

Whose backyard the most dangerous, incurable illnesses in the world should be stored, is the question being argued in federal court. Livermore-based Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment has appealed their case to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, after their district court suit to stop UC from locating the facility in Livermore. CARE argues that it is madness to locate such dangerous substances in such a heavily populated area, where, in case of accident, under certain wind conditions, plumes of deadly diseases could blow all over the Bay Area, where a number of regents live.

Meanwhile, enter the sheer magic of UC flak. The closer you get to weapons of mass destruction the more magical becomes the UC flak. UC is saying:

By contrast, researchers at the second (Tracy) lab would concentrate to a greater degree on natural- or terrorist-caused agricultural diseases, but might also have the authority to work on extremely virulent human diseases such as Ebola, research on which is not permitted in the lower-ranked lab.

UC mentions hoof-and-mouth disease, for example, keeping the door open for anthrax, Ebola, etc, of course.

The situation seems to be that if UC/Lawrence Livermore wins its appeals court case, the deadliest human diseases will be stored and studied in the Bay Area, the most densely (human) populated area in northern California, while hoof-and-mouth disease, for example, will be studied in the San Joaquin Valley, which contains the densest population of cows in the nation.

This is undoubtedly why our wise leaders invited UC to establish a campus in Merced. This is the kind of enlightened, scientific guidance we dumb farmers need down here in the Valley.

My personal favorite from the selection of UC flak was:

"Lawrence Livermore has a long history of safely and securely working with biological agents," Colston said. "There are hundreds of these facilities in the United States with proven track records."

This rises to the level of fabulously fatuous UC Flak. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported in 2002:

On March 14, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) detailed their research priorities for countering bioterrorism. Their broad goals include increased funding for treatment, diagnostics, and vaccines, as well as projects in applied immunology and genomics. These include studies on how pathogens affect humans as well as the genetics of biowarfare agents. [10] The NIH also plans to construct six to 10 new biosafety level-3 and-4 facilities to supplement the seven level-4 facilities that already exist or are nearing completion. In response, several other countries have announced plans to build their own high-containment facilities. This is a recipe for disaster. (3)

Here's the political dilemma. Suppose Councilwoman Sundberg is able to rally as many opponents to the establishment of a level-4 bio-defense lab on the outskirts of her town as citizens of Davis were able to muster to oppose a level-4 lab in the middle of their town on the UC Davis campus. It would seem, in view of several factors, that UC Merced would be the next logical step for UC to take to get the millions in federal grants.

As a university, UC Merced is floundering badly. It appears, according to intermittent word from students, to be operated like a genteel prison camp. Its course offerings are meager, some would say eccentrically high-tech. Its chancellor has just quit. Its vice chancellor spent most of her career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Its provost departed precipitously for University of Nevada Las Vegas two weeks ago. UC Merced has posted no information on its search for a new chancellor.

First, UC Merced was going to be the UC campus for all the Valley's Hispanics, who according to UC, wouldn't move away from home to go to college. Then it was going to be the environmental campus. This was the period of the Sierra Nevada Institute and the big Nature Conservancy easement program. In fact, due to vicissitudes in the careers of Gov. Gray Davis and Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres, UC was unable to fully complete the railroading of all local, state and federal environmental laws and regulations the campus violates, leaving the actual location of future phases of UC Merced up in the air. Lately, more of its flak has been about being a "bio-tech engine of growth."

Labeled both a "land deal" and a "boondoggle" in the state Capitol, so far UC Merced has produced nothing but a huge speculative real estate boom in eastern Merced County, from which various regents and legislators and their families have personally benefited, along with local landowners, developers and realtors. The huge amount of investment capital in the area is flooding in from elsewhere, the same elsewhere where the big profits will go.

What if Tracy develops some backbone? Now that so many Pombo Real Estate Ranches have been filled up with Bay Area-commuter, labor-camp subdivisions, Tracy shows more signs of regarding itself as a part of the Bay Area every day. They may well argue among themselves quite eloquently and persuasively that the best place for a level-4 bio-defense lab also studying hoof-and-mouth disease should be the second largest dairy county in the United States, Merced.

Whereas San Joaquin County supervisors and Tracy City Council members may choose to dodge their patriotic duty to accept a level-4 bio-defense lab, one has no doubt about the patriotism of Merced County supervisors on anything pertaining to UC Merced's memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

That only leaves the problem of providing the amenities to attract the top-notch scientists we need to study hoof-and-mouth disease, Ebola, Lassa fever and other fatal, incurable diseases in our neighborhood. Our local leaders, speaking with One Voice, have already taken a positive step in this direction -- improving the roads to UC Merced. Next Tuesday, our leaders invite one of the poorest counties in the state to vote for a sales tax increase -- the most regressive tax possible -- to raise transportation funds.

With leadership like this, Merced should get a level-4 bio-defense lab in less than a year. And what a boon it would be to our stay-at-home minorities, our cows, and our environment!

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

Notes:

(1) San Francisco Chronicle
Livermore considers bio-defense lab in Tracy. Proposed research site might store deadly human diseases...Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/BAGLSJ3NVT1.DTL&type=printable
The University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which are already pushing for federal court approval to store and study dangerous microbes at the Livermore lab, have expressed interest in building a second bio-defense lab near Tracy -- a lab that could experiment with even deadlier bugs...if approved and funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the 50,000-square-foot facility near Tracy could come with a ranking of "Biosafety Level Four," a status granted in the United States only to biological labs that store and analyze the world's scariest pathogens, both human and animal -- and lab officials refused to rule out the possibility that they'll study human diseases as well. The proposal for the second lab angered Tracy City Councilwoman Irene D. Sundberg, who noted that the city abuts Site 300 -- as the possible location for the second lab is known -- and new housing is planned nearby..."The (UC Regents) should be putting it in their backyard and not mine." UC officials expressed interest in the possibility of constructing the Tracy facility in a March 31 letter to Homeland Security. UC officials refused to release copies, explaining their letter is "confidential and proprietary" and releasing it might leak secrets to potential competitors for the project. "Lawrence Livermore has a long history of safely and securely working with biological agents," Colston said. "There are hundreds of these facilities in the United States with proven track records."

(2)http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/7356341p-8300182c.html
Huge blow for UCD's lab quest
University fails to win key federal funding.
By Pamela Martineau -- Bee Staff Writer
September 5, 2003

UC Davis' bid for a proposed biolab suffered a crushing setback Thursday when federal officials denied the university funding for a critical research consortium that would have operated out of its proposed facility.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services named eight institutions that will receive five-year grants to operate Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) where scientists would study infectious diseases and defenses against bioterrorist attacks. University of California, Davis, was not among the grant recipients ... Most opponents say they fear the lab could become the target of terrorists and could spread dangerous pathogens through the community through accidents or safety breaches. Marches and silent protests also have been staged to oppose the project ... Don Mooney, an attorney for the group Stop UCD Bio Lab Now, said he has read the NIH's request for proposals for the National Biocontainment Laboratory thoroughly and he believes UC Davis' loss of the Regional Center of Excellence "should be the end" of the biolab proposal. Davis City Councilman Mike Harrington agreed ...

(3)http://www.thebulletin.org/article.php?art_ofn=so02choffnes
Bioweapons: New labs, more terror?
By Eileen Choffnes
September/October 2002 pp. 28-32 (vol. 58, no. 05) © 2002 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

(4) http://www.counterpunch.com/zeese06012006.html
June 1, 2006
Return of the Petri Dish Warriors
A New Biowar Arms Race Begins in Maryland
By KEVIN ZEESE
... Expansion of Bio-Weapons Activity Will Make America, and the World, Less Safe

Not only is this a multi-billion dollar misuse of federal funds, but it will encourage our adversaries to develop similar programs, lead to the invention of new, infectious agents and increase the risk of diversion of U.S. made bio-weapons to our adversaries. If the government really want to increase the safety of Americans the U.S. would invest in the public health system, strengthen international controls and work to remove pathogens from the face of the earth, rather than creating new ones.

The only modern bio-weapons attack was the use of anthrax in letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy at the time the Patriot Act was being considered. There is no question the anthrax used in this attack was produced in the United States and came through Ft. Detrick. The type of anthrax used was the "Ames strain," with a concentration and dispersability of one trillion spores per gram--a technology that is only capable of production by U.S. scientists...

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Lack of incentive

Submitted: Dec 30, 2005

It's very hard to see that the USDA has any incentive to properly monitor GMO crops, pharma or otherwise, considering they are so gung-ho in favor of them, along with the land grant universities whose "win-win public/private partnerships" with biotechnology corporations have produced them.

When the nation is going to wake up and discover this technology required serious public testing it never received remains a question based on the ability of lobbies and propaganda to bend perception. Using the example of genetic contamination, however, whatever is said from bent perspectives won't change inevitable facts. So far the critics have been right, every step of the way.
-----------------------------------

Investigators say the USDA lacks details on what happens with pharma-crops.

By PHILIP BRASHER
REGISTER WASHINGTON BUREAU
Des Moines Register, December 30 2005
http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051230/BUSINESS01/512300334/1030

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has failed to properly oversee field trials of genetically engineered crops, including plants designed to produce chemicals for medical and industrial uses, investigators say.

A report released Thursday by the USDA's inspector general said the department "lacks basic information" on where field tests are or what is done with the crops after they are harvested.

The report is the latest blow to prospects for developing an industry based on mass-producing pharmaceutical chemicals from genetically modified corn. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack once called the idea the "future of our state."

During the inspector general investigation, auditors found that two large harvests of pharmaceutical crops remained in storage at test sites without the USDA's knowledge or approval.

The investigators also said that in 2003 the department failed to inspect fields of pharmaceutical crops with the frequency that officials said they would.

"Current (USDA) regulations, policies and procedures do not go far enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology," the report said.

The report "confirms the public's lack of confidence in the USDA to oversee pharmaceutical and industrial chemical crops," said Susan Prolman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group that has been critical of the agricultural biotechnology industry.

USDA officials said they have made a number of improvements since the investigation was done but disagree with some of the findings.

"We were addressing many of the issues as they were looking at the same issues," said Cindy Smith, deputy administrator for biotechnology regulatory services in the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

She said violations cited in the report were minor. Also, the agency now does all the required inspections of pharma-crop sites, including one last summer near Burlington, Ia., she said.

The department is heeding one of the inspector general's suggestions and may make it mandatory for researchers to provide global positioning coordinates for test sites.

Smith's staff has grown from 23 to 65 since it was established in 2002.

The Agriculture Department oversaw 67,000 acres of biotech field trials in 2004, up from 8,700 in 1994.

Relatively little of that acreage is devoted to pharmaceutical or industrial crops, but there is special concern that those plants could contaminate conventional crops or get into the food supply.

A small biotech company, ProdiGene Inc., was ordered to pay more than $3 million in penalties and cleanup costs in 2002 after mismanaging field trials of pharmaceutical crops in Iowa and Nebraska.

Pharma crops are seen as a cheap way to mass-produce human and animal drugs. Corn has been the crop of choice because it is relatively simple to engineer and produces a lot of grain that can be easily stored and processed.

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