- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000

Genetically engineered food fight

Michael J. Phillips of the Biotechnology Industry Association risks distorting the facts on genetically engineered foods in his Aug. 9 letter ("Biotechnology firm gives article the raspberry").While he is right when he corrects an assertion in an Aug. 3 article ("Cucumber-melon fights disease, needs new name") about the flounder-tomato not being on the market, he is wrong when he calls it "mythical." The DNA Plant Technology Corp. was issued Agriculture Department permit No. 91-079-01R on June 18, 1991, for a field-test tomato it genetically engineered with an "antifreeze gene" replicated from a winter flounder.
Mr. Phillips asserts that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would label such a frankenfood, but it is actually unclear that it would. FDA has not required labeling of genetically engineered corn, soy, canola or potatoes all of which are on the market today. The agency claims genetically engineered foods are "substantially equivalent" to conventional foods, even though the companies that make them acquire patents to prove that they are unique.
Friends of the Earth believes that we all deserve the right to know what is in our food, whether it is artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors or produce made with fish genes. Because the FDA does not require labeling or independent safety analysis of genetically engineered foods for the public benefit, we have joined 50 other groups in petitioning the agency to require the same kind of labeling as for other food additives, as well as thorough health and environmental safety testing.
LARRY BOHLEN
Director, health and environment programs
Friends of the Earth
Washington
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The article "Cucumber-melon fights disease, needs new name" claims that environmental groups have succeeded in having "a mutated version of tomatoes" pulled from grocery store shelves. "The tomatoes contained flounder genes to make them more resistant to freezing but were not labeled accordingly," according to the article.
The tomatoes in question were never removed from store shelves because they never appeared on store shelves in the first place.
The only biotech tomato marketed to date has been Clagene's Flavr Savr tomato, which neither included fish genes nor was resistant to frost. Rather, the plant's own gene for production of a softening enzyme was disabled by inserting it backwards (antisense) within its genome. The Flavr Savr tomato "floundered" commercially not because of any protests by activist groups, but because the company selected the wrong type of tomato for modification.
This spring, after a series of hearings, I released a report, "Seeds of Opportunity," which concluded biotech plants and foods are as safe as and quite possibly safer than plants and foods developed using traditional methods.
Sadly, the article is a perfect example of how the distortion and misinformation spread by anti-biotech groups have infected even such reputable news organs as The Washington Times.
NICK SMITH
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington
Mr. Smith is chairman of the House Science subcommittee on basic research. His report, "Seeds of Opportunity," is available at www.house.gov/science.

Columnist takes courageous stand on China

I am grateful that in his column on Aug. 14, Nat Hentoff wrote of the exclusion of the Dalai Lama from the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations. Mr. Hentoff made the point that the world increasingly is bowing before the anger of the Chinese government ("U.N. bows to Beijing," Op-Ed).We don't see that only at the United Nations. Leaders of nations, corporations and organizations are all bowing before the government of China fearful that they will invoke the wrath of the government. This same government invaded Tibet. China has a documented history of 50 years of atrocities and human rights abuses that continue to this day.Congratulations to Mr. Hentoff for his courage in pointing this out and naming national leaders who have urged that China be granted status as a partner in world trade. Mr. Hentoff recognizes that they essentially are wrong and are saying, "Forget other people's human rights."The leaders of the world must ask, "Why are we bowing before China, and where will this lead us?"
Thanks, Mr. Hentoff, for your stand.
NEVILLE A. JACOBS
Fairbanks, Alaska

Shining a light on shift in law enforcement

The Associated Press article "Cops court controversy with covert breath testing" (Aug. 13) ought to trigger a reassessment of the current state of law enforcement. According to the article, hundreds of localities have employed "passive alcohol sensors." The most common sensor, a tiny device designed to fit on the end of a flashlight, is used by insertion into an individual's vehicle. This is done without the owner's permission.The technology provides an officer with greater accuracy in making arrests for drunken driving. For Jerry Stemler, coordinator of anti-drunken-driving programs for Fairfax County, the benefits of this device are obvious."The big advantage is [the devices] are able to detect alcohol in the air where an officer may not for one or more reasons," Mr. Stemler says, adding that the device detects a blood alcohol level barely in excess of the .08 percent threshold for intoxication. According to Mr. Stemler, this is because those drivers often exhibit few signs of impairment.These comments are representative of the ideological shift that has occurred in law enforcement. Officers no longer seek out criminality. They seek out technicalities. "To protect and serve" is no longer applicable, leaving localities increasingly militant. Resistance is the result creating tension and alienation as society evolves into a police state.These sensors represent a step toward a self-perpetuating incrementalism of tyranny. The procedure of reaching into a vehicle with an electronic device violates a citizen's Fourth Amendment rights, but the silent majority is too apathetic to care. Tacit approval is achieved through the proactive efforts of activist organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Driven by emotion to radical extremes, these groups abandon all rationality in search of inclusive policy. (This is manifested in efforts such as the zero-tolerance campaign, ultimately aimed at the eradication of all alcohol use.) Without analytical consideration and deliberation, hastily crafted procedures lead to despotism. Just remember the good citizens of the Weimar Republic.
JOHN WAHALA
Woodbridge, Va.

Public catching on to president's economic boom claim

Thank you for printing Donald Lambro's "Not prosperity's inventor" (Commentary, Aug. 17). My faith in the American people has been renewed. My contention throughout the economic boom, like those cited in a poll by Mr. Lambro, has been that the boom occurred in spite of President Clinton, not because of him.The economy rolled on in spite of his constant push for social spending and a big tax increase in his first term. The Republican-controlled brakes on his spending sprees has had more benefit than anything Mr. Clinton has done. President Reagan's appointment of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is something else for which Mr. Clinton can't take credit. It was not luck that brought on the good times; it was control of government spending, capital gains tax breaks, a tight hand on the interest rates and, most of all, more than 250 million Americans working hard and giving all they had to keep the supply of goods at a level that has met the demand, preventing price inflation.
It is too bad the people and Congress didn't have the same power over foreign policy and the strength of our standing in the world, which Mr. Clinton has managed to squander during his eight years in office. Those are the features to which Mr. Clinton had nearly exclusive power. Bravo to the American people for finally waking up to the fabrications about the economy perpetrated by Mr. Clinton and sustained by the mainstream media.
JERRY PALMER
Cedar Park, Texas

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