GENTECH archive 8.96-97

[Index][Thread]

Food Slander Laws in the U.S.A.



There are 13 states in the USA which currently have passed anti-free speech,
anti-activist food slander laws:

Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan
(passed just last week), Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas.
Here is a article from the Fall 1995 issue of Earth Island Journal on the
Food Slander laws.

"Food Slander" Is Now a Crime

by Gar Smith

On August 17, a group of activists dumped a mixture of Diet Coke,
NutraSweet (aspartame) and rBGH-enhanced milk (produced from cows
injected with genetically engineered hormones) onto the pavement at
Atlanta's Cheshire Bridge Shopping Center.

The demonstration, sponsored by the Pure Foods Campaign (PFC), took its
inspiration from the Boston Tea Party. But while dumping tea was
considered a patriotic act in Boston Harbor, dumping soda, sweetener and
milk is considered a crime in Georgia.

"Food slander" laws, in force in Georgia and at least ten other states,
make it a civil crime to denigrate or criticize food products without a
"scientific basis," explained PFC coordinator Ronnie Cummings. "Industry
lobbyists admit that these laws are probably unconstitutional... their
real purpose is to intimidate activists and concerned consumers."

Emory Law School professor David Bederman joined the PFC protest and
explained to reporters how "food disparagement" laws were ultimately
intended to scare not only citizens, but the media as well.

In Georgia, South Dakota, Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Texas, Arizona,
Oklahoma, Mississippi, Colorado and Louisiana it is now against the law
to publicly criticize corporate food products under so-called "food
disparagement" laws promoted by agriculture, chemical and biotechnology
industry lobbyists. Similar laws are under consideration in Ohio and
Illinois. "These laws are intended to curtail the right to free speech,
to make it illegal to hand out leaflets or to dump rBGH milk in the
gutter," Cummings charged.

PFC claims that Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler
"lied to Congress" when he assured legislators that bovine somatrotropin
(BST), the genetically engineered growth hormone, was destroyed by
pasteurization. Kessler's assurance, which spared Monsanto (BST's
manufacturer) the expense of any further research, was based on a
scientific paper written by Paul Groenewegen, a graduate student from
Guelph, Canada. According to PFC, Groenewegen was "outraged" to learn
that the FDA had misrepresented his research. Far from destroying BST,
Groenewegen's research showed that subjecting BST to pasteurization
temperatures 120 times normal only destroyed 19 percent of the BST in
milk. PFC also charges that the FDA will not release research that
"proves that lab animals got cancer from BST," despite numerous Freedom
of Information Act requests.

Monsanto's claim that BST is "identical" to natural hormones is also
fraudulent, PFC contends, since BST replaces the naturally occurring
amino acid lysine with epsilon-N-acetyl-lysine. While this may not sound
significant, it is known that the alteration of a single amino acid can
trigger sickle cell anemia or predispose some people to Alzheimer's
disease.

While rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada, and has been boycotted by 95
percent of US dairy farmers, the FDA, Environmental Protection Agency
and Department of Agriculture continue to license the drug (and other
new genetically engineered foods) without pre-market safety tests.
Thanks to industry pressure, genetically engineered foods are not
required to carry identifying labels.

"Instead of giving us affordable, healthy, natural, clean food --
safety-tested and clearly labeled to enable consumers to exercise free
choice -- the powers-that-be seem intent upon taking away our right to
know what's been done to our food," Cummings stated. "Government and
corporation hacks use 'risk assessment' and 'cost accounting' to tell us
it's 'too expensive' to clean up food-industry practices, even as the
Centers for Disease Control admit that 20-80 million people a year get
food poisoning."

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What You Can Do:

PFC invites activists to stage milk-dumps around the country to call
attention to "food slander" laws. For more information, contact: PFC,
860 Highway 61E, Little Marais, MN 55614; (218) 226-4146; (800)
451-7670.