Genetically Engineered Agricultural Products

A recent article on CNN regarding women in their 70's checking the safety of America's food supply doesn't put a dent in the real problem of correcting food safety nor does it address America's fat epidemic.

A lawsuit brought against 80 year-old Jean and me by KROGER and the City of Decatur, AL, was unaccountably dropped last Friday.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I just learned KROGER is engrossed in an ongoing attempt to buy out a large natural food chain (see below) that adamantly campaigns against Genetic Engineering.

I wonder if dropping our case might have something to do with the fact we two grandmothers' plight to educate the consumers that 2/3rds of the food they buy contains untested, unlabeled Genetically Engineered Organisms which independent studies link with miscarriages, anemia, cancer, etc., generated a lot of media coverage?

I realize we are most likely regarded as a minute nuisance they wish to dismiss, but every little bit we can do might gradually make an impact.

Below, in a nutshell is why we were willing to sacrifice our good names and reputations to help inform the public to these dangers, and beneath that is more in-depth information on how the EPA and USDA are involved in this heinous deception should you wish to become better informed.

Gerry Coffey, Wife/Mother/Grandmother/Health Educator/Concerned Citizen

A short exerpt from one mother re: the in-depth info below:

"I helped change blood-soaked diapers that he had to wear after he could no longer stand or walk. Alex's screams were followed by silence as the evil toxins attacked his brain causing him to lose neurological control. His eyes crossed and he suffered tremors and delusions. He no longer knew who I was."

-Nancy Donley, mother of Alex and President of Safe Tables Our Priority
Kroger eyes takeover of Wild Oats natural food chain

Kroger, one of the world's most rabid proponents of shopper surveillance (aka "loyalty") cards, may be setting its sights on Wild Oats, a card-free natural and organic food chain. This could only spell bad news for Wild Oats shoppers, considering Kroger's history of buying out smaller chains and gutting their unique character.
An industry analyst says, "Kroger...has been involved in about 20 transactions valued at more than $12 billion in the past five years....Kroger has in the past been one of the more acquisitive players in the industry."
In the 1990s, American farmers began embracing the new technology and now 75 percent of soybeans, 34 percent of corn and 71 percent of cotton come from gene-altered seeds. Most Americans fail to realize soybean and corn products are used in everything from baby food to produce, meats, cereals, snacks, soft drinks, coffee and the majority of all refined packaged foods.
US regulations conceal the fact of GM contaminated food in the American supermarkets in order to prevent being able to choose whether or not they want to eat it. Consider the willful destruction of the world"s food chain by a merger of corporate and government interests as a case in point.

Americans are starting to wake up: at a recent conference on genetically engineered agricultural products sponsored by the US department of Agriculture in Sacramento, California, Police in riot gear had to control the angry crowds that swarmed the streets making very clear they do not want to be forced to consume GM food.

Argentina, after their recent economic problems, decided to supply GM
soy as a staple to both their population and their cattle. The immediate result according to a report in the February issue of the Ecologist:
*hormonal disruption
*weak bones
*rotten teeth and

The GM soy animal feed also was reported to contain over "200 times
the glcyphosate (Roundup herbicide) that the human GM soy products
contained". Glyphosate in any amount interferes with the absorption
of minerals, particularly iron and zinc.

When consumers ingest GM soy they also unknowingly ingest the Roundup
herbicide used for weed control in the fields. This is according to a
recent study out of Freiburg University.

The March 15, 1999 issue of The Journal of the American Cancer
Society contains an article that makes the connection between Roundup
(glyphosate) and non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a form of cancer.

The Ecologist, in January 2003, discussed the connection between
farmers that use the Roundup herbicide and increased incidence of
prostate cancer. Another California study demonstrated that pregnant
women that lived within a mile of farm where Roundup was sprayed on
crops experienced a significantly increased chance of losing their
baby. A Chinese study reported severe gastro-intestinal disorders as
well as damage to the immune system in a study they conducted with
rats. Their report, released under the auspices of the Chinese
Academy of Science, also concluded that:

GM products cause food poisoning.

GM products cause cancer

GM products cause allergies and severe immune system disruption

GM products are deficient in nutritional value
The reaction of the American government in the "land of the free and
the home of the brave" is interesting. It is to this we turn next.

A few examples of government bullying and deception

The European Union has passed a law that prohibits the importation of
GM products into their countries for five years. The US is lodging a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization in an effort to force Europeans to accept this

The US recently suspended plans to conduct free trade talks with Egypt for refusing  to join the US in a complaint about the five year ban on GM food products put in  place in the European Union.

The US congress has recently passed a law that makes American help in combating the AIDS virus in Africa contingent upon Africans accepting GM contaminated food.
Despite unprecedented levels of American dictatorial coercion as well
as a famine in their land Zambia, has refused to import GM food
Below is index info that follows:
1. U.S. wants to force GMOs on 3rd world countries.
2. FDA's inspection w/piglets (If GMOs cause plants and animals to "mature" rapidly, are we being naive to think it doesn't do the same for humans: ie., America's epidemics in obesity, childhood diabetes, breast, colon and prostate cancers, etc.
3. Monsanto forces firing of the scientist who did the FIRST indepent study of the effect of GMOs on health. LANCET, the prestigious
4. Leaders in other countries do their homework, resist U.S. foods containing GMO's: Prince Charles, but Americans are kept in the dark due to heavy pro GMO advertising campaign.
5. U.S. FDA ignores studies and public demands, says GMOs safe:
6. Fish "Anti-Freeze" gene in tomatoes, potatoes, fruit, etc.
7. Environmental Defense Fund Director says FDA supports GMO food industry interests above Public it is supposed to serve.
8. FDA policy re: GMOs understandable: . Monsanto employees and government regulatory agencies
employees are the same people!
9. Monsanto's bogus claim GE crops superior.
10. USDA: . USDA Allowed ConAgra to Poison Americans with Tainted Meat
11. Most in US Would Shun Labeled Biotech Foods - Poll
12. Family Farmers denounce U.S. complaint against the European Union's GMO authorization system: National Family Farm Coalition, Washington, D.C.
1. "Now the World Health Organization is urging other countries, even poor developing ones, to adopt FDA-style testing so they can better target scarce resources to improve food safety. WHO's top priority is learning more about so-called "persistent organic pollutants" -- a class of chemicals, including the widely banned pesticide DDT, that remain in the environment for years without breaking down.
2. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently visited the University of Illinois where cow genes were inserted in sows to increase milk production, and a synthetic gene was added for the piglets to cause them to grow faster.
But instead of the experimental swine being destroyed, as required by the FDA,:
* 386 piglets were sold to livestock brokers
*who then sold them to slaughterhouses
*who sold them to grocers
*who sold them to consumers as pork chops, sausage, and bacon.
How often this occurs is anyone's guess, but while Americans are kept blind, other countries are doing their homework:
3. The first non-industry sponsored study on the effects of GE foods was in 1998 when Arpad Pusztai, a researcher at Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, found:
* rats fed GMOs for only 10 days already showed evidence of:
*organ damage,
*thickening of the small intestine, and
* poor brain development

When Pusztai announced this during an interview on British TV he was subsequently fired, his files confiscated and destroyed, his research team dismantled, and the six follow-up studies were cancelled. It was later found that U.S. based Monsanto Corporation, a leader in the biotech field, had given the Rowett Institute a $224,000 grant prior to Pusztai's subsequent firing. Pusztai was vindicated, however, when Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, published a peer-reviewed paper Pusztai had co-authored supporting the research.

4. Prince Charles began to question the safety of genetically engineered foods on his website and became allies with Pusztai. Charles wrote an article in the Daily Mail expressing concerns over the lack of pre-release safety research on genetically engineered foods.

5. But here in the U.S., as far back as 1992, the Food and Drug Administration determined  genetically engineered foods were in most cases "the same as or substantially similar to substances commonly found in food" and thus are not required to undergo specific safety tests prior to entering the market.

6. "--genes are produced that would never occur naturally. In addition, the newly introduced gene units are composed of artificial mixtures of genetic material.  An example which illustrates the extreme combinations that can be produced, is the introduction of the 'anti-freeze' gene from an arctic fish (the sea flounder) into tomatoes, strawberries and potatoes in the hope of producing resistance to frost.
However, the fish anti-freeze gene has to first be joined to the cauliflower virus genetic switch to allow it to turn on and work in its new host. (The fish genetic switch naturally only works in the fish).
Transgenic crops containing genes from viruses, bacteria, animals as well as from unrelated plants have been generated.
7. The FDA's policy was a dramatic shift away from the long- standing requirement that companies prove their products are safe. Says Rebecca Goldburg of the Environmental Defense Fund. "FDA's policy strongly favors food manufacturers at the expense of consumer protection."
8. Monsanto employees and government regulatory agencies employees are the same people!

Date: Tue, 07 Dec 1999 10:43:59 -0600
From: Peter Khaled <>
Subject: Revolving Door - Updated list - FYI

David W. Beier . . .former head of Government Affairs for Genentech, Inc., . . .now chief domestic policy advisor to Al Gore, Vice President of the United States.

Linda J. Fisher . . .former Assistant Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, . . .then became Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Monsanto Corporation and now (2001) is Deputy Director  of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Michael A. Friedman, M.D. . . former acting commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Department of Health and Human Services . . .now senior vice-president for clinical affairs at G. D. Searle & Co., a pharmaceutical division of Monsanto Corporation.

L. Val Giddings . . . former biotechnology regulator and (biosafety) negotiator at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA/APHIS), . . .now Vice President for Food & Agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Marcia Hale . . . former assistant to the President of the United States and director for intergovernmental affairs, . . . now Director of International Government Affairs for Monsanto Corporation.

Michael (Mickey) Kantor. . . former Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce and former Trade
Representative of the United States, . . .now member of the board of directors of Monsanto Corporation.

Josh King . . . former director of production for White House  events, . . . now director of global communication in the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.

Terry Medley . . . former administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture, former chair and vice-chair of the United States Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Council, former member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food advisory committee, . . . and now Director of Regulatory and External Affairs of Dupont Corporation's Agricultural

Margaret Miller . . . former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, . . .now Deputy Director of Human Food Safety and Consultative Services, New Animal Drug Evaluation Office, Center for Veterinary Medicine in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).*

Michael Phillips . . . recently with the National Academy of Science Board on Agriculture . . . now head of regulatory affairs for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

William D. Ruckelshaus . . . former chief administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), . . .now (and for the past 12 years) a member of the board of directors of Monsanto Corporation.

Michael Taylor . . . former legal advisor to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Bureau of Medical Devices and Bureau of Foods, later executive assistant to the Commissioner of the FDA, . . . still later a partner at the law firm of King & Spaulding where he supervised a nine-lawyer group whose clients included Monsanto Agricultural Company, . . . still later Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the United States Food and Drug Administration, . . . and later with the law firm of King & Spaulding. . . . now head of the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.*

Lidia Watrud . . . former microbial biotechnology researcher at Monsanto Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri, . . .now with the United States Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Effects Laboratory, Western Ecology Division.

Jack Watson. . .former chief of staff to the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, . . .now a staff lawyer with Monsanto Corporation in Washington, D.C.

Clayton K. Yeutter . . . former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former U.S. Trade Representative (who led the U.S. team in negotiating the U.S. Canada Free Trade Agreement and helped launch the Uruguay Round of the GATT negotiations), now a member of the board of directors of Mycogen Corporation, whose majority owner is Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical

Larry Zeph . . . former biologist in the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, . . . now Regulatory Science Manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

*Margaret Miller, Michael Taylor, and Suzanne Sechen (an FDA "primary reviewer for all rbST and other dairy drug production applications") were the subjects of a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation in
1994 for their role in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval of Posilac, Monsanto Corporation's formulation of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbST or rBGH). The GAO Office found "no conflicting financial interests with respect to the drug's approval" and only "one minor deviation from now superseded FDA regulations". (Quotations are from the 1994 GAO report).
9. Monsanto's Bogus Claims on Benefits of GE Soybeans
Guelph Mercury (Canada), August 14, 2003 [based on report on Agnet]
E. Ann Clark, Ph.D., an associate professor of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph, says the United States Department of Agriculture found Roundup Ready soy yields would increase by a scant 0.3 per cent, if 10 per cent of U.S. soybean growers adopted the Roundup Ready technology. In contrast, a range of industry, university, and state-sponsored surveys summarized by Benbrook showed that Roundup Ready soybean yields averaged five to 10 per cent less than conventional soybeans.
United States Department of Agriculture researchers reported that Roundup Ready soy requires more, not less, active ingredients (a.i.) per acre than competing herbicides, many of which are designed to act at very small concentrations. The net effect is that Roundup Ready soybean growers are now applying about 0.56 kg/ha more herbicide -- or nine million kg more herbicide a year in the U.S.
Clark goes on to ask, why do farmers continue to buy genetically modified seed? Mainly, to avoid the risk of a lawsuit. Percy Schmeiser, a 72 year old Saskatchewan canola grower, was found guilty of patent infringement when Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene was found in his canola, despite the fact that the contamination was inadvertent, that he didn't benefit from it, and that he couldn't have avoided it.
His case, which has already cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in January 2004;
Clark concludes genetically modified crops have served to enrich biotech companies at the expense of financially strapped farmers, expose non-adopters of GM to the unavoidable risk of lawsuits, eliminate organic canola-growing in the west, contaminate the food supply with genetically modified crops that consumers don't want, and compromise the marketability of our crops to off-shore buyers.

10. USDA Allowed ConAgra to Poison Americans with Tainted Meat
From Agribusiness Examiner #275
By Al Krebs
August 4, 2003


"In an effort to escape the continuous, racking abdominal cramping, Alex curled up into a fetal position and begged me to hold him. I stroked his face, attempting to calm him, to soothe him. I watched in horror his life hemorrhaging away in the hospital bathroom; bowl after bowl of blood and mucus gushed from his little body. Later, I helped change blood-soaked diapers that he had to wear after he could no longer stand or walk. Alex's screams were followed by silence as the evil toxins attacked his brain causing him to lose neurological control. His eyes crossed and he suffered tremors and delusions. He no longer knew who I was." -Nancy Donley, mother of Alex and President of Safe Tables Our Priority

Appearing with families of victims of food poisoning, whistleblowers and food industry union officials, Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), demanded that the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture promptly report to the American public on the E. coli o157:H7 food
poisoning outbreak at a ConAgra food processing plant last summer.

Devine's call came with the release of the GAP's investigative report: "Shielding the Giant: U.S. Department of Agriculture's `Don't Look, Don't Know' Policy for Beef Inspection" at a July 28 Washington, conference.

The Government Accountability Project, a leading whistleblower defense organization, released its investigative report on the one year anniversary of the third largest meat recall in U.S. History. On June 30, 2002, ConAgra recalled 354,300 pounds of E. coli contaminated beef, which represented one day's production on May 31. On July 19th, ConAgra expanded the recall to 19 million pounds of tainted meat. But, for months before the recall, local USDA inspectors and the owner of a small, Montana meat processor had been trying to tell USDA leadership that tainted meat was coming from ConAgra since August, 2000.

Top USDA officials actively covered-up the problems at ConAgra, allowing tainted meat to flow month after month into the stream of commerce under the USDA seal of wholesomeness. Numerous whistleblowers during GAP's investigation disclosed that top USDA officials took actions to shield the giant food conglomerate from complying with food safety laws while using the same laws to bully small, often family-run, businesses.

"The evidence is in while the American public waits for an honest and thorough report on the ConAgra tainted meat recall. Day by day, our suspicions increase that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is in cahoots with ConAgra. We have conducted our own investigation into the ConAgra tainted meat recall and our ample evidence proves that the USDA aggressively enforced a 'Don't Look, Don't Tell' policy in its dealings with ConAgra," said Devine.

The key findings of the investigative report include:
* The American public's exposure to E. coli o157:H7 began at least two years before ConAgra's tainted meat recall in June of 2002.
* The USDA's records system is fundamentally flawed and is designed to avoid knowing the source of tainted beef.
* ConAgra slickly took advantage of the government's noninterference policy of
"Don't Look, Don't Tell."

* The USDA engages in persistent, ugly retaliation against anyone who attempted to expose its dereliction of duty: To inform the public of tainted meat coming into the stream of commerce. The USDA aided and abetted ConAgra in blaming its problems on a small, family-owned meat processor in Montana
* A regulatory double standard has comprised the integrity of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety program. HACCP was designed as an early warning system on finding deadly contaminants in food. The USDA used HACCP to protect ConAgra, not the consumer.
* The facts demonstrating ConAgra's strong-arm tactics against a small producer perpetuate a longstanding USDA pattern where the messenger is blamed and chosen as the fall guy.
"Due to politically motivated, self-serving and arbitrary practices by the USDA, I have
been forced to list my business for sale," said John Munsell, owner of Montana
Quality Foods and whose experience with ConAgra and USDA is the catalyst for GAP's investigation. "My meat processing plant has been in my family for 57 years.
When I tried to report the truth of this tainted meat tragedy last summer, I learned the USDA is against the truth and for shielding the big guy from public embarrassment. The consumer and small producers like me are the losers in this game."

According to food inspection team members who have blown the whistle to GAP, the USDA shielded ConAgra by a policy that is nothing less than a another cover-up harmful to the consumer and public health. By its "Don't Look, Don't Know" policy for beef inspection, the USDA chose ignorance of the facts over the truth that ConAgra was given the seal of approval for meat that was infected with E. coli many months before the 19 million pounds of tainted beef recalled in June, 2002.

"Because of fear of reprisal, inspectors and veterinarians with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) cannot come forward publicly and report the failures in the food safety system," said William G. Hughes, an official with the National Association of Federal Veterinarians. "A deliberate climate of fear intimidation has been created among those who actually conduct the in-plant inspections and oversight at meat processing plants."

For more information, call Jack Pannell, Communications Director, Government Accountability Project (202/408-0034).

As the nation's leading whistleblower organization, The Government Accountability
Project 's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability through advancing free speech in the workplace and
ethical conduct, litigating whistleblower cases, and developing policy and legal reforms of whistleblower laws.

"....Combinations of genes are produced that would never occur naturally. In addition, the newly introduced gene units are composed of artificial mixtures of genetic material.
An example which illustrates the extreme combinations that can be produced, is the introduction of the 'anti-freeze' gene from an arctic fish (the sea flounder) into tomatoes, strawberries and potatoes in the hope of producing resistance to frost.
However, the fish anti-freeze gene has to first be joined to the cauliflower virus genetic switch to allow it to turn on and work in its new host. (The fish genetic switch naturally only works in the fish). Transgenic crops containing genes from viruses, bacteria, animals as well as from unrelated plants have been generated."
-- Dr  Michael Antoniou, is a senior lecturer in molecular biology at one of London's leading medical schools ond has 17 years experience in the use of genetic engineering leading to clinical applications.

11. Most in US Would Shun Labeled Biotech Foods - Poll
WASHINGTON - More than half of American adults surveyed said they would be less likely to buy a food product at the grocery store if it carried a label saying it contained gene-altered ingredients, according to an ABC News poll released yesterday.
The survey of 1,024 adults also found that 92 percent said the federal government should require labels on biotech foods.
U.S. food makers and the Bush administration oppose special labels on genetically modified foods, contending they meet the same safety and nutrition standards as conventional foods.
However, the European Parliament earlier this month passed laws to require labels on biotech foods, reflecting the concerns of many Europeans about long-term health and environmental impacts.
The ABC News poll said that 55 percent of Americans surveyed said they would avoid foods carrying a biotech label. However, that survey response rose to 62 percent among women, who do most of the food shopping for U.S. families.
The survey, however, also found a gain in the number of Americans who believe biotech foods are safe to eat. Some 46 percent said they considered bioengineered food safe, up from 35 percent in a similar poll conducted in June 2001, ABC News said.
About 80 percent of the U.S. soybean crop and 40 percent of the corn crop are genetically modified varieties.
The telephone poll was conducted last week with a random national sample of adults. The results have a three-percentage-point margin for error, ABC News said.
The European regulations, which will require the food industry to segregate biotech crops from conventional ones, will not go into effect for several months.
Story Date: 16/7/2003

12. Family Farmers denounce U.S. complaint against the European Union's GMO authorization system

National Family Farm Coalition, Washington, D.C.

The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) denounced the U.S., Argentina, Canada, and Egypt decision to file a complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) May 13, challenging the European Union's (EU) authorization system on approving genetically modified organisms (GMOs)."USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Secretary Ann Veneman claims she's fighting for the interests of 'American Agriculture,' said NFFC President George Naylor.

"The Secretary of Agriculture needs to educate herself about the 'benefits of genetic engineering' and not depend upon the Monsanto's of the world for her information, " Christison said. "In fact, most -- if not all -- Secretary Veneman pointed out have been proven by much research to be totally off the mark."

Christison shared his personal experience as testimony, "Where we applied chemicals on our farm, we used from 10-15 ounces of chemicals," he said. "If I were using the Round-up system we would probably be using from 60-75 ounces to achieve the same goal. And you know, massive uses of round-up facilitates a fungus which triggers sudden death syndrome in soybeans, greatly reducing yields."
Also read: Full series of interviews and articles from the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 26 - September 4, 2002.
(Cross-linked from Global Eyes section)

Interview with Dr. Tewolde B. G. Egziabher (Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia and the Institute for Sustainable Development)
On farmer empowerment, genetic engineering and global systems
Johannesburg, South Africa
(Cross-linked from Global Eyes section)

Global Grassroots: Gaining Ground
Ronnie Cummins
Little Marais, Minnesota

Interview with Silvia Rodriguez
Costa Rica's Biodiversity Law
Intellectual community rights are preeminent to intellectual property rights
Johannesburg, South Africa
(Cross-linked from Global Eyes section)

Opposing Genetic Engineering in New Zealand(and around the world) by Bill Christison
Auckland, New Zealand / Aotearoa

Genetic Engineering series of interviews and articles from New Zealand

Following are newspaper articles Regarding: Grandmothers' Arrest/Conviction/etc.

The Decatur Daily

News from the Tennessee Valley


Grandmoms arrested at supermarket

By Scott Parrott
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2441

Two grandmothers arrested outside a Decatur supermarket said they planned to collect petition signatures and distribute leaflets for their cause but never expected to face trespass charges.

Decatur police arrested Gerry Coffey, 62, and Jean Tune, 79, Saturday in the Kroger parking lot on Beltline Road Southwest after the women refused to leave the property.

"I thought I was performing a good deed for the public," said Coffey, of Decatur.

"I didn't realize how serious it was until we were in the back of the police car and the officer called in and said, 'I'm bringing in two Caucasian females, one born in 1923.' "

Police charged Coffey and Tune with misdemeanor third-degree trespassing. They released the women later Saturday on recognizance.

Each woman said it was her first time to be arrested. The two advocates for natural foods could now face fines.

"I believe in this so strongly that I stifled my inhibitions and did it," Coffey said of her petitioning.

In an e-mail to Kroger, Coffey identified herself as health educator, councilor and public relations officer of Mothers and Concerned Others, and a member of Vegetarian Union of North America and International Vegetarian Union.

The women said they and three other members of Mothers and Concerned Others were trying to raise consumer awareness of genetically engineered and modified foods. These are "Frankenstein foods," according to a press release to local media. 

Many products on most supermarket shelves include genetically engineered food. The food is modified to increase nutritional quality, or boost crop yields by making it drought and pest resistant.

Opponents, such as Coffey and Tune, say the food could cause allergic reactions in humans or pollute the environment by cross-pollinating with natural varieties.

Coffey and Tune, who identifies herself as an environmentalist, said they were helping Greenpeace during a national petition drive, the Supermarket Campaign Week of Action.

They hope to get supermarket chains to remove genetically engineered ingredients from store-br and products and ultimately the entire chain. They would also like the federal government to require labeling on such food products.

"I feel like I grew up in the best of worlds, and my grandchildren are growing up in the worst of worlds. I'm tired of taxpayers being totally ignored," said Tune, of Priceville.

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612



Court watchers, picketers to join women for trial

By Scott Parrott
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2441

Two women arrested while collecting petition signatures outside a Decatur supermarket will appear in court for trial Thursday, possibly joined by picketers and court watchers.

Gerry Coffey, 62, and Jean Tune, 79, were each charged with misdemeanor third-degree trespassing after they refused to leave the Kroger parking lot on Beltline Road Southwest on Oct. 26.

The natural-food advocates said they hope picketers and court watchers will join them when they appear before Judge Billy Cook in Decatur Municipal Court at 7 a.m. Thursday.

"Maybe if grandmothers unite, people will realize we have experience and wisdom, and know what we're talking about," Coffey said.

Collecting signatures

The women said they were collecting petition signatures and distributing leaflets to shoppers about the risks of genetically engineered food when police arrested them.

Their arrest garnered national attention, including spots on radio talk shows and support from the environmental organization Greenpeace. The women pleaded innocent to the charges.

Supporters have issued a nationwide call for picketers to bring signs and leftover New Year's noisemakers, and for court watchers to bring notepads, pens, tape recorders and cameras to the trial.

Following the trial, the picketers will march around City Hall and the Kroger parking lot.

Officer Mike Cowart, a police spokesman, said people can march at City Hall as long as the situation remains under control.

"But Kroger is private property and they can have them put in jail," Cowart said.

The women want supermarket chains to remove genetically engineered ingredients from store-brand products and ultimately the entire chain.

They also want the federal government to require labeling on genetically engineered food products, or "Frankenstein Foods."

Genetically engineered food is created by inserting genes from other organisms into crops such as corn, canola, soy and cotton to make the crops resistant to herbicides and pests.

Opponents argue that the altered food can cause novel food toxins, allergies, increased toxic pesticide and environmental pollution.

Coffey of Decatur and Tune of Priceville were participating in a national supermarket campaign led by GE-Free Markets Coalition and Greenpeace.

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612


Thursday January 9, 2003

Judge convicts food-protest grandmas
Decatur women to appeal fines for trespassing at Kroger to distribute leaflets
against genetically engineered products

By Eric Fleischauer
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2435

Two Decatur grandmothers now have a criminal record.

Decatur's city judge found Jean Tune, 79, and Gerry Coffey, 62, guilty of misdemeanor trespassing because of their refusal to leave a Kroger parking lot Oct. 26. They were in the parking lot distributing leaflets that described the dangers of genetically modified food.

The conviction did not seem to concern the two women.

Coffey's husband, Ray Coffey, said he is proud of his wife.

"Now she's a certified activist," he said.

Municipal Judge Billy Cook said he based his ruling not on what the women were communicating, but on the fact that they would not leave private property when told to do so.

"I think you were compelled by law to move to a lawful place. I'm not making a judgment about your message," Cook said.

$50 fines, no court costs

He fined each woman $50, and did not charge them for court costs.

Attorney Greg Reeves, who represented Tune and Coffey without cost, said he will appeal the ruling. He must file appeal papers by Jan. 23. An appeal would automatically give the defendants a new trial in Morgan County Circuit Court with a right to a jury.

Police arrested the women Oct. 26 in the parking lot of Kroger on Beltline Road Southeast. The women refused to leave the parking lot when an assistant manager ordered them off.

Coffey said she had hoped that more people would turn out to protest the prosecution today.

"I was a little disappointed that more people didn't show up, but I understand. Who wants to get out of bed for a 7 a.m. trial in the middle of the winter?" Coffey said.

Reeves argued that the First Amendment right to free speech protected the women from prosecution even though they were on private property.

"They were not raising a ruckus. In our country, political action has always been given preference. This involves political speech. That is sacred in this country, even over trespassing," Reeves told the court.

Cook did not permit Coffey or Tune to testify about their reasons for distributing leaflets because he deemed their message irrelevant.

No witnesses from Kroger appeared at the hearing. Neither side presented evidence on who owns the parking lot, which the business shares with Kmart and several other businesses.

Fine due Feb. 7

Cook gave the women until Feb. 7 to pay the fine.

When they were arrested, Tune and Coffey were collecting signatures and distributing leaflets in conjunction with a national supermarket campaign led by GE-Free Markets Coalition and Greenpeace. The groups want to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Most European countries already require such labeling.

Coffey said she and Tune were the only women arrested for the effort in the United States. The arrests gained national attention, including spots on radio talk shows and support from Greenpeace.

"I saw nothing wrong with telling Kroger shoppers that 60 percent of the processed food they buy contains genetically engineered ingredients. I had no idea Kroger management would have us arrested for telling the truth about their food," Coffey said.

Asked whether she understood that she had a duty to leave the parking lot when asked to do so, Tune said she had a higher duty.

"I think it is my duty to do this because people need to be informed," Tune said.

Some examples of foods that Greenpeace said include genetically modified ingredients are baby formula and teething biscuits, pancake mixes, chocolate products, most bread, most breakfast cereals, many brands of cookies, many crackers, most pastas, most frozen pizzas, potato chips, almost all canned sodas and most major-brand soups.

Environmental and health groups claim that genetically engineered foods have not been adequately tested for safety. They also argue that accidental cross-pollination with unmodified crops could damage or destroy species of natural crops.

Monsanto Corp., the largest producer of genetically modified foods, has said that the foods create no additional health risks. The company says in its Web site that the genetic modifications it makes on crops are no more dangerous than the selective breeding of plants and animals that farmers have performed for years.

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612



Kroger drops charges against grandmothers

By Eric Fleischauer
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2435

Two grandmothers convicted of trespassing while they distributed leaflets about genetically engineered foods did not have to go to trial Monday because Kroger dropped all charges.

Municipal Judge Billy Cook convicted Gerry Coffey, 62, and Jean Tune, 80, both of Decatur, of trespassing on the Kroger parking lot on Beltline Road Southwest. Coffey and Tune appealed the decision to Morgan County Circuit Court and were scheduled to start the trial Monday.

Attempts to contact Kroger officials about why they dropped the charges were unsuccessful.

Coffey said she was nervous about the trial, but is disappointed it did not go forward. She hoped the trial would be a forum for educating people about the danger of genetically engineered food.

Coffey and Tune distributed the leaflets in October in conjunction with an information drive by GE-Free Markets Coalition and Greenpeace. Kroger, they said, is a major retailer of unlabeled genetically engineered foods.

"At the end I was hoping to go to trial. I prepared myself, even if I would have to go to jail," Coffey said.

The women's attorney, Greg Reeves, said his clients' conviction will not be on their record.

"There should not be a record of a conviction. Now, with that said, I don't think that there is any way to 'erase' an arrest," Reeves said.

Cook fined the women $50 each and waived court costs.

Greenpeace claims numerous foods, including infant foods like teething biscuits and formula, contain genetically engineered ingredients. Bakeries like Holsum, Pepperidge Farms, Thomas and Wonder Bread use genetically engineered ingredients, according to Greenpeace.

A study by the American Medical Association determined there was no need for special labeling rules for genetically engineered foods, but the British Medical Association came to a different conclusion.

Can't evaluate risks

While the AMA study found no short-term health risk from genetically engineered foods, the study determined it could not evaluate long-term risks.

Advocates for special labeling of genetically engineered foods note that the European Union, Japan, Australia and other countries require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

A bill pending in Congress, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2003, would require labeling of all genetically modified foods.

A leader in the fight against genetically engineered foods is Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety. An attorney for the organization, Joe Mendelson, said the primary concern about genetically engineered foods is the lack of testing.

New allergens

"There are a number of health risks associated with genetically engineered food. The first is a concern that you may create new allergens. These foods create new proteins that have never before been in the food supply. We don't know if those new proteins cause allergies. It also may exacerbate a known allergen," Mendelson said.

"There is also the possibility of creating novel toxic components. Potatoes and tomatoes have low levels of toxins; there is a concern that genetic engineering could increase those levels.

Reduces nutrition

Mendelson said studies have shown that genetic engineering can reduce the nutritional value of some foods.

"You also have the issue of antibiotic resistance. Most of these plants use marker genes, which are genes engineered into the plant. Most marker genes are resistant to antibiotics. ... The issue is, if you consistently put this into your gut, whether it's going to create a problem when you go to use regular antibiotics," Mendelson said.

Mendelson said the risks of genetically engineered foods are greater than that created by most foods refined through traditional breeding.

"In the past, you might be breeding a corn plant with a corn plant. The proteins from the new corn plant have been in the food supply for a long time," Mendelson said.

"There is a little risk with traditional breeding, but we are talking compatible species. We're not putting in genetic material that's never been in the plant before. Certainly traditional breeding doesn't have antibiotic genes in it," Mendelson said.

Coffey may avoid private parking lots now, but she said she is more determined than ever to spread the word about genetically engineered foods.

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612


WOW Tour WOW Stories WOW Poetry
Letters to WOW Press Room Business Zone
Site Index WOW Forum Photo Album