Gangsta Rule

Keeping a Piece of the Action

EPIC director Marc Rotenberg characterized the proposal for a national photo database as a threat to basic U.S. privacy safeguards. "This is not a database that people can easily opt out of," he said, noting, "You have to give up your photograph when you get a driver's license."

Fighting Frankenstein
The Monster From Monsanto

Although most Americans seem to accept genetically modified foods without question, Europeans have been battling importation of the technology from Monsanto and other firms. They are beginning to see signs of success: Seven large grocery chains in six European countries made a commitment to go "GM free," and are lining up suppliers to provide non- genetically engineered corn, potatoes, soybeans, and wheat. In India, farmers are burning fields suspected of harboring genetically modified seeds, and India's Supreme Court has upheld a ban against their testing. The sheer size of the European market may force American farmers to reconsider planting genetically modified seeds.

In two stinging reports, Deutsch Bank, Europe's largest financial institution, has come down sharply against genetically engineered foods, urging investors to get rid of stocks in companies like Monsanto, and warning farmers of losses if they continue to use genetically engineered seeds and other products.

In one report sent to several thousand large institutional investors worldwide, including British pension funds, Deutsch Bank says that "growing negative sentiment" is creating problems for the leading companies, including Monsanto and Novartis. "We note that Monsanto has spent more than $1.5m to persuade English consumers of the rectitude of their position, but alas, to no avail," states the report. "Monsanto is little match for Prince Charles, an anti-GMO [genetically modified organism] advocate, when it comes to sensitivity for the English people's desires." Since the report was circulated to investors, shares in the companies that are named have fallen against a rising trend in stock markets recently and the takeover frenzy for seed companies has stopped. In the last six months, Monsanto's stock has fallen 11 percent, and Delta & Pine, a seed company that Monsanto is in the process of taking over, which owns the "terminator" gene (which prevents crops from reproducing), has lost 18 percent of its value.

Deutsche Bank's first report in May, titled "GMOs Are Dead," stated: "We predict that GMOs, once perceived as a bull case for this sector, will now be perceived as a pariah. The message is a scary one— increasingly, GMOs are, in our opinion, becoming a liability to farmers," adding that GMO grains would have to be sold at a discount. "Farmers who planted [Monsanto's] Roundup Ready soya could end up regretting it."

The report concluded that widespread concerns about genetically modified food in Europe are real. "European consumers have recently been through the mad cow crisis, the French AIDS-tainted blood crisis, the Dutch pig plague crisis, the Belgium chicken dioxin crisis, the Belgian Coca-Cola crisis, etc. Therefore, hearing from unsophisticated Americans that their fears are unfounded may not be the best way of proceeding."

For Christ's Sake

A public elementary school in Belridge, California, has canceled a plan to use "pro-Christian" textbooks, which instruct that God helped Columbus discover America and state that while American Indians "attained a degree of civilization," they "had no knowledge of the true God. . . ." The texts, published by Beka Books, dismiss Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Scientists as cult members. As for Jews, students are asked to place the proper punctuation at the end of this sentence: "The Hebrew people often grumbled and complained"

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi and Ginger Adams Otis

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