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Thursday, March 2, 2000

Consumer Reports "Science, Precaution and Food Safety: How Can We Do Better?" - Consumers Union's Ed Groth blathers on -- for no apparent reason -- about why and how the precautionary principle should be used in making food safety decisions.

Groth never explains why the current food safety system is inadequate. That's probably because it's not.

In the context of current public policy debates, the precautionary principle is being pushed by extreme environmentalists to destroy agricultural biotechnology and the anti-trade European Union to protect local markets.

"Consumers Union supports genetically engineered food labeling bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer" - "Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, announced its support today for a new bill introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that would require labeling of all genetically engineered food. Senator Boxer's proposal calls for mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered materials or that were produced with genetically engineered materials."

But the FDA already requires labeling of certain biotech foods -- "A bioengineered food would need to be called by a different or modified name if its composition were significantly different from its conventionally grown counterpart, or if its nutritive value has been significantly altered. Special labeling would be required if consumers need to be informed about a safety issue, such as the possible presence of an allergen that would not normally be found in the conventionally-grown product."

For more info, check out:

"Kids and Caffeine" - Consumer Reports and 20/20 team up to scare parents about kids and caffeine.

Get a grip on the caffeine controversy, courtesy of the International Food Information Council:

Media allows Consumers Union to promote biotech scare - "Consumer Union bioscientist Michael Hansen, voicing the views of numerous consumer group opponents of hasty reliance on genetically modified products, said that the federal Food and Drug Administration allowed genetically modified seeds to be sold before all scientific questions were answered. He said the FDA failed to require enough pre-approval testing. Moreover, citing testimony in one of several pending lawsuits against the FDA, Hansen said that the agency had violated its own rules. At the very least, consumers should have a choice through product labeling," reports The Buffalo News (Feb. 12)

"Under FDA policy developers of bioengineered foods are expected to consult with the agency before marketing, to ensure that all safety and regulatory questions have been fully addressed," says the FDA.

So how does Consumers Union get away with spreading its nonsense?

The Buffalo News article goes on to say "Currently, consumer advocates have the upper hand in the biotech public relations debate. They have convinced a public whose knowledge of biotechnology is limited to be wary, even fearful, of unanswered questions about unanticipated biotech happenings to people and the environment."

But what The Buffalo News should have reported was "They have convinced a public media whose knowledge of biotechnology is limited..."

"Chicken Little: This Time It's Industry that's Crying the Sky Is Falling" - Jeannine M. Kenney, Edward Groth III and Charles M. Benbrook of Consumers Union say a campaign of fear is savaging the Food Quality Protection Act. Michael Fumento says, "The FQPA was a good idea gone bad. How bad now depends on how the EPA decides to implement it. The Agency could decide in favor of consumers, farmers, children who need fruits and vegetables and children who need to breathe. Or it can cast its lot with environmental activists who seize any opportunity to reduce the use of any pesticide."

"Consumer Reports Defamation Trial Starts Isuzu Challenges Magazine's Rollover Claims About Trooper SUVs" - "Consumer Reports, America's widely respected buyer's guide, will be forced to defend its own credibility in a trial that started yesterday in federal court here. Isuzu Motors Ltd. has accused the magazine and its nonprofit parent, Consumers Union, of rigging tests to show that the 1995-96 Trooper sport-utility vehicle displayed a propensity to roll over when making emergency turns," reports The Washington Post.

Breast cancer screening by mamogram not justified, study says - Last October, Consumer Reports advised women in their 40s to have annual mammograms, even though this recommendation was rejected earlier by an unbiased panel of experts at the National Institutes of Health. A new study in The Lancet (Jan. 8) questions the value of all mammographic screening. One thing is certain -- genuine controversy exists. Should women be advised by Consumer Reports or their physicians?

Milk and Hormones - The January 2000 issue of Consumer Reports says that organic milk is not safer than regular milk, including milk from cows treated with bovine growth hormone. But just six months ago, Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, commended the U.N.'s main food safety body for not endorsing the safety of bovine growth hormone. What's going on? Check out the new link on milk and hormones.

"Consumers Union Spotlights Top 10 Consumers Needs for Year 2000" - From Consumers Union's Dec. 28 press release, here are three parts of its agenda for 2000:

5. Better Auto Standards. As automakers make vehicles bigger and faster, they should not sacrifice safety or environmental protection. New measures to reduce pollution from cars and light trucks are an important step in the right direction. But we still need standards for the rollover risks of sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

6. Elimination of Risky Pesticide Uses. The government should finally ban pesticide uses that can easily be replaced with safer alternatives. It should enforce the laws to ensure that the uses of pesticides are safe for children, whether used on food, in homes, at schools or other places where children are likely to be exposed.

7. Greater Oversight of Genetically Modified Foods. For the sake of human health and environmental safety, genetically modified foods should be subject to pre-market safety reviews. These foods should be properly labeled so consumers can make informed choices.

"Forget pesticides, eat your vegetables" - Dana Joel Gattuso writes in The Detroit News, "The public is being fed inaccuracies in heaps by a number of vocal, special-interest environmental groups, such as the Consumers Union and the Environmental Working Group. These groups want pesticides and other synthetic chemicals banned from production, and they manipulate the facts in aggressive media campaigns to scare consumers away from foods containing pesticides."

Karpatkin-think 2000 - Modern environmentalism is a political and social scam perpetrated, in part, through Consumers Union. There is little better evidence than Rhoda Karpatkin's editorial in the January 2000 issue of Consumer Reports.

The Consumers Union president writes, "We must recognize that what we produce -- and what we consume -- affect the environment now and will affect future generations. We need to ensure that products are made and consumed in sustainable ways so that we don't squander tomorrow's resources. It's a symbol of our times that Eqyptian pyramids that lasted 4,600 years now face destruction from modern pollution."

Putting aside Karpatkin's eco-babble about future generations and sustainable consumption, her comment about the pyramids reveals a basic truth about modern environmentalism. The issue of the environment is not, and never has been about public health. We should worry about pollution because the pyramids are deteriorating, according to Karpatkin. After all the hype over how much damage pollution has done to the public health and the environment, Karpatkin's millenium message is about crumbling monuments thousands of years old? What happened to all the disease and death allegedly caused by pollution?

Karpatkin's hypocrisy is breathtaking: "We should continue to welcome the new scientific and technological developments that enhance our lives, health and well-being." Somewhat, ironic considering Consumer Reports' savage attacks on biotechnology, pesticides and plastics.

And what Karpatkin-think piece would be complete without the precautionary principle: "But we should acknowledge what we do not know and be cautious about embracing innovations that have uncertain effects." The precautionary principle, as advocated by Rhoda and her creed, has nothing to do with being "safe rather than sorry." It is an excuse to say 'no' to that which is politically incorrect -- technology and capitalism.

Karpatkin's political agenda is pretty clear "the rich and powerful shouldn't prey on the poor and weak... Corporate power, national and global, cannot be allowed to overwhelm the rights of citizens... The widening gulf between the haves and the have-nots is even more untenable now..."

What does this have to do with testing toasters and televisions? Isn't that why people subscribe to Consumer Reports? Or are toaster and television reports simply a life support system for advocating a political philosophy that Americans spent 45 years fighting?

Consumers Union favors billion-dollar lawsuits against automakers - Check out this debate between David Pittle, technical director of Consumers Union, and Mitch Silver, president of Silver Auctions, on high-dollar consumer lawsuits against automakers.

EU report undercuts upcoming Consumer Reports scare; Draft risk assessment finds no endocrine disruption from low exposures to Bisphenol A - A draft risk assessment for bisphenol A (BPA) concludes the chemical does not disrupt hormonal processes even at levels thousands of times higher than humans typically encounter. The report was conducted by the United Kingdom's Health and Safety Executive for the European Union. People may be exposed to BPA leaching from food and beverage can linings made from epoxy resins and polycarbonate bottles. According to the Endocrine/Estrogen Letter, "The September 1999 draft report states human exposures would have to be 30,000 times higher than those that probably occur in ordinary life in order for adverse reproductive effects to occur... Dangers of liver toxicity occur at levels of BPA 12,000 times higher than realistic exposure concentrations." Consumer Reports and ABC News are rumored to be working on a scare story for early 2000 about BPA.

Consumers Union President says WTO should permit "no risk" policies - Check out this November 18, 1999 speech by Rhoda H. Karpatkin, President of Consumers Union of US, Inc. at the Assembly of Consumer Associations in Europe. Rhoda says WTO nations should be allowed to block trade based on the precautionary principle.

Consumers Union received $125,000 from Foundation crusading to eliminate pesticides; Grant may violate Consumer Reports' policy - Consumers Union accepted a $125,000 grant from the W. Alton Jones Foundation in 1998. According to the Foundation, the purpose of the grant was "To perform crop-specific assessments of the impacts of alternative pest management systems likely to be implemented if particular pesticides are restricted." While sounding inocuous, the grant is part of the Foundation's mindless program to eliminate pesticide use. Click here for more on Consumer Reports' role in eliminating pesticide use.

Consumer Reports' "No Commercialization" policy states,

"We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of CONSUMER REPORTS and other publications and information services, and from nonrestrictive, noncommercial contributions, grants, and fees.
I suppose Consumer Reports believes the W. Alton Jones grant falls outside the language of its protestation of "independence;" the Foundation is not a "commercial interest." But the Foundation is clearly a political interest. So it must be okay for Consumer Reports to be beholden to a political agenda. Also, the W. Alton Jones grant appears to be quite restrictive. Doesn't this violate Consumer Reports own stated policy?

60 Minutes II goes after Consumer Reports - The CBS News' magazine 60 Minutes II will report on Consumer Reports Tuesday, November 30 at 9:00 p.m. EST. According to CBS, "Correspondent Vicki Mabrey takes an in-depth look at Consumer Reports, the magazine that millions trust to help them buy the best, and safest, products. She finds that all is not well for this famed publication. Click here for 60 Minutes II contact info.

Consumer Reports to launch scare over food can coatings - Sources say Consumer Reports may try to scare the public with a December- or January-issue report about bisphenol-A, a chemical used to make food can coatings. ABC News' 20/20 may be involved as well. Click here for info about the use of bisphenol-A in food can coatings. Click here for general info about bisphenol-A.

Consumers Union sponsors socialist organization - Consumers Union is a sponsor of the Democratic Socialists of America -- an organization that promotes the socialist agenda, including "economic redistribution." I wonder if CU president Rhoda Karpatkin would like to have her $422,000 annual salary redistributed? What if we redistributed her annual subscriptions to the New York Philharmonic and New York City Ballet? Is socialism in consumers' best interests? Is Consumers Union -- and Consumer Reports -- pro-consumer or simply anti-business?

Consumer Reports isn't a physician, but plays one on the Internet anyway - Consumer Reports recommended tamoxifen, the alleged breast cancer prevention drug, to women last month. The recommendation was inappropriate at the time and, now, the current issue of The Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Nov. 3) drives this point home. Even assuming tamoxifen works -- and the jury is still out on this issue -- the decision to take tamoxifen involves weighing the risks and benefits on an individual basis. It can only be made by a woman and her physician -- not a magazine whose reputation is derived from testing toasters.

One Confused Consumer: Rhoda Karpatkin on the Environment - Rhoda Karpatkin is the president of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports. But what are we to make of someone who oversees the testing of toasters and the advocacy of environmental policy? You be the judge. Check out today's Karpatkin-think, excerpted from Rhoda's essay in the November 1996 issue of Advancing the Consumer Interest.

Consumer Reports' faulty breast cancer advice - Consumer Reports promotes the unproven -- and potentially dangerous -- breast cancer drug tamoxifen and advises women in their 40s to have annual mammograms, even though this recommendation was rejected by an unbiased panel of experts at the National Institutes of Health.

"Testing Consumer Reports" - Brill's Content reports (Sep. 99), "When it comes to deciding which products and services to buy, there's no more trusted source of information than this 63-year-old magazine. But the self proclaimed bastion of unbiased testing may not be as fair or conflict-free as it claims."

"Trial Ordered in Suit Over Consumer Reports SUV Rollover Testing" - The Los Angeles Times reports (Sep. 23), "In a setback to the nation's most popular consumer magazine, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that Consumer Reports' publisher must stand trial over Isuzu Motors Ltd.'s claim that the magazine rigged its vaunted vehicle-handling test in a deliberate campaign to destroy the reputation of the Isuzu Trooper sport-utility vehicle."

"The Anti-Business Mind-Set" - Investor's Business Daily editorializes (Sep. 21), "Suzuki and Isuzu are suing the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine for a combined $50 million in damages after the publication rated their sport-utility vehicles' safety as 'not acceptable.' The companies charge that the magazine's parent group, Consumers Union, deliberately changed the way it tested the SUVs to produce the rating. They say the magazine faced lagging sales and needed a controversy to help fund a new testing center it had built... Consumers Union has long distrusted free markets - its founders were Marxists. It needs to be reminded that businesses need to cater to consumers if they want to make money, not let them die."

"Reporting on Biotech Could Use a Warning Label" - Michael Fumento writes in the Sun-Sentinel (Sep. 15), "But like Darth Vader, Consumer Reports embraces the dark side. It repeats false claims about biotech foods, says biotech development doesn't have nearly enough safeguards and recommends mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients... What the public really needs is a label on all the scientifically inaccurate articles and press releases on biotech food. Perhaps something like: "The following piece contains 5 percent half-truths, 10 percent obfuscation and 85 percent rubbish."

"Another phony health scare" - Gregg Easterbrook writes in the Sacamento Bee (Sep. 12), "Buried in the back pages of the newspapers a week ago were reports that the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, had found no proof that synthetic chemicals act as human "endocrine disrupters." The NRC declared the theory of endocrine disrupters 'rife with uncertainties' -- possibly true but unsupported by experiments or health data. This may sound like a humdrum scientific data blip. But it's major news. For three years now, organizations ranging from environmental groups to Consumer Reports have been proclaiming the existence of a deadly wave of endocrine disrupters that cause cancer, infertility and personality abnormalities. It's been said that endocrine disrupters are so malignant that they even render plastic plates and baby bottles potential killers."

"High Standards -- or Double Standards at Consumer Reports?" - The American Council on Science and Health asks Consumer Reports, "Was it funding from the NRDC that caused you to publish a cover story in l989 featuring the image of a wicked witch offering poison apples?"

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