Shane Commentary


EU to Establish Policy on GM Crops

Nov 18, 2014

The EU has decided that individual member nations can establish their own policies relating to cultivation of GM crops based on socio-political, environmental and other criteria.

In announcing the new approach, Frederique Reis a representative from Belgium stated, “this vote shows we have secured a broad consensus between the political groups in the European Parliament on this sensitive issue” He added “the measures approved today will secure flexibility for member states to restrict, ban the cultivation of GMO crops as they so wish.  At the same time, we have secured a clear process for the authorization of GMOs at the EU level, with improved safeguards and a key role for the European Food Safety Authority, which is important”. 


New Benefit of GM Agro-technology

Nov 14, 2014

The J. B. Simplot Company, the world’s largest grower of potatoes and supplier to major QSR chains has developed a series of new varieties based on patented Innate™ plant technology. The principle involves gene silencing and interference with expression of DNA.  The new varieties of Russet potatoes show resistance to bruising and have a lower asparagine content compared to conventional varieties.

This attribute reduces the formation of acrylamide by 17 percent during frying, representing a potential health benefit. The new Innate™ varieties also have reduced sugars contributing to a more aesthetic appearance. The genetically engineered potato has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and represents an advantage to producers and consumers from the application of biotechnology

It is estimated that when commercialized, the GM Innate™ varieties will save 400 million pounds of wasted potatoes each year.  Reducing losses will lower the acreage required for cultivation and consequently will conserve power and fuel and reduce application of pesticides.  Waste associated with bruising and rot imposes a cost in excess of $1.4 billion annually in the U.S.  In the mid-1990’s, a genetically modified potato was developed to resist the Colorado potato beetle.  Concern over public rejection of GM technology resulted in the demise of the cultivar.


Now it's Sugar

Nov 7, 2014

For the past four decades at least, the health community has railed against a high dietary intake of saturated fats, since there was a presumed relationship between elevated serum cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

There is a growing body of evidence that suggest that this presumption may not be valid and that  previous recommendations to reduce intake of eggs were not based on valid studies.  In point of fact, a number of controlled trials have shown that consumption of an egg per day has no adverse effect on health in subjects not predisposed to hypercholesterolemia. 

This is the basis of the promotional activities of the Egg Nutrition Center funded by the American Egg Board.  It would appear that these efforts have benefited the industry as per capita consumption has increased reversing the trend of two decades. It is however questioned whether this increase is in fact in the form of shell eggs or from liquid processed and served by the food service industry and QSRs.

Recent studies demonstrate a statistical association between consumption of sugar and mortality attributed to cardiovascular disease. This aspect of nutrition has been studied in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey which is an ongoing project involving a prospective cohort of representative U.S. adults extended from 1988 through 2010.


Oregon and Colorado Anti-GMO Labeling Initiative

Nov 5, 2014

Claims and counterclaims are flying in Oregon in support of Measure #92 and in Colorado for Proposition #105, which if passed, would mandate labeling of any GMO-derived food product with a “produced with genetic engineering” label constituting a virtual “Scarlet A”. 

Proponents of the two ballot initiatives, to be decided on November 4th maintain that the measures are essentially a “right to know” for consumers.  This is disingenuous.  Effectively both states wish to enhance the consumption and value of organic foods.  Oregon places an annual value of  $250 million on production of their organic foods.  Literature supporting the measure claims that the “organic industry must be protected” and successful passage of the ballot initiative will “create additional market opportunities”.

Measure #92 has been funded by a diverse group of organizations and business entities.  The Organic Consumer’s Association has donated $300,000 to support the cause.  The Center for Food Safety Action Fund has spent $1 million on the campaign. Ben and Jerry’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill have assisted with donations and other resources.  Politicians also see some benefit in supporting both the Measure and the Proposition since they are perceived as being “consumer friendly”.


Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi

Oct 29, 2014

The Award of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, a proponent for female education in the third world and to Kailash Satyarthi of India, an activist for children’s rights contrast sharply with the destructive activities of Vandana Shiva who opposes intensive agriculture and especially GMO technology.

Both 2014 Nobelists have made contributions to the citizens of their Continent opposing child labor and discrimination against daughters acquiring an education.  Learning improves productivity, enhances neonatal survival and the quality of life.

World Food Prize Laureate Sanjaya Rajaram an Indian-born scientist now a citizen of Mexico, considers that crop yields and sustainability can be improved by applying GMO technology.


Cornucopia Institute Employs Aerial Surveillance

Oct 29, 2014

The Cornucopia Institute founded in 2004, serves as the watchdog for compliance on behalf of small-scale producers of organic products. The organization is congenitally opposed to what they consider “commercial-scale” organic production especially by corporate entities even though organized as cooperatives or family-held.

Recently the organization carried out aerial surveillance of the Chino Valley organic egg-production farm in Texas.  At issue is whether the farm complies with regulations requiring outside access.  Currently the USDA Organic Certification Rule does not specify any actual area for hens expressed as square feet per bird.  In contrast, the American Humane Association and Humane Farm Animal Care programs have specific allowances for their respective certifications for the “free range” category which is independent of organic status.


Mercy for Animals in Canada Recruiting Investigators

Oct 24, 2014

EGG-CITE is indebted to Dr. Robert Gauthier for an item which appeared in a Toronto newspaper concerning recruitment of “investigators” (read undercover agents) by Mercy for Animals, Canada. 

At the outset it should be stated that organizations such as Mercy for Animals are basically not concerned over the welfare of livestock and companion animals.  Their intent is to impose a vegan lifestyle on society.  They hope to achieve this aim by disparaging intensive livestock production and to promote a negative image by dramatic and graphic depictions alleging abuse. The secondary objective is to raise money from sympathetic and emotionally vulnerable donors.  This requires publicity and sensationalism to generate financial support. There is no benefit to their coffers from reporting that 99 percent of farms adhere to accepted welfare standards.


Gain of Function experiments on highly pathogenic agents

Oct 24, 2014


Previous discussions on EGG-CITE Including a posting on October 29th 2013,  have focused on the dangers of "gain of function" experiments conducted on highly pathogenic agents including avian influenza.  Scientists at two institutions have modified avian influenza virus to become potentially infectious to humans in an attempt to understand how mutations may occur in nature.  Dr. Ron Fouchier of Erasmus University in the Netherlands and Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison were in fact restrained from publishing details of their studies on creating a more lethal H5N1 virus transmissible between ferrets used as a model for human infection.


Controversy Over Rose Acre Farms NC. Complex Continues

Oct 24, 2014

Rose Acre Farms established a 14-house in-Line complex housing four million hens near Swan Quarter in Hyde County, North Carolina, during the mid-2000s.

At this time, the complex operated under a Clean Water Act permit.  At the time to renew the permit, the company claimed that this was not required since it was not discharging pollutants into waterways.  The State Division of Water Resources maintained that the company required a permit since dust, feathers and ammonia exhaust from houses entered streams feeding waterways covered under the Clean Water Act.

In a 2013 trial, a State court ruled that the Agency has the authority to require Rose Acres to operate under a Clean Water Act permit.  Rose Acres has since appealed this ruling. In retrospect it may have been a mistake for Rose Acre Farms to establish a complex with four million hens close to the Pecosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and in an area subject to hurricanes and flooding.


Australian System for Mass Euthanasia

Oct 17, 2014

EGG-CITE is indebted to Dr. Eric Gingerich for information on the EuPoul System for mass euthanasia developed in Australia  Basically the approach is to place floor-housed birds in a plastic tent which is then flushed with carbon dioxide.  The company has also developed a method of wrapping stacked-deck batteries with plastic to allow euthanasia in cages using carbon dioxide.

Extensive studies in the U.S. have shown that the carbon dioxide-foam system is suitable for humanely depleting floor-housed flocks and offers speed, efficiency and economy.  The still unresolved challenge is to achieve rapid mass-euthanasia of hens in cages.  At this time the only appropriate method is to manually transfer hens from cages to kill-carts flushed with carbon dioxide. If these units used for routine depletion are unavailable, hens must be manually moved to the end of the house to be placed in dumpsters fitted with covers to allow euthanasia with carbon dioxide.

The actual problem with mass euthanasia following a disease outbreak is less that of killing a flock than the disposal of the carcasses. Irrespective of the approach to either euthanasia or disposal, it is necessary to plan an operation in advance and obtain the necessary permits from regulatory authorities.  The situation following the 2002 outbreak of low pathogenicity avian influenza in turkey flocks in the Shenandoah Valley illustrates the problems involved.  Bureaucracy and the need for rapid action are often incompatible.


Non-Human Rights Project Appeals Against Adverse Verdict

Oct 15, 2014

The Non-Human Rights Project (NHRP) founded by Steven Wise, an animal-rights lawyer and founder of the organization will appeal against an adverse decision by a court in New York State.  At issue is the legal status of four chimpanzees, two in private ownership and the others at the Stonybrook University Primate Center.

Wise and his associates filed a Writ of habeas corpus which under common law would allow an interested party to obtain the release of a person held by an authority.  In this instance, the concept of habeas corpus was extended to a non-human.  The submission by the NHRP was rejected. An interesting question would be whether Wise serves per bono (or per bonobo) or alternatively the source of his funding.       

While this commentator expresses concern for the confinement of non-human primates under other than accepted high-standards of care, establishing “personhood” creates a dangerous precedent. This would allow animal-rights organizations to descend the zoological ladder and claim that any confined animal should be released from farms, zoos and laboratories. Whether the Non-Human Rights Project intends to confine their activities to chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans is questionable.  If the courts set a precedent, marine mammals and circus animals would soon follow.  Cattle and hogs would not be far behind, even chickens might have “legal guardians” Livestock production as we know it would not be possible. Tofu and granola anyone?        


False Contentions in Colorado GMO Labeling Initiative

Oct 10, 2014

Opponents of GMO have advanced spurious justifications for the mandatory labeling initiative.  Discredited and questionable studies and anecdotal reports are being used to buttress claims that consumption of GMO grains result in allergies, infertility and other ill-defined health problems.

Extensive studies conducted by disinterested bodies at universities and at the public sector level have failed to show any deleterious effect from GMO foods.

To be cynical one might suggest that consuming only non-GMO foods leads to hysteria xenophobia and nutritional paranoia!


Whole Foods Market to Evaluate Price Cutting

Oct 3, 2014

The Austin Business Journal posted a report on October 1st suggesting that Whole Foods Market will begin testing price-cutting in Austin-area stores.  Initially the project will involve approximately 400 items, including produce.  The Company is also testing a customer-reward program, evaluating mobile delivery and online-order-in-store pickup.

Investors have pressured management to improve same-store sales which have lagged and to restore share price.  It is noted that WFM stock on October 2nd was at $37.53, close to the 52 week low of $36.08, compared to a high of $65.59.

Whole Foods Market with a capitalization of $13.6 billion operated with a gross margin of 36% for the 40 weeks ending July 6th 2014 compared to 35.8% for the preceding nine-month period.  Competing organic-focused stores such as Sprouts Farmers Market operate with gross margins in the vicinity of 15%.  Reducing prices will obviously impact gross margin and hence the bottom line for Whole Foods Market. The Company generated a profit margin of 4.1% for the past nine-month period, equivalent to that generated by Sprouts Farmers Market, suggesting that both operating expenses and the cost of goods sold are higher for Whole Foods Market than competitors marketing organics.

Whole Foods Market is continually increasing pressure on suppliers through various initiatives.  The company will soon be rolling out a three-tier “Good, Better, Best” rating system for produce.  The designation will be based on sustainability, pest management, farm worker welfare, protection of bees and conservation of water and soil. Quantifying these criteria will be difficult and their relevance is questionable. Although these attributes may appeal to their clientele, it is evident that the constant upgrading of requirements imposed on suppliers will be reflected in higher costs. It is difficult to see how margins can be maintained with a deterioration in both sides of the equation. Truly the altruistic policies of the Co-CEOs are impacting profitability in a competitive environment.\


EPA Backs Down on Alt Case

Oct 1, 2014

Following an adverse ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency by the U.S. Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, the EPA has decided not to pursue further appeals in the case initiated against Lois Alt in October 2013. At issue is the EPA contention that the Clean Water Act empowers the Agency to regulate runoff, potentially containing particulate matter, from farmyards. The EPA initially issued an order threatening Lois Alt with a fine of  $37,000 per day unless she applied for a Clean Water Act permit to cover storm water runoff.

The EPA is concerned that an appellate court decision upholding the lower court ruling would further prejudice EPA regulation of CAFOs. A posting by the EPA on Friday September 19th claimed that the decision to abandon further litigation was based on “the need to conserve resources”.  The posting stated “a smart and strategic enforcement program requires us to make choices about where to spend our time for the biggest benefit to the public”.


New Jersey LPAI Pheasants

Oct 1, 2014

In a report dated September 25th, Dr. John Clifford, Deputy Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reported on an outbreak of low pathogenicity H7N3 avian influenza which affected a flock of pheasants in coastal New Jersey diagnosed on August 22nd, 2014.  In view of the fact that H7 virus was involved, the event was reported to the OIE on September 25th, 2014.  A previous subclinical infection was diagnosed in July 2014 based on serology.

Extensive epidemiologic surveillance of pheasants in the hunting preserve and poultry in the area failed to reveal extension to commercial flocks within a 10 km radius. No virus could be isolated from pheasants four weeks after the initial PCR-positive test.  The flock was subjected to quarantine with serologic surveillance.


HumaneWatch Calls for a Boycott of Discover Card

Oct 1, 2014

HumaneWatch an entity operated by the Center of Consumer Freedom has called for a boycott of credit card company Discover for offering an affinity card benefitting the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This card will provide customers with the opportunity to identify with the HSUS and to increase donations to the organization. 

Calling for a boycott appears to be a futile and knee-jerk exercise given that the management of Discover have committed to the project.  The approach to the situation should be more positive, involving education both of Discover and potential donors concerning the policy of the HSUS on their allocation of funds.  From their website and actions HSUS is apparently opposed to all forms of intensive livestock production and indirectly promotes a vegan agenda.


No Welfare Advantage Associated with Free-Range Management

Sep 26, 2014

In a report by Ben Spencer of the UK Daily Mail dated September 10th, prominent veterinarians provided data confirming deleterious aspects of free-range management. This system is a recent innovation in the U.S. but studies conducted by North Carolina State University have demonstrated higher mortality due to aggression and predator loss.

In England free-range hens comprise 45 percent of egg production, a trend promoted by major supermarket chains.

Dr. Barry Thorpe of the Royal School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh stated that “chickens allowed to roam free in open fields in fact die sooner and are much more likely to catch disease.”  He added “supermarkets and celebrity chefs would have us believe that free-range chickens are happier, healthier and live more natural lives than those in battery farms”.  Published data belies the altruistic and anthropomorphic sentiments held by proponents of “free range” and “pastured” that hens allowed outside access are happy.


Is the Decline in Cereal Consumption an Opportunity for Eggs?

Sep 12, 2014

In the Business Day section of the September 11th edition of The New York Times Stephanie Strom cites Euromonitor statistics indicating a 10.7 percent decline in consumption of all categories of breakfast cereals in 2012.  This represented a loss in revenue of $1 billion to the cereal manufacturers.

The 1.8 percent increase in “wholesome” products such as muesli,  did not compensate for the reduced demand for the products regarded as “delivery systems for sugar” –now regarded as the “new fat”.


Controversy over GMO Labeling

Sep 5, 2014

Despite the fact that 64 nations have enacted mandatory labeling of foods derived from GM technology, there is no federal initiative to require compulsory labeling.  A number of states have either enacted mandatory GM labeling laws or are considering draft legislation or citizen’s ballot initiatives.


Recently three influential newspapers in what would be regarded as liberal states have editorialized against mandatory labeling.

On July 30th a Boston Globe opined “advocates say it would alert those who may object to genetically modified food to choose other options. A label would contribute to the stigmatization of food that is actually perfectly healthy”.

The Washington Post noted in June “there is no mainstream scientific evidence showing that foods containing GMOs are more or less harmful for people to consume than anything else in the supermarket, despite decades of development and use”. 

The New York Times noted “there is no reliable evidence that genetically modified foods now on the market are posing any risk to consumers”.

Forbes considers that mainstream opinion is following scientific evidence that has failed to show any deleterious effect from consuming food products containing GM-derived ingredients.

The oft repeated claim that GM foods are untested is spurious.  The contention that GM foods represent a conspiracy by the multinational biotechnology companies to dominate food production is also without support.                                    


NAEF Objects to Nestle Welfare Decision

Sep 3, 2014

The National Association of Egg Farmers (NAEF) a splinter group representing a small fraction of the U.S. egg production industry has confronted Nestle, the multinational food producer, over their decision to subscribe to the World Animal Protection Group as their arbiter of welfare standards.

The NAEF which is composed of producers predominately using conventional cages vigorously opposed the combined UEP-HSUS initiative to establish a National housing standard for confined hens (the “Egg Bill”). The proposed legislation would have mandated conversion to enriched modules with approximately 124 square inches of floor space per hen.