The small scientific world of prion researchers -- the scientists who investigate "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" (TSE) such as mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans -- is abuzz. That's because the two confirmed cases of US mad cow disease in Texas and Alabama are an "atypical" strain different from the British strain but identical to an atypical strain found so far in a small number of cattle in France, Germany, Poland and Sweden. The discovery of "atypical" mad cow disease in the US should not be surprising. Sheldon Rampton and I reported way back in 1997 that very strong evidence of an "atypical" TSE disease infecting US cattle was established by the work of Dr. Richard Marsh, the researcher to whom we dedicated our book Mad Cow USA.
Swiss citizens backed a five-year moratorium on commercial release of genetically modified plants and animals, despite opposition from their government and industry groups. Fifty-five percent of the voters backed the moratorium. The ballot initiative followed the collection of 100,000 signatures opposing a 2004 law approving commercial release of genetically engineered crops. "All the farmers' organisations were behind this proposal, which they see as a chance for Swiss agriculture," Daniel Ammann, a spokesman for the pro-moratorium coalition, told Reuters.
"One large and important producer of genetically modified (GM) crops - Monsanto - has engineered public opinion to reduce critical scrutiny," writes a group of South African, Mexican and American academic researchers.
"Saying their livelihoods are threatened, powerful forces that drive California's $27 billion agricultural economy are mobilizing to defeat a November ballot initiative to ban biotech crops in Sonoma County, and possibly even prohibit such county bans with new legislation in coming days," reports the Sacramento Bee.
A popular Texas bumper sticker reads: "The only mad cow in America is Oprah." Not anymore, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that the first confirmed home-grown case of mad cow is a Texas beef cow.
As Sheldon Rampton and I report in Mad Cow USA, the United States failed to take the measures necessary to stop the spread of the fatal dementia dubbed mad cow disease. However, a successful PR campaign by industry and government has, to this day, fooled most of the press and the public into believing that all necessary steps were taken long ago. A major part of the effort to spin and intimidate media coverage involved suing Oprah Winfrey under the Texas Food Disparagement Act, after her 1996 program examining mad cow risks in America.
"An Agriculture Department agency paid a freelance writer at least $7,500 to write articles touting federal conservation programs and place them in outdoors magazines," reports the Washington Post.
"Beef trade with Japan and Canada was on the minds of producers at the annual National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention in San Antonio, Texas," a man's voice intones, as the television news segment opens with a shot of a slowly rotating sign reading "U.S. Premium Beef." The voice continues, "Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns addressed the gathering and afterward took questions from the media."