Jeremy Rifkin's Pure Food Campaign is planning a boycott ofunlabeled genetically engineered foods, focusing on therecently approved milk production expander BST (bovinesomatotropin). Rifkin also will file a lawsuit against FDA withinthe next two weeks.

"Whoever is responsible for making bovine growth hormonethe flagship product of the (biotechnology) industry has done agreat disservice to the industry," Andrew Kimbrell, seniorattorney for the Pure Food Campaign, told BioWorld. Of all thefood products under development, "they have picked the onewith the least public appeal."

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Chicago rescinded an ordinancepassed last summer that would have required labeling ofbiotech foods.

The Pure Food Campaign has put field organizers on the payrollto help organize the boycott -- "which we don't usually do,"Kimbrell told BioWorld. "That is key because these boycotts areorganized on a local level."

The lobbying and boycott will begin Feb. 3 "because that's theday they can start selling BGH (milk)."

Unlike last spring's effort for labeling genetically engineeredfoods, Pure Food Campaign will lobby "the 100 top city councils,several college towns" and other areas, including Vermont, topass labeling ordinances like Chicago's, Kimbrell told BioWorld.

Besides Chicago, only New York City has passed labelinglegislation, a non-binding resolution, said Kimbrell. A bindingordinance is pending there.

Kimbrell blamed "industry and the industry's representatives"for killing the Chicago ordinance. "Probably it's no coincidencethat the repeal (occurred on the day) BST was approved."

But John Madrzyk, the Chicago city councilman whospearheaded both the ordinance and its repeal, told BioWorldthat the ban was originally passed because the City Councilcould find no information on the safety of geneticallyengineered foods. He was unaware, he said, that milk was anissue.

Madrzyk said he was fed up that "people in the business don't... take the time to reach out to the cities. They feel if theylobby Washington, D.C., they can do whatever they want. ... Iwas showing them that if we don't like their laws, we can passour own and make it stick."

Madrzyk decided to rescind the ordinance because he learnedthat the federal government had been examining the safety ofgenetically engineered foods and because stores had informedthe City Council that they would need to label 80-90 percent oftheir products. Madrzyk had thought that labeling could belimited to fresh fruits and vegetables.

But what Chicago giveth back, Chicago could take away onceagain, the alderman warned. "The next time I'm not going torescind (the ordinance)," he said.

As for the lawsuit, Kimbrell claimed that FDA never provedthat BST is safe for cows, alluding to mastitis and birth defectsamong Vermont cattle being treated with BST.

"The FDA has decided to monitor -- after approval, mind you --cow health, mastitis, levels of antibiotics in the milk," he said."Our view is that it should have been done before approval. Wethink a federal judge will agree."

He also said litigation "offers us full discovery."

But FDA had collected all the required information on BST, andthe monitoring program is an extra measure that "the companyagreed to conduct ... to make sure that milk is safe underconditions of actual use," FDA spokeswoman Susan Cruzan toldBioWorld. An advisory committee on veterinary medicine haddetermined mastitis levels to be "insignificant," she said, and"there were controls in place, and FDA added the monitoringprogram on top of all that."

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.