AmeriScan: February 1, 2002


WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2002 (ENS) - In light of heightened bioterrorism security measures recommended recently by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The Humane Society of the United States is calling for an end to the processing of diseased and dying animals for human food.

The organization warns that these conditions in a downed animal that is too weak or sick to stand could mask intentional inoculation of livestock with diseases or toxins.

Both House and Senate farm bills include provisions to require the euthanasia of non-ambulatory animals when they are brought to market, but Senator Jesse Helms, a North Carolina Republican, filed an amendment in December to weaken the provision.

Veterinarian Dr. Frank Garry is coordinator for the Integrated Livestock Management Program in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. He said, "The threat of bioterrorism adds one more reason to end the use of nonambulatory animals in human food. An animal that is unable to walk because of illness should probably not be processed for human food consumption, regardless of whether the animal was intentionally or unintentionally contaminated."

"As long as the USDA continues to slaughter diseased livestock, it is possible that a bioterrorist attack could make people very sick and undermine confidence in American agriculture," Dr. Garry said, referring to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Garry provided the Humane Society with a laundry list of potential poisons that could be fed to cattle but might not be detected by USDA inspectors. Under current regulations, those animals could be processed for human consumption.

The society claims that if an animal is exhibiting symptoms of illness, inspectors routinely test for only a handful of diseases - mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease and others that are highly contagious or would have a negative economic impact.

The USDA estimates that 130,000 non-ambulatory animals are processed nationwide each year, a tiny fraction of the total number of livestock. They may have "broken appendages, severed tendons or ligaments, nerve paralysis, fractured vertebral column or metabolic conditions," according to the 1992 USDA Directive "Humane Handling of Disabled Livestock."

The USDA says disabled livestock shall be moved with "a minimum of excitement, pain or injury. This includes forklift or bobcat-type vehicles and self-propelled tractors capable of pulling stone boats (sleds) or similar conveyances, those conveyances themselves, and holding chutes, and a voltmeter or other suitable equipment that is capable of verifying voltage of electric prods attached to AC current."

Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president for the HSUS said, "As long as our slaughterhouses continue to process thousands of animals afflicted with such devastating illnesses and injuries that they are unable to walk, trying to identify an animal who has been purposefully poisoned or inoculated with a disease that is harmful to consumers is like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Gene Bauston, executive director of Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal welfare organization that has recently filed a lawsuit against the USDA for knowingly approving diseased animals for slaughter, said, "I think that consumers would be appalled to learn that they are eating sick and diseased animals. With this additional threat of bioterrorism, perhaps Congress will finally act to end the unhealthy and cruel practice of slaughtering sick and injured animals."

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2002 (ENS) - The nomination of a Pennsylvania district court judge by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is being challenged by 27 national environmental and community groups. They claim that as a district court judge, D. Brooks Smith handed down rulings that favored industry interests over environmental protection and public health.

Smith is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He has served as a judge of that court since November 1, 1988 when he was appointed at age 36, one of the youngest federal judges in the country. He must now be confirmed by the Senate before taking his seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earthjustice and Community Rights Counsel, along with 25 other national organizations today sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing their "serious concerns" about Judge Smith's record.

"Judge Smith's rulings in illegal toxic dumping, environmental crimes, and other cases show a bias for polluters and against victims and the environment," said Glenn Sugameli of Earthjustice's Judging the Environment project.

One ruling cited by the groups was in the criminal case against Action Mining, Inc., a coal company that illegally built a pipe to carry untreated acid mine drainage to nearby Coal Run, a tributary of Casselman River in Pennsylvania. During the four years the pipe was in operation, acid mine drainage killed 60,000 stocked trout and left a stretch of the river dead.

Earthjustice says the company estimates that this Clean Water Act violation saved it $5 million in treatment costs. Judge Smith imposed a $50,000 criminal fine, one percent of their profit from the violation.

"A ruling like that sends a simple message - illegal pollution can pay," Sugameli says.

Environmentalists also express concerns about Judge Smith's participation in junkets for judges. Funded by corporations and special interests, these trips to luxury resorts and dude ranches allow those with stakes in federal litigation to pitch judges on their viewpoints while playing a round of golf or riding horseback. According to research by Community Rights Counsel, Judge Smith took 12 of these special interest trips from 1992 through 2000.

"Judge Smith is one of the most junketed federal judges in America, and his rulings suggest that the corporations funding these trips are getting a great return on their investment," said Doug Kendall, of Community Rights Counsel.

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2002 (ENS) - The hemp food industry says America's federal drug enforcement agency has misinterpreted a law that exempts hemp seed and oil from its control. Overzealous government officials are blocking a harmless and legal business, when they seek to stop the import of hemp seeds and hemp seed oil from Canada, U.S. hemp food companies say.

On October 9, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an Interpretive Rule banning any edible item containing hemp seed or oil that contains "any THC." The agency gave consumers until February 6 to "dispose" of such products.

On February 6, hemp food industry representatives will conduct a Congressional Hemp Taste Test by delivering hemp foods to members of Congress to demonstrate that these foods are safe, nutritious and should remain legal.

Internal Department of Justice (DOJ) documents, obtained by the hemp food industry through the Freedom of Information Act, demonstrate that the DEA and U.S. Customs were instructed by the DOJ in March 2000 that they do not have the authority to restrict the import of hemp seed and oil. The DOJ letter stated, "Hemp products intended for human consumption have THC at levels too low to trigger a psychoactive effect and are not purchased, sold or marketed with the intent of having a psychoactive effect."

THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, a hemp plant, but sterilized hemp seed and oil are exempted from the Controlled Substances Act under the statutory definition of marijuana, just as poppy seeds, commonly consumed on bagels, are exempted under the statutory definition of the opium poppy.

Cannabis is the most durable of the hemp plants. It produces the toughest cloth, called canvass, and also produces seeds and pulp. The pulp is used as fuel, and to make paper. Hemp seed and hemp seed oil can be used for both human and animal foods.

In a bipartisan "Dear Colleague" letter last week, Congressmen George Miller, a California Democrat, and and Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, sent along an Alpsnack, an energy bar that contains hemp seed, to remind members that hemp seed consumption does not interfere with drug testing and are exempted from the Controlled Substances Act. "The interpretive rule must be amended to establish realistic standards which take into account current testing technologies and better define trace levels of THC which are permissible for human use," he wrote.

Maurice Hinchey a New York Democrat wrote to the DEA in January, "The interpretive rule, goes beyond the intent of the Controlled Substances Act and other marijuana control laws passed by Congress. Products such as hemp seed and oil - which allow only a harmless, trace amount of THC to enter the human body and do not cause psychoactive effects - were not what Congress was seeking to ban.

Hemp seed has a well balanced protein content and the highest content of essential fatty acids (EFAs) of any oil in nature: EFAs are the "good fats" that, like vitamins, the body does not produce and must eat. Dr. Udo Erasmus, an internationally recognized nutritional authority on fats and oils, writes in Fats that Heal - Fats that Kill: "Hemp seed oil may be nature's most perfectly balanced oil."

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2002 (ENS) - Klamath Basin farmers who saw irrigation water diverted to keep fish alive during last year's drought in the Pacific Northwest are vindicated by a new report by a special committee of the National Research Council.

Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service issued biological opinions last year, calling for water levels and flow rates to be increased to protect short nose and Lost River suckers, two fish species listed as endangered in 1988, as well as coho salmon, which were designated as threatened in 1997. Suckers live in Upper Klamath Lake while the salmon live in the Klamath River and the Pacific Ocean.

A severe drought in the Klamath region last summer caused tempers to flare between farmers, whose crops were dying, and those government officials and groups supporting higher water levels in the lake and river for the sake of the endangered and threatened fish populations. This prompted the Interior Department to ask the Research Council to review the scientific validity of the biological opinions.

The National Research Council committee's interim report finds no clear connection between water levels in Upper Klamath Lake and conditions that are adverse to suckers. Fish kills in the lake have not been linked to years of low water levels, or to chemical conditions. In fact, the highest recorded increase in the number of adult suckers occurred in a year when water levels were low.

"The available scientific evidence does not support current proposals to change water levels or river flows to promote the welfare of the fish currently at risk, although future research may justify doing so," said William M. Lewis Jr., chair of the committee that wrote the report, and professor and director, Center for Limnology, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder.

On the other hand, the reduction in minimum river flows that the Bureau of Reclamation's proposal would allow cannot be justified on scientific grounds either, the committee said. Again, as is the case with suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, the risk presented by such minimum flows to the coho is unknown since there is no documentation of how they would be affected.

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Friday officially selected dredging as the cleanup approach for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the Hudson River, ending the remedy selection phase of the process.

The final plan calls for dredging .65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a 40 mile stretch of the upper Hudson to remove an estimated 150,000 pounds of PCBs emitted from the General Electric Company plants.

The PCB contaminants were deposited over a 30 year period between the late 1940s and 1977, when GE discharged some 1.3 million pounds of PCBs directly into the river from its facilities in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, New York.

GE has fought the dredging proposal in court, calling it "absurd," and saying that it "charts a course of environmental devastation for the upper Hudson River for a generation or more."

"This action from the EPA bureaucracy is a misguided attempt to punish a corporation that lawfully discharged PCBs 30 years ago, not a sensible effort to advance public health or the ecosystem of the river," the company declared in December 2000.

On Friday, the company issued a statement saying that while "GE does not believe that dredging is the right approach for the river or upper river communities, EPA has the ultimate authority under law to select the clean-up plan."

The EPA now has responsibility for leading a process to carry out dredging safely and effectively, GE said. "The first step is a public process to design the phases of the project and to develop standards to ensure that dredging does more good than harm. We want to play a constructive role in that process and plan to meet with EPA to discuss the next steps."

GE believes that "the public process must be a rigorous, open and science based endeavor to develop design and performance standards that will protect the river and citizens from the impacts of dredging."

Governor George Pataki called the move a "smart decision." He is satisfied because the plan does not include a new landfill in the Upper Hudson Valley. "We made clear we would oppose creation of a new landfill in the upriver communities - and there won't be one under this plan," said the governor. "We will continue to watch the EPA closely as this process continues to make sure our communities are protected, as well as to ensure that the Hudson River gets the help it needs."

The EPA will establish a field office in the upper Hudson region staffed by an experienced senior manager who will coordinate design activities working with the community. "We are committing to an open process that will give affected communities and interested parties the chance to comment on critical issues, such as facility siting and the development of performance standards," said Regional Administrator Jane Kenny, who heads EPA's Regional office responsible for carrying out the cleanup plan. "Working through partnerships as we move forward with the cleanup will ensure that we meet our environmental goals."

Dredging will eventually be conducted in two phases. The details of where and how much sediment will be dredged during the first phase will be worked out during the design. "The control of continuing discharges of PCBs into the river from General Electric facilities is also a concern," Kenny said. General Electric is expected to take actions to control a major source of PCBs coming from its Hudson Falls plant. Implementation of this source control action is expected to begin during the design period for EPA's cleanup plan.

Public meetings to explain the Record of Decision and how the agency will move forward during the design phase will be held on February 13 at the Saratoga Sheraton Hotel, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 and on February 20 at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel, 40 Civic Center Plaza, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601. Both meetings start at 7:00 p.m. Copies of the final Record of Decision and a summary of responses to the 70,000 public comments are available on EPA's website at

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WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2002 (ENS) - Particles of soot and dust blowing in the wind can be harmful to human health, but scientists need to know more about how the damage is done before it can be prevented. Research grants totaling more than $3.8 million were awarded this week to four universities to study the effects of airborne particulate matter (PM) on human health.

Particulate matter is typically generated by burning of materials - fuel combustion, power generation, wood burning - or any dust-generating activities.

Increases in particulate matter pollution have been linked to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits for heart and lung disease, increased respiratory illness or discomfort, decreased lung function and even premature death.

The grants have been awarded to the University of California, Emory University, Michigan State University and University of North Carolina through EPA's Science to Achieve Results program. The program funds research grants and graduate fellowships in environmental science and engineering disciplines through a competitive solicitation process and independent peer review.

How or why particulate matter may cause cardiopulmonary health effects is not yet understood, but research funded by these grants will help address these questions.

University of California at Davis will study mechanisms by which particles and/or ozone exert adverse effects on the cardiopulmonary system of neonatal rats during critical periods of their development.

Emory University will investigate the roles of specific air contaminants, and interrelationships among them, in increasing certain cardiac and respiratory conditions.

Michigan State University will join a team of researchers examining rodents with and without pre-existing asthma to determine whether exposure to particulate matter exacerbates the airway injury associated with asthma; whether the magnitude of particulate matter induced toxicity is dependent on the size of the particles; whether particulate matter that has traveled through the atmosphere is more toxic than locally generated air pollution and whether particulate matter toxicity is most severe during smog conditions.

The University of North Carolina will conduct research on the biological mechanism by which zinc, an abundant combustion derived metal found in airborne particulate matter, contributes to lung inflammation.

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DAVIS, California, February 4, 2002 (ENS) - Communities across California will receive $7.2 million to accomplish goals such as fighting erosion, improving air and water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat, thinning fire fuel loads and preventing flooding.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced the allocation of the federal funds Thursday in Davis. The funds are made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), established by Congress as the central conservation program under the 1996 Farm Bill.

Geographic Priority Areas were funded for 58 locally led initiatives to the tune of $6.2 million. These five to 10 year long projects combine technical and financial assistance to place conservation measures on private land.

Additionally, $915,000 will be divided between farmers and ranchers engaged in statewide efforts to improve air quality, rangeland and forest land. These funds are targeted for specific counties where critical needs have been identified.

Interested landowners in eligible areas can apply for conservation cost share assistance by visiting their local USDA Service Center. The agricultural and environmental program is delivered with the cooperation of the USDA Farm Service Agency which concurred with project selections. Practices vary depending upon local goals and include measures from water conservation systems to forest thinning to installing fish screens in irrigation systems.

"Enabling producers to voluntarily address the environmental concerns on their land benefits everyone," says Henry Wyman, interim state conservationist for California. "Their efforts help to improve natural resources throughout California."