AmeriScan: November 27, 2002

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Bush Pardons Turkeys in 55 Year Tradition

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2002 (ENS) - For the first time in the 55 year history of presidential turkey pardons, this year's lucky bird is no Tom Turkey - she's a hen.

President George W. Bush, gave "Katie" her official pardon from the axe on Tuesday at a ceremony in the Rose Garden, seemed a bit confused about the bird's sex - several times, the president referred to her as a "he."

"I see the turkey standing there. He looks a little nervous, doesn't he?" Bush said to the crowd of reporters and children in attendance at the 55th annual turkey pardon. "He probably thinks he's going to have a press conference."

Bush

President George W. Bush looks over Katie, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, from a safe distance - last year's lucky bird took a swipe at his pardoner. (White House photo by Paul Morse)
Katie was selected for the honor by the turkey's breeder, Ron Prestage, chair of the National Turkey Federation. A White House official said Prestage suggested using a female turkey this year for the first time in the event's history.

The tradition of pardoning a turkey at Thanksgiving was first instituted by President Abraham Lincoln. President Harry Truman later revived the lapsed practice, offering a reprieve to a male, or tom, turkey - as has every other president since that time.

For the past 12 years, two turkeys have been pardoned - the official pardoned turkey and an alternate, and all have been sent to Kidwell Farm, a Virginia petting zoo.

"By virtue of this pardon, Katie is on her way not to the dinner table, but to Kidwell Farm in Herndon, Virginia," Bush said. "There she'll live out her days as safe and comfortable as she can be."

Katie's days may not be very long, however, regardless of the official pardon. She was bred not for longevity but for rapid maturity and meaty breasts - perfect for the American Thanksgiving table.

Most turkeys of Katie's ilk live just six months. Just four pardoned turkeys now live at Kidwell Farm, including last year's pair - dubbed Liberty and Freedom - along with Katie and her alternate, Zack.

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Green Group Offers Tips for Eco-Thanksgiving

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2002 (ENS) - Environmental Defense is urging Thanksgiving celebrants to take a few simple steps to help protect the environment while they prepare and enjoy their holiday meals.

The conservation group offers a variety of tips for a greener Thanksgiving, ranging from choosing organic foods to avoiding disposable products.

"This is the time of year when people are thinking about all they have to be thankful for, so it's the perfect time to take easy steps that will help the environment, which has given us so much," said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense. "For example, when preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, remember to buy food items that use the least amount of packaging and look for packaging that contains recycled, post-consumer content."

"If there are a lot of leftovers after Thanksgiving dinner, use this holiday as an opportunity to start composting food waste, and consider donating extra food to a shelter. For leftovers, stock up on reusable food containers that can save resources all year long," said Krupp.

Krupp said the new organic labels from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will make it easier this year for consumers to identify meat and poultry items raised without the routine use of antibiotics.

"This practice can help preserve the effectiveness of important medicines by not contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which is caused in part by the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture," Krupp said.

He also urged diners not to use disposable utensils, plates, napkins or tablecloths during the holiday weekend, and to recycle beverage containers and aluminum foil used during the Thanksgiving meal and the football games that follow.

"Bringing out dinnerware and flatware for Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition that is also good for the environment," he said.

Another classic Thanksgiving tradition is driving to the celebration. "Considering the usual Thanksgiving traffic, public transportation may be the quickest way to get where you are going, while minimizing pollution," said Krupp. "If you take the car, carpooling is the best way to go and a good way to spend time with family and friends."

"Also, consumers should buy locally produced foods whenever possible so that less energy will be used for food transport," Krupp added.

Consumers can also opt to patronize stores that are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact, by investing in solar power, carrying more organic products, or phasing out genetically engineered ingredients.

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Turkey Dinners Can Carry Hidden Costs

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2002 (ENS) - Making responsible choices about food can lead to more humane treatment of animals while supporting family farms, protecting the environment, and improving human health, environmental and animal protection groups point out.

Options include choosing free range, organic turkeys or avoiding turkey altogether in favor of vegetarian alternatives.

"When people purchase organic or free range turkeys for their Thanksgiving dinner, they are supporting family farms where animals are raised in conditions that allow them to express more natural behaviors and live better lives," said Dr. Michael Appleby, vice president of farm animals and sustainable agriculture for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

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Most commercial turkey growers crowd the birds together in dirty, stressful conditions. (Photo courtesy USDA)
"Many people may not realize that factory farmed turkeys are crammed into such overcrowded conditions that their beaks are cut off to avoid injuring other birds," Appleby added. "Turkeys are bred to be so large that they develop painful leg and joint problems and often can't walk."

In the last 32 years, turkey production has more than tripled - some 270 million birds will be raised this year alone - to meet consumers' growing appetites for the bird, according to the National Turkey Federation. Last year, each person in the United States ate 17.5 pounds of turkey meat.

Most of these turkeys come from corporate owned factory farms, which raise thousands of animals at one time, producing tons of animal waste that seeps into ground water and ruins rural communities. Factory raised turkeys are fed antibiotics to compensate for the crowded stressful conditions, and to make the birds reach slaughter weight faster.

This practice can lead to antibiotic allergies in humans, and promote the development of antibiotic resistant diseases.

"The more often that bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the faster they evolve the ability to outwit those antibiotics," said Environmental Defense attorney and health expert Karen Florini. "It's estimated that more than two-thirds of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to healthy animals, including turkey flocks, and about half of those antibiotics are similar or identical to antibiotics used in human medicine. And therein lies the rub."

In contrast, birds raised as organic must have access to the outdoors, be fed only organic feed, and cannot be given antibiotics. Purchasing turkeys labeled organic or free range also supports family farms, many of which are fighting for survival in the face of takeovers by factory farms.

Another alternative to purchasing animals raised on factory farms is to plan a vegetarian meal. Non-meat turkey substitutes and other vegetarian products are available in almost any supermarket.

The vegetarian alternative is promoted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights group. In Greenville, South Carolina today, a PETA activist dressed as a giant turkey hobbled around on crutches to draw attention to the often crippling effects of factory farming on turkeys raised for Thanksgiving.

Turkeys on factory farms have been bred to grow so fast that their bones and leg muscles often give out under the stress of supporting their huge upper bodies, leaving many almost unable to stand.

"Thanksgiving is murder on turkeys," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of vegan outreach. "With fabulous faux turkey dishes like Tofurky and Unturkey and other vegan fare readily available, the holiday can be a time of thanks for animals as well."

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Eating Organic Offers a Variety of Benefits

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2002 (ENS) - A new study finds that children who eat organic foods have lower levels of one class of agricultural pesticides in their bodies.

University of Washington researchers conducted the study, which tested 18 children fed primarily organic diets and 21 children who eat mostly conventional diets. The study, published in "Environmental Health Perspectives," concludes that parents could reduce their children's exposure to pesticides by buying more organic foods.

Research by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) that supports these findings can be found on the website database FoodNews, at: http://www.ewg.org. The database includes the latest government testing data - 150,000 samples from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - on pesticide residues found on produce.

The website offers the first interactive tool allowing consumers to select specific produce, or fill up a virtual shopping cart, to see how many pesticides are found on those items. FoodNews then compares these items with their organic counterparts.

EWG is calling on the USDA to formally recognize the safety advantage of reduced pesticide exposure offered by organic food. On its website at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.asp, the USDA emphasizes that "USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food. Organic food differs from conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed."

At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is banning more and more pesticides from use on foods because they present unacceptable risks to children.

"In the past five years, the EPA has removed several dangerous pesticides from conventional food that organic food never had," said EWG senior vice president Richard Wiles. "Yet, even as EPA slowly bans pesticides that fail federal safety standards for children, industry lobbyists and their allies at USDA continue to claim that all pesticides in food are completely safe and that food without chemical pesticides is no safer."

Consumers can now choose organically produced meat, fruits and vegetables by looking for the new USDA organic label. For more information on organic labeling, visit: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/FactSheets/LabelingE.asp

For a list of farmers' markets and other organic food providers in your area, visit the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Eat Well Guide at: http://www.iatp.org/EatWell/orgResults.cfm

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Trader Joe's Phases Out Engineered Foods

SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 27, 2002 (ENS) - Trader Joe's, a national supermarket chain, has removed genetically engineered (GE) food from the majority of its store brand products.

In November 2001, Trader Joe's determined that a majority of the company's customers would prefer products made without GE ingredients. This month, the company announced it had almost reached its goal of eliminating GE ingredients.

"All new products introduced in our private label group are certified by our suppliers to be made without the use of genetically modified ingredients," Trader Joe's announced in a press statement. "Similarly, we have reformulated a large majority of our existing private label products so that they, too, are made without the use of genetically modified ingredients."

However, the company said it had found it more difficult than expected to find non-GE sources for some ingredients, "which has delayed completely reaching our stated goal."

"We continue to work diligently with our suppliers toward our goal of producing all private label products without the use of genetically modified ingredients," the company concluded. "We will report to you on our further progress in the first quarter of 2003."

Trader Joe's announcement comes at a time when an increasing number of U.S. food companies are questioning the use of GE food ingredients in their products. Almost three years ago, two other major U.S. supermarket chains, Whole Foods and Wild Oats, decided to eliminate GE ingredients from their store brands as well.

"Genetically engineered food poses unwanted environmental and health risks," said Heather Whitehead, genetic engineering campaigner for the environmental group Greenpeace. "Trader Joe's decision to remove genetically engineered food from its products demonstrates that food companies are becoming wary of the risks associated with these experimental foods."

Whitehead noted that several national surveys have shown that a majority of Americans want labels on their food products indicating whether or not they contain GE ingredients. For example, an ABC News poll last year found that 93 percent of Americans want labeling, while 65 percent said they believe that GE foods are not safe, or were unsure about their safety.

To find out which brands and labels are GE free, visit Greenpeace's True Food Network site at: http://www.truefoodnow.org

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Whole Foods in Los Angeles Goes Solar

LOS ANGELES, California, November 27, 2002 (ENS) - Environmentally conscious consumers in the Los Angeles region have a new alternative for reducing the impacts of their food buying habits - they can choose to shop at a partially solar powered grocery store.

Whole Foods Market«, Inc. has teamed up with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to create an on site solar electric power cogeneration system.

Under the management of California Associated Power, Inc, the cogeneration system was installed at the Whole Foods Market store in Woodland Hills, California, making the company Los Angeles' largest major retailer and nation's largest food retailer to introduce solar energy as 25 percent of its power source.

Under the LADWP's Solar Incentive Program, which provided more than $582,000 in incentives, Whole Foods Market brought together California Associated Power, Sunny Boy, Shell Solar (formerly Siemens Solar), The Gas Company and Sempra Energy to create a 108kW solar electric system to power the Woodland Hills store. The solar array, composed of Shell Solar« panels covering 18,000 square feet on the store's roof, turns the sun's energy into usable power.

The solar panels are connected to Sunny Boy(TM) power modules, which feed high quality DC power to the store's existing electrical system and to the utility grid at large. This innovative solar electric and lighting system maximizes the usable solar energy produced by the photovoltaic panels and increases the efficiency of power conversion.

"We are a company actively looking for ways to help preserve our planet's natural resources, and natural solar powered lighting systems made sense both from an economic and an environmental standpoint," said Michael Besancon, Southern Pacific regional president of Whole Foods Market. "Most importantly, this initiative is helping us to further our corporate mission of preserving the environment by promoting clean energy. We are planning to implement this technology with other stores throughout the Southern Pacific region."

The project partners the world's largest natural and organic supermarket with the nation's largest municipally owned utility.

"I'm pleased that this highly regarded retailer and the LADWP are partnering to craft a smart energy solution that makes sense for our community and the environment," noted David Wiggs, general manager at LADWP.

Whole Foods Market's new solar electrical system is expected to deliver both economic and environmental benefits. The system will produce and save more than three million kilowatt hours of electricity over 20 years, avoiding more than 2,000 tons of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of removing 536 cars from the roadways.

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Start The Season With Pennies for the Planet

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2002 (ENS) - The World Wildlife Fund is encouraging children around the United States to start the holiday season with a new tradition - collecting Pennies for the Planet.

Pennies for the Planet is an annual children's campaign started in 1994, linking environmental education with environmental action. The campaign aims to get kids excited about conservation, encourage them to learn more about the importance of protecting biodiversity, and show them that they can make a difference both locally and globally.

Since its inception, tens of thousands of children have participated in a variety of environmentally inspired community activities. In last year's campaign, kids raised more than 2.6 million pennies.

The donations will go to help protect greater one-horned rhinos in Asia's Terai Arc and to produce a documentary film on the remarkable biodiversity of the Klamath-Siskiyou Coniferous Forests of Oregon and California. Pennies will also fund college scholarships for promising high school graduates from the Galapagos Islands wanting to study conservation in Ecuador.

This year, every penny raised will benefit World Wildlife Fund (WWF) field projects in the Atlantic Forest of South America, the Miombo Woodlands of Southern Africa, and the Everglades and South Florida.

"We are amazed and inspired by the dedication of the thousands of young people who have taken part in this program," said Ethan Taylor, WWF's Pennies for the Planet coordinator. "And we look forward to seeing all the creative ways that kids get involved this year."

Free copies of this year's Pennies for the Planet posters are available by visiting: http://www.worldwildlife.org/windows/pennies, or writing to World Wildlife Fund, Attn: Pennies for the Planet, 1250 24th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20037.

The posters include instructions for how to participate in the campaign, along with activity ideas that link local conservation issues with international efforts to protect the planet's biodiversity. Donated pennies can be sent to WWF for the 2002/2003 campaign through August 31, 2003.

Kids can now also donate pennies to WWF at Coinstarę machines located in their local supermarkets. To donate, follow the screen prompts on the Coinstarę machine to the section for charity donations. Enter the WWF charity code (8888) and the coins will be donated to the Pennies for the Planet campaign.

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Fur Free Friday Will Follow Thanksgiving

SILVER SPRINGS, Maryland, November 27, 2002 (ENS) - On the day after Thanksgiving - traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year - The Fund for Animals will hold demonstrations at Neiman Marcus stores across the country to protest their sale of fur.

As part of a nationwide campaign to persuade the upscale department store chain to stop selling fur, The Fund for Animals has declared November 29 as "Fur-Free Friday." The group will hold protests, silent vigils, mock funeral processions, and other events - for the first time, targeting more than 20 Neiman Marcus stores across the nation at the same time.

"With the many warm and fashionable alternatives available, there is simply no reason to sell fur," said Pierre Grzybowski, grassroots coordinator for The Fund. "Neiman Marcus should be a trendsetter in the fashion industry, and should spare millions of animals from cruel and unnecessary deaths. Being a socially responsible company means putting an end to animal cruelty."

The Fund says that animals raised on fur factories are confined to tiny cages until they are put out of their misery by gassing or anal electrocution. Trapped animals may suffer for days in steel jawed leghold traps, sometimes gnawing off their own limbs to escape.

Leghold traps also maim and kill non-target animals such as endangered species and family dogs and cats.

Last fall, a Decision Research poll of high income shoppers, conducted in four metropolitan areas where Neiman Marcus has stores, revealed that a majority of consumers consider selling fur to be socially irresponsible. By more than a four-to-one margin, consumers prefer to shop at stores that do not sell fur.

For more information on the campaign, visit: http://www.NeimanCarcass.com