Archive for October, 2011


How to use a compass

Lesson 1 – Using the compass alone.

This is a very easy lesson, and I would say, not sufficient for those who would like to travel safely in unfamiliar terrain.

the directions The first thing you need to learn, are the directions. North, South, East and West. Look at the figure and learn how they are. North is the most important.

There are several kinds of compasses, one kind to attach to the map, one kind to attach to your thumb. The thumb-compass is used mostly by orienteers who just want to run fast, and this is the kind of compass most used. But for novice compass users I would recommend the third kind of compass. Let’s take a look at it:

You see this red and black arrow? We call it the compass needle. Well, on some compasses it might be red and white for instance, but the point is, the red part of it is always pointing towards the earth’s magnetic north pole. Got that? That’s basically what you need to know. It’s as simple as that.

But if you don’t want to go north, but a different direction? You’ve got this turnable thing on your compass. We call it the Compass housing. On the edge of the compass housing, you will probably have a scale. From 0 to 360 or from 0 to 400. Those are the degrees or the azimuth (or you may also call it the bearing in some contexts). And you should have the letters N, S, W and E for North, South, West and East. If you want to go in a direction between two of these, you would combine them. If you would like to go in a direction just between North and West, you simply say: “I would like to go Northwest “.

Let’s use that as an example: You want to go northwest. What you do, is that you find out where on the compass housing northwest is. Then you turn the compass housing so that northwest on the housing comes exactly there where the large direction of travel-arrow meets the housing.

Hold the compass in your hand. And you’ll have to hold it quite flat, so that the compass needle can turn. Then turn yourself, your hand, the entire compass, just make sure the compass housing doesn’t turn, and turn it until the compass needle is aligned with the lines inside the compass housing.

Now, time to be careful!  It is extremely important that the red, north part of the compass needle points at north in the compass housing. If south points at north, you would walk off in the exact opposite direction of what you want! And it’s a very common mistake among beginners. So always take a second look to make sure you did it right!

A second problem might be local magnetic attractions. If you are carrying something of iron or something like that, it might disturb the arrow. Even a staple in your map might be a problem. Make sure there is nothing of the sort around. There is a possibility for magnetic attractions in the soil as well, “magnetic deviation”, but they are rarely seen. Might occur if you’re in a mining district.

When you are sure you’ve got it right, walk off in the direction the direction of travel-arrow is pointing. To avoid getting off the course, make sure to look at the compass quite frequently, say every hundred meters at least.

But you shouldn’t stare down on the compass. Once you have the direction, aim on some point in the distance, and go there. But this gets more important when you use a map.

There is something you should look for to avoid going in the opposite direction: The Sun. At noon, the sun is roughly in South (or in the north on the southern hemisphere), so if you are heading north and have the sun in your face, it should ring a bell.

When do you need this technique?

If you are out there without a map, and you don’t know where you are, but you know that there is a road, trail, stream, river or something long and big you can’t miss if you go in the right direction. And you know in what direction you must go to get there, at least approximately what direction.

Then all you need to do, is to turn the compass housing, so that the direction you want to go in, is where the direction of travel-arrow meets the housing. And follow the above steps.

But why isn’t this sufficient? It is not very accurate. You are going in the right direction, and you won’t go around in circles, but you’re very lucky if you hit a small spot this way. And that’s why I’m not talking about declination here. And because that is something connected with the use of maps. But if you have a mental image of the map and know what it is, do think about it. But I think you won’t be able to be so accurate so the declination won’t make a difference.

If you are taking a long hike in unfamiliar terrain, you should always carry a good map that covers the terrain. Especially if you are leaving the trail. It is in this interaction between the map and a compass, that the compass becomes really valuable. And that is dealt with in lesson 2.

How to use a compass

Lesson 2 – Using the compass in interaction with a map

This is the important lesson, and you should learn it well.

It’s when you use both compass and map the compass is really good, and you will be able to navigate safely and accurately in terrain you’ve never been before without following trails. But it’ll take some training and experience, though.

First, a quick summary of what you will learn in this lesson:

  1. Align the edge of the compass with the starting and finishing point.
  2. Rotate the compass housing until the orienting arrow and lines point N on the map.
  3. Rotate the map and compass together until the red end of the compass needle points north.
  4. Follow the direction of travel arrow on the compass, keeping the needle aligned with the orienting arrow on the housing.

Here is our compass again:

The principles are much the same as in Lesson 1 but this time, you are using the map to tell you which way is correct instead of your intuition.

Take a map. In our first example, we look at a map made for orienteering, and it is very detailed. You want to go from the trail-crossing at A, to the rock at B. Of course, to use this method successfully, you’ll have to know you really are at A.

What you do, is that you put your compass on the map so that the edge of the compass is at A. The edge you must be using, is the edge that is parallel to the direction of travel arrow. And then, put B somewhere along the same edge, like it is on the drawing. Of course, you could use the direction arrow itself, or one of the parallel lines, but usually, it’s more convenient to use the edge. At this point, some instructors say that you should use a pencil and draw a line along your course. I would recommend against it. First, it takes a lot of time, but offers no enhancement in accuracy of the method. Second, if you have wet weather, it may destroy your map, or if it is windy, you may loose it. You should keep your map (preferably in a sealed) transparent plastic bag, and if it is windy, tied up, so it can’t blow away. But most important is that any drawings may hide important details on the map.

Time to be careful again! The edge of the compass, or rather the direction arrow, must point from A to B! And again, if you do this wrong, you’ll walk off in the exact opposite direction of what you want. So take a second look. Beginners often make this mistake as well.

Keep the compass steady on the map. What you are going to do next is that you are going to align the orienting lines and the orienting arrow with the meridian lines of the map. The lines on the map going north, that is. While you have the edge of the compass carefully aligned from A to B, turn the compass housing so that the orienting lines in the compass housing are aligned with the meridian lines on the map. During this process, you don’t mind what happens to the compass needle.

There are a number of serious mistakes that can be made here. Let’s take the problem with going in the opposite direction first. Be absolutely certain that you know where north is on the map, and be sure that the orienting arrow is pointing towards the north on the map. Normally, north will be up on the map. The possible mistake is to let the orienting arrow point towards the south on the map.

And then, keep an eye on the the edge of the compass. If the edge isn’t going along the line from A to B when you have finished turning the compass housing, you will have an error in your direction, and it can take you off your course.

When you are sure you have the compass housing right, you may take the compass away from the map. And now, you can in fact read the azimuth off the housing, from where the housing meets the direction arrow.

Be sure that the housing doesn’t turn, before you reach your target B!

The final step is similar to what you did in lesson 1. Hold the compass in your hand. And now you’ll have to hold it quite flat, so that the compass needle can turn. Then turn yourself, your hand, the entire compass, just make sure the compass housing doesn’t turn, and turn it until the compass needle is aligned with the lines inside the compass housing.
The mistake is again to let the compass needle point towards the south. The red part of the compass needle must point at north in the compass housing, or you’ll go in the opposite direction.

It’s time to walk off. But to do that with optimal accuracy, you’ll have to do that in a special way as well. Hold the compass in your hand, with the needle well aligned with the orienting arrow. Then aim, as careful as you can, in the direction the direction of travel-arrow is pointing. Fix your eye on some special feature in the terrain as far as you can see in the direction. Then go there. Be sure as you go that the compass housing doesn’t turn. If you’re in a dense forest, you might need to aim several times. Hopefully, you will reach your target B when you do this.

Suggested Exercise

Unfortunately, sometimes, for some quite often, it is even more complicated. There is something called magnetic declination. And then, for hiking, you wouldn’t use orienteering maps. And this is the issue for Lesson 3.

How to use a compass

Lesson 3 – Magnetic Declination

Unfortunately, sometimes, for some quite often, it is even more complicated. There is something called magnetic declination. You see, the compass is pointing towards the magnetic north pole, and the map is pointing toward s the geographic north pole, and that is not the same place. To make things even more complicated, there is on most hiking-maps something (that is very useful) called the UTM-grid. This grid doesn’t have a real north pole, but in most cases, the lines are not too far away from the other norths. Since this grid covers the map, it is convenient to use as meridians.

On most orienteering maps (newer than the early 70’s), this is corrected, so you won’t have to worry about it. But on topographic maps, this is a problem.

First, you’ll have to know how large the declination is, in degrees. This depends on where on the earth you are. Here in California it varies depending on where you are. Or somewhere on the map, it says something about it. One thing you have to remember in some areas, the declination changes significantly, so you’ll need to know what it is this year.

When you are taking out a course, you will do that more or less as described in lesson 2,
but this time, you must also look out so that you don’t align the orienting lines with the grid lines pointing west or east, or south for that matter. When you have taken out a course like you’ve learned, you must add or subtract an angle, and that angle is the angle you found before you left home, the angle between the grid lines or meridians and the magnetic north.

the directions

The declination is given as e.g. “15 degrees east”. When you look at the figure, you can pretend that plus is to the right, or east, and minus is to the left and west. Like a curved row of numbers. So when something is more than zero you’ll subtract to get it back to zero. And if it is less, you’ll add. So in this case you’ll subtract 15 degrees to the azimuth, by turning the compass housing, according to the numbers on the housing. Now, finally, the direction of travel-arrow points in the direction you want to go. Again, be careful to aim at some distant object and off you go.

You may not need to find the declination before you leave home, actually. There is a fast and pretty good method to find the declination wherever you are. This method has also the advantage that corrects for local conditions that may be present.

This is what you do:

  1. Determine by map inspection the grid azimuth from your location to a know, visible, distant point. The further away, the more accurate it gets. This means you have to know where you are, and be pretty sure about one other feature in the terrain.
  2. Sight on that distant point with the compass and note the magnetic azimuth. You do that by turning the compass housing so that it is aligned with the needle. You may now read the number from the housing where it meets the base of the direction of travel-arrow.
  3. Compare the two azimuths. The difference is the declination.
  4. Update as necessary. You shouldn’t need to do this very often, unless you travel in a terrain with lots of mineral deposits.

There are a few riddles and rhymes to help you remember whether you should add or subtract. I don’t know them. If you live in an area where you don’t go far for it to change between east and west, it is so small you wouldn’t need to worry about it anyway. So it’s best to just remember whether you should add or subtract.


You can’t always expect to hit exactly what you are looking for. In fact, you must expect to get a little off course.

How much you get off course depends very often on the things around you. How dense the forest is, fog, visibility is a keyword. And of course, it depends on how accurate you are. You do make things better by being careful when you take out a course, and it is important to aim as far ahead as you can see.

In normal forest conditions we say that as a rule of thumb, the uncertainty is one tenth of the distance traveled. So if it is like in the figure, you go 200 meters on course, it is possible that you end up a little off course, 20 meters or so. If you’re looking for something smaller than 20 meters across, there is a chance you’ll miss. If you want to hit that rock in our example you’ll need to keep the eyes open!

In the open mountain areas, things are of course a lot easier when you can see far ahead of you.


Get paper maps

Good Morning To All ! If you haven’t done so already, i suggest that everyone pick up paper maps. I will go into why a little later, but for now check out my next post on how to use a compass.

Europe is United: No Bio Food

Europe Is United: No
Bioengineered Food

By Elisabeth Rosenthal
International Herald Tribune
GENEVA — Some are smokers. Some drink too much. Some admit they love red meat. But virtually all shoppers here at the Migros Supermarket on the bustling Rue des Paquis are united in avoiding a risk they regard as unacceptable: genetically modified food.
That is easy to do here in Switzerland, as in the rest of Europe, where food containing such ingredients must be labeled by law. Many large retailers, like Migros, have essentially stopped stocking the products, regarding them as bad for public image.
“I try not to eat any of it and always read the boxes,” said Marco Feline, 32, an artist in jeans, getting onto his bike (with no helmet). “It scares me because we don’t know what the long-term effects will be – on people or the environment.”
The majority of corn and soy in the United States is now grown from genetically modified seeds, altered to increase their resistance to pests or reduce their need for water, for example. In the past decade, Americans have happily – if unknowingly – gobbled down hundreds of millions of servings of genetically modified foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there have been no adverse effects, and there is no specific labeling.
But in Europe – where food is high culture, if not religion – farmers, consumers, chefs and environmental groups have joined voices loudly and stubbornly to oppose bioengineered foods, effectively blocking their arrival at the farms and on the tables of the Continent. And that, in turn, has created a huge ripple effect on trade and politics, from North America to Africa.
The United States, Canada and Argentina have filed a complaint that is pending before the World Trade Organization, contending that European laws and procedures that discriminate against genetically modified products are irrational and unscientific, and so constitute an unfair trade barrier.
U.S. companies like Monsanto, which invested heavily in the technology, suffered huge losses when Europe balked. As part of a public relations effort, the U.S. State Department enlisted a Vatican academy last month as a co-sponsor of a conference in Rome, “Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology.”
In response to such pressure, the European Union has relaxed legal restrictions on genetically modified foods.
In May the EU approved for sale a genetically modified sweet corn, lifting a five-year moratorium on new imports. Last month the European Commission gave its seal of approval to 17 types of genetically modified corn seed for farming. But no one expects a wide-open market.
“We have no illusion that the market will change anytime soon,” said Markus Payer, spokesman for Syngenta, the Swiss agribusiness company whose BT-11 corn got the approval in May. “That will only be created by consumer acceptance in Europe.”
“There is currently no inclination among European consumers to buy these things,” Payer went on. “But the atmosphere of rejection is not based on facts. That is a political, cultural and media-driven decision. And so we are convinced that more and more consumers will see the benefits.”
Indeed, the battle lines between countries for and against genetically modified foods seem to be hardening. Several African countries, following Europe’s lead, have rejected donations of genetically engineered food and seeds. In Asia, reluctance appears to be spreading. While countries like China and India are enthusiastically planting biotech crops like cotton, genetically modified food crops are having trouble winning approval.
Africa’s rejection is based partly on health and local environmental concerns, but also on economic interests: Zambia and Mozambique have discovered a good market in selling unmodified grain and soy to Europe, supplanting the United States as European suppliers.
Mauro Albrizio, vice president of the European Environmental Bureau, a policy group based in Brussels, said: “In the U.S., genetically modified foods were a fait accompli; here in Europe we succeeded in preventing that.”
Genetically modified foods arrived on America’s dinner plates with little fanfare in the mid-1990s as large-scale farmers in the United States enthusiastically started planting the seeds, which increased production and reduced the amount of pesticide required. Convinced that bioengineered food was “at least as safe as conventional food,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that a bioengineered lemon was the same as an ordinary lemon, and did not require special labeling or regulation.
Today, nearly two-thirds of the genetically modified crops in the world are grown in the United States, mostly corn and soybeans. “In the U.S., a large part of the diet is actually bioengineered,” said Lester Crawford, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug agency.
“The first thing other nations want to know is how many illnesses or adverse reactions we’ve seen,” he added. “But we haven’t actually had any problems at all with bioengineered foods.”
Vast amounts of money are at stake. Believing that genetically modified foods would quickly catch on throughout the world as they had the United States, large biotech companies like Monsanto invested billions of dollars.
Since the late 1990s the European Union has required that all food containing more than tiny amounts of genetically modified materials be labeled, and that all genetically modified products be submitted for approval before sale in Europe. No products were approved during an informal moratorium from 1998 to 2003. In the past five years, many parts of Europe have enacted local bans on growing such foods.
In fact, most scientific panels have concluded that “foods derived from the transgenic crops currently on the market are safe to eat,” in the words of a recent report from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization. But the report also cautioned that crops must be evaluated case by case.
And low risk is not no risk. The 87 member states of the UN-sponsored Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety required labeling this year of all bulk shipments of food containing genetically modified products. The United States has not signed the pact.
More important, though, is that the assessment of risk depends largely on the degree of proof that a country’s consumers demand.
“In their personal lives people take lots of risk – they drive too fast and bungee-jump – but for food their acceptance of risk is very low,” said Philipp H¸bner
of the Basel-Stadt Canton Laboratory in Switzerland, which tests products in that country for contamination with genetically modified organisms. But H¸bner sees his work as detecting fraud in labeling rather than as safeguarding the public health.
“For most scientists it is not so much a safety issue, but an ethical and societal question,” he said. “This is what the public here has chosen, like Muslims choosing not to eat pork.”
In a survey by the European Opinion Research Group in late 2002, 88.6 percent of Europeans listed the “quality of food products” as an environmental issue with health implications.
But health fears, which can move markets, are not always consistent. In some parts of Europe, like Bordeaux, that have declared themselves free of genetically modified organisms, energy is supplied by nuclear power plants.
To sell Sugar Pops cereal to European consumers, Kellogg’s imports unmodified corn from Argentina and spends extra money to make sure that the entire transportation and processing chain is free of bioengineered products, said Chris Wermann, a company spokesman. The same cereal contains genetically modified corn in the United States. Both varieties contain all the usual sugars, artificial colors and flavors.
European advocates defend their right to be finicky. “This is not ideology – it’s a pragmatic stand because of potential risks to health and the environment,” said Albrizio of the European Environmental Bureau, noting that there is some evidence that genetically modified crops may trigger more allergies.
In terms of agriculture, there are some very clear-cut effects, since genetically modified seeds tend to spread in the environment once they have been planted, making it hard to maintain crops that are organic and free of genetic modification. Scientists call this phenomenon “co-mixing.”
To environmentalists and especially to farmers, “co-mixing” it is potentially devastating “contamination.” That is why the farmers of Tuscany and 11 other regions of Italy have declared themselves free of bioengineering.
In fact, European farmers and consumers have so far created a firewall against genetically modified organisms, one that the changing laws and World Trade Organization challenges may not breach easily.
“In theory you could sell GMO products here, with labeling,” H¸bner said. “But I’m not aware of any products that are now being sold, because no store wants them on their shelves.”

Are Bioengineered Foods Safe

Bioengineered Foods
Putting Consumer Health and Safety Last

Just when you thought you had mastered the intricacies of healthy eating, which foods to avoid for allergies or contaminants, and why organically grown produce is better, the food industry has spun us all a new, deeply dismaying twist.

They’re called genetically engineered organisms (GEOs): 36 common vegetables, dairy products, and many hundreds of processed foods now contain genes from viruses, bacteria, insects, flowers, even animals, and they’re now available, unmarked and unlabeled, on supermarket shelves across the country with the virtual blessing of the FDA and USDA.

We now have soybeans crossbred with petunias, tomatoes interlaced with virus genes, and corn, potatoes, and cotton enhanced with pesticide resistant genetic material. Industry estimates tell us that perhaps 60% of packaged foods, especially those containing soy or corn, contain GEOs.

The danger is that if you’re at all food sensitive, you may find your next serving of corn, soybeans, potatoes, or tomatoes may be a kind of Trojan horse, bringing all manner of unsuspected allergens and toxins (from the strange, unnatural gene combinations employed) into your body. It’s even more alarming to know that there has been almost no safety testing, no record keeping, and, since the altered substances are not listed on food labels, no way of recalling them if they prove harmful.

The result is that, as a consumer, you are not only exposed to new, unstudied risks from common foods, but you are now deprived of your right to make an informed choice when you select foods because you have no way of knowing which foods are genetically altered and to what extent. As things stand today, GEOs are all but unavoidable.

Your knowledge or consent or health never figured in the picture, and still don’t. According to a survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists of field tested food crops, 93% of genetic changes are performed to make food production and processing easier and maximally profitable, and only 7% are done to improve nutrition or taste.

“Roundup” Ready Tofu, One of the chief players in this on going adulteration of our food supply is the same archpolluter that brought the world Agent Orange, PCBs, and bovine growth hormone (rBGH): Monsanto, a multibillion dollar agribusiness corporation.

“Roundup”, a corn and soybean pesticide Monsanto developed in 1973, is now its major money maker, accounting for 50°/0 of its sales. In recent years, Monsanto found a way to bioengineer a new soybean with a built in resistance to the hannful effects of this pesticide.

Why? So farmers could use even more of this pesticide without harming their crops. The logic is straightforward if surreal: to design plants to adapt to chemical poisons. In fact, it’s estimated that 5w/o of biotechnology research is focused on creating plants that can tolerate larger amounts of pesticides. This could double or even triple the amount of residual pesticides found in the food supply and public water.

The new soybean, called Roundup Ready, is now under cultivation (accounting for 10% of the U.S. soybean crop in 1997) and in the U.S. food supply including, potentially, (once) natural foods such as tofu and soymilk. Just to make sure you can never separate the natural from the rounded up, Monsanto plans to mix its Roundup Ready soybeans unlabeled with other soybean varieties in bulk lots.

Since 1995, the amount of farm acreage devoted to genetically altered crops has soared. Today, it accounts for 12% of corn acreage, 30% of soybeans, and 40% of cotton. Monsanto has at least 75 field trials of new GEOs underway at 400 sites. Farm acreage devoted to GEOs was expected to double to some 60 million acres in 1998.

The Flavr Savr tomato, introduced in 1994 by Calgene of Davis, California, after spending $95 million in research, was the first genetically altered food to enter the U.S. food supply. Fried Gene Tomatoes, quipped Time in a report about the trend of producing better foods through genetic engmeermg.

Monsanto’s New Leaf potato is now on the market, it debuted in a Seattle (Washington) Safeway under the NatureMark label, featuring an implanted gene to ward offinsects. In 1997, nine million acres of corn, cotton, and potatoes were planted from seed carrying a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (the Bt gene), a synthetic version of a natural insecticide. In keeping with the skewed reality of GEOs, in 1995, the U.S. Environmental P’rotection Agency classified corn and potatoes with GEOs inserted to produce insect killing toxins as pesticides, rather than vegetables.

Mixing and matching pieces of genetic information (genes) from one kind of organism to another has occupied food scientists for years. Some call the results “frankenfoods,” after the laboratory manipulated l9th century monster, Frankenstein. Technically, the procedure is called horizontal gene transfer, taking a gene from one organism (firefly) and forcing it into another organism (tobacco). The term “hoDntal” refers to the fact that these genes would never, naturally, end up in these new orgamsms unless mechanically manipulated, as it were, sideways, across species, by humans.

But horizontal gene transfer runs counter to nature because it circumvents natural crossbreeding barriers and forces unrelated genes together into a single living organism now endowed with traits nature never intended. This procedure is radically different from traditional plant breeding, which works within species, not across species boundaries.

Some of the resulting transgenic species combinations are bizarre: trout genes in catfish, chicken genes in potatoes, human genes in a pig embryo. Foreign genes are also found in yellow crookneck squash (including two plant viruses), canola (rapeseed pressed for vegetable oil), cherry tomatoes, papaya, and mini peppers.

Jeremy Rifkin, writing in E: The Environmental Magazine, elaborates on the strangeness: “Scientists have inserted ‘antiEreeze’ protein genes from flounder into the genetic code oftomatoes to protect the fniit from frost damage. Chicken genes have been inserted into potatoes to increase disease resistance. Chinese hamster genes have been inserted into the genome oftobacco plants to increase sterol production. ”

What else is in the transgenic pipeline? According to Natural Foods Merchandiser, 3,000 varieties of plants and animals now contain genes from other species. New Zealand fish farmers are raising Atlantic salmon with a growth hormone gene from another fish species.

As of 1996, field testing was under way for more than 40 different transgenic crops, including grains, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. In the biotechnology laboratories, a human gene has been inserted into salmon, trout, and rice; a mouse gene has been added to tobacco; and cucumbers and tomatoes have received genes from bacteria and viruses. According to Greenpeace, which is highly active in the campaign against GEOs, “tests for safety are terrifying lax” and once the new GEO crops are grown commercially, “the genetic industry will be testing them on us. ”

Who Cares If The Public Doesn’t Want It? Numerous public opinion polls in North America and Europe demonstrate strong opposition to genetically engineered foods.

A USDA study (1993) showed that 85% of U.S. customers want GEOs labeled; a 1997 study sponsored by Novartis (another agribusiness behemoth) found that 93% want labeling while 54% support organic farming over pesticide use or genetically engineered crops. In Canada, a poll by the Toronto Star (1998) reported that 98% want foods containing GEOs to be labeled.

A 1996 Gallup poll in Denmark found that 95% want foods containing GEOs to be clearly labeled while 68% would like to see them banned and 74% said they would choose traditional tomatoes over the GEOs, regardless of taste and freshness.

A multinational survey (1997) reported that the majority of Europeans are opposed to GEOs: Swedes, 78%; French, 77%; Italians and Dutch, 65%; Danes, 63%; British, 53%. An earlier study of Germans found that 78% were opposed to GEOs. Some 22% (1.2 million adults) of Austrians have signed a petition to ban GEOs and citizens in Norway have similarly taken consolidated action. In late 1997, one million Japanese signed a petition protesting GEOs in foods and demanded product labeling; 91% desired safety information. A June 1998 poll ofthe British found that 75% now feel GEO based crops should be banned until further safety research is conducted.

Some ofthe European governments actually heeded the opinions oftheir citizens. As of 1996, Denmark required labeling of all food items containing genetically engineered soybeans. In 1997, France passed national labeling legislation, mandating the labeling of all GEOs. That same year, Italy banned the growing of all GEO corn. Switzerland now requires all soybean GEOs to be labeled.

Other nations are currently considering restrictive legislation, but not the U.S. Here it’s free sailing for Monsanto, Novartis, and the rest, courtesy of those brain dead, taxpayer funded organizations, the FDA and USDA. There failure as “watchdog” agencies is why, in 1998, massive public outcry, was necessary to defeat (narrowly) new USDA definitions of organic that would have allowed GEOs to make the list, along with irradiated foods and those grown with reprocessed human sewer sludge.

The FDA says GEOs are “safe,” but they depend on the agribusiness companies themselves to perform premarket safety testing. FDA approval is required only if the proposed GEO contains a known tonn, new substances, known food allergens (from a group of ten), or nutrients that differ from the original food.

Companies are not required to publish the results of their safety tests. But these tests are all short term: Monsanto’s feeding tests for Roundup Ready soybeans, involving rats, cows, chicken, and fish, only lasted for ten weeks. It’s impossible to forecast or evan guess the long term effects, whether it’s ten years or two gensations, from using their GEOs.

Not only are agrochemical companies like Novartis and Monsanto keeping the public in the dark, they are quietly buying up the food industry to keep the public in their pocket. Monsanto, for one, has become a major playa in the global food supply system, selling seeds, patented GEOs, and pesticides, and key food items: potatoes, tomatoes, cotton, soybeans, canola, corn, and others. It’s an empire that affects billions of dollars of foods. The trend seems obvious: the biotechnology industry is rapidly gaining control of our food supply, from seed to food.

Undetected Allergens on the Loose. The fact is while we do not know the long term ramifications, we do have solid evidence already of the short term hazards of GEOs, based on two publicized incidences.

The first happened in 1989. A genetically altered form of the naturally occurring amino acid L tryptophan, produced in Japan, caused 27 deaths and 1,511 nonfatal cases of a disease called eosinophilia myalgia syndrome. Scientists later determined that the tryptophan had been contaminated with toxic “novel amino acid” not normally found in the amino acid.

The shocking aspect of this case was that routine food testing could not have detected any tonns or allergens in the tlyptophan. There is no test capable of determining the impact of this bizarre genetic combination on humans other than actual human studies. In a nasty sense, humans were used, involuntarily, as test subjects in this case. The FDA conveniently used this accident, not to restrict further GEOs, but to ban natural tryptophan as a dietary supplement for nearly ten years.

The second incident was reported in 1996, this time involving soybeans modified with genes from Brazil nuts. The altered soybean (developed by Pioneer Hi Bred) provoked serious allergic attacks in eight individuals sensitive to Brazil nuts but not soybeans.

In other words, the allergen from Brazil nuts was transferred to the soybean and produced an allergic response comparable to what it would have if encountered in the Brazil nut alone, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Obviously, nobody eats a soybean expecting to be ambushed by allergenic proteins from Brazil nuts, yet this is precisely what happened. “This study highlights gaps in our current knowledge of food allergies,” commented Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., in a NEJM editorial. “The next case could be less ideal, and the public less fortunate.”

“But it gets worse. Most biotechnology firms use microorganisms rather than food plants as the gene donors,” says Dr. Nestle, Neven though the allergenic potential of these newly introduced microbial proteins is uncertain, unpredictable, and untestable.”

The problem offood allergies in North America is already accelerating as more proteins (the source of allergens) are continually added to processed foods, and yet more allergens introduced through GEOs will only exacerbate this. People with less common food allergies (not on the FDAOs meager list) will be vulnerable to GEOs as will people with known food allergies who don’t know they’re eating allergenic foods. Further, as genetically engineered plants are specifically designed to produce larger amounts of proteins, the likelihood of allergic reactions is all that much greater.

There is yet another twist to the allergenic factor. According to Joe Cummins, Ph.D., a retired genetics professor at the University of Western Ontario, it’s called the “anti idiotope allergen” and it represents a new level of allergenicity.

When the body produces an antibody (defense protein involved in the allergic response) against an allergen, another antibody is produced against the body’s antibody; this is an anti idiotope antibody. Most GEO crops have genes enabling them to resist antibiotics; these genes produce enzymes that are similar to an allergenic antibiotic. “The enzymes will produce antibodies that are allergens,” says Dr. Cummins. “Thus most genetically engineered crops are likely to be allergenic to people sensitive to antibiotics. ”

Even so, food allergies are not the only risk associated with GEOs. For one, GEOs can increase the incidence of drug resistant bacteria, a phenomenon which has already rendered a number of once invincible antibiotics virtually useless.

One ofthe most common marker genes used as links in the horizontal gene transfer procedure confers resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin. According to Mae Wan Ho, Ph.D., writing in The Ecologist, “Geneticists have now linked the emergence of pathogenic bacteria and of antibiotic resistance to horizontal gene transfer the transfer of genes to unrelated species”

Further, Dr. Ho explains that the presence of antibiotics “typically increases the frequency of horizontal gene transfer 100 fold or more,” thereby setting up a kind of feedback loop (when combined with agricultural use of antibiotics and GEOs) with ever escalating unpredictable results. Genes do not get transferred only among bacteria, as most scientists believe, or want the public to believe, says Dr. Ho.

“Gene transfer is now known to involve practically all species of animal, plant, and fungus,” Dr. Ho notes. Antibiotic resistance marker genes already have shown up in soil fungi and bacteria. Genes inserted into rapeseed (canola oil source) to increase their resistance to herbicides have already naturally transferred to weed relatives, creating the possibility of superweeds that do not respond to any pesticides.

GEOs represent new organisms with unpredictable metabolic processes, capable of passing alien genes to future generations or related wild species, reports Greenpeace. Third, plants containing GEOs rendering them tolerant to pesticides (such as Roundup Ready soybeans), will probably lead to a giant increase in the level of toxins (including carcinogens) in the food supply.

Fourth, Gerrnan researchers developed preliminary data indicating Roundup Ready soybeans have elevated levels of phytoestrogens (the hormone estrogen in minute amounts in plant materials). Heightened dietary levels of estrogens have been linked with numerous women’s health problems, including breast cancer.

Demanding Responsibility to Public Health, Consumers, who are aware of the travesty under way in the nation’s food supply and awareness is a potent political weapon, are demanding that governmental agencies refocus on public health. Sometimes suing is an effective way to get a bureaucrat’s attention.

On May 27, 1998, the Alliance for Bio Integrity (ABI), based in Iowa City, Iowa, filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Washqton, D.C., alleging that current FDA policy, which allows GEOs to be marketed without testing or labels, “violates the agency’s statutory mandate to protect public health and provide consumers with relevant information about the foods they eat. ”

According to Andrew Kimbrell, executive &ector ofthe International Center for Technology Assessment, which is collaborating with ABI in the suit, “The FDA has placed the interest of a handful of biotechnology companies ahead of their responsibility to protect public health. It has made consumers unknowing guinea pigs for potentially harmful, unregulated food substances.”

Among other consumer political initiatives, Mothers for Natural Law, based in Fairfield, Iowa, is collecting one million signatures for a petition to the government, demanding labeling of foods with GEOs. Some are calling the advent of GEOs a threat comparable to, or even worse than, nuclear radiation.

For those who want to know now whether they’re eating foods with GEOs, Genetic IDa of Fairfield, Iowa, offers a genetic analysis of crops and foods based on a DNA scan to identify modified gene sequences. The test (about $365 for one item) was developed by John B. Fagan, Ph.D., a molecular biologist who is also an outspoken critic of GEOs. The test specializes in identifying foreign genes in soybean and corn derivatives including tofu and soymilk.

“With soyfoods, such as tofu, soymilk, and infant formula, if it is not made from organically raised soybeans, almost always it is contaminated with genetically engineered soy,” comments Dr. FagalL “We have tested the top five brands of baby formula containing soy and found that four had measurable levels of GEOs, and three had very high levels” The brands with GEOs included Carnation, Alsoy, Similac Neocare, Isomil, and Enfamil Prosobee; Eden Soy soymilk was free of GEOs.

According to Dr. Fagan, at least 40 foods bearing GEOs are now under development, awaiting approval, or already in the market, including abalone, alfalfa, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots~ catfish, grapes, lettuce, prawns, raspberries, rice, sunflowers, walnuts, and watermelons in other words, most of the fresh food items one is likely to fill a shopping cart with.

Perhaps Greenpeace’s call to action summarizes the problem most cogently: “Greenpeace believes the spread of genetically engineered crops with their potential for mutation, multiplication, and other unknown ecosystem effects are one ofthe largest aqwin~s with nature,. our food supply, and our health that humankind has ever embarked upon.”


  • Mary Scott, “Genetically Altered Foods: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions,” Natural Foods Merchandiser, November 1997.
  • Jeremy Rifkin, “The Biotech Century,” E: The Environmental Magazine, May/June 1998.
  • Julie A. Nordlee, et al., “Identification of a Brazil nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans,” The New England Journal of Medicine 334: 11 (March 14, 1996), 688 92.
  • Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., “Allergies to Transgenic Foods: Questions of Policy,” The New England Journal of Medicine 334: 11 (March 14, 1996).
  • Mae Wan Ho, “The Unholy Alliance,” The Ecologist 27:4 (July/August 1997).
  • Bill Lambrecht, “Monsanto Launches Field Trials to Jazz up Genes in Potatoes,” St. Louis Post Dispatch (Febnsy 15, 1998).
  • Philip Elmer Dewitt, “Technology: Fried Gene Tomatoes,” Time (May 30, 1998).
  • Marian Burros, “Biotechnology’s Bounty,” The New York Times (May 21, 1997).

For more information about consumer action initiatives against GEOs:

How to live in the wilderness

Living in the wilderness is pretty hard, but you can survive! This is a matter of opinion, of course: some of us watch the “Survivor” series on television just for laughs, because with so much food around them, the competitors should be eating like kings, but they haven’t a clue about living in such bountiful surroundings. Do not panic and everything will go okay.


Collect your belongings in a backpack that has everything you need, but easy to carry


Pick a safe, secure site where you can stay. Close to a water source, but far enough where you will not be in danger of animals or high tides.


Fire is the essence to comfort in the wild. Burning hemlock bows keeps away flies and mosquitos. When you cook with fire do not use flame, build a fire long before you eat to create a hot bed of coals, open flame will burn your food to a black crisp.


Find food. Do not eat anything unless you know that it is edible.


A lean to is an easy to construct shelter. Never sleep on bare ground, always make the floor of your shelter something like hemlock bows, leaves, or hay, you will freeze if you sleep on the dirt.


Stay calm and as relaxed as possible


Make water a priority. You can last without food for up to a month, but water is essential. Drinking purified water is critical. You can get many diseases from dirty water. You never know if there is a dead animal upstream from you. So purify all your water.

    • There are several ways to purify water. One is to boil it for 10 minutes. This is the easiest.
    • Another is to use iodine tablets (NOT liquid iodine from the drug store). Use according to directions.
    • Another is to use a water filter. Prefilter the water with a bandanna or other piece of material. Then use the filter on that dirty water. The minimum size filter you need is 1 or 2 micron. This allows particles of 1 or 2 micron in size to pass through the filter. The smaller the micron size, the better the filter, and the slower the water will come out.
    • A gravity filter is easiest. You pour the water in, do more chores, and an hour or two later return to find fresh water.
    • Keep separate “Dirty” and “Clean” water containers. NEVER get a single drop of dirty water on your clean container. All it takes is one drop to get deathly ill.
    • To sterilize your clean container again, boil it in water for 10 minutes. Make sure all parts of the container are under water while boiling.
Eating bland foods such as salt, spices and sugar will make you feel thirsty. You can collect morning dew from grasses and leaves with a clean cloth (rag) and squeeze it out into a container. It may not be the cleanest, but it will help to keep you hydrated.
Realize that different environments require different courses of action. Practice “survival techniques” at home before you need them: learn to eat insects and grubs, find ways to collect water and learn to make small, efficient fires. Then, when you do end up in the wilderness, you won’t be too bewildered (excuse the pun).

Carry pemmican (dried meat and rendered fat) with you whenever you go off on a trip. Make your own favourite recipe at home. It requires no cooking and if you have enough fat in the mix, will sustain you longer than any other “survival food”. You can live on it for months in any situation, even at home. If you find that there is animal tracks theres probably a source of food and water near by.