The science journal Nature has disavowed a controversial biotech corn article it published last year. A Nature spokesman termed the magazine's retraction of the story by the University of California-Berkley's David Quist and Ignacio Chapela “unprecedented.” The Washington Post reports that editors disavowed the article due to poor research.

That article had reported that corn from the southern state of Oaxaca contained genetically modified material, although Mexico has prohibited all engineered corn since 1998. The study also claimed that the genes spliced into corn plants were unstable, a finding that challenged a basic assumption about the workings of agricultural biotechnology. Anti-biotech activists embraced the study as confirmation that the technology was spreading in uncontrolled and unapproved ways.


McDonald's could join Burger King, Wendy's, Hardee's, Jack in the Box and Taco Bell in using imported beef. The number-one, quick-service chain with more than 13,000 locations in the U.S. is testing imported beef in the Southeast, reports Cattle Buyers Weekly (CBW). The Associated Press reports the imported beef is being tested in 400 outlets.

The patties being served in test markets in Virginia and south Florida include up to 15% imported beef and are being produced by Golden State Foods in Conyers, GA, using both Australian and New Zealand beef, CBW reports. McDonald's says the test is necessary due to a shortage of lean domestic beef. In addition, the firm says that its use of 100% domestic beef puts it at a competitive disadvantage to other major U.S. chains that have been serving the cheaper foreign product for years.

Beef imports won't increase as a result of the McDonald's announcement, says Chuck Lambert, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) chief economist. The only change is that McDonald's now will be competing with other users to buy a limited supply of imported product.

Australia and New Zealand (NZ), primary suppliers of lean grinding beef, supplied more than 56% of all beef imported by the U.S. in 2001. Tariff rate quotas (TRQs) restrict U.S. beef imports from Australia and NZ. In 2001, Australia filled its TRQ and NZ filled 97% of its TRQ.

Lambert says NCBA is concerned the two countries will use the McDonald's announcement as a reason to ask for early increases in their TRQs. He urges concerned producers to contact the congress and administration to support NCBA in opposing TRQ increases.

“NCBA's position is clear,” Lambert says. “We will not support increased access to the U.S. beef market until meaningful access and tariff reduction is achieved in other major beef importing countries.”


Check out the cattle industry's redesigned, more user-friendly Web site at www.beef.org. Supported by the $1/head beef checkoff, the redesigned site uses four search engines and is database-driven. That means all the information is connected, including attached documents, such as PowerPoint presentations and graphs, to allow for more complete searches.


Wal-Mart tops Fortune magazine's list of the largest publicly held companies in the U.S. Last year's number two, Wal-Mart traded places with Exxon Mobil Corp. in the annual Fortune 500 rankings by revenue figures published in the April issue.

Wal-Mart, headquartered in Bentonville, AR, had $219.81 billion in revenue in 2001, compared to Exxon Mobil's $191.58 billion, the magazine reports. Wal-Mart is the first service company to ever lead the list. The only other retailer in the top 20 was Home Depot Inc. of Atlanta at number 20 with $53.55 billion in revenue.

Rounding out the top 10 were GM, Ford, Enron, General Electric, Citigroup, Chevron-Texaco, IBM and Philip Morris.


Certain deer and elk species are banned from importation into Texas. The Texas Animal Health Commission and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department banned importation of live white-tailed and black-tailed deer, mule deer and elk to prevent the introduction of chronic wasting disease (CWD).

A fatal brain-wasting disease, CWD has been found in eight states, in either captive elk herds and/or free-ranging or farm-raised white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer and mule deer. Because there is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to other hoof stock, such as antelope, axis or fallow deer, those species will still be allowed to enter Texas if they meet state requirements for tuberculosis and brucellosis testing and veterinary examination.

CWD was first seen in captive mule deer in 1967 in Colorado. Since then it's been detected in free-ranging deer in Colorado, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Wyoming and South Dakota. The disease has also been found in captive elk or deer facilities in Oklahoma, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota. Free-ranging deer and captive elk herds in Saskatchewan, Canada, also have been affected.

CWD is triggered by abnormal prions in the brain and is confirmed through microscopic examination of brain tissue. Infected animals may incubate the disease for more than three years before exhibiting clinical signs that include drooling, excessive thirst, dramatic loss of weight and body condition, poor hair coat, staggering and finally death. Researchers suspect the infectious agent may be shed in urine, saliva or fluids associated with calving.

Compiled by Joe Roybal, jroybal@primediabusiness.com.