March 20, at Benaroya Hall, Starbucks' annual meeting will feature a new protest twist: the Frankenbean.

A group called the Organic Consumers Association is joining with other Starbucks critics to mount protests Tuesday in front of Starbucks outlets in over 100 U.S. cities. The group wants Starbucks to stop using genetically modified ingredients in the baked goods and dairy products it sells and to agree not to sell genetically modified coffee.

Starbucks has become the latest consumer target in a food movement that is rocking Europe and most of the rest of the world, but which is only slowly gathering steam in the United States—where the problem is biggest. With the eager complicity of giant food producers and federal regulators, genetically modified ingredients are now part of an estimated two-thirds of all foods in the U.S. While the battle in other countries is to keep such foods off the shelf, here it's to keep them from monopolizing the food supply.

"European governments are being far more rational and sensible than we are," says Phil Bereano, a professor of technology and public policy at the University of Washington. "They are insisting on prior testing, and they are insisting on labeling."

Here, by contrast, a steady revolving door links giants like Monsanto with government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration; for example, Bush's new secretary of agriculture, Ann Veneman, formerly worked in the genetically engineered food industry.

"The U.S. position is dictated on business emotionalism, not on a scientific basis and no funding is going into investigating risk," says Bereano. In other words, we're all guinea pigs.

Food safety advocates hope protests like the one at Starbucks will raise awareness of the dangers of genetically modified food and start consumers demanding that food producers serve "real" food. Let's hope consumer revulsion will eventually force labeling and choice in the U.S.—just as it is doing in Europe. The reason is fairly simple: I don't wanna put that shit in my body. Do you?

The Joel Report

Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I senior national reporter, renewed a favorite theme last week by unleashing a 29-paragraph jihad against what he terms Seattle's "loony left," primarily in defense of . . . Al Gore. (Gore, you'll remember, ran for president last year.) I'm honored to be included: "Gore was excoriated by the everybody-is-a-sellout-but-us radical columnists in the Seattle Weekly."

I must have struck a nerve. Of course, I'm not about to defend every loony in Connelly's self-defined left; some are, indeed, misinformed, misguided, obnoxious, and wrong.

Just like Joel.

Connelly belatedly attributes last fall's lefty Gore-bashing, while Bush went largely unbashed here, to the fact that sitting vice presidents usually bring people into the streets. He also explains that zealots like me have no patience for "moderate reformers"—as though Gore had ever worked to reform anything in the previous eight years, or in his career. (Oops, forgot about welfare.)

The left hit Gore for two reasons. Gore, unlike Bush, was pretending to be something he politically had never been: a populist defending the American people from the ravages of big business. Secondly, it didn't occur to many scornful lefties that anyone would vote for Bush. (That's not loony, just naive.)

Connelly also manages to misreport the results: "Nader absolutists . . . swung the election" to Bush by drawing votes in Florida and New Hampshire that rightfully belonged to Al.

He is resorting to a patently idiotic clich魭Gore beat Gore. In Florida, Nader got 90,000 votes; meanwhile, 1 million Florida Democrats chose Bush. Like the Republicans say: Get over it.

Connelly's scattershot blasts aren't new. Generally, he ignores any people or views more populist than the corporate wing of the Democratic party, but every few months he stops writing hagiographies about major party fund-raisers long enough to erect and destroy some "left" straw person. Connelly is a very good reporter—when dealing with folks of high enough station to keep his arrogance in check. But rather than grill VIPs, he instead misrepresents and lambastes ordinary citizens he disagrees with. Guess hanging around all those Really Important People has rubbed off.

Mea culpa

I dropped Joel Robert Silvesan's surname in my column last week on the bicyclist's death. My deepest apologies to Silvesan's family; in this tragedy, they've been traumatized enough by Seattle media without having their name erased.

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