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Public Citizen Praises UC Berkeley Students for Stance on Irradiated Food, Urges University to Enact Ban

March 7, 2002

Public Citizen Praises UC Berkeley Students for Stance on Irradiated Food, Urges University to Enact Ban

Students Call for University to Ban Purchase and Use of Irradiated Food

OAKLAND, Calif. ? Public Citizen today applauded the University of California-Berkeley student government for calling for a campuswide ban on irradiated food and urged university officials to heed the call.

In an unprecedented action on Wednesday night, the Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley passed legislation calling for the ban. The students resolved to write a letter urging Nancy Jurich, director of dining services, to ensure that the university does not purchase irradiated food. It is unknown how much irradiated food the school purchases now.

“The federal government has not adequately tested irradiated foods, and students shouldn?t be eating this stuff until health agencies take the time to test these products,” said Ian Sitton, an organizer with Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy organization. “When the government approved irradiation, it relied on studies done in the 1970s, and that?s just not good enough.”

Said Jessica Quindel, the bill?s co-author, “Although it is a shame that the impact of the policy this bill recommends will be limited to the food providers that operate within the sphere of influence of UC Berkeley student government, we believe this action will protect students? health.”

Students are exploring ways to broaden the bill?s impact by persuading university officials to urge other UC campuses to take similar actions. Berkeley students are joining a growing number of individuals and organizations calling for the federal government to let the precautionary principle, which requires proof of safety before use, guide decisions about food safety policy. The federal government has approved irradiation despite inadequate testing and evidence that irradiation may create harmful chemicals.

At UC Berkeley, student activist groups are educating students about food irradiation and connecting it to a broad range of issues, including a lack of labeling of genetically modified foods, the potential long-term health effects of consuming food grown using pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, and the benefits of fair trade coffee.

“This bill is an important step toward students retaking control of the food we eat,” said bill co-author Joseph Harrison. “Once people come to understand how irradiation creates dangerous new compounds, destroys the nutritional value of food, is a leading factor in the globalization of agriculture, and is destroying our sustainable localized farming systems, the special interests that drive this industry won?t have a leg to stand on.”