Although this was a random sampling, few fairgoers seemed all that worked up over biotechnology crops.

Billed as one of the largest fairs in the country, the Minnesota State Fair has now pretty much turned into a city fair filled with city consumers.

Still, what better place to try and get a pulse on consumers' fears about food safety. Or, should I say lack of concern about food safety.

The Minnesota Soybean Association exhibit drew thousands of fairgoers. Despite the turnout, only a couple of folks had any questions - at all - about genetically enhanced crops.

At the nearby Minnesota Beef Council booth, where they handed out irradiated beef samples, the same was true. Few people had even heard of irradiation and even fewer seemed to have any concerns about it.

Knowing how rigidly the U.S. food system is regulated, how worried are we about food safety? If you use the Minnesota example, not very. Again, a random fair pulse is not scientific, but it's a bit of a barometer.

Maybe consumers in other countries should take note. In Japan, where biotech labeling officially kicks in April 2001, there are far bigger worries.

A recent Associated Press story reports food safety concerns there have grown so strong that they're being debated on the parliament floor. But they're not arguing about biotech crops. They're debating a rash of appetite killers like contaminated milk, dead lizards in potato chips and flies in canned juice.

Those, indeed, are food safety issues.

So maybe they're putting the proverbial cart before the horse by moving so rapidly into the biotech control arena. They've got more pressing consumer concerns over food safety issues to deal with first.

Soybean Cyst Nematode Coalition Folds Kudos to the three-year-old SCN Coalition that's formally disbanding. The fight against SCN, which robs producers of nearly $1 billion a year in lost yield, is still being fought by you, researchers and industry partners.

The coalition did its job and raised awareness. In fact, since its inception in 1997, over 72,000 soil samples have been taken to help diagnose SCN.

So, on behalf of the coalition, keep up the battle. For more details, contact The SCN Coalition, P.O. Box 381, Jefferson, WI 53549; or call toll-free 877-726-8378; or check out the 'net at www.scncoalition.com.