Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BUCHWALD NOW SUPPORTS NY GE FOOD LABELING BILL A3525B

Activists Rally in Mount Kisco for GMO Food Labeling


People rally in Mount Kisco to support the labeling of GMO food. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie















MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- A group of activists gathered Wednesday in front of Assemblyman David Buchwald's Mount Kisco district office building to support the labeling of genetically modified organism, GMO, food.

The rally, which included chanting and signs, came less than a day after Buchwald, D-Westchester, came out in support of a state bill that will require labeling. The bill is set to be voted on by an Assembly committee.

Although Buchwald was not at the rally due to a scheduling issue, a statement of his support was handed out by Daniel Weisfield, his chief of staff and press secretary.

Announcing his support, Buchwald stated, “I am pleased to announce that following discussions with Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, the sponsor of the bill, we have agreed on an amendment that encourages a federal labeling law. With inclusion of that amendment, I will be voting in favor of the GMO labeling bill when it comes to a vote in the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee. I want to thank all of my constituents who shared their views with me and helped make progress on this issue.”

Buchwald voted against a labeling bill last year. However, it was because it was introduced on a Friday and scheduled for a Monday vote, explained Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Yonkers-based Consumers Union. Hansen, who is one of the labeling supporters, also talked about how Buchwald had concerns but that they were met.

Activists were pleased with Buchwald's support.

“Very happy,” stated Stacie Orell, a campaign director for the group GMO Free NY.

“We're thrilled about it,” said John Ubaldo of Pound Ridge's John Boys Farm, who was among the folks present.

Alex Beauchamp, who is with the group Food & Water Watch and among those present at the rally, felt that with Buchwald's support there are likely enough votes to move the legislation out of committee.

Buchwald represents the 93rd district, which includes Mount Kisco, New Castle, Bedford, Pound Ridge, Lewisboro, North Salem, North Castle, Harrison and part of White Plains.

The bill's number is A03525B and its text is available on the assembly's website
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SOURCE:  http://armonk.dailyvoice.com/politics/activists-rally-mount-kisco-gmo-food-labeling

Monday, April 21, 2014

GROUND ZERO - GE CROPS - HAWAI'I OFFERS 3X BANG FOR BUCK

Hawaii is genetically engineered crop flash point

Associated Press 

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WAIALUA, Hawaii (AP) — You can trace the genetic makeup of most corn grown in the U.S., and in many other places around the world, to Hawaii.
The tiny island state 2,500 miles from the nearest continent is so critical to the nation's modern corn-growing business that the industry's leading companies all have farms here, growing new varieties genetically engineered for desirable traits like insect and drought resistance.
But these same farms have become a flash point in a spreading debate over genetic engineering in agriculture.
Kauai and Hawaii counties have moved in the past several months to regulate genetically modified organisms and the pesticides the farms use. In Maui County, a group is collecting signatures for a potential ballot measure that would impose a temporary ban on the crops.
"People are very concerned, and it's my job as a council member to determine whether those concerns are valid and take steps to protect them," said Gary Hooser, a councilman in Kauai.
Hooser and the council passed a law last year, over the mayor's veto, to require large farms to create buffer zones around their crops and to disclose what pesticides they use. The law is set to take effect in August.
Seed companies with Kauai operations — Syngenta, Pioneer, BASF and Agrigentics — have sued the county to stop the law, saying they are already regulated by state and federal laws and there is no need for additional county rules.
"We don't plant anything that isn't permitted and approved through the proper regulatory agencies, be it the EPA, the FDA and UDSA," said Mark Phillipson, the head of Hawaii corporate affairs for Syngenta, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Hawaii's origins as a critical node in corn production dates to the 1960s when James Brewbaker, a recently arrived researcher at the University of Hawaii, noticed he could plant three crops a year in Hawaii's warm climate instead of one as in most places on the mainland.
Around the same time, Pioneer Hi-Bred was trying to squeeze more research into a year by using greenhouses and farms in Florida. Brewbaker suggested researchers come to Hawaii.
Seed farms grew as research expanded and more land became available as Hawaii's sugar and pineapple plantations became less competitive in the global market and shut down.
As of 2012, the most recent data available, seed crops in Hawaii were worth $217 million, up from $140 million in 2007. About 95 percent of it is corn. In all, they exceed the value of the state's next several largest crops — including sugarcane and macadamia nuts.
Developing a new seed variety takes about 10 to 12 growth cycles, said Phillipson. On the mainland, this could take 10 to 12 years. Being able to get three to four growth cycles a year in Hawaii dramatically shrinks the time it takes to bring a new product to market.
"It's getting your newest and best hybrids to market quickly," said Richard McCormack, who leads Hawaii operations for Pioneer Hi-Bred International, which is part of DuPont and has farms on Kauai and Oahu.
New genes — such as those making corn resistant to drought or floods — are inserted in a lab on the mainland.
Once federal authorities approve new varieties for planting, they're brought to Hawaii for two growth cycles or crop seasons to see how they perform in an actual field. The best ones are sent elsewhere for more growing.
Syngenta, for example, sends its best to fields in Missouri, Manitoba, Canada and Mexico to make sure the corn is able to thrive in the soil, wind conditions and temperatures of these various places, Phillipson said.
Today, about 90 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered and has been developed partially in Hawaii in this way.
The discontent, however, has been simmering.
There has been little scientific evidence to prove that foods grown from engineered seeds are less safe than their conventional counterparts, but consumer concerns and fears persist — not just in the islands but around the country and rest of the world.
In Hawaii, residents have also expressed concern about pesticides used in the growing of seed crops.
Hooser said he introduced the legislation to get good information that would allow the county to determine whether the seed companies' operations were having any negative effect on the health of Kauai's people and the environment.
Hawaii County, which covers the Big Island, later adopted a law banning the cultivation of genetically modified crops.
The county created an exemption, however, for papayas already grown on the Big Island that have been genetically engineered to resist a virus that nearly wiped out the fruit in years past. No seed companies currently have farms on the island, so they're not affected by the law.
In Maui County, a group called Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina Movement is gathering signatures for a ballot measure to impose the ban until seed companies complete environmental and public health studies find their practices to be safe.
Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, both have farms in Maui County.
State Sen. Clarence Nishihara predicted the wrangling over genetically modified crops will continue, in Hawaii and around the country.
"There's no one side that's going to say, 'OK, we had enough. We've given up on the issue,' right?" said Nishihara, who chairs the state Senate's agriculture committee. "They'll keep fighting it. Isn't that the American way?"

Friday, April 18, 2014

ROUNDUP RESIDUES FOUND IN GE CROPS - NOT CONVENTIONAL OR ORGANIC

Crop dusting near Ripley, Mississippi, USA. Roger Smith via Flickr.com.'Extreme' Levels of RoundUp are the norm in GMO soya

Thomas Bøhn and Marek Cuhra

1st April 2014

To accommodate high levels of Roundup residues in GM soya, limits were raised 200-fold - with no scientific justification and ignoring growing evidence of toxicity. What Monsanto calls 'extreme levels' are now the norm - but only in GM crops.

MRL values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new scientific evidence, but in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in GM soybeans.
Food and feed quality are crucial to human and animal health.
Quality can be defined as sufficiency of appropriate minerals, vitamins and fats, etc. but it also includes the absence of toxins, whether man-made or from other sources.
Surprisingly, almost no data exist in the scientific literature on herbicide residues in herbicide tolerant genetically modified (GM) plants - even after nearly 20 years on the market.
In research recently published by our laboratory (Bøhn et al. 2014) we collected soybean samples grown under three typical agricultural conditions: organic, GM, and conventional (but non-GM). The GM soybeans were resistant to the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate.
All the GM samples had Roundup residues - the others did not
We tested these samples for nutrients and other compounds as well as relevant pesticides, including glyphosate and its principal breakdown product, Aminomethylphosponic acid (AMPA).
All of the individual samples of GM-soy contained residues of both glyphosate and AMPA, on average 9.0 mg/kg. This amount is greater than is typical for many vitamins. 
In contrast, no sample from the conventional or the organic soybeans showed residues of these chemicals (see Fig. 1 - above right).
This demonstrates that Roundup Ready GM-soybeans sprayed during the growing season take up and accumulate glyphosate and AMPA. Further, what has been considered a working hypothesis for herbicide tolerant crops, i.e. that, as resistant weeds have spread:
"there is a theoretical possibility that also the level of residues of the herbicide and its metabolites may have increased" (Kleter et al. 2011) is now shown to be actually happening.
Monsanto's claims
Monsanto (manufacturer of glyphosate) has claimed that residues of glyphosate in GM soy are lower than in conventional soybeans, where glyphosate residues have been measured up to 16-17 mg/kg (Monsanto 1999).
These residues, found in non-GM plants, likely must have been due to the practice of spraying before harvest (for desiccation).
Another claim of Monsanto's has been that residue levels of up to 5.6 mg/kg in GM-soy represent " ... extreme levels, and far higher than those typically found". (Monsanto 1999).
Seven out of the 10 GM-soy samples we tested, however, surpassed this "extreme level"(of glyphosate + AMPA), indicating a trend towards higher residue levels.
The increasing use of glyphosate on US Roundup Ready soybeans has been documented (Benbrook 2012).
The explanation for this increase is the appearance of glyphosate-tolerant weeds (Shaner et al. 2012) to which farmers are responding with increased doses and more applications.
Maximum residue levels (MRLs) of glyphosate in food and feed
Globally, glyphosate-tolerant GM soy is the number one GM crop plant and glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide, with a global production of 620,000 tons in 2008 (Pollak 2011).
The world soybean production in 2011 was 251.5 million metric tons, with the United States (33%), Brazil (29%), Argentina (19%), China (5%) and India (4%) as the main producing countries (American Soybean Association 2013).
In 2011-2012, soybeans were planted on about 30 million hectares in the USA, with Roundup Ready GM soy contributing 93-94 % of the production (USDA 2013). Globally, Roundup Ready GM soybeans contributed to 75% of the production in 2011 (James 2012).
Legal limits for glyphosate raised
The legally acceptable level of glyphosate contamination in food and feed, i.e. the maximum residue level (MRL) has been increased by authorities in countries where Roundup-Ready GM crops are produced, or where such commodities are imported.
In Brazil, the MRL in soybean was increased from 0.2 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg in 2004: a 50-fold increase, but only for GM-soy.
The MRL for glyphosate in soybeans has been increased also in the US and Europe. In Europe, it was raised from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg (a 200-fold increase) in 1999, and the same MRL of 20 mg/kg was adopted by the US.
In all of these cases, MRL values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new scientific evidence, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans.
Has the toxicity of Roundup been greatly underestimated?
When regulatory agencies assess pesticides for safety they invariably test only the claimed active ingredient.
Nevertheless, these do not necessarily represent realistic conditions since in practice it is the full, formulated herbicide (there are many Roundup formulations) that is used in the field.
Thus, it is relevant to consider, not only the active ingredient, in this case glyphosate and its breakdown product AMPA, but also the other compounds present in the herbicide formulation since these enhance toxicity.
Adjuvants and surfactants
For example, formulations of glyphosate commonly contain adjuvants and surfactants to stabilize and facilitate penetration into the plant tissue.
Polyoxyethylene amine (POEA) and polyethoxylated tallowamine (POE-15) are common ingredients in Roundup formulations and have been shown to contribute significantly to toxicity (Moore et al. 2012).
Our own recent study in the model organism Daphnia magna demonstrated that chronic exposure to glyphosate and a commercial formulation of Roundup resulted in negative effects on several life-history traits.
In particular, we observed reproductive aberrations like reduced fecundity and increased abortion rate, at environmental concentrations of 0.45-1.35 mg/liter (active ingredient).
That's below accepted environmental tolerance limits set in the US (0.7 mg/liter) (Cuhra et al. 2013). A reduced body size of juveniles was even observed at an exposure to Roundup at 0.05 mg/liter.
Regulators are relying an ancient, flawed industry studies
This is in sharp contrast to world-wide regulatory assumptions in general, which we have found to be strongly influenced by early industry studies.
In the case of aquatic ecotoxicity assessment, regulators based their assessments on 1978 and 1981 studies - presented by Monsanto - claiming that glyphosate is virtually non-toxic in D. magna (McAllister & Forbis, 1978; Forbis & Boudreau, 1981).
Thus a worrisome outlook for health and the environment can be found in the combination of
  • the vast increase in use of glyphosate-based herbicides, in particular due to glyphosate-tolerant GM plants, and
  • new findings of higher toxicity of both glyphosate as an active ingredient (Cuhra et al., 2013) and increased toxicity due to contributions from chemical adjuvants in commercial formulations (Annett et al. 2014).

8 out of 9 pesticides more toxic than active ingredients alone
A similar situation can be found for other pesticides. Mesnage et al. (2014) found that 8 out of 9 tested pesticides were more toxic than their declared active principles.
This means that the Accepted Daily Intake (ADI) for humans, i.e. what society finds 'admissible' regarding pesticide residues may have been set too high, even before potential combinatorial effects of different chemical exposures are taken into account.
For glyphosate formulations (Roundup), realistic exposure scenarios in the aquatic environment may harm non-target biodiversity from microorganisms, invertebrates, amphibians and fish, (reviewed in Annett et al. 2014) - indicating that the environmental consequences of these agrochemicals need to be re-assessed.
Other compositional differences between GM, non-GM, and organic
Our research also demonstrated that different agricultural practices lead to markedly different end products.
Data on other measured compositional characteristics could be used to discriminate statistically all individual soy samples (without exception) into their respective agricultural practice background (see Fig. 2, above right).
Organic soybeans showed the healthiest nutritional profile with more glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose, significantly more total protein, zinc and less fiber, compared with both conventional and GM-soy.
Organic soybeans contained less total saturated fat and total omega-6 fatty acids than both conventional and GM-soy.
Conclusion
Roundup Ready GM-soy accumulates residues of glyphosate and AMPA, and also differs markedly in nutritional composition compared to soybeans from other agricultural practices.
Organic soybean samples also showed a more healthy nutritional profile (e.g. higher in protein and lower in saturated fatty acids) than both industrial conventional and GM soybeans.
Lack of data on pesticide residues in major crop plants is a serious gap of knowledge with potential consequences for human and animal health.
How is the public to trust a risk assessment system that has overlooked the most obvious risk factor for herbicide tolerant GM crops, i.e. high residue levels of herbicides, for nearly 20 years?
If it has been due to lack of understanding, it would be bad. If it is the result of the producer's power to influence the risk assessment system, it would be worse.



Thomas Bøhn is Professor of Gene Ecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway. He is also afiliated to GenØk - Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway.
Marek Cuhra is a PhD student, Faculty of Health Sciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway. He is also afiliated to GenØk - Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway.
This article was originally published by Independent Science News.
References

  • American Soy Association, Soystats.  2013. 16-5-2013.
  • Annett, R., Habibi, H. R. and Hontela, A. 2014. Impact of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on the freshwater environment. - Journal of Applied Toxicology DOI 10.1002/jat.2997.
  • Aumaitre, L. A. 2002. New feeds from genetically modified plants: substantial equivalence, nutritional equivalence and safety for animals and animal products. - Productions Animales 15: 97-108.
  • Benbrook, C. M. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. - the first sixteen years. - Environmental Science Europe 24:24.
  • Binimelis, R., Pengue, W. and Monterroso, I. 2009. "Transgenic treadmill": Responses to the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass in Argentina. - Geoforum 40: 623-633.
  • Bøhn, T., Cuhra, M., Traavik, T., Sanden, M., Fagan, J. and Primicerio, R. 2014. Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. - Food Chemistry 153: 207-215.
  • Cuhra, M., Traavik, T. and Bøhn, T. 2013. Clone- and age-dependent toxicity of a glyphosate commercial formulation and its active ingredient in Daphnia magna. - Ecotoxicology 22: 251-262 (open access). DOI 10.1007/s10646-012-1021-1.
  • Duke, S. O., Rimando, A. M., Pace, P. F., Reddy, K. N. and Smeda, R. J. 2003. Isoflavone, glyphosate, and aminomethylphosphonic acid levels in seeds of glyphosate-treated, glyphosate-resistant soybean. - Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 51: 340-344.
  • EC . Review report for the active substance glyphosate. 6511/VI/99-final, 1-56. 2002.  European Commission. Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General.
  • Forbis, A.D., Boudreau, P. 1981. Acute toxicity of MON0139 (Lot LURT 12011)(AB-81-074) To Daphnia magna: Static acute bio- assay report no. 27203. Unpublished study document from US EPA library
  • Harrigan, G. G., Ridley, G., Riordan, S. G., Nemeth, M. A., Sorbet, R., Trujillo, W. A., Breeze, M. L. and Schneider, R. W. 2007. Chemical composition of glyphosate-tolerant soybean 40-3-2 grown in Europe remains equivalent with that of conventional soybean (Glycine max L.). - Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55: 6160-6168.
  • James, C.  Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2012. ISAAA Brief No. 44. 2012.  ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.
  • Kleter, G. A., Unsworth, J. B. and Harris, C. A. 2011. The impact of altered herbicide residues in transgenic herbicide-resistant crops on standard setting for herbicide residues. - Pest Management Science 67: 1193-1210.
  • McAllister, W., Forbis A. 1978. Acute toxicity of technical glyphosate (AB-78-201) to Daphnia magna. Study reviewed and approved 8-30-85 by EEB/HED
  • Mesnage, R., Defarge, N., Vendômois, J. S. and Seralini, G. E. 2014. Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles. - BioMed Research International http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/179691.
  • Monsanto . Residues in Roundup Ready soya lower than conventional soy. http://www.monsanto.co.uk/news/99/june99/220699_residue.html . 1999.
  • Moore, L. J., Fuentes, L., Rodgers, J. H., Bowerman, W. W., Yarrow, G. K., Chao, W. Y. and Bridges, W. C. 2012. Relative toxicity of the components of the original formulation of Roundup (R) to five North American anurans. - Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 78: 128-133.
  • Pollak, P. 2011. Fine chemicals: the industry and the business. - Wiley.
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THE "SKULL AND CROSSBONES" EFFECT and VERMONT'S H.112 28-2 VOTE

Monsanto and Big Food Losing the GMO and 'Natural' Food Fight

  • By Ronnie Cummins 
    Organic Consumers Association, April 16, 2014 
For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page, our Millions Against Monsanto page and our Genetic Engineering page.

After 20 years of battling Monsanto and corporate agribusiness, food and farm activists in Vermont, backed by a growing Movement across the country, are on the verge of a monumental victory—mandatory labels on genetically engineered foods and a ban on the routine industry practice of labeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural.”

On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed H.112 by a vote of 28-2, following up on the passage of a similar bill in the Vermont House last year. The legislation, which requires all GMO foods sold in Vermont to be labeled by July 1, 2016, will now pass through a House/Senate conference committee before landing on Governor Peter Shumlin’s desk, for final approval.

Strictly speaking, Vermont’s H.112 applies only to Vermont. But it will have the same impact on the marketplace as a federal law. Because national food and beverage companies and supermarkets will not likely risk the ire of their customers by admitting that many of the foods and brands they are selling in Vermont are genetically engineered, and deceptively labeled as “natural” or “all natural”; while simultaneously trying to conceal this fact in the other 49 states and North American markets. As a seed executive for Monsanto admitted 20 years ago, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

Proof of this “skull and crossbones” effect is evident in the European Union, where mandatory labeling, in effect since 1997, has all but driven genetically engineered foods and crops off the market. The only significant remaining GMOs in Europe today are imported grains (corn, soy, canola, cotton seed) primarily from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. These grains are used for animal feed, hidden from public view by the fact that meat, dairy and eggs derived from animals fed GMOs do not yet have to be labeled in the EU.

Given the imminent passage of the Vermont legislation and the growing strength of America’s anti-GMO and pro-organic Movement, the Gene Giants—Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, BASF, and Syngenta—and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), representing Big Food, find themselves in a difficult position. Early polls indicate that Oregon voters will likely pass a ballot initiative on Nov. 4, 2014, to require mandatory labeling of GMOs in Oregon. Meanwhile, momentum for labeling continues to gather speed in other states as well.

Connecticut and Maine have already passed GMO labeling laws, but these laws contain “trigger” clauses, which prevent them from going into effect until other states mandate labeling as well. Vermont’s law does not contain a “trigger” clause. As soon as the governor signs it, it will have the force of law.

Divisions Between Big Food and the Gene Giants

Given what appears to be the inevitable victory of the consumer Right-to-know Movement, some of the U.S.’s largest food companies have quietly begun distancing themselves from Monsanto and the genetic engineering lobby. General Mills, Post Foods, Chipotle, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and others have begun to make changes in their supply chains in order to eliminate GMOs in some or all of their products. Several hundred companies have enrolled in the Non-GMO Project so they can credibly market their products as GMO-free.

At least 30 members (10 percent of the total membership) of the GMA who contributed money to defeat Proposition 37 in California in November 2012, have held back on making further contributions to stop labeling initiatives in other states. Among the apparent defectors in the GMA ranks are: Mars, Unilever, Smithfield, Heinz, Sara Lee, Dole, Wrigley, and Mead Johnson.  Under pressure from the Organic Consumers Association, Dr. Anthony Weil’s natural health and supplements company, Weil Lifestyle, pulled out of the GMA.

Meanwhile a number of the Gene Giants themselves, including Monsanto, appear to be slowly decreasing their investments in gene-spliced GMOs, while increasing their investments in more traditional, and less controversial, cross-breeding and hybrid seed sales.  Still, don’t expect the Gene Giants to give up on the GMO seeds and crops already in production, especially Roundup Ready and Bt-spliced crops, nor those in the pipeline such as 2,4-D “Agent Orange” and Dicamba-resistant corn and soybeans, GE rice, and “RNA interference” crops such as non-browning apples, and fast-growing genetically engineered trees.

America’s giant food companies and their chemical industry allies understand the threat posed by truthful labeling of GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, growth promoters and toxic chemicals. They understand full well that the GMO monocrops and factory farms that dominate U.S. agriculture not only pose serious health and environmental hazards, but represent a significant public relations liability as well.

This is why the food and GE giants are threatening to sue Vermont and any other state that dares to pass a GMO labeling bill, even though industry lawyers have no doubt informed them that they are unlikely to win in federal court.

This is also why corporate agribusiness is supporting “Ag Gag” state laws making it a crime to photograph or film on factory farms. Why they’re lobbying for state laws that take away the rights of counties and local communities to regulate agricultural practices. And why they’re supporting secret international trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will, among other provisions, enable multinational corporations to sue and eliminate state and local laws on matters such as GMOs, food safety, and country of origin labeling.

The bottom line is this: Corporate America’s current “business-as-usual” strategies are incompatible with consumers’ right to know, and communities’ and states’ rights to legislate.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Campbell’s, Safeway, Del Monte, Nestlé, Unilever, ConAgra, Wal-Mart, and every food manufacturer with GMO-tainted brands, understand they’re not going to be able to label their products as “produced with genetic engineering,” or drop the use of the term “natural” on GMO-tainted products, only in Vermont, while refusing to do so in other states and international markets. This is why their powerful front group, the GMA, is frantically working in Washington, D.C. to lobby the FDA and the Congress to take away the right of states to require genetically engineered foods and food ingredients to be labeled, and to allow them to continue to label and advertise genetically engineered and chemically-laced foods as “natural” or “all natural.”

Industry’s Last Chance: Indentured Politicians 

Conspiring with the GMA, Monsanto’s minions from both the Republican and Democratic parties in Congress, led by the notorious Koch brothers mouthpiece, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), introduced in early April in the House a GMA-scripted bill to outlaw mandatory state GMO labels and allow the continued use of “natural” or “all natural” product labels on a wide range of Frankenfoods and beverages.

The GMA’s federal offensive to prop up the dangerous and evermore unpopular technology of transgenic foods comes on the heels of two high-profile ballot initiative battles in California (2012), and Washington State (2013), where GMA members were forced to spend almost $70 million to narrowly defeat GMO labeling forces. The 15 largest contributors to stop GMO labeling in California and Washington include the following GMA members:

(1) Monsanto: $13,487,350
(2) Dupont: $9,280,159
(3) Pepsico: $4,837,966
(4) Coca-Cola: $3,210,851
(5) Nestlé: $2,989,806
(6) Bayer CropScience: $2,591,654
(7) Dow Agrosciences: $2,591,654
(8) BASF Plant Science: $2,500,000
(9) Kraft Foods (now in part Mondolez International) $2,391,835
(10) General Mills: $2,099,570
(11) ConAgra Foods: $2,004,951
(12) Syngenta: $2,000,000
(13) Kellogg's: $1,112,749
(14) Campbell Soup: $982,888
(15) Smucker Company: $904,977

The Fire Next Time

These “dirty tricks,” “dirty money” ballot initiative victories in California and Washington now ring hollow.  If Congress or the FDA, prompted by these same companies, dare to stomp on states’ rights to require GMO labels on GMO food, if they dare to repress the rights of millions of consumers to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered, they run the very real risk of detonating an even larger and more vociferous grassroots rebellion, including massive boycotts and a concerted effort to throw “Monsanto’s Minions” out of Congress. The widespread furor last year over the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” surreptitiously appended to the Appropriations Bill, and then, after massive uproar, subsequently removed, is but a partial foreshadowing of the turmoil yet to come.

Likewise Congress or the FDA should think twice before legally sanctioning the patently outrageous practice of allowing companies to continue to label or advertise GMO or chemically tainted food as “natural” or “all natural.”

Given the fact that 80-90 percent of American consumers want genetically engineered foods to be labeled, as indicated by numerous polls over the last 10 years, and given the fact that it is obviously unethical and fraudulent to label or advertise GMO or heavily chemically processed foods as “natural,” even the FDA has so far declined to come to the rescue of Monsanto and Big Food. In the face of 65 so far largely successful national class-action lawsuits against food companies accused of fraudulently labeling their GMO or chemically-laced brands as “natural, ”Big Food’s lawyers have asked the FDA to come to their aid. But so far, the FDA has declined to throw gasoline on the fire.

It’s clear why “profit at any cost” big business wants to keep consumers in the dark. They want to maximize their profits. The consumer, the environment, the climate be damned. But let’s review, for the record, why truthful food labeling is so important to us, the overwhelming majority of the people, and to future generations.

Here are three major, indeed life-or-death, issues that drive America’s new anti-GMO and pro-organic food Movement:

(1)     There is mounting, and indeed alarming, scientific evidence that genetically engineered foods and crops, and the toxic pesticides, chemicals, and genetic constructs that accompany them, are hazardous. GMOs pose a mortal threat, not only to human and animal health, but also to the environment, biodiversity, the survival of small-scale family farms, and climate stability.

(2)     Genetically engineered crops are the technological cornerstone and ideological rationale for our dominant, out-of-control system of industrial agriculture, factory farms, and highly processed junk food. America’s industrial food and farming system is literally destroying public health, the environment, soil fertility and climate stability. As we educate, boycott and mobilize, as we label and drive GMOs off the market, we simultaneously rip the mask off Big Food and chemical corporations, which will ultimately undermine industrial agriculture and speed up the “Great Transition” to a food and farming system that is organic, sustainable and climate stabilizing.

(3)     Fraudulent “natural” labels confuse consumers and hold back the growth of true organic alternatives.Consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as "natural," or “all natural”and those nutritionally and environmentally superior products that are "certified organic." Recent polls indicate that many health and green-minded consumers remain confused about the qualitative difference between products labeled or advertised as "natural," versus those labeled as organic. Many believe that "natural" means "almost organic," or that a natural product is even better than organic. Thanks to growing consumer awareness, and four decades of hard work, the organic community has built up a $35-billion "certified organic" food and products sector that prohibits the use of genetic engineering, irradiation, toxic pesticides, sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers. As impressive as this $35-billion Organic Alternative is, it remains overshadowed by the $80 billion in annual spending by consumers on products marketed as "natural." Get rid of fraudulent “natural” labels on GMO and chemically tainted products, and organic sales will skyrocket.

With the passage of the Vermont GMO labeling law, after 20 years of struggle, it’s time to celebrate our common victory. But as we all know, the battle for a new food and farming system, and a sustainable future has just begun.

Source:  http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_29781.cfm

Thursday, April 17, 2014

IT'S ALL ABOUT SEEDS

Global Peasant Movement Exemplifies Power of Organized Humanity

Commemorating the International Day of Peasant Struggle

Sadly, yet not unlike the inception of many commemorative days, the events that inspired the first International Day of Peasant Struggle were soaked with blood. It was April 17, 1996, a calm day in the northern Brazilian municipality of Eldorado dos Carajás, where the country’s most renowned social movement, the Landless Worker’s Movement (MST) had organized a demonstration against the federal appropriation of a vacant ranch where nearly 3,000 rural working families were living and cultivating the land. The protest turned violent when the secretary of public security ordered police to clear the roadway – “at any cost”. The operation was costly indeed: nineteen people lost their lives in that event that would come to be known as the Eldorado dos Carajás massacre.

Word of the massacre ricocheted throughout the world, particularly north to Mexico where the international peasant movement known as Via Campesina was gathered for its second conference in Tlaxcala. Via Campesina was only three years in the making at the time, but had already achieved much. The movement boasts a unique global base of farmers, fishers, and pastoralists, connecting labor movements, women’s organizations, and a host of underrepresented and mostly rural members. The conference in Tlaxcala, Mexico would prove to be historic – it was there that Via Campesina solidified its groundbreaking framework of “food sovereignty” – redefining the fundamental right to food to the advantage of food-producing peasants themselves.

But when Via Campesina’s leaders and organizers learned of what had occurred in Brazil that fateful day, their world stood still. Anything that happened within MST struck a chord within Via Campesina – the two groups were intrinsically tied from the moment MST helped pen the international movement’s founding documents. Via Campesina simultaneously grieved the loss of its colleagues in Brazil and reflected on similar incidents of violence against peasant activists in Latin America and around the world. The movement quickly recognized a public awareness gap that it was convinced could be filled by education and advocacy by and for peasants. Via Campesina spared little time and declared April 17 an annual celebration of peasants everywhere in honor of those killed in Brazil.

Fast-forward, and Via Campesina has grown to 164 member organizations in 73 countries as it marks its 20th anniversary. Peasants today are still routinely sidelined and harassed – despite the fact that their work accounts for 70 percent of global food production. With that in mind, the International Day of Peasant Struggle continues to be one of the movement’s key days of organizing and action. This year, Via Campesina dedicates its day of action to the defense of seeds.

From the beginning, control over seeds has been at the top of Via Campesina’s list of critical issues. Its relevance has heightened as transnational corporations have tightened the grip on a world food system characterized by the commodification of basic resources. At present, just ten seed companies dominate 67 percent of the world’s seeds – with Monsanto and its patents controlling 23 percent of the global supply.

"Seeds for us signify the basis of food sovereignty because they determine how we cultivate the land, how we eat, and also reflect our cultures and tastes,” said Guy Kastler, a Via Campesina leader based in France. “Farmers face increasing criminalization when planting their native seeds, even though that practice has always been the foundation of agriculture,” he elaborated. Diverse member organizations within Via Campesina employ various tactics to preserve indigenous seeds, from local seed banking to international seed exchanges. In the same vein, its activists strongly protest the spread of GMOs, pushing the envelope of food system change and catalyzing actions far beyond Via Campesina’s original base.

The world’s largest – and perhaps most important – agrarian movement has realized many victories in just over two decades of existence. With its efforts around seeds – and additional work on complex issues ranging from land and water grabs to trade and migration, Via Campesina’s base is no less threatened now than it was in Brazil nearly 20 years ago. While some view peasant agriculture as a bygone livelihood, and powerful political and economic interests are out to replace it, Via Campesina is taking calculated measures to ensure that today’s peasantry does not slip quietly into the night.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

VERMONT: CLEAN GE FOOD LABELING BILL MOVES AHEAD

The legislation is up for another vote in the Senate Wednesday before it goes back to the House, which passed a slightly different version last year. Gov. Peter Shumlin has indicated he’s likely to sign the bill.
Vermont Senate votes 26-2 for GMO labeling
Vermont one step closer to becoming first state to enact such a law
Apr. 15, 2014

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Sen. David Zuckerman ( P-Chittenden), right, talks with legislative counsel Michael O'Grady as the Senate debates the GMO food labeling bill at the Statehouse on Tuesday. / EMILY McMANAMY/FREE PRESS
Written by
Free Press Staff Writer

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Sen. Richard Sears,D-Bennington, stands to address the Senate as they debate the GMO food labeling bill at the Statehouse on Tuesday. / EMILY McMANAMY/FREE PRESS
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Lt. Gov. Phil Scott stands before the Senate on Tuesday as they debate the GMO food labeling bill at the Statehouse. / EMILY McMANAMY/FREE PRESS
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MONTPELIER — The Senate gave a decisive 26-2 vote Tuesday for a bill that would require labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, a strong indication that Vermont could become the first state in the nation to enact such a law.
“We are saying people have a right to know what’s in their food,” said Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Windsor.
Campbell and other supporters argued that they believe they have written a bill that is legally defensible. They nonetheless created a fund in the legislation to help pay the state’s legal bills, as many assume that food manufacturers will sue.
The bill would require food sold in Vermont stores that contain genetically modified ingredients to be labeled starting July 2016. The legislation is up for another vote in the Senate Wednesday before it goes back to the House, which passed a slightly different version last year. Gov. Peter Shumlin has indicated he’s likely to sign the bill.
Two other states — Connecticut and Maine — have passed labeling laws, but both delayed implementation until neighboring states join them, a strategy designed to insulate them from being sued. Voters in Washington and California defeated labeling measures there.
Supporters said they hoped Vermont would lead the way on the issue. “Vermont’s always first,” said Will Allen, an organic farmer from Fairlee, citing the state’s ban on slavery, passage of civil unions and same-sex marriage as other firsts.
Many foods, including an estimated 88 percent of the corn crop in the United States, contain ingredients that have plants or animals that were genetically modified, typically to increase disease resistance or extend shelf life. Opponents argue that the process may be harmful to humans. Supporters contend there is no evidence of that. Sixty countries, including the European Union, require labeling.
Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, noted as he introduced the bill on the Senate floor Tuesday that questions remain about the safety of the genetically modified foods because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relies on testing done by the food producers rather than independent sources.
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Sens. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, and Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, were the only votes of dissent Tuesday.
Flory, a lawyer, noted that Attorney General Bill Sorrell has said the state is likely to be sued. Senate Judiciary Committe Chairman Richard Sears, D-Bennington, conceded under questioning from Flory that if Vermont loses the case, as it did with a similar law that sought to require labeling of milk containing bovine growth hormones, the legal bills are estimated to be as high as $8 million.
McAllister, a farmer, argued that labeling will do nothing but mislead consumers into believing there must be something bad about GMOs, which he believes is untrue. “This labeling bill will not tell them anything other than ‘GMO something’,” McAllister said. “This does not educate them about what they’re eating. The nutritional value is exactly the same.”
Some senators who had been skeptical of GMO labeling said they were persuaded that their constituents want the information clarified on the food they buy. Senators said they were flooded with emailshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png and calls from people urging them to pass the bill.
Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, said he came to view labeling of GMOs as akin to the label that tells him how many carbohydrates are in a bottle of tea. That label gives him information without declaring that carbohydrates are evil, he said. “I know what carbohydrates can do to my body,” he said. “Some people in this room that’s exactly how they feel about GMOs.”
Under the bill, Benning said, the wording declaring that a product contains GMOs could be as small as the carbohydrate listing typically found on food packages.
Sen. Bobby Starr, D-Essex/Orleans, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he, too, had been unenthusiastic about GMO labeling, but at every public meeting he heard from Vermonters who wanted a labeling law. “Lo and behold, GMOs would float to the top of the debate within those meetings,” he said.
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Contact Terri Hallenbeck at 999-9994 or thallenbeck@freepressmedia.com