Friday, February 27, 2015

SAYING NO TO GMO - THE GROWING AMERICAN FOOD TSUNAMI


Allen Williams grows corn and soybeans for Clarkson Grain, which has been selling GMO-free grain to Japan for years.How American Food Companies Go GMO-Free In A GMO World





Allen Williams grows corn and soybeans for Clarkson Grain, which has been selling GMO-free grain to Japan for years. 

Quite possibly, you've noticed some new food labels out there, like "Not made with genetically modified ingredients" or "GMO-free." You might have seen them on boxes of Cheerios, or on chicken meat. If you've shopped at Whole Foods, that retailer says it now sells more than 3,000 products that have been certified as "non-GMO."

But where does non-GMO food come from? After all, 90 percent of America's corn and soybeans are genetically modified, and producers of eggs, milk and meat rely on those crops to feed their animals. Soy oil and corn starch are used throughout the industry. Can big food companies really avoid GMOs?

Looking for the answer, I ended up at one of the first links in the non-GMO supply chain: a corn processing facility just north of the small town of Cerro Gordo, in west-central Illinois.

A robotic arm at Clarkson Grain takes a sample of blue corn to be tested for GMOs.
A robotic arm at Clarkson Grain takes a sample of blue corn to be tested for GMOs.
 
 Truckloads of corn arrive here and stop at the "scale house," where they're weighed. A remote-controlled steel probe dives into each load and sucks out some grain for testing.
That's all standard at any corn handling facility. But at this processing plant, operated by Clarkson Grain, there's one more test: a quick, five-minute check to see if this corn contains specific proteins that are the signature of genetic modification.

Farmers have embraced these novel proteins; they protect a growing cornstalk from some insects, or weedkillers. So, at almost any corn processing facility in America, this test would come up positive.

But here, a positive test means rejection; the truck has to turn around and leave.
Clarkson Grain only accepts GMO-free grain because that's what its customers want.
"We don't tell people what their values should be. We inquire, and then we do our best to support those values," says Lynn Clarkson, the company's founder.

Clarkson has been in the grain business for 40 years. He doesn't seem terribly excited about prices and profits, but he loves to talk about relationships: about the customers and suppliers who've stayed with him for decades, or the telegram of thanks he got, years ago, after his first foreign deal. "That was the first compliment I had ever received in the grain business in 20 years," he recalls. "Most of us want to make money, but we also want to do something that somebody appreciates."

Lynn Clarkson founded Clarkson Grain, which accepts only non-GMO grain. i
Lynn Clarkson founded Clarkson Grain, which accepts only non-GMO grain.
Dan Charles/NPR
That story, and the story of Lynn Clarkson's company, helps explain how American food companies can, in fact, go GMO-free in a world filled with GMOs.
And the story starts years ago, long before any GMOs existed.

Lynn Clarkson was a small-town grain dealer looking for new buyers for his corn. He drove to Chicago to talk to food companies, and he realized that they had a problem. "If you ask food processors anywhere in the world, 90 percent of them will tell you there's too much variation in incoming raw materials," he says.
The corn that these food processors were buying wasn't consistent. They'd cook it and get widely varying results.
Clarkson told them that this problem had a simple cause. They were getting perhaps 30 different genetic types of corn in each shipment.

Clarkson also proposed a solution: "buying a single variety, a single hybrid, delivered at any one time, so you're not mixing different cooking characteristics."

Clarkson set up a system that allowed him to deliver exactly that. He signed contracts with farmers near his hometown of Cerro Gordo, agreeing to pay them a little extra to supply specific corn hybrids, or particular varieties of soybeans.

He delivered this uniform, predictable grain to food companies, first in Chicago and then to those appreciative foreign buyers — in particular, in Japan.

When GMOs came on the scene about 20 years ago, it turned out that his Japanese customers didn't want them. Japanese food companies were suspicious of the new technology and didn't want to risk a hostile consumer reaction.

So Clarkson tweaked his supply chain to deliver what the Japanese wanted. He made sure his farmers grew varieties that weren't genetically engineered. The non-GMO niche was born.
He wasn't the only one doing this. Clarkson shows me, on a wall map, the concentration of farmers who supply the Japanese market. Many are along the Illinois and Ohio rivers, with easy access to ships heading toward Asia.

There are thousands of them, and they're now happy to supply customers in the U.S., too.
"U.S. buyers often think that we're starting from scratch" with non-GMO grain, Clarkson says. "Well, we're not. We're starting from millions of bushels of demand that are in place and being satisfied on a regular basis for Asian clients."

Most of these farmers don't have any philosophical objection to genetic engineering. In fact, most of them grow both GMO and non-GMO crops.

Allen Williams, who grows grain for Lynn Clarkson, says the choice to grow non-GMO grain simply comes down to money. "You're just trying to improve your profit," he says. "There's not a lot of ways to do that, if you're growing commodities. This is one way to do that."
He'll sell his non-GMO grain for 10 percent or 15 percent more than the standard market price. But there are complications. Some of the extra income gets eaten up by extra costs. He'll spend more money on pesticides, for instance, for his non-GMO soybean fields.

He also has to make sure the grain he sends to Clarkson Grain doesn't contain any traces of his GMO crops. So when he finishes harvesting one of his GMO fields, he has to spend hours cleaning out his combine.

"You know, time is of the essence during harvest," he says. "So to take time during harvest to clean out equipment and storage locations and transportation equipment is very expensive for a farmer."

A GMO test kit in use at Clarkson Grain i
A GMO test kit in use at Clarkson Grain
Dan Charles/NPR 
 
Also, because corn pollen blows in the wind, he has to make sure his non-GMO fields of corn are a hundred feet from any GMO corn fields.
The separation doesn't always work perfectly. But Lynn Clarkson says the food industry is pragmatic; companies know that they have to tolerate small traces of GMOs. "It always comes down to: How do you define GMO-free?" he says. "What's the tolerance level? If it's zero, we might as well have a drink and part friendly, because we can't do business. We cannot hit a zero standard."

People just need to know, he says, that in the U.S., "GMO-free" means that something contains no more than 0.9 percent GMOs.

Demand for non-GMO grain is growing. Lynn Clarkson has told farmers that he'll buy about 25 percent more non-GMO grain next year.

At the company's modest offices beside the railroad tracks in the small town of Cerro Gordo, Wyatt Muse is fielding calls and emails. "We have everything from the home survivalist wanting a 5-gallon bucket for their basement, up to people wanting a Panamax vessel to ship it into East Asia," he says.

The latest query, sitting on Muse's desk, is from a snack food company in Europe. It wants non-GMO corn. "We're going to send one container next week, and assuming they like the quality, we would probably be doing a 100 to 120 containers over the next few months," he says.

In the world of international grain trading, that's still pretty small. But there's a potential development that could transform this small niche market, Clarkson says: a surge in orders for animal feed. A few poultry and egg producers already are going GMO-free; if others do the same, the non-GMO wave could turn into a tsunami.

Source:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/04/269479079/how-american-food-companies-go-gmo-free-in-a-gmo-world

GET THIS TO EVERY US LEGISLATOR! CONSUMER $$ DEMANDS FOR NO GMO DRIVING MARKET

GMO foods: What you need to know

Why is there so much fuss over genetically modified ingredients? This will help you sift through the facts.


Published: February 26, 2015 03:20 PM

Foods made with canola oil, corn, or soy often contain GMOs.

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It’s a growing controversy: Should GMO foods always be labeled so consumers are aware that the product contains genetically modified ingredients?

GMOs—or genetically modified organisms—are created in a lab by altering the genetic makeup of a plant or an animal. Ninety-two percent of Americans believe that GMO foods—widely found in kitchens across the country—should be labeled before they’re sold, according to a recent nationally representative survey of 1,004 people from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. (Last year our tests discovered that GMOs were present in many packaged foods, such as breakfast cereals, chips, baking mixes, and protein bars.)

Demand for non-GMO foods has skyrocketed: In 2013, sales of non-GMO products that were either certified organic (by law, organic products can’t be made with GMO ingredients) or that carried the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal increased by 80 percent, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. It has prompted a growing number of companies to avoid using GMOs in new products or to voluntarily reformulate existing ones so that they can sport reliable non-GMO labels. PepsiCo, for example, sells Stacy’s Simply Naked bagel and pita chips with the Non-GMO Project Verified seal; General Mills, which introduced a non-GMO original Cheerios cereal early last year, also has the non-GMO product lines Cascadian Farm and Food Should Taste Good.

Yet GMO labeling has become a hot-button issue: Vermont passed a GMO labeling law last April. Last fall, the question of whether food manufacturers should be required to list GMO ingredients on their product labels was put to voters in Colorado and Oregon. On both sides were strong arguments and a lot of money spent—mostly on the part of food and chemical industry opponents to labeling. (In the Colorado election, for example, they outspent labeling supporters by about 16 to 1.) The measure was rejected in Colorado, and it failed in Oregon by a razor-thin margin in a recount—837 votes. 

In an interesting twist, some food companies that expressed strong opposition to such mandatory labeling are the same ones turning out new non-GMO products. “They are experimenting, in case labeling does become mandatory and boosts demand for non-GMOs,” says Nathan Hendricks, Ph.D., an agricultural economist at Kansas State University. “Of course, they may do this without too much fanfare to avoid raising questions about why they’re removing GMOs from some of their products but not others.”
With so many voices in the conversation and products on the market, how can you make buying decisions that are best for you and your family? Our Q&A helps you separate fact from fiction.

Are GMOs bad for my health?




Those who support using GMOs point out that Americans have been eating foods containing them for more than 15 years and that there’s no credible evidence that people have been harmed. But saying there’s no evidence of harm isn’t the same as saying they’ve been proved safe. “The contention that GMOs pose no risks to human health can’t be supported by studies that have measured a time frame that is too short to determine the effects of exposure over a lifetime,” says Robert Gould, M.D., president of the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility.


A joint commission of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has established a protocol for evaluating the safety of GMOs, which it says have the potential to introduce toxins and new allergens (or increase levels of existing ones), or cause nutritional changes in foods and other unexpected effects. Other developed nations have used those guidelines in their mandatory premarket safety assessments for genetically modified organisms. But the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require any safety assessment of genetically engineered crops, though it invites companies to provide data for a voluntary safety review.

Animal studies—commonly used to help assess human health risks—have suggested that GMOs might cause damage to the immune system, liver, and kidneys. More studies are needed to determine long-term effects. And the ability of researchers to track potential health effects of GMOs in the human population is hampered by the absence of labeling. “Physicians need to know what their patients are eating,” Gould says. “If your patient has a problem with food allergies or other side effects that may be related to GMOs, it’s difficult to identify any links unless these foods are labeled.”

Why the labeling debate?

GMO labeling is mandatory in more than 60 countries but not in the U.S. Opponents to mandatory labeling here often say that it unfairly implies that foods with genetically engineered ingredients are unsafe. Those in favor of mandatory labels—including Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports—argue that even if the jury is still out on the health impact of GMOs, shoppers have a right to know what’s in their food. “Producers already must label foods that are frozen, from concentrate, homogenized, or irradiated,” says Jean Halloran, director of food-policy initiatives at Consumers Union. “GMO labeling is one more piece of helpful information.” 

It’s not surprising that much of the opposition to GMO labeling comes from GMO seed manufacturers and the food industry, who have spent a lot of money to get their position out to the public. Among those contributing the most to oppose the Colorado measure were Coca-Cola, DuPont, Kraft Foods, Monsanto (which produces seeds for GMO crops), and PepsiCo. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers have filed a lawsuit to overturn Vermont’s labeling law.

Which foods contain GMOs?

The vast majority of corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are now genetically engineered, and they are often used as ingredients in processed foods.
The food industry is also pushing to further expand the use of genetic engineering. A new form of salmon that is genetically altered to grow to maturity twice as fast as wild salmon is currently undergoing a safety review by the Food and Drug Administration. If approved, it would be the first genetically engineered animal to be marketed. 

The Department of Agriculture recently approved a potato that is genetically engineered to resist bruising and to have potentially lower levels of acrylamide, a suspected human carcinogen that the vegetable can produce when it is cooked at the high temperatures used to make potato chips and french fries. The FDA hasn’t completed a voluntary safety review for the new GMO potato yet, but McDonald’s has stated that it is sticking to its current policy of using only non-GMO potatoes for its fries.

Do GMOs harm the environment?




One main selling point for crops containing GMOs has been that they reduce the use of pesticides. The use of insecticides (which kill bugs) has declined since these crops were introduced in the mid-1990s, but the use of herbicides (which kill weeds) has soared.
The majority of corn, soybeans, and other GMO crops grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, a weed killer better known as Roundup. Roundup is made by Monsanto, which also produces the seeds that enable crops to survive being doused with the herbicide. Since that technology was introduced in 1996, there has been almost a tenfold increase in the use of the herbicide, as illustrated in this graph from the U.S. Geological Survey.
That in turn created an epidemic of super-weeds, which have quickly evolved to become immune to glyphosate. A survey conducted by Stratus Agri-Marketing in 2012 found that almost half of farmers throughout the U.S. are now battling the crop-choking plants.

The solution proposed by the biotech industry? Creating a new generation of crops that are genetically altered to be immune to glyphosate and to other herbicides that are capable of killing the glyphosate-resistant super-weeds. Dow AgroSciences recently got the green light from federal officials to sell its new Enlist brand of GMO corn and soybeans, which are both engineered to be resistant to glyphosate as well as to an herbicide known as 2,4-D. 

The USDA has estimated that Dow’s new GMO corn and soybean crops would at least triple the use of 2,4-D and could lead to an almost sevenfold increase over the next five years. “Since this is likely to make even more weeds immune to both Roundup and 2,4-D, this ‘solution’ to the super-weed problem makes about as much sense as pouring gasoline on a fire to put it out,says Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., a research professor at Washington State University who also serves on a USDA advisory committee on agricultural biotechnology.

Significant increases in the use of these herbicides could potentially affect consumers’ health as well, because residue from the chemicals can end up in food crops. In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency raising concerns about increased exposure to 2,4-D that would result from approval of Dow’s new GMO corn and soy, a group of 70 scientists, doctors, and other health professionals pointed out that studies in humans have reported associations between exposure to the herbicide and increased risks of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, birth defects, and other reproductive problems.

Will GMO labeling drive up grocery prices?

Mandatory labeling that informs consumers about whether their food contains GMOs would add less than a penny a day to their grocery bills, according to a recent analysis of existing studies commissioned by Consumers Union and conducted by the independent economic research firm ECONorthwest.

Opponents of labeling cite industry-financed studies suggesting that food prices would soar, boosting a typical family of four’s spending at the supermarket by $400 to $800 per year. But the Consumers Union analysis found that the median cost that might be passed on to consumers was just $2.30 per person annually—or $9.20 for a family of four.
Why such a big difference? The industry’s estimate assumes that if consumers know that a product contains GMOs, they’ll perceive it negatively and won’t buy it. Food producers would then, in many cases, replace GMOs with much more expensive organic ingredients, and food prices would escalate. 

But in countries where GMO labeling is required—including many where American food companies sell their products—food prices haven’t increased as a result of mandatory labeling. And as our recent GMO testing showed, food products don’t have to contain all-organic ingredients to qualify as non-GMO.

Did you know?

Because corn and soybeans are the most widely planted genetically modified crops in the U.S., it’s not surprising that you’d find GMO corn in tortilla chips or GMO soy in some meat substitutes. But those genetically engineered ingredients also pop up in places you might not expect. Some spices and seasoning mixes contain GMO corn and soy. And soft-drink ingredients that might be derived from genetically modified corn include not only corn syrup but also the artificial sweetener aspartame, glucose, citric acid, and colorings such as beta-carotene and riboflavin.


Products and politics: GMO info at your fingertips





The upside of all the publicity generated by the GMO debate is increased awareness among consumers, who are often moved to reach out to companies to find out what’s in their food, says Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project. It certifies through third-party testing that products carrying its seal qualify as non-GMO.
“I don’t think people realize how much power they really have in the marketplace,” Westgate says. The Non-GMO Project Verified seal, launched in 2010, now appears on more than 22,000 products that represent $8.5 billion in annual sales at retailers across the country. “At least 200 companies that have come to us to become non-GMO verified have said they were prompted to make that change because of calls or letters they’d gotten from consumers.”

To help you exercise that power, the Non-GMO Project recently launched a free iPhone app, available on iTunes, that allows you to search for products verified as non-GMO. If your favorite food isn’t listed, the app directs you to a form to let the manufacturer know that you would like it to be. Consumers who want to avoid GMOs can also express their preferences in the marketplace by buying certified organic foods. Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, favors labeling and premarket safety testing of GMO foods and supports state bills and measures to that end. We also strongly oppose the introduction of a food- and chemical-industry supported federal bill that would preempt all state GMO food-labeling laws and would allow the “natural” label to be used on GMO foods.

SOURCE:   http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/02/gmo-foods-what-you-need-to-know/index.htm

Thursday, February 26, 2015

NYS ABINANTI: INTRODUCES BILL AB1706 TO BAN GMOs IN VACCINES

Defying Science And Common Sense, New York Bill Would Ban GMOs In Vaccines

In a bizarre juxtaposition of irrational fears, a New York State legislator has introduced a bill to ban GMOs in vaccines. The bill, NY AB 1706, is apparently not a hoax but was introduced by assembly member Thomas J. Abinanti, who has passed other bills designed to place restrictions on so-called genetically modified organisms.

Viruses are one thing you’d think people would not prefer in their natural form.
In the unlikely event this bill passed, it would set back vaccine technology a half century and would do away completely with some important vaccines. Abinanti has proposed several other bills that would require disclosure of information about GMOs in vaccines.
Paul Offit, who is chief of the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said that genetic modification is at the heart of vaccine technology. Vaccines against viral diseases use a version of the virus that’s been killed or altered – “attenuated” in the medical language. The modification is what prevents the vaccines from making people sick.

The bill defines a GMO as an organism that has been “altered at the molecular or cellular level by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes, including recombinant DNA and RNA techniques, cell fusion, microencapsulation, macroencapsulation, gene deletion and doubling, introduction of a foreign gene and a process that changes the positions of genes…”

The technologies that would be banned are exactly the ones that allows scientists to make vaccines safe, said Offit. In the early 20th century, vaccine scientists made genetic modifications with cruder techniques – altering viruses by infecting eggs, embryos or animal organs, allowing viruses to proliferate and using trial and error to find versions that protected people with relative safety. Now we have precision techniques for eliminating dangerous parts of viruses and including those that prompt protective immunity.

Combining genes from different organisms was what allowed Offit and his colleague to develop a vaccine against rotavirus – a disease that kills thousands of children in the developing world. Genetic technology of the type that apparently concerns Mr. Abinanti has also been critical in the rush to create vaccines against Ebola.

Abinanti’s office hasn’t yet returned a request for some kind of explanation for the bill.

So-called GMOs have improved human health in drugs since the 1970s, when Genentech introduced human insulin made with a GMO bacteria. Before that, medical insulin came from pigs.
The bill, said Offit, takes GMO and vaccine fear “To its illogical end.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

GMO MISINFORMATION MANTRA LANDS IN AFRICA - COURTESY USA

by

Manipulate and Mislead: How GMOs Are Infiltrating Africa

'It may be tempting to believe that hunger can be solved with technology, but African social movements have pointed out that skewed power relations are the bedrock of hunger in Africa.' (Photo: La Via Campesina/2007/Creative Commons)
The most persistent myth about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is that they are necessary to feed a growing global population. Highly effective marketing campaigns have drilled it into our heads that GMOs will produce more food on less land in an environmentally friendly manner. The mantra has been repeated so often that it is considered to be truth. Now this mantra has come to Africa, sung by the United States government and multinational corporations like Monsanto, seeking to open new markets for a product that has been rejected by so many others around the globe.

While many countries have implemented strict legal frameworks to regulate GMOs, African nations have struggled with the legal, scientific and infrastructural resources to do so. This has delayed the introduction of GMOs into Africa, but it has also provided the proponents of GMOs a plum opportunity to offer their assistance, in the process helping to craft laws on the continent that promote the introduction of barely regulated GMOs and create investor-friendly environments for agribusiness. Their line is that African governments must adopt GMOs as a matter of urgency to deal with hunger and that laws implementing pesky and expensive safety measures, or requiring assessments of socio-economic impacts, will only act as obstructions. To date only seven African countries have complete legal frameworks to deal with GMOs and only four – South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan - have approved commercial cultivation of a GM crop.

"The mantra that GMOs are necessary for food security is hijacking the policy space that should be providing appropriate solutions for the poorest farmers."
The drive to open markets for GMOs in Africa is not only happening through “assistance” resulting in permissive legal frameworks for GMOs, but also through an array of “philanthropical” projects, most of them funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One such project is Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), funded by Gates in collaboration with Monsanto. Initially the project sought to develop drought tolerant maize varieties in five pilot countries, but as the project

 progressed it incorporated one of Monsanto’s most lucrative commercial traits into the mix – MON810, which enables the plant to produce its own pesticide. Interestingly, MON810 has recently come off patent, but Monsanto retains ownership when it is stacked with another gene, in this case, drought tolerance. WEMA has provided a convenient vehicle for the introduction of Monsanto’s controversial product, but it has also used its influence to shape GM related policy in the countries where it works. The project has refused to run field trials in Tanzania and Mozambique until those countries amend their “strict liability” laws, which will make WEMA, and future companies selling GMOs, liable for any damages they may cause. WEMA has also complained to governments about clauses in their law that require assessment of socio-economic impacts of GMOs, saying that assessment and approvals should be based solely on hard science, which is also often influenced or financed by the industry.

African civil society and smallholders' organisations are fighting for the kind of biosafety legislation that will safeguard health and environment against the potential risks of GMOs, not the kind that promotes the introduction of this wholly inappropriate technology. About 80% of Africa’s food is produced by smallholders, who seldom farm on more than 5 hectares of land and usually on much less. The majority of these farmers are women, who have scant access to finance or secure land tenure. That they still manage to provide the lion's share of the continents’ food, usually without formal seed, chemicals, mechanisation, irrigation or subsidies, is testament to their resilience and innovation. African farmers have a lot to lose from the introduction of GMOs; the rich diversity of African agriculture, its robust resilience and the social cohesion engendered through cultures of sharing and collective effort could be replaced by a handful of monotonous commodity crops owned by foreign masters.

There is no doubt that African small-scale producers need much greater support in their efforts, but GM seeds, which are designed for large scale industrial production have no place in smallholder systems. The mantra that GMOs are necessary for food security is hijacking the policy space that should be providing appropriate solutions for the poorest farmers. Only a tiny fraction of farmers will ever afford the elite GM technology package – for example in South Africa, where over 85% of maize production is genetically modified, GM maize seed costs 2-5 times more than conventional seed, must be bought annually and requires the extensive use of toxic and expensive chemicals and fertilisers. What is more, despite 16 years of cultivating GM maize, soya and cotton, South Africa’s food security continues to decline, with some 46% of the population categorised as food insecure.

It may be tempting to believe that hunger can be solved with technology, but African social movements have pointed out that skewed power relations are the bedrock of hunger in Africa, such as unfair trade agreements and subsidies that perennially entrench poverty, or the patenting of seed and imposition of expensive and patented technology onto the world’s most vulnerable and risk averse communities. Without changing these fundamental power relationships and handing control over food production to smallholders in Africa, hunger cannot be eradicated. A global movement is growing and demanding that governments support small-scale food producers and “agroecology” instead of corporate agriculture, an agricultural system that is based on collaboration with nature and is appropriate for small scale production, where producers are free to plant and exchange seeds and operate in strong local markets.

Note: Today, as part of the effort to expose the role of large agribusiness in pushing genetically-modified crops across Africa, Friends of the Earth International has released a new report—Who Benefits from GM Crops? The Expansion of Agribusiness Interests in Africa Through Biosafety Policy (pdf). Read more about the issue here
Haidee Swanby is a researcher with the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), a non-profit organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The ACB’s work is centred on dismantling structural inequities in food and agriculture systems in Africa and directed towards the attainment of food sovereignty.
Mariann Bassey Orovwuje is a lawyer, as well as an environmental, human and food rights advocate. Mariann is the Programme Manager for the Food Sovereignty Program for Environmemntal Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN). She is also the Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Africa’s Food Sovereignty Program Campaign.

 


Sunday, February 22, 2015

GMO UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD FEBRUARY 22, 2015

Russia's Economic Self-Reliance: Yes to Hemp, No to GMO

Center for Research on Globalization - ‎9 hours ago‎
The main reason why the government is opposing incursion of GMO into the country is that Russia owns some of the most precious non-destroyed top soil on our planet and it is worth being maintained GMO-free, free from chemicals like Roundup or Atrazine, ...
 
 

Hawaii Senate Panel to Consider GMO Labeling

Honolulu Civil Beat - ‎Feb 17, 2015‎
The state Senate committees on Health and Agriculture will take testimony Thursday on a bill calling for the labeling of food with genetically modified organisms. “The people of Hawaii have a right to know what's in the food they eat,” said Health ...
 
 
 

Mandate GMO food labeling

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - ‎Feb 18, 2015‎
We live in a consumer-focused culture. On our farm we strive to produce high quality vegetables for our customers. Some families have been with us for over 26 years because they want to know where their food comes from and how it is grown. We are ...
 
 

Monsanto needs to consider human health, too

DesMoinesRegister.com - ‎2 hours ago‎
In the Feb. 15 Des Moines Register article "Monsanto nears its largest biotech trait launch," Michael Firko, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's deputy administrator and head of its biotechnology regulatory team states ... "We're in the ...
 

Monsanto readies for Muscatine expansion, add jobs

Muscatine Journal - ‎21 hours ago‎
ST. LOUIS - Monsanto is expanding its Muscatine, Iowa plant. This project will expand the formulations and packaging capacity at the plant to support the launch of Monsanto's dicamba-tolerant trait technologies: Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans and ...
 

We Won! Monsanto Ad has been Pulled from O Magazine

Food Integrity Now - ‎Feb 18, 2015‎
oprah victory We have a Victory! Thank you to the many of you who signed the Petition to Oprah Winfrey and O Magazine to remove the Monsanto advertisement! The ad has been removed from the February and March, 2015 issues of O Magazine.
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, February 20, 2015

THIS "GMO SCIENTIST": TAKE WITH A VERY LARGE GRAIN OF SALT

Kevin Folta talking about GMOsThe truth according to Kevin Folta

February 15, 2105

The pro-GMO scientist Kevin Folta says he bases his statements on GMO safety on science – but some of his views look more like ideology. An expert in nutrition and public health weighs in with a commentary exclusive to GMWatch
Kevin Folta is a scientist and a pro-GMO activist who vigorously goes after anyone that disagrees with his ideology. Folta claims – as though he is the arbiter of truth – that GMO opponents are fearmongers who spread misinformation.

But let's take a look at Folta’s background and compare some of his claims to published research, the perspective of a prominent nutrition expert, and obvious fact.

Folta is a molecular biologist with no known health background. On GMOanswers, a website run by the GMO industry, it says, “Kevin Folta is a professor in and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, Gainesville. He got his PhD in Molecular Biology from University of Illinois at Chicago in 1998, and he has worked at University of Wisconsin before settling in at University of Florida. Dr Folta researches the functional genomics of small fruit crops, the plant transformation, the genetic basis of flavors, and studies at photomorphogenesis and flowering. He has also written many publications and edited books, most recently was the 2011 Genetics, Genomics, and Breeding of Berries. Dr Folta received the NSF CAREER Award, an HHMI Mentoring Award and was recognized as "University of Florida Foundation Research Professor" in 2010.”

If you want to know about the genetic basis of flavours or the functional genomics of small fruit crops, Folta is your man. But how likely is it that Folta, a professor in the horticultural sciences department, will know and understand the impact of diet on human health? Is he a doctor, dietitian or nutritionist? Nope. Does he have a master’s degree in public health or PhD in a related field? Nope. Does he understand how we determine if something is safe for humans? Nope. The bottom line is that he does not have the qualifications to weigh in on diet and human health. But does he? Yes, all the time.

In a recent blog post he implied that food additives are safe, saying, “Food additives need FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval, and that requires testing.”

However, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine found that between 1997 and 2012 all of the members on panels to determine if a food additive was safe had ties to the industry that created them, either as an employee or consultant. Additionally, the FDA allowed companies that created food products to determine whether or not a food additive was generally recognized as safe, also known as GRAS. In some cases, these companies did not even notify the FDA of this determination!

Food politics guru Marion Nestle, PhD, who actually has a degree in nutrition, wrote a commentary on the study, saying, "How is it possible that the FDA permits manufacturers to decide for themselves whether their food additives are safe?" How indeed.

Folta says, “After 17 years no epidemiological trends have been established between GM and health concerns.” But this is clearly a reflection of his lack of scientific understanding. To date, there is not a single human epidemiological study. To say there are no epidemiological trends between GMOs and health is actually impossible to confirm since GMOs are not labeled. And as Consumer Reports says, “Saying there’s no evidence of harm isn’t the same as saying they’ve been proved safe.”

Folta also says that there is no “plausible mechanism” for harm from GMOs. When it comes to diet and health, we often have no idea why a particular substance causes harm, but that does not stop health professionals or health organizations from making recommendations. A case in point is sugar. NHANES  (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) recently published research that found a 38 per cent increased risk of heart disease for those who consumed 17 to 21 per cent of calories from sugar compared with those who consumed less. They also go on to say, “The biological mechanisms underlying the association between added sugar intake and CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk are not completely understood.” This highlights the well known fact that we often do not know the mechanism for harm for particular foods, such as sugar or red meat, but we do recommend limiting these foods since they are linked with negative health outcomes.

In response to the claim that organic produce is higher in vitamins and minerals, Folta says, “notsomuch”. Yet his views are clearly out of accord with research.

Organic fruits and vegetables are generally 5 to 15 per cent higher in nutrients, but they can be 30 to 100 per cent higher in some cases. And they are much higher in the health-enhancing phytochemicals that plants create to fight off pests. They also have a longer shelf life since they have more antibacterial phenolic acids under their skin, which helps prevent mold, bacterial growth, and thus spoilage. Additionally, organic foods have more microbial diversity, with plenty of healthy bacteria. So if unhealthy bacteria are introduced, they may not be as likely to multiply and cause health problems for us.

Organics also are lower in pesticides. Nestle says, “Research clearly demonstrates that pesticides harm farmworkers exposed to high doses. But recent studies report slightly lower IQ levels in children born to urban women with higher blood levels of pesticides. Although these studies did not control for socioeconomic and other variables that might influence IQ, they raise the possibility that even low levels might be harmful.”

Her advice?  “Buy organic. Pesticides, invisible and unlabeled as they are, constitute a good reason to do so.”

Folta does not support labeling of GMOs and says, “GMO labeling and GMO policy should be dictated strictly by science and evidence and not by manipulation of emotion.” Yet Nestle says, “Labeling GM foods should be a no-brainer.” But Folta and the biotech industry are afraid consumers will reject GMOs. Nestle continues, “If consumers distrust GM foods, the industry has nobody to blame but itself. It has done little to inspire trust. Labelling promotes trust. Not labelling is undemocratic; it does not allow choice.” In fact, the biotech industry has spent close to 100 million dollars to squelch GMO labeling. What are they trying to hide? And just think how many hungry mouths we could have fed or how much blindness from vitamin A deficiency we could have prevented with 100 million dollars.

Folta says that people often accuse him of working for or being funded by Monsanto. But he replies, “I have never received any financial compensation for my time,” implying that he does not have a conflict of interest with regards to his work around GMOs. However, he works for a university that receives funding from the GMO industry. So he stands to benefit if GMOs do well and could potentially lose his job if funding for GMO research wanes.

Folta believes he is science-based and says on GMOanswers, “My answers are 100% consistent with the peer-reviewed literature.” But the examples above cast doubt on these claims.

While Folta might be viewed as having a hard time getting his facts straight, he also misperceives his own behaviour. On his 25 October 2014 blog post, he said: “Some recognize me for unending patience and softness, even in the presence of insults and idiocy.”

Kevin Folta tweetsBut Folta’s perception of himself is far from reality, as these tweets (right), a few of many, demonstrate.

Hmm, so much for softness and patience.

Folta’s version of the truth appears to be a few notches short of reality. Please remember to take what he says with a very large grain of salt.


Source:  http://gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2015-articles/15949-the-truth-according-to-kevin-folta