The recent article, “Seeds of Doubt,” in the August 25, 2014 issue of The New Yorker by Michael Specter echoes common myths about genetically engineered (GE) crops and omits legitimate scientific critiques of the technology. The resulting article fails to deliver the high level of integrity and journalism that is expected of The New Yorker. Biotechnology corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising and marketing each year. Monsanto, one of the leading biotech companies, spends from $87 million to $120 million annually on advertising, much of it focused on GE crop technology. The industry spends millions more on lobbying, opposing ballot initiatives to label GE foods, and further promotional activities. Such massive spending has effectively framed a favorable narrative about GE crops and foods in several major media outlets, including The New Yorker.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision this week to approve two new genetically engineered crops is being denounced by watchdog groups as a false solution to herbicide-resistant weeds and a move that threatens human and environment safety alike. The crops are Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist corn and soybeans, engineered to be resistant to its Duo herbicide, which contains 2,4-D, a component of the notorious Agent Orange. 2,4-D has been linked to Parkinson’s, birth defects, reproductive problems, and endocrine disruption. Dow states that the new system will address the problem of weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s widely-used Roundup. Food and environmental safety groups, however, say that it speaks to the failure of the genetically engineered crops strategy that fosters herbicide expansion—profitable for the chemical companies—and ignores the paradigm shifted needed in the industrial agriculture system.
The original foundation of agricultural biotechnology was to advance sales of pesticides by engineering crops to become immune to toxic spraying. While weeds and insect pests would be eradicated, targeted crop would be spared, thereby allowing farmers to spray massive amounts of chemicals on soy, corn, cotton, sugar beets and other agricultural foods without injury. This was the assumption that led to the agro-genetic revolution. Only during the past decade with more and more GM products in our diets, and more and more farm acreage being sprayed with glyphosate and other toxic pesticides and herbicides, are the long term health risks to animals, humans and the environment being more fully recognized within the scientific community. Annual runoffs of pesticides into rivers, streams and reservoirs have complicated the extent to which humans are being exposed to life threatening chemicals on a daily basis.
National Wildlife Refuge System chief James Kurth has directed the agency to stop using GMO crops and neonicontinoids on refuge farms by January 2016, according to a July 17 memo obtained by activists last week. The Fish and Wildlife Service is the first federal agency to restrict the use of GMOs and neonicotinoids in farming practices. Neonicitinoids are a class of insecticides related to nicotine that act as nerve agents and are typically sprayed on crop seeds to kill insects. Scientists suspect that some neonicitinoids are responsible for declining populations of pollinating insects, and researchers in the Netherlands recently linked neonicotinoids to deaths among farmland birds. For over a decade, GMO crops and neonicotinoid pesticides were used on a regular basis at farming projects on national wildlife refuges across the country.
Let us celebrate today the latest initiatives of our nation’s growing food safety movement. Across the country, consumers are demanding the right to know what is in their food, and labeling of genetically engineered food. It’s a vibrant and diverse coalition: mothers and grandmothers, health libertarians, progressives, foodies, environmentalists, main street conservatives and supporters of free-market economics. Last year, a New York Times poll found that a near-unanimous 93 percent of Americans support such labeling.
The statement from the Grocery Manufacturers Association summarizes the grievances of the four plaintiff organizations: GMA, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers. “Act 120 imposes burdensome new speech requirements — and restrictions — that will affect, by Vermont’s count, eight out of every ten foods at the grocery store.” The statement from the Grocery Manufacturers Association summarizes the grievances of the four plaintiff organizations: GMA, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers. “Act 120 imposes burdensome new speech requirements — and restrictions — that will affect, by Vermont’s count, eight out of every ten foods at the grocery store,”The statement from the Grocery Manufacturers Association summarizes the grievances of the four plaintiff organizations: GMA, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers. “Act 120 imposes burdensome new speech requirements — and restrictions — that will affect, by Vermont’s count, eight out of every ten foods at the grocery store.” The Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition, which lobbied for the law, argued that labeling would bring transparency to the information consumers would have about their food. “The people of Vermont have said loud and clear they have a right to know what is in their food,” said Falko Schilling, consumer protection advocate with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Schilling said lawmakers determined there was a lack of consensus about the safety of genetically engineered foods, “so putting labels on is a reasonable and prudent thing so people can decide for themselves.”
Buying organic remains the best one on the table for the time being for those who wish to stay GMO-free. Many people know that organic is better for the environment and for health to the lack of health and soil-diminishing chemicals, but they don’t quite know what the USDA’s standards entail. The USDA remains an organization that is not completely trustworthy in the eyes of many in the natural health and GMO-free movements due to the presence of big-money co-opting their mission of providing safe, healthy food and transparency from food makers, but the organization does provide oversight in regards to organic standards through tens of thousands of on-site inspections each year. So, how best can you avoid GMOs (other than buying growing your own food through heirloom seeds), and what do organic standards entail? Let’s discuss.
The East Coast has been getting most of the attention lately on the state by state effort to label genetically-engineered food. Vermont recently passed a bill and New York State’s bill is now moving. But let’s not forget about the western states, which are also critical to this fight. Right to know advocates in Oregon and Colorado are currently gathering signatures to place measures on the November ballot. Both of these states have a good shot at convincing voters to pass GMO labeling. Just last month, voters in Jackson County, OR, approved a ballot measure (resoundingly, 66 to 34 percent) to not allow the planting of GMO crops. That, combined with three east coast states that have thus far passed GMO labeling bills—Connecticut, Maine and Vermont—is creating a huge headache for the biotech and junk food industries. But it’s still not enough.
March Against Monsanto reports that members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are fighting to stop initiatives that require labeling of GMO-containing foods. The GMA does not want people to have the right to know what is in their food. In Washington State alone, the GMA spent more than seven million dollars to defeat the GMO labeling bill in 2013. And now they are preparing to sue the state of Vermont over its labeling law. That’s why March Against Monsanto and others are calling for a boycott of these companies until they drop their affiliation with the GMA. Below is a list of the companies and their headquarters. In addition to boycotting their products, if you live close to a headquarter, you might consider organizing an action to tell them to drop their affiliation with the GMA and to side with the people instead. Tell them that the health of the people is more important than their profits.
March Against Monsanto had another big, successful global protest. This compilation by RT provides glimpses of protesters against the world’s most hated corporation from around the world. Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director at Organic Consumers Association, told RT the claim we need genetically modified food to feed the world “is completely false.” “We actually have enough grassland in the United States to pasture and raise 100 percent grass-fed beef. So no, the feed the world argument is entirely accurate in the slightest,” she said. March Against Monsanto Founder Tami Canal has told The Anti-Media that Saturday’s event will mark the largest event ever carried out by the movement. “The 3rd global March Against Monsanto (MAM) is expected to be the biggest one yet. With 43 countries on 6 continents, MAM has coordinated 366 official events, with countless others not officially registered.” Canal notes how what once started as a California ballot measure requiring the labeling of genetically modified food “has turned into a global movement to educate against all fallacies of Monsanto.” “From Agent Orange to Monsanto’s pending patents directly affiliated with weather modification to the gross government corruption, MAM has evolved to expose all the insidious tentacles that Monsanto possesses.”
Vermont’s GMO labeling law will likely still face legal challenges from major food companies like Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co – the leading producers of GMO crops. They are widely expected to sue the state over the law. To defend the legislation, Vermont allocated a $1.5 million legal defense fund in the measure, to be paid for with settlements won by the state. However, even this amount might not be enough to cover the state’s legal bills. Monsanto, DuPont, Kraft Foods Co. and others previously led the charge against the similar labeling legislation in California and Washington state, grossly outspending supporters of the measure that was eventually defeated in both states, with anti-labeling groups spending $22 million of the $28 million total spent on that campaign in Washington. “There is no doubt that there are those who will work to derail this common-sense legislation,” Shumlin said. “But I believe this bill is the right thing to do and will gain momentum elsewhere after our action here in Vermont.”
Paris: France definitively banned the growing of genetically modified corn on Monday after its highest court and Senate both confirmed an existing ban. A grouping of leftist senators including members of the ruling Socialists, Greens and Communists approved a law banning MON810, a type of GM corn produced by US firm Monsanto, that had already been passed by the lower house of parliament, overcoming opposition from right-wing members. At the same time, the Council of State rejected a request from corn producers to overturn the ban on MON810. The council said the applicants from the General Association of Corn Producers (AGPM) had failed to make the case that they faced an urgent economic crisis as a result of the ban, pointing to the fact that only a small portion of French corn is grown with GM seeds. With Paris having twice put temporary bans on GM crops — in 2011 and 2013 — AGPM said Monday’s verdicts were “not a surprise”. The agriculture ministry banned MON810 — the only insect-resistant GM corn allowed to be grown in the European Union — in March.
France’s lower house of parliament adopted a law on Tuesday prohibiting the cultivation of any variety of genetically modified maize, saying it posed a risk to the environment. France adopted a decree last month to halt the planting of Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 maize, the only GM crop allowed for cultivation in the European Union. The law also applies to any strain adopted at EU level in future, including another GM variety, Pioneer 1507 developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemical, which could be approved by the EU executive later this year after 19 out of 28 member states failed to gather enough votes to block it. The law adopted by the French National Assembly is similar to one rejected by the Senate, upper house, in February when it was deemed unconstitutional. The Socialist government, like its conservative predecessor, has opposed the growing of GM crops because of public suspicion and widespread protests by environmentalists.
Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir, who first rose to international attention for their music-based challenge to consumerism, have turned their attention to big corporations’ role in climate disruption. They take up the plight of the Honey Bee in their new campaign, HoneyBeeLujah!, which launches with an hour-long action this Thursday, April 17, in Times Square. The event will begin in front of the U.S. Armed Forces Times Square Recruiting Station at6pm with the Reverend delivering the Choir’s new manifesto. Then the activist-performers, adorned and accompanied by hundreds of Honey Bees handmade by Savitri D. and the Choir, will move throughout what Reverend Billy calls the “Stonehenge of Logos” at New York’s most famous intersection.
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.