By Organic Consumers Association – Today, at 10 a.m., Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and their band of pro-GMO, anti-consumer, stomp-all-over-states’-rights outlaws will stand before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and ask the Committee to support H.R. 1599. We’ve been calling H.R. 1599 the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, because that’s what the bill is intended to do—keep you in the dark about the toxic chemical-drenched GMOs in your food. But that’s only half the story. Since Pompeo introduced his bill-to-kill GMO labeling laws earlier this year, he’s been tinkering with the language. Now, the latest version of the DARK Act is even darker than the original.
By Staff of US Right to Know, Documents released today by Syngenta include a letter from Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant to Syngenta, suggesting as a part of a corporate merger that, “We would also propose a new name for the combined company to reflect its unique global nature.” “Monsanto wants to escape its ugly history by ditching its name,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know, a consumer group. “This shows how desperate Monsanto is to escape criticism: of its products, which raise environmental and health concerns, as well as concerns about corporate control of agriculture and our food system.” In a 2014 Harris Poll gauging the reputations of major corporations, Monsanto’s “reputation quotient” ranked 58 out of 60 companies. In other words, it was the third most hated company measured.
By Steven Rosenfeld in Alternet – On Friday, Mark D. Clarke, a federal magistrate judge, dismissed a legal challenge brought by commercial farmers who use Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa seeds. The non-organic farms sought to overturn a 2014 ordinance passed by Jackson County voters that banned the use of such seed stock, claiming that the anti-GMO ordinance violated their right to farm. However Judge Clarke concluded that exactly the opposite was the case. He held that the county’s no-GMO seed ordinance could take effect next week, citing earlier state legislation that protected commercial farms—in this case organic farmers—from harm from other commercial enterprises, such as the commercial farms whose GMO-laced alfalfa pollen gets carried by the wind and can’t be stopped from tainting organic crops.
Demonstrators spent Saturday planting coconut trees and waving signs in rallies across the Hawaiian Islands as part of an international day of protests against agriculture business Monsanto. The protesters complained about the impacts that companies like Monsanto have on the community when they spray fields with chemical pesticides. They say they want agribusiness companies to stop using Hawaii as a testing ground for pesticides and genetically modified foods. “Get off the island,” said Diane Marshall, a Honolulu teacher. “I would like to see them close up shop.” In Waikiki, a man wore a gas mask in front of a statue of surfer Duke Kahanamoku to demonstrate the dangers of pesticides. Others in bikinis talked with tourists about why they don’t want genetically modified goods to be grown in Hawaii.
The biotech industry has a long history of discrediting scientists who challenge the safety of GMOs. That intimidation campaign worked well until consumers connected the dots between GMO foods (and the toxic chemicals used to grow them) and health concerns. Once consumers demanded labels on GMO foods, the biotech industry responded with a multimillion dollar public relations campaign. Yet despite spending millions to influence the media, and millions more to prevent laws requiring labels on products the industry claims are safe, Monsanto has lost the hearts and minds of consumers. The latest polls show that 93 percent of Americans support mandatory labeling of GMO foods. Chipotle has made a sound business decision, which has forced the biotech industry to stoop to a new low: vilifying businesses.
As opponents and advocates of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue to battle it out, the debate over the agreement has largely focused on the issue of trade – whether jobs will be lost or gained, what the agreement will do to our trade deficit, and other related matters. It’s worth pointing out that the United States already trades heavily with the other 11 nations included in the TPP talks. As Paul Krugman says, “this is not a trade agreement. It’s about intellectual property and dispute settlement; the big beneficiaries are likely to be pharma companies and firms that want to sue governments.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has been particularly critical of the so-called Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions, which would empower corporations to use international courts to sue the U.S. government and others who are enacting regulations and protections that harm their profits.
The decision of the Chipotle restaurant chain to make its product lines GMO-free is not most people’s idea of a world-historic event. Especially since Chipotle, by US standards, is not a huge operation. A clear sign that the move is significant, however, is that Chipotle’s decision was met with a tidal-wave of establishment media abuse. Chipotle has been called irresponsible, anti-science, irrational, and much more by the Washington Post, Time Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and many others. A business deciding to give consumers what they want was surely never so contentious. The media lynching of Chipotle has an explanation that is important to the future of GMOs. The cause of it is that there has long been an incipient crack in the solid public front that the food industry has presented on the GMO issue.
Genetically engineered crops, or GMOs, have led to an explosion in growers’ use of herbicides, with the result that children at hundreds of elementary schools across the country go to class close by fields that are regularly doused with escalating amounts of toxic weed killers. GMO corn and soybeans have been genetically engineered to withstand being blasted with glyphosate – an herbicide that the World Health Organization recently classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The proximity of many schools to fields blanketed in the chemical puts kids at risk of exposure. But it gets worse. Overreliance on glyphosate has spawned the emergence of “superweeds” that resist the herbicide, so now producers of GMO crops are turning to even more harmful chemicals.
Thousands of farmers have taken to the streets in a Kisan Maha Panchayat (farmer meeting) in Delhi, India, in protest at the Modi government’s anti-farmer policies, which include uncritically promoting open field trials of GM crops. There is some speculation in India that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition, led by Narendra Modi (now prime minister), may have come to power with the help of generous funding of their election campaign by the GMO lobby. It is said that this may explain their conversion to the pro-GMO cause. Though there appears to be little transparency in political funding in India, we hope the Modi government will move to allay fears of corruption by publishing full details of its election campaign funding.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) issued this statement today in response to yesterday’s ruling by a federal judge in Vermont clearing the way for the state’s GMO labeling law to take effect in July 2016: “This landmark ruling not only paves the way for Vermont’s GMO labeling law to take effect on schedule, July 1, 2016, but more importantly it signals that the courts agree that states have a constitutional right to pass GMO labeling laws,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association. “This ruling also bodes well for GMO labeling bills that are moving through other state legislatures, including Maine, where a public hearing on Maine’s LD 991 is scheduled for April 30,” Cummins said.
When Justin Dammann enters his southwestern Iowa cornfield this month, the 35-year-old farmer will sow something these 2,400 acres have not seen in more than a decade — plants grown without genetically modified seeds. The corn, which will head to a processor 20 miles down the road this fall, will likely make its way into tortilla shells, corn chips and other consumable products made by companies taking advantage of growing consumer demand for food without biotech ingredients. For Dammann and other Midwest farmers, the burgeoning interest in non-GMO foods has increased how much they get paid to grow crops in fields once populated exclusively with genetically modified corns and soybeans. The revenue hike is a welcome benefit at a time when lower commodity prices are pushing farm income down to what’s expected to be the lowest level in six years.
It’s been a tough few weeks for Monsanto. Late last week, companies “such as Monsanto” were implicated in a watchdog group’s petition to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on behalf of anonymous scientists within the agency who say their research is suppressed when it upsets powerful agrichemical interests. The allegations enraged the industry’s critics, who have been busy touting recent reports linking popular herbicides often used in tandem with genetically engineered crops, or GMOs, to cancer and antibiotic resistance. Both controversies are renewing calls for tougher restrictions on certain herbicides and mandatory packaging labels for groceries containing GMO ingredients. “If true, this is a major scandal at the USDA,” wrote Gary Ruskin, director of the pro- labeling group US Right to Know, in a March 30 letter to the US House and Senate agricultural committees demanding an investigation. “It is not the proper role of the USDA to engage in a cover up for Monsanto and other agrichemical companies.”
A battle is currently being waged over Africa’s seed systems. After decades of neglect and weak investment in African agriculture, there is renewed interest in funding African agriculture. These new investments take the form of philanthropic and international development aid as well as private investment funds. They are based on the potentially huge profitability of African agriculture – and seed systems are a key target. Right now ministers are co-ordinating their next steps at the 34th COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Intergovernmental Committee meeting that kicked off yesterday, 22nd March, in preparation for the main Summit that will follow on 30th and 31st March 2015.
A controversial lobbyist who claimed that the chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer was safe for humans refused to drink his own words when a French television journalist offered him a glass. “You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” Moore insists. “You want to drink some?” the interviewer asks. “We have some here.” “I’d be happy to, actually,” Moore replies, adding, “Not really. But I know it wouldn’t hurt me.” “If you say so, I have some,” the interviewer presses. “I’m not stupid,” Moore declares. “So, it’s dangerous?” the interviewer concludes. But Moore claims that Roundup is so safe that “people try to commit suicide” by drinking it, and they “fail regularly.” “Tell the truth, it’s dangerous,” the interviewer says. “It’s not dangerous to humans,” Moore remarks. “No, it’s not.” “So, are you ready to drink one glass?” the interviewer continues to press. “No, I’m not an idiot,” Moore says defiantly.