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Forum Post: Monsanto's Very Bad Week: Three Big Blows for GMO Food

Posted 10 years ago on Oct. 25, 2013, 3:22 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Monsanto's Very Bad Week: Three Big Blows for GMO Food

Friday, 25 October 2013 12:26 By Ocean Robbins, AlterNet | Op-Ed


It hasn't been a good week for Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry.

Just three days ago, Mexico banned genetically engineered corn. Citing the risk of imminent harm to the environment, a Mexican judge ruled that, effective immediately, no genetically engineered corn can be planted in the country. This means that companies like Monsanto will no longer be allowed to plant or sell their corn within the country's borders.

At the same time, the County Council for the island of Kauai passed a law that mandates farms to disclose pesticide use and the presence of genetically modified crops. The bill also requires a 500-foot buffer zone near medical facilities, schools and homes -- among other locations.

And the big island of Hawaii County Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that prohibits open air cultivation, propagation, development or testing of genetically engineered crops or plants. The bill, which still needs further confirmation to become law, would also prohibit biotech companies from operating on the Big Island. But perhaps the biggest bombshell of all is now unfolding in Washington state. The mail-in ballot state's voters are already weighing in on Initiative 522, which would mandate the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Knowing full well that 93 percent of the American public supports GMO labeling, and that if one state passes it, many others are likely to follow, entrenched agribusiness interests are pulling out all the stops to try to squelch yet another state labeling effort.

This time, however, things aren't going quite as planned. On Wednesday, Washington state Attorney General Bob Feguson filed a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The GMA, a lobby for the junk food industry, has been by far the largest donor to efforts to defeat the labeling initiative. The lawsuit alleges that the GMA illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors.

The source of the money has now been exposed, and it turns out to be Pepsico, Coca-Cola, NestleUSA, General Mills and a few other junk food companies. The lawsuit reveals that GMA leadership held a series of secret meetings to plot how to perpetrate a money laundering scheme and illegally hide member donations from Washington state voters, in direct violation of campaign disclosure laws.

Unlike the junk food companies that feared consumer backlash, Monsanto hasn't even bothered to hide the more than $4 million the company has given to the "no" campaign. In fact, GMA, Monsanto and a handful of other corporate donors have now broken a state record by pouring more than $17 million into their effort to stop Washington's GMO labeling ballot initiative.

Voting is already underway in Washington, and the final ballots will be cast on November 5. The "yes" side is ahead in the most recent polls, but supporters of the right to know fear that a barrage of heavily funded and misleading ads could sour voters to the initiative. They remember that just last year, California's Proposition 37 was well ahead in the polls until Monsanto and its allies spent more than $46 million on their campaign in the Golden State.

All this label fighting and money laundering leads to some very significant questions. Why are Monsanto and the junk food industry willing to spend many tens of millions of dollars every year trying to keep you in the dark about your food? What doesn't big food want you to know? And what are they afraid might happen if you did? Monsanto tells us that their products are about the best thing to come along since sliced bread. For years they've been promising that GMOs would reduce pesticide use, increaseyields, reduce water consumption, and offer foods that are more tasty and more nutritious. I wish they were right.

But in the 20 years since GMO crops first came on the market, studies have found that they have led to higher pesticide use, and no meaningful improvement in flavor, nutrition,yield or water requirements. Instead, what they've created are plants that are engineered to withstand massive dosing of toxic herbicides, and plants that function as living pesticide factories. Monsanto's Bt. corn, for example, is actually registered with the EPA as a pesticide. With concern about GMOs growing fast, and with the public being pummeled with vast amounts of misinformation, there is a tremendous need for clear, accurate and reliable information about GMOs. In response, the 100,000+ member Food Revolution Network and the Institute for Responsible Technology are co-sponsoring a free online GMO Mini-Summit. From October 25-27, some of the top GMO experts on the planet will be providing insights and clear calls to action in this teleseminar that is also being broadcast without charge on the Internet. Monsanto probably isn't too happy about the prospect of tens of thousands of people getting informed and mobilized. But if you love life, safe food, and the truth, then you might want to check it out.

And if you want to lend a hand to getting out the vote in the state of Washington, you cansign up to volunteer here.

Nobody knows what's going to happen in Washington between now and November 5. But from Mexico, to Hawaii and to the 64 nations that already have GMO labeling, this tide just might be turning. Maybe we, the people, do get a say in what we know, and what we eat, after all.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



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[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Food Companies and Monsanto Spend Millions to Defeat Washington GMO Labeling Initiative

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 12:34 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report


Coca-Cola, Nestle and Pepsi are among the more than 30 food manufacturing companies that have spent millions of dollars alongside biotech firms such as Monsanto to oppose the labeling of genetically engineered groceries in the state of Washington.

On October 18, 2013, the Grocery Manufacturers of America revealed that some of its most powerful members quietly funneled large donations through the trade group to oppose Initiative 522, a Washington ballot measure that would require groceries containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled as such. The group voluntarily reported the names and contribution amounts of the donors it had kept secret to state election officials after state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit earlier in the month.

Members of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, which was forced to create a political committee to comply with state law, have contributed more than $11 million to No on 522, the campaign opposed to the labeling initiative.

The corporations that funneled the most out-of-state funds through the trade group include Pepsico ($2.4 million), Coca-Cola ($1.5 million) and Nestle ($1.5 million), according to a Truthout review of state records. All three companies also made large contributions to defeat a similar labeling initiative last year in California, which lost popularity in the polls and ultimately failed after big processed food companies joined biotech firms in raising $46 million for the opposition.

Other large donors that funneled money through the Grocery Manufacturers of America to No on 522 include General Mills ($869,000) and Conagra ($828,249). Campbell's Soup Company, Kellogg Company, Land O'Lakes, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Cargill, Dean Foods and The Hershey Company are also on the list.

As it was in California, money appears to be making a big difference in the Washington GMO labeling campaign. In September, before both sides began spending on TV ads, GMO labeling supporters held a 45-point lead, according to an Elway Poll. Just weeks after ads began to roll out across the state, an October 21 poll showed that just 46 percent of voters supported the initiative and 42 percent were opposed.

The No on 522 campaign has raised $21.9 million and spent $13.5 million to defeat the GMO labeling initiative, according to state records. About half of the money came from the large processed food companies that were hiding behind the Grocery Manufacturers Association until the trade group came clean.

Biotech and agrichemical firms including Monsanto, Bayer CropScience and Dupont are largely responsible for the rest of the No on 522 war chest. Monsanto alone has donated $5.37 million. The main committee campaigning for GMO labeling already has been outspent by the opposition, with $6.8 million raised and $5.4 million spent. The Yes on 522 campaign received large chunks of its funding from natural products companies, organics firms and alternative health companies.

The state attorney general's office said it would no longer seek an injunction to force the Grocery Manufacturers of America to reveal its donors because the trade group did so voluntarily. Ferguson's office, however, said it has no plans to call off its lawsuit against the trade group, which illegally funneled a record-setting $7.2 million to No on 522.

"We also continue to seek penalties, attorney’s fees, and other relief for violating the Washington state campaign disclosure laws," Ferguson said in a statement. "While the [Grocery Manufacturers of America] made the requested disclosures, there must be sanctions for violating the law and the case will move forward as filed."

The Grocery Manufacturers of America's most recent injection of $3.78 million from its political committee was reported last week, less than two weeks before Washington voters head to the polls. Monsanto also made a last-minute donation of $540,000.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Astroturf Tramples Grassroots in Washington State GMO Labeling Battle

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 16:25 By Jill Richardson, PR Watch | Report


Washington State voters are being subjected to nonstop ads about a ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods, Initiative 522 (522). Most ads on 522 are sponsored by a record-breaking barrage of cash sent to their state by the biotech, chemical, and food industries that oppose it, although a few ads come from the Yes side. A look into the money pouring into Washington tells an anti-democratic tale of how a once-popular initiative is now statistically tied in the polls.

Also See: Food Companies and Monsanto Spend Millions to Defeat Washington GMO Labeling Initiative

What is 522?

Initiative 522 would require labeling of genetically engineered foods, also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs. These are foods that have genes from a different species inserted into their DNA, like a corn plant with genes from a bacterium.

Most Americans have already eaten genetically engineered foods -- and lots of them. An estimated 60 to 70 percent of all food U.S. consumers buy is genetically engineered. (The exception is organic foods, which are prohibited from using any genetically engineered ingredients.) Yet, when asked, most Americans either say they do not know if they’ve eaten genetically engineered foods or say that they have not.

Despite our ignorance about what we’re eating, over 90 percent of Americans say they want labeling. Some states, like Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, are considering bills to require labeling of genetically engineered foods in their legislatures. Connecticut has already passed such a bill -- the first state in the U.S. to do so. Washington is letting voters decide.

Concerns About GE Foods

Despite industry’s assurance that GE foods are safe, many scientists are not convinced. For one thing, as Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, points out, biotech companies prohibit any independent testing of their products. That means that the only safety testing ever done on GE foods is done by the companies that profit from them.

The crops are engineered to either survive treatment with an herbicide or to produce their own insecticide. The first generation of herbicide tolerant crops were engineered to withstand Roundup, an herbicide produced by Monsanto that is marketed as “safe.” In theory, the farmer sprays the entire field with Roundup and the weeds die while the crop survives.

But the next generation of herbicide tolerant crops are made to be sprayed with chemicals that do not even pretend to be safe. The USDA is currently considering allowing farmers to grow GE crops designed for use with herbicides that are known carcinogens and reproductive toxins. The other type of GE crops, those that produce their own insecticides, produce Bt, an organic pesticide made naturally by a type of bacteria. But when Bt is used by organic farmers, it is used only sporadically and breaks down quickly in the environment. In GE crops, every cell of the plant produces Bt all the time. In fact, a 2010 study found Bt in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women and 80 percent of umbilical cord blood samples. In other words, maybe we should do some independent testing of GE foods. And in the meantime, a majority of Americans believe they should be labeled.

Misleading Ads

Washington is not the first state to put the labeling question up to the voters. Last year, California narrowly voted down a similar measure, Prop 37. Initially, Prop 37 had two to one support -- until the opposition spent $45 million convincing Californians that Prop 37 was an inconsistent, poorly written measure that would increase their grocery bills. All that money did its job, and Prop 37 slid 13 percentage points before losing at the polls.

Washington’s Initiative 522 looks like déjà vu all over again. The opposition’s ads show a doctor, a pediatric dietitian, and even an organic farmer who identifies herself as a scientist, all telling voters that 522 is “a separate, misleading labeling system that would only exist in our state.” The ads drive home the words “misleading,” “costly,” and “unfair.”

The ads are doing their job, and polls show that 522 is now in a statistical dead heat. Yet, the most misleading thing about Initiative 522 is these opposition ads.

For example, the claim of increased grocery prices is unfounded, as it assumes that food manufacturers in Washington State will all switch to more expensive organic or certified non-GMO ingredients if the measure passes. An independent study commissioned by Just Label It, an organization in favor of labeling, found that labeling would not affect grocery prices. Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, offers factual information about 522 and strongly supports the measure.

Astroturf Against 522

All of the money for No on 522 came from the Grocery Manufacturers Association and five chemical and biotechnology corporations: Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Bayer, and BASF. Oh, and a few individuals. Out of over $17.1 million raised, five real Washington state residents contributed a whopping $550.

But that’s not what you might think if you surfed onto the campaign website. There the group provides long lists of farmers, ranchers, scientists, organizations, farm groups, and individuals who support its position. This strategy is known as astroturf, because it aims to resemble an authentic grassroots campaign, just as astroturf is made to look like actual grass.

“The Largest Amount of Money Ever Concealed in an Election” Here’s a question, though: Who are the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA)? And why are behemoths like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo staying silent on 522, when they poured millions into fighting Prop 37 in California last year?

The No on 522 campaign has already succeeded in raising the largest amount in Washington State history to fight a ballot initiative. But GMA’s portion breaks a record of its own; it is “the largest amount of money ever concealed in an election,” according to Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

It turns out that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, General Mills, and all the rest of the largest food companies in America weighed in on the 522 fight after all -- only this time, they did it secretly.

Last year, during the Prop 37 battle, these large food manufacturers took a beating in the press for their open opposition to labeling the genetically engineered ingredients in their products. This time around, they still wanted to donate, but did not want their reputations harmed for doing so. They all donated to a fund within GMA, and GMA, in turn, gave the money to the fight against 522.

All went well until a group called Moms for Labeling sued to find out GMA’s donors. The suit was thrown out, and then Washington’s Attorney General filed his own suit. The story was well-covered by public health watchdog Michele Simon, who explains that the secret fundraising actually broke the law, and the tactic was specifically intended to “better shield individual companies from attack.”

Grassroots for 522

The irony is that No on 522, with its phony “grassroots” support and corporate mega-funding, is overshadowing an actual grassroots campaign. The $6.3 million raised by Yes on 522 came from 7,075 individual donations. About 97 percent of these contributions were under $1,000, and even the donations above $1,000 came from a broad donor base of 150 different organizations, farms, cooperatives, corporations, and individuals.

Although a large share of the funds raised came from out of state, quite a bit came from Washington. For example, one of the largest donors was PCC Natural Markets, which gave $100,000. PCC is a natural food cooperative with 49,000 members in the Greater Seattle area. Another $160,000 came from the Washington-based natural food company Nature’s Path.

Scanning down the donor list, one finds many entries like this:

•A Waterville, WA farmer gave $5,000

•A Seattle musician gave $2,500

•An Oakville, WA farmer gave $1,000

•A Port Townsend, WA homemaker gave $1,000

•A Mercer Island, WA retiree gave $1,000

The Yes on 522 campaign is an example of grassroots democracy in action, and the 522 fight shows how easily a handful of wealthy corporations can trample on democracy. Fortunately, thanks to successful enforcement of Washington’s laws, these companies don’t get to shield their reputations as well.

With only a week to go before the November 5 election, it appears that this corporate Goliath of cash may crush the grassroots David once again. Why are food companies so desperate to conceal from consumers the ingredients they are putting in our food?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Millions Against Monsanto: Five Lessons From the Battle Against GMOs

Monday, 04 November 2013 09:25 By Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association | Op-Ed


Twenty years after the controversial introduction of unlabeled and untested genetically engineered foods and crops, opposition to GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and Monsanto has created one of the largest netroots-grassroots movements in the U.S.

There are arguably more important issues facing us today than the battle against Frankenfoods. The climate crisis and corporate control over the government and media come to mind. But the rapidly growing anti-GMO Movement illustrates the powerful synergy that can develop from the combined use of social media, marketplace pressure and political action. Recent developments in this sector indicate that out-of-control corporations, media, politicians and the proverbial “one percent” can be outsmarted and outmaneuvered. And quite possibly defeated.

In the wake of high-stakes multi-million dollar GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California in 2012, and Washington State in 2013, an army of organic food and natural health activists have put Corporate America and the political elite on the defensive. We’ve demonstrated that aggressive populist issue-framing; unconventional “inside-outside” coalition-building; marketplace pressure; and online list-building, mobilization and fundraising - strategically channeled into local and state-based political action - can begin to even up the odds between David and Goliath.

Here are five strategic lessons from the ongoing battle against GMOs in the U.S, lessons that may be applicable to a broad range of political issues.

  1. Aggressive populist issue-framing works.

The desire to know what’s in our food, coupled with a growing concern for food safety and a distrust of large chemical companies, the mass media, Congress and federal regulatory agencies, is a hot-button issue that unites the majority of Americans - Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians and Independents alike.

Forty percent of consumers believe that unlabeled genetically engineered foods and crops are unsafe. Another 40 percent are unsure. These numbers terrify large supermarket chains, biotech companies and food corporations. So does the notion that states such as Washington, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont will soon require mandatory labeling of GMOs - which will likely drive these controversial foods and crops off the market, just as labeling laws have already done in Europe.

Anti-GMO campaigners have gained the support of millions of consumers and voters by framing food safety as a populist issue. And by relentlessly and aggressively challenging the opposition – big-name companies that include Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestlé, General Mills and others.

  1. Unconventional “inside-outside” coalition-building builds critical mass.

After 20 years of grassroots public education and advocacy, the organic and natural health movements, led by a hybrid coalition of non-profit public interest groups, such as the Organic Consumers Association and Food Democracy Now, and green businesses, including Mercola.com, Dr. Bronner’s, and Nature’s Path, are approaching something like critical mass.

Over 100 million U.S. consumers are now regularly shopping for organic and natural foods, nutritional supplements and other products, giving rise to a rapidly growing $80 billion-a-year market for organic and natural products. One of the most important accomplishments of the right-to-know, anti-GMO movement has been to unite the advocacy and fundraising efforts of non-profit groups and health and green-minded for-profit businesses. After 20 years of often operating on shoestring budgets, activist groups (the “outsiders”) are now increasingly joining hands with a number of profitable organic/green/Fair Trade businesses (the “insiders”). This inside-outside strategy has managed to raise a not insignificant war chest of almost $20 million to support the state GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013, while simultaneously pressuring major brands, such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Chipotle, to embrace GMO labeling.

At the same time activist groups with a more radical message (“outsiders”) are learning that you must, for maximum impact, work with more moderate groups (the “insiders”), and vice-versa. This ecumenical “inside-outside” strategy has allowed the more radical organic and natural health groups and scientists to highlight the alarming human health and environmental hazards of GMOs, and carry out boycotts, street demonstrations and direct action, while the less radical campaign groups and coalitions meanwhile appeal to a more moderate demographic with the mainstream message that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food.

  1. Marketplace pressure and political action must go hand-in-hand.

Anti-GMO campaigners have now learned that marketplace pressure and political action go hand-in-hand. It’s not enough to just vote with your pocketbook for organic and non-GMO foods and products, to reward good companies and brands and punish the bad ones. We must get political, and vote for a healthy, climate-friendly food and farming system in the voting booth as well. If we want to drive GMO foods off the market, we must not only walk our talk in the marketplace and in our everyday lives, but also “get political” and mobilize our base to get involved in legislative battles and political campaigns.

One important consequence of marketplace pressure and boycotts is their potential to gradually divide our opponents. In the case of the anti-GMO movement, we’ve begun to drive a wedge between the biotech/industrial agriculture corporations, and their erstwhile allies, food manufacturers and supermarket chains. In the wake of the California GMO labeling ballot initiative (Proposition 37), the Organic Consumers Association and our allies launched a nationwide boycott of Traitor Brands, the organic and natural brands whose parent corporations spent $20 million, along with the biotech industry’s $30 million, to defeat Prop 37. We sabotaged several dozen corporate Facebook pages, tarnishing brand names such as Kashi, Cascadian Farm, Honest Tea, Naked Juice, Silk, Horizon, and Ben and Jerry’s, to depress sales. This caused several large multinationals, including Unilever, parent company of Ben and Jerry’s, and Mars, parent company of Seeds of Change, to back off from anti-labeling activities. Other retail and food giants, including Wal-Mart, fearing an escalation in consumer activism, have begun lobbying the FDA to implement federal GMO food labels.

  1. Sophisticated online list-building, mobilization and fundraising are key.

Anti-GMO campaigners are rapidly becoming more sophisticated in terms of building broad coalitions, using online petitions to build large email lists, pooling national email lists, segmenting national lists in order to target state and local constituencies, using Facebook, Twitter and other social media for network-building and mobilization, setting up c4 lobbying organizations to complement c3 non-profit groups, and raising funds online.

In the recent GMO ballot initiative campaigns in California and Washington, as well as state legislative campaigns for labeling in several dozen other states, right-to-know supporters have been able to send coordinated or complementary email messages to over 10 million people at once. Over the past 12 months groups like the Organic Consumers Association, Mercola.com, Food Democracy Now, Natural News, Alliance for Natural Health, Center for Food Safety, Just Label It, Environmental Working Group, Cornucopia, Friends of the Earth, CREDO, and MoveOn have been able to send out anti-GMO or pro-labeling messages to literally millions of consumers and voters on a regular basis, generating thousands of grassroots volunteers, organizing thousands of local events and protests, and raising over $20 million, mainly in small donations. The anti-GMO movement may not have the deep pockets or the advertising and PR clout of the biotech and Big Food lobby when it comes to the corporate media, but we are rapidly developing our own mass media on the Internet and Facebook.

  1. Local and state political action is more effective than campaigns that target federal laws and lawmakers.

The anti-GMO movement, like other social change movements, has learned the hard way that corporations and the wealthy elite control not only the mass media, but the federal government, Supreme Court, and regulatory agencies such as the FDA, USDA, and EPA. After decades of sending petitions and lobbying the White House, Congress and the FDA, to no avail, it has become clear that the political elite, including President Obama, care more about their wealthy campaign contributors than they do about their constituents, including the 93 percent who, according to a recent New York Times poll, support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

As a consequence the anti-GMO movement has moved its focus away from the unfavorable terrain of Washington D.C., and instead turned its attention to marketplace pressure, and state, county and local political campaigns, especially ballot initiatives. Citizen ballot initiatives are legal in 24 states and approximately 1,000 counties and municipalities. This form of direct democracy gives voters the power to enact labeling laws, bans or regulatory and zoning restrictions on biotech corporations and Big Ag, bypassing indentured politicians and federal bureaucrats. A number of California and Washington State counties over the last decade have moved beyond just labeling to outright bans on GMO crops, thanks to citizen-driven local political action. In 2014, four Oregon counties will have ballot initiatives calling for bans on GMO crops.

Win or lose in Washington State on November 5, the anti-GMO Movement has evolved into a savvy army of grassroots activists who are committed to the ongoing battle to reclaim our food and farming systems, part of a larger battle to transform the entire political and economic system.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Food Safety Modernization Act Threatens Fresh, Healthy and Sustainably Grown Food

Tuesday, 05 November 2013 09:39 By Michael Tabor and Nick Maravell, Lancaster Farming | Op-Ed


Each week at my farm stands in the Maryland area, we try to explain a peculiar situation to our customers. On the one hand, they want to buy our fresh fruit and vegetables. However, I tell them, that in a few years, these will all be illegal to sell!


Because they have some degree of dirt and bacteria on them. The strawberries for instance, have some trace amount of straw and soil on them. As do the tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers. We do rinse them before leaving the farm – but we won’t put them through a disinfectant bath nor pack them in antiseptic plastic containers and put “PLU” labels on them. That’s not what consumers want at a farm market---nor is it something we’ll ever be able to do.

Regulations for a new food law – FSMA – the Food Safety Modernization Act – administered by the FDA are currently in the process of being finalized. Although the Act originally had protections for family farmers like myself, we see those being ignored or phased out over time.

Common sense and following the data of recent food safety scares lead us to a very strong conclusion: the further the food travels from the farm to the consumer, the more opportunities it has to become a food safety problem…the current cyclospora food poisoning problem in bagged salads is a good example.

This is one reason why 20 million consumers come to farmers markets like ours and want fresh produce from our fields – preferably grown without pesticides, herbicides or GMO seeds. And sadly, protecting consumers from these synthetic perils is not addressed by FSMA.

Nor does FDA address what is common sense to many scientists, doctors and parents: our bodies are dependent on the good germs and bacteria. If anything, rather than developing the antiseptic globalized industrial-style food system FSMA seeks, we should be searching for ways to increase the amount of good bacteria in our bodies. In fact, fecal implants to repopulate the gut with bacteria are not science fiction—the medical profession is now performing them every day.

So, why is this bad science becoming the law of the land? First, it is partially due to corporate profit. Corporations depend on a global supply chain, and in doing so they are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver safe food. At the same time they are losing market share to the local food systems that customers are demanding—witness the sharp increase in farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSAs), and restaurants offering “farm to fork” menus. To avoid legal liability, the corporations want to legitimize an industrial approach to sterilizing everything, without regard to the unnecessary and costly burden placed on local farmers. If your local farmer goes out of business trying to comply with the costs of hundreds of pages of new federal food safety regulations, well that just leaves more customers without a local alternative.

Second there is the misguided advocacy of the consumer organizations, like Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). They mean well, but they think that throwing regulatory words and paperwork burden at a problem will solve it. This approach is overly legalistic, and it ignores the realities of nature and the practical fact that over-regulating a sector that is not causing a problem—small farmers—cannot possibly lead to safer food.

And, finally, there is this Administration’s commitment to the bio-tech industry. It’s no accident that FDA’s deputy commissioner responsible for food safety, Michael R. Taylor, is a former Monsanto Vice President. That partially explains why the “safe food” mandate does nothing to protect us from genetically engineered food, and the harsh chemicals that are necessarily paired with it.

It will, however, put many of us farmers, who are committed to fresh, healthy and sustainably-grown food, out of business. We note a recent issue of Lancaster Farming (7/13/13), on page A10, that Don Bessemer, a third generation farmer, whose family farmed his land for 117 years in Akron, Ohio, has already closed his Bessemer Farm Market and specifically named FDA and FSMA as the reason. He had to lay off his 30 employees. He estimated that with the “many layers of government red tape and paperwork” the requirements would cost him at least $100,000 to comply with the regulations and $30,000 a year for inspections. He said in 117 years, they have never poisoned anyone and, “I can fight the bugs, I can fight the lack of rain, but when the guy comes with a clipboard what are you going to do?”

We can all see the future. It is those antiseptic, theoretically bacteria-free plastic containers that will soon become the only way we will be able to shop for all of our produce.

And that should be an issue of public outrage!

You can learn how to format comments to the FDA about FSMA (until November 15 only!) here.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

November 5 Vote in Washington Tests Future of GMOs, Capitalism and Climate Change

Monday, 04 November 2013 09:39 By Mitra Sticklen, Occupy.com | Report


As Washingtonions prepare to vote November 5, news and funding is coming in on both sides of the long-heated debate around an initiative to require labeling of genetically modified foods and agricultural products.

Washington Initiative-522 cites 49 countries that mandate similar labeling for genetically engineered (GE) products. After gathering 2,600 petition signatures, I-522 has gotten attention in other states across the nation and around the world.

Consider the implications of this initiative: for starters, how much money is at stake in the organic industry? The initiative states that Washington sells $281 million in organic farm products annually, making it the second largest organic producer in the nation. Furthermore, “the organic industry is creating jobs at four times the national rate,” and ensuring the integrity of organic crops and products is vital to protect this valuable, growing industry.

And how much is at stake in the non-organic foods and products industry? This number is harder to quantify, but if pushback is an indicator of economic value, this is the most valuable single-issue campaign in United States history.

As Civil Eats recently stated, “the current ‘No on 522’ campaign war chest total [is] $21.9 million, the most well-endowed single-issue campaign in state history.” And because nearly 10% of Washington’s annual organic sales are being met by this one-time injection of anti-labeling funds, many consider the vote a toss-up.

The majority of funding for the “No on 522” campaign is from familiar agribusinesses: Dupont, Monsanto, PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola, and the list goes on. But the funding source many citizens hadn’t heard about is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents hundreds of multinational agri-business corporations. The "No on 522” campaign efforts highlight the initiative as “costly,” claiming it will hurt farmers and producers, and that it is altogether “unnecessary because the market is already giving shoppers valid and useful information about food, unlike the inaccurate and inconsistent label proposed in I-522.”

The website for the "Yes on 522” campaign, by contrast, highlights how the initiative would benefit Washington’s fishing, wheat and apple industries. Endorsements include Washington Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Washington, United Farm Workers, Washington State Nurses Association, Pike Place Fish Market and Washington Toxics Coalition.

The pro side of the campaign highlights not just the economic impacts but also the staggering environmental impacts of GMO crop production on Washington’s agricultural land resources:

• Farmers are using more herbicides/insecticides

• GE crops have created “superweeds” and “superinsects”

• GE crops negatively impact biodiversity

• GE crop trials have led to unintended consequences

If social media is an indicator of popular opinion, look to Facebook. Led by citizens and not corporations, the Facebook group “Yes on 522” has 46,000 likes. There is no analogous group on Facebook for “No on 522.”

While the labeling requirement doesn’t highlight climate change in the proposed initiative, neither on the pro- nor con- sides, many scientists have pointed to the GE issue as pivotal within the context of global climate change.

How is global climate change affected by GE crop production? Trade associations such as EuropaBio suggest that GE (referred to here as Genetically Modified, GM) crops can “help farmers fight climate change in the following ways:

• Less fuel consumption on farms due to a reduced need to spray crops.

• Better carbon sequestration. With less tillage or ploughing, over time soil quality is enhanced and becomes carbon-enriched since more crop residue can be left on the fields. In addition, since the soil is not inverted by ploughing, less carbon in the soil will be released into the atmosphere.

• Reduced fertilizer use and N2O emissions. Nitrous oxide has a global warming potential 296 times greater than carbon dioxide. And it stays in the atmosphere for more than 100 years. These emissions can be limited by reduced fertilizer use, which will also mean less water pollution.”

However, there are no cited sources or data, thus the numbers appear to lack scientific backing. Tom Philpott’s 2012 article in Mother Jones offers many examples of GMO supporters who deny climate science, claiming that “the general shtick here is to defend large, lucrative industries against critics and regulators.”

A 2013 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report illustrates how the current agriculture system in the United States is unsustainable and vulnerable if temperatures rise as predicted:

“Because of mechanization, large areas of rice and other cereals are grown in genetically uniform, mono-cropping systems. Such systems are capable of producing large quantities of grain – if weather is stable. However, because the number of extreme climatic events is likely to increase in the future, the lack of genetic diversity in such cropping systems makes them biologically more vulnerable to such occurrences.”

The report only mentions genetics in vague terms around research on new, heat-tolerant genetic improvement. Although the USDA report states clearly that mono-cropping systems are not resilient in extreme climactic events, there is no clear support for a strategy or movement away from this system.

Enter Naomi Klein. In her recent New Statesmen article, “How science is telling us to revolt,” Klein highlights the scientific urgency of mitigating climate change immediately, and the importance of resistance and social movements in creating immediate policy change akin to “the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street.”

Klein points to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in which a 2010 international agreement was reached to reduce emissions enough to limit global temperature increases within 2 degrees Celsius. To meet this agreement, scientists across the world are urging a politically unprecedented move away from our current coal-based system. Klein cites two scientists from the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research who insist that industrialized countries must immediately reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by around 10% annually. The challenge is how to do this in a capitalist system.

Klein also points to scientist Brad Werner’s 2012 session at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in which he used systems theory to explain that modern capitalism has threatened our human existence on the planet by removing all restraints to resource exploitation in the name of profit. But from a complex systems theory perspective, Werner also offered social movements as a path to immediate change: “If we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics.”

Washington Initiative-522 is a new illustration of the same challenges of creating sound climate change policies within a climate of global capitalism — where individuals want long-term security through environmental and human health protections, and multinational corporations act in the best interest of the bottom dollar. Although corporations across the globe can fund “No on 522,” only individuals in Washington have the power to vote on November 5.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

McCutcheon: The People Strike Back to Have a Voice in Elections

Monday, 04 November 2013 13:57 By Chris Esh, Truthout | Op-Ed


While the US Supreme Court mulls lifting overall limits to campaign contributions in the McCutcheon case, Seattle citizens go to the polls Tuesday over reforming their elections with publicly funded campaigns that empower small donors.

On October 8, 2013, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the overall limits on what individuals can donate to all candidates and parties - the aggregate limits - in the case of McCutcheon v. FEC. On that day, citizen groups and elected officials came together across the country to call on the court to maintain those limits to preserve the voice of ordinary Americans in our democracy.

The fact is contribution limits are already too high. Candidates for office are over-reliant on donors who can give the most, and current federal limits are far higher than what the average American can afford to give. As evidence of this, one need not look further than the 2012 elections, in which House candidates raised 55 percent of their individual contributions in chunks of $1,000 or more from just 183,654 donors, and Senate candidates raked in 64 percent in contributions of that size from about 133,000 individuals.

Striking the aggregate limits would make that problem significantly worse. These limits work together with the base limits to ensure that a small set of donors cannot disproportionately flood the elections. If they are lifted, a single donor could contribute up to $3.6 million to all candidates and PACs within a given party. Only a small handful of individuals come even close to the aggregate limit. In 2012 only 1,219 people came within 10 percent of the $117,000 limit, which is not at all surprising when you consider that this is more than twice what the average American household earns in a year. Super PACs offer a clear example of what happens when limits are lifted - huge donors accounted for the vast majority of the funds, with just a handful balancing out the gifts of millions of small donors. In fact, just 32 super PAC donors matched every single small donor to Obama and Romney combined - drowning out the contributions of over 3.7 million individuals.

What a ruling for McCutcheon would do is allow special interests to exert an unprecedented level of control over our democracy. And when ordinary Americans are further squeezed out of the process, it will become harder for us to leverage our people-power to protect the environment, working families and civil rights.

The Silver Lining

The McCutcheon appeal, for all of its absurdity, highlights the greater problem with our campaign finance system - not just on the federal level, but at the state and local levels as well. And with a case that has drawn so much coverage, it gives democracy advocates an opportunity to begin planting the seeds for real change to our campaign finance system at all levels of government.

That change can begin in Seattle on Tuesday (Nov. 5). Then, Seattle voters have the opportunity to overcome big money by making campaign finance reforms that empower small donors and increase the clout average citizens have in our political process by having publicly-funded elections for city council candidates. The system uses simple incentives through public matching of small contributions; it sets campaign spending limits; and has strict standards for participating candidates. The results seen in other cities with similar reforms, like New York, demonstrate the highest levels of small donor participation and more competitive elections. A supportive McCutcheon decision can either be taken as another devastating blow to our ability as ordinary citizens to advocate for change, or as the impetus for reclaiming our democracy from the clutches of special interests. We should take it as the latter, and Seattle offers a blueprint for how we can begin to strike back. It will be difficult, but it is a necessary fight if we consider the cost to ordinary citizens in a post-McCutcheon country.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by mrbadexample (15) from Brooklyn, NY 10 years ago

Here's a play about GMO food and Monsanto that was being toured for OWS until August. Currently on hiatus, it's the story of an activist 'pie attack' on the CEO of Monsanto. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1B1-mv_KXOo


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 10 years ago


DKAtoday ‏@DKAtoday

Monsanto's Very Bad Week: Three Big Blows for GMO Food http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/19632-monsantos-very-bad-week-3-big-blows-for-gmo-food

Our Food Should Not Kill Us.

[-] 1 points by Nevada1 (5843) 10 years ago

This is good-----We are making progress.



[-] -1 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 years ago

Any links where we can donate to the campaign against Monsanto in Washington?

Monsanto dumped over 30mill into the commercials to get prop37 voted down. I'm sure the boots on the ground on our side could use a few bucks.

[-] -2 points by drinkmorebrondo (3) 10 years ago

AMA, FDA, World Health Org, all say ijustsmh...full of fucking bullshit. He's yet another moron liberal shrieking LIES....All proven by Mark Lynas, founder of the anti GMO movement. But the resident dimwits here even though they know they are LIES..still believe in the lies. Ultimate gopal of hateful liberals is to kill as many starving third world children as possible


[-] -2 points by drinkmorebrondo (3) 10 years ago

Liberals had DDT banned based on ONE person's LIES. Millions have died from malaria because of this moron and the pack of liberal sheep who bought into the LIE... Same with GMO's. Crops resistant to insects, and need less water to help starving nations. Liberals say.."we know what;s best for you...starve motherfuckers"


[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

that's how these self made people make money

through lying

[-] -2 points by drinkmorebrondo (3) 10 years ago

you can only keep you ignorant liberal head in the sand so long. These are facts. Liberal policies have killed millions overseas...but hot damn...they feel so smug discussing back here in America what a great job they did.

Liberals...elitist motherfuckers who ALWAYS think they know what's best for everyone else.


[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

They know the welfare system can be cheated because cheating is they way they make money.

They just don't understand that the poor don't look to cheat

[+] -5 points by drinkbrondo (-71) 10 years ago

Mark Lynas, founder of the anti GMO movement, has publicly admitted (on you tube) all the things he wrote about GMO's were LIES. Completely made up. No matter.. legions of liberals dumbbells still believe the lies...even though they know they are ...LIES. And continue to spread these lies. Pure madness.Then again...that's liberal


[-] 1 points by ijustsmh (28) 10 years ago

What happened?


[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 10 years ago

Only had a knife pulled on me once.

Told him if he didn't put it away, I'd shove it up his arse. Called his bluff.




[+] -7 points by drinkbrondo (-71) 10 years ago

Sorry twinkie. World Health Org, and AMA, say nothing wrong with GMO's. I'll take their word over a group of hippies spreading lies, by an admitted liar. . Have a bowl of all natural Kashi and relax. 7 GMO grains...on a mission. Chump

[-] 2 points by ijustsmh (28) 10 years ago

The WHO and the AMA? Good one, drunkbro. I'll make it easy on you: your pro-GMO shit won't fly on this website; unlike you we've already done our homework. Shill.

[+] -6 points by drinkbrondo (-71) 10 years ago

Yea..I just made that shit up. Especially about the founder Mark Lynas saying he lied to all of you. Fucking chumps.

[-] 4 points by ijustsmh (28) 10 years ago

I'm not claiming you made that shit up. I fully believe the WHO and the AMA said exactly that. But it's funny that when Lynas was anti-GMO, he was "A liar." Now that he's pro-GMO, he's telling the truth and you believe him.

A word of advice: it's better if you take your claptrap to another forum because you picked the wrong guys if you want to go down the pro-GMO path. We'll annihilate you. But if you wanna dance it'll require you to click on some links. Really want to go there?

I'll let you start. Show us a link proving the safety of any GMO crops. Any crop, I'll let you pick which one.

Then it's my turn.

[+] -5 points by drinkbrondo (-71) 10 years ago

No further discussion needed ..when you find better authorities in medicine than the WHO and AMA, let me know. You can't "annihilate shit...,becasue you are following the LIES...of a LIAR. You're a fucking bag of idiot hippies. The only ones who will suffer are starving children in third world countries because...ONCE AGAIN...liberals know what's best for them.

[-] 4 points by ijustsmh (28) 10 years ago

I've never heard of Mark Lynas until you posted this and could care less about his 'epiphany.' My sources are as good as your sources, maybe even better, because the WHO is political and the AMA have vested interests.

You're obviously here simply to disrupt and talk a bunch of shit, so lucky for us you won't last long.

I'll tell you what, I'll start first. Read these two links, then come back and talk:



I dare you. Read those and then come back here, bring some facts to back up your shit, and tell me again I'm an idiot hippie. You got nuthin', punk. Put up or shut the fuck up.

[+] -6 points by drinkbrondo (-71) 10 years ago

Put your tampon back in. You have QUACK hippies as your evidence about GMO's...I have the AMA. Go shriek some more you little bitch.

[-] 2 points by ijustsmh (28) 10 years ago

Don Huber's a hippie now? You never even clicked the links, which I was 100% sure you wouldn't do. If you want to play with the big boys try not to be so obvious.

And you don't know what the hell you're even talking about. The AMA doesn't say "GMO's are safe." Their position is "trust but verify." In other words, the AMA believes GM foods should be tested for safety. Guess what, genius? The industry doesn't test and the FDA says it's not their department. Passing the buck. Here's an AMA link for you:


But since you're too lazy to check links, here's two quotes:

"The AMA report supports the findings of a 1987 National Academy of Sciences white paper that said there is no evidence that genetically modified foods pose any hazards."

Yeah, twenty five years out of date. Here. Here's another one:

"Although the AMA does not support labeling, it does support pre-market safety assessments, AMA board member Patrice Harris, MD, said in a statement. That includes testing for major changes in nutrient or toxicant levels."

Once again, the industry doesn't test! Now, you want to talk about the WHO and the fact that the most recent paper they have is six years out of date?

I told you you didn't have shit. But keep bumping Leo's post and I'll keep slapping you down.