Big Organic Food Firms Back Monsanto Dream Act
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Big Organic Food Firms Back Monsanto Dream Act
You’ll never guess who’s selling out your right to mandatory GMO labeling.
According to Food Democracy Now! we’re being betrayed in Washington D.C. by a group of donation-hungry Senators and a handful of corrupt organic corporations that have just brokered an outrageous deal behind our backs in an effort to kill mandatory GMO labeling and make sure that Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling bill never takes effect this Friday.
Monsanto and Whole Foods’ new fake labeling bill (sometimes called the Monsanto Dream Act or the DARK Act) would not only preempt Vermont’s bill from taking effect this week, but all provisions of the bill are optional. The language is so poorly written that it would not include 85 percent of the current GMOs on the market. Additionally, the deal brokered by Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Roberts (R-KS) would not provide any penalties for non-compliance, so cannot even be inforced if these companies refuse to label!
Besides Monsanto and Whole Foods, other companies behind the bill include DuPont, Stonyfield Farms, General Mills, Organic Valley, and Smucker’s.
In the past week, the American GMO labeling movement has been rocked by the most outrageous betrayal imaginable. While you and your friends have been fighting for mandatory GMO labeling, the giant corporate organic companies that are owned by parent conventional food companies have climbed into bed with Monsanto. According to a Politico story that came out last week, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb joined his friends at Stonyfield, Smucker’s, and Organic Valley in selling out the American food movement.
Robb says it’s an “incredible thing” that senators came together and compromised during a dysfunctional time. He said he hopes that lawmakers can soon move on to other things. Incredulously, he went on to claim that “we need to…talk about much bigger issues.”
Stonyfield Yogurt chairman Gary Hirshberg and founder of the bogus corporate organic front group Just Label It, who’s been working behind the scenes with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, former biotech Governor of the year, is now telling the press:
“We are pleased this proposal will finally create a national, mandatory GMO disclosure system, protect organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law.”
In reality, it’s easy to recognize that this deal brokered last week in DC is a “non-labeling” bill and does nothing to secure your right to know, as we’ve fought so hard for over many years. Sadly, a handful of corporate organic lobbyists at the Organic Trade Association (OTA) helped broker this deal and are now peddling the lie that it represents what our national GMO labeling movement actually wants your Senators to vote for. Over 90 percent of the American public wants mandatory and positive GMO labeling. In other words, labeling that flat out says, “Contains Genetically Modified Ingredients.” Only then will shoppers know exactly which foods to avoid.
Maybe it’s time to avoid shopping at Whole Foods and letting them know why.
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
Dear President Obama—If Congress passes the Monsanto Dream Act, which is the Stabenow-Roberts compromise bill that gives Monsanto control over GMO labeling in this country, please don’t sign it.
We the People
MORE ABOUT THE STABENOW-ROBERTS BILL
Leaders in the U.S. Senate have announced that they’ve “reached a deal” on a federal GMO labeling bill. No matter how they spin it—and they will spin it—this “compromise” is nothing more than a handout to Monsanto, an industry-brokered deal intended to legally sanction the right of corporations to deceive you, the consumer.
The bill, if passed and signed, will overturn Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, and replace it with an anti-consumer bill that allows food corporations to hide GMOs behind QR codes and toll-free phone numbers—and gives them another two years before they even have to pretend they are labeling.
What does this news mean for Vermont’s mandatory labeling law? Vermont’s law will still take effect on July 1, because Congress has run out of time to get the bill passed by both the House and Senate, and plop it down on President Obama’s desk.
But once Congress returns after the July 4 recess, you can bet your life that Monsanto’s minions in Congress will make it their highest priority to seal the deal on an industry-friendly, anti-consumer, anti-states’ rights federal law that will overturn Vermont’s law and leave U.S. consumers in the dark.
With your help, we will once again throw ourselves into the battle to save Vermont’s law. To demand the right to truth and transparency in labeling. To remind our members of Congress that they were elected to serve us, not their corporate masters.
We will work to keep the Senate from getting the 60 votes it needs to pass the bill. We will recruit pro-labeling Senators to filibuster, if we have to. We will take our—your—fight to the oval office, and if necessary, we will launch a massive boycott of any food product that isn’t labeled organic, grass-fed, or non-GMO.
AND NOW FOR A TRUE JOURNALIST’S PERSPECTIVE
Phillip Brasher, writing in Agri-Pulse, writes a non-partisan, dispassionate news story about the Stabenow-Roberts compromise, and by Jove, he gets it right:
“A landmark Senate agreement on national disclosure standards for genetically engineered foods would allow companies to disclose GMO ingredients through digital codes rather than on-package language or symbols.
“The agreement, reached between Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, also would use a narrow definition of genetic engineering that would exempt the newest biotech methods such as gene editing from the national disclosure standards.
“Both the definition and the option for digital codes rather than on-package labeling represent major victories for farm interests, biotech developers, and food companies that have long resisted mandatory GMO labeling out of fear that it would stigmatize the technology.
“The legislation, which will need 60 votes to pass the Senate, would nullify Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law, which takes effect July 1, and would bar any other state from enacting labeling requirements that differ from the federal standards.”
THREE HAWAII COUNTIES TRY TO PROTECT CITIZENS FROM AGRICHEMICALS. CAN THEY?
Here’s a condensation of testimony before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Hawaii. Monsanto and others argue that they have no right to protect their citizens. See what you think. https://vimeo.com/172170031
3 U.S. SMALL BUSINESSES IN NY, MA, AND OH RECOGNIZED FOR ORGANIC PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Three small businesses in New York, Massachusetts and Ohio offering organic products were announced today as the winners of Green America’s quarterly “People & Planet Award.” The three winners of the $5,000 prizes are: Fruition Seeds of Canandaigua, NY; Neptune’s Harvest of Gloucester, MA; and Village Bakery & Café of Athens, OH. The three winners were selected by the public during a month-long online voting period.
The quarterly People & Planet Award recognizes innovative U.S. small businesses that integrate environmental and social considerations into their strategies and operations.
Fran Teplitz, Green America’s executive co-director, said: “Organic small businesses play an increasingly important role as more and more consumers seek food and other products that have not been spoiled by GMOs and pesticides. Organic companies keep real consumer choice alive and often play a central role in the supporting their local communities. The companies that won the awards really exemplify what the spirit of ‘Green America’ is all about.”
The winning companies are:
* Fruition Seeds, Canandaigua, NY. http://www.greenamerica.org/green-business-people-and-planet-award/Spring2016/Fruition.cfm. Fruition Seeds grows more than 300 varieties of certified organic, non-GMO seeds regionally adapted to thrive in short Northeast U.S. seasons. Fruition has also been invited to adapt their model of collaboration for a seed-saving project in the Dominican Republic. They will be using part of the People & Planet Award prize money to expand their library of how-to videos for seed savers in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.
* Neptune’s Harvest, Gloucester, MA. http://www.greenamerica.org/green-business-people-and-planet-award/Spring2016/Neptune.cfm. Neptune’s Harvest produces 100 percent organic fertilizer from the “waste” of its parent company, Ocean Crest Seafood. With part of the People & Planet winnings, Neptune’s Harvest will be enhancing their raised beds project at their home office, where they test their organic products and share the resulting produce with the community.
* Village Bakery & Cafe, Athens, OH. http://www.greenamerica.org/green-business-people-and-planet-award/Spring2016/Village.cfm. Village Bakery & Cafe supports farms in the foothills of Appalachian Ohio by nourishing its neighbors and inspiring a culture of interdependence. Its progress is measured by how much they can “invest” purchasing power in organic, fair trade, and renewable systems, and how little they can contribute to destructive systems.
SCIENTIST EXPLAINS AUTISM-GLYPHOSATE LINK
Autism is one of humanity’s most mysterious afflictions. The disorder, which can hinder communication, empathy and other social skills on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe, now affects as many as 1 in 68 children born in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, up from 1 in 150 at the turn of the century. No one knows exactly what has caused the increase, but one researcher is pointing her finger at a chemical called glyphosate, more widely known as the active ingredient in the ubiquitous weed killer Roundup.
Agribusiness giant Monsanto introduced Roundup Ready soybeans to the United States in 1994, which are genetically modified to resist glyphosate so farmers can spray their fields with the weed killer without damaging their crops. Today, some 90 percent of soy and corn grown in the country are Roundup Ready.
Now Dr. Stephanie Seneff, senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is sounding the alarm bell. Seneff claims that as many as half of all children born in the United States by 2025 will be on the autism spectrum, and Roundup is the reason why.
“The way glyphosate works is that it interrupts the shikimate pathway, a metabolic function in plants that allows them to create essential amino acids,” Seneff explained at a recent Autism conference. “When this path is interrupted, the plants die. Human cells don’t have a shikimate pathway so scientists and researchers believed that exposure to glyphosate would be harmless.”
However, she claims that the chemical still effects humans even if it doesn’t act on our bodies directly.
“The problem is that bacteria DO have a shikimate pathway and we have millions of good bacteria in our guts — our ‘gut flora,’” Seneff continued. “These bacteria are essential to our health. Our gut isn’t just responsible for digestion, but also for our immune system. When glyphosate gets in our systems, it wrecks our gut and as a result our immune system.”
Seneff also says that her research has shown that glyphosate can inhibit liver function, which could be an explanation for high rates of vitamin D deficiency. She further claims that the chemical could be implicated in diminished kidney function, celiac disease and other gastrointestinal problems.
“[The autism rate] has come up from 1 in 10,000 in 1970 — so that is already an incredibly alarming change,” Seneff said to Next News Network. “I got worried eight years ago when I was seeing it rising, and people were saying, ‘Oh, it’s just more reporting, more diagnosis’ — that’s a way to hide the evidence.”
That’s not the only alarming data that has come to light recently about Roundup. Earlier this spring, the World Health Organization came to a consensus that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans after an extensive review of the evidence and scientific record. Other studies suggest that pesticide exposure in pregnant women can put children at risk of birth defects leading to learning and behavioral impairments.
While some industry-touted studies claim that Roundup is safe for humans, Seneff says that there simply hasn’t been enough research. “The glyphosate is being soaked up by the plants and getting into the food system,” she said, “and the U.S. government is doing very little monitoring to even see if that’s true.”
PESTICIDE CONTAMINATION PROHIBITED FROM ORGANIC PRODUCTION
Synthetic pesticides are once again prohibited in compost used for organic production, thanks to a federal court in the Northern District of California.
The court issued a decision in litigation brought by several nonprofits challenging the United States Department of Agriculture’s allowance of pesticide contamination in compost used in organic food production, whether the contamination is accidental or occurs because compostables are conventionally grown and already contaminated before the composting process..
Center for Food Safety, Center for Environmental Health, and Beyond Pesticides filed the case in April, 2015, arguing that USDA had unlawfully changed organic regulations to create a new pesticide loophole without first undertaking a formal rulemaking and allowing the public to participate in any such decision.
Judge Corley of the U.S. Federal Court for the Northern District of California has just agreed, ruling that USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) violated the law when it issued what it called a “guidance” that weakened the long-standing prohibition on synthetic pesticides in organic compost, and striking it down.
“The court’s decision upholds the integrity of the organic standard and is an incredible victory for organic consumers, organic farmers and the environment. On the flipside, the decision is a resounding defeat of industrial food actors trying to sell out organic integrity to pad their own pocketbooks,” said senior CFS attorney George Kimbrell, counsel for the plaintiffs.
“Organic consumers expect the products they buy to be safe and not harmful to the earth. Citizens brought this suit to force the government to abide by the laws designed to ensure the integrity of our nation’s organic production and certification system,” said Ralph Bloemers, staff attorney for the Crag Law Center and counsel for the plaintiffs.
“We applaud the Court’s decision to protect the integrity of the organic program. We will continue to watchdog the USDA to ensure that the program meets consumers’ expectations for meaningful organic standards,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director of Center for Environmental Health.
“The court decision upholds an organic industry that has been built on a foundation of consumer and farmer investment in ecologically sound practices, principles and values to protect health and the environment. USDA has violated a basic requirement of public accountability in the standard setting process, which is fundamental to public trust in the organic label and continued growth in organic production,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.
New Organic Rules for Treating Farm Animals Humanely
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on New Organic Rules for Treating Farm Animals Humanely
Organic farmers, consumer protection activists, and animal welfare advocates have been working to get stricter regulations on how organic farmers treat the animals in their care.
The requirements got big support from the Obama administration a month ago when it proposed new requirements for how animals are to be treated when their meat is sold with the certified organic label.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture rule clarifies how organic producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry throughout the animals’ lives, including when they are transported and slaughtered.
The rules set maximum indoor and outdoor living space requirements. Barns, pens, coops and other shelters, for example, have to be big enough for the animals to lie down, stand up and fully stretch their limbs without touching other animals or the sides of the shelter. They must also be designed to allow the animals to express normal patterns of behavior.
One of the Obama administration’s new requirements was less vague parameters about what constitutes “cage-free farming” and “organic farming.”
Big Agriculture noticed long ago that a lot of money could be made with the organic label and dived right in. What makes organic eggs any different than, say, “cage-free”? Right now, because of vague regulations, the only real difference is generally that organic hens are raised with USDA-certified feed and no antibiotics. While current laws require that these hens have access to the outdoors, and consumers often believe that they do, many never step foot outside. That’s because some organic egg producers provide access only to a screened-in porch, often on pavement, a practice taken up by large-scale industrial farming operations producing a disproportionate amount of the organic eggs on the market.
BAYER WANTS TO BUY MONSANTO FOR $62 BILLION
In a move resembling the marriage of Satan and Beelzebub, the German firm of Bayer AG is offering $62 billion to merge with Monsanto. Bayer is the world’s largest maker of insecticides, including the neonicotinoids that are implicated in the die-off of bees around the world, while Monsanto exercises tight control over seeds, GMOs, and herbicides.
Bayer’s market capitalization is about $90 billion while Monsanto’s is $42 billion. The merger would make the combined company an agricultural behemoth and would put world agriculture in a chemical headlock.
The merger is far from a done deal, however, as it will face a number of hurdles, including American anti-trust laws. But it brings a lot of firepower (money and influence) to the table.
PEOPLE ACROSS AMERICA CONTAMINATED BY GLYPHOSATE
Glyphosate, the most used herbicide in the World, has been found in the urine of 93 percent of the American public during a unique testing project at the University of California San Francisco that started in 2015.
Glyphosate, labeled a ‘probable human carcinogen’ by the World Health Organization’s cancer agency IARC in 2015, has now been revealed to be ubiquitous in the first ever comprehensive and validated testing project to be carried out across America.
The European Union is currently in the process of putting restrictions on the use of glyphosate due to health concerns, with member countries so far unable to agree on the re-approval of the chemical beyond June, 2016.
Glyphosate-containing herbicides are sold under trademarks such as Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’.
Ninety three percent of the urine tested by the UCSF lab tested positive for glyphosate residues. No glyphosate was found in the tap water samples. These results are only from a small percentage of the total samples collected-–more data will be released later in 2016.
The results of this bio-survey come from the first in-lab validated testing method used for glyphosate testing of the general public in America.
Glyphosate has never been studied by regulators or the chemical industry at levels that the human population in the U.S. is being exposed to (under 3 mg/kg body weight/day). This is a huge hole in the global risk assessment of glyphosate, as there is evidence suggesting that low levels of the chemical may hack hormones even more than at mid and high levels, according to independent science – a higher dose does not necessarily make a more toxic, hormone disruptive effect.
The urine and water testing was organized by The Detox Project and commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association.
The unique project, which has already provided more urine samples for testing than any other glyphosate bio-monitoring urine study ever in America, was supported by members of the public, who themselves paid for their urine and water samples to be analyzed for glyphosate residues by the UCSF lab.
The data released in a presentation by the UCSF lab only covers the first 131 people tested. Further data from this public bio-monitoring study, which is now completed, will be released later in 2016.
The Detox Project will be working alongside a new larger lab later this year to enable the public to once again test their urine for glyphosate residues.
The regions with the highest levels were the West and the Midwest with an average of 3.053 PPB and 3.050 PPB respectively.
Glyphosate residues were not observed in any tap water samples during the early phase of the project, most likely due to phosphorus removal during water treatment.
The results from the UCSF urine testing in America showed a much higher frequency and average glyphosate level than those observed in urine samples in the European Union in 2013. The average level in Europe was around 1 PPB with a frequency of detection of 43.9 percent.
JURY AWARDS PLAINTIFFS $46.5 MILLION IN PCB SUIT
A St. Louis jury has awarded three plaintiffs a total of $46.5 million in damages in a lawsuit alleging that Monsanto and three other companies were negligent in its handling of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a highly toxic and carcinogenic group of chemicals.
The trial involved only three of nearly 100 plaintiffs claiming that exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The 10-2 verdict in St. Louis Circuit Court awarded $17.5 million in damages to the three plaintiffs and assessed an additional $29 million in punitive damages against Monsanto, Solutia, Pharmacia and Pfizer, the St. Louis Dispatch reported.
PCBs were used to insulate electronics decades ago. Before switching operations to agriculture, Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of the compound from 1935 until 1977. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned PCBs in 1979, due to its link to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs can also have adverse skin and liver effects in humans. PCBs linger in the environment for many decades.
The lawsuit claims that Monsanto continued to sell the compounds even after it learned about its dangers and falsely told the public they were safe. Indeed, internal documents have surfaced showing that Monsanto knew about the health risks of PCBs long before they were banned. A document, dated Sept. 20, 1955, stated: “We know Aroclors [PCBs] are toxic but the actual limit has not been precisely defined.”
The verdict is the first such victory in the city of St. Louis and a seemingly rare win overall. Monsanto has historically prevailed in similar lawsuits filed against the company over deaths and illnesses related to PCBs.
“This is the future,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Kherkher of Houston told EcoWatch. “The only reason why this victory is rare is because no one has had the money to fight
SAVINO SYSTEM KEEPS YOUR WINE FROM OXIDIZING
The Savino wine saving system is a true advance in keeping wine fresh. As you may know, air oxidizes wine, giving it a sour flavor. An opened bottle of wine—especially an older wine—won’t last more than a day or two before it goes off. The Savino system is simple: you pour the leftover wine into a tube and a float puts a barrier between the wine and the air. I tried it and a bottle of six-year-old red wine was as fresh and sweet-tasting six days later as it was the night I opened it. Check it out at http://www.savinowine.com/
TRY THREE LITTLE PIGS FOR FINE CHARCUTERIE
As long as we’re talking products, check out the charcuterie made by Trois Petit Cochons, a Greenwich Village operation just down the street from my old West Village apartment. It produces wild boar pate, truffled mousse, terrines, duck confit, chicken sausage, and much more of the first quality online or at many markets. Visit them online at http://3pigs.com/ where you’ll find a “Where to Buy” button, or simply order online. You won’t be disappointed.