From Jeff Cox
Organic Food Guy
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.