Environment

Non Profits Sue General Mills for False and Misleading Use of ‘Natural’

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-08-25 16:26
All About Organics, The Myth of Natural, Food SafetyOrganic Consumers AssociationAugust 24, 2016 nature valley

Tests Reveal Nature Valley Products Contain Glyphosate, an Ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup

For Immediate Release: August 25, 2016

Contacts:
Beyond Pesticides, Jay Feldman, 202-255-4296, Stephanie Davio, 202-543-5450 
Organic Consumers Association, Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090
Moms Across America, Blair FitzGibbon, 202-503-6141

Non Profits Sue General Mills for False and Misleading Use of ‘Natural’ 
Tests Reveal Nature Valley Products Contain Glyphosate, an Ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup

Washington, DC - Today, three non profit organizations filed a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley brand granola bars “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS.” It was recently discovered that the herbicide chemical glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides, is present in the Nature Valley granola bars, which consumers expect to be natural and free of toxins.

Moms Across America, Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association with The Richman Law Group filed jointly on behalf of the non profit members in Washington DC under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“As a mother, when I read “100% Natural” I would expect that to mean no synthetic or toxic chemicals at all. Glyphosate is a toxic chemical that the EPA recognizes as a “reproductive effector” which “can cause liver and kidney damage” and “digestive effects.” It is unacceptable that Nature Valley granola bars contain any amount of this chemical.” Zen Honeycutt, Founder and Executive Director of Moms Across America.

A national survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2015 finds that sixty six percent of consumers seek out products with a "natural" food label under the false belief that they are produced without pesticides, genetically modified organisms, hormones, and artificial ingredients.

“Glyphosate cannot be considered ‘natural’ because it is a toxic, synthetic herbicide,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a carcinogen, it should not be allowed for use in food production, and certainly not in food with a label that suggests to consumers that the major ingredient –oats– is 100% natural, when it is produced with and contains the highly hazardous glyphosate,” he said.

"Food grown with dangerous pesticides like glyphosate isn't natural. Consumers understand this. That's why sales of natural products are booming. Unfortunately, companies' misleading claims trick consumers into buying just what they're trying to avoid. This has to be stopped." -Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

The case specifically cites the use and presence of the weedkiller glyphosate in General Mills’ Nature Valley Granola products. The hazardous chemical is used during the production of oats, the major ingredient in these products, which are marketed as “natural” and labeled “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.” As a result, glyphosate is present in the natural-labeled products.

Proponents of glyphosate herbicide use may claim that the residue levels found in many foods and beverages in America recently are below the EPA allowable levels established in 2014, and therefore consumers have no reason to be concerned. However, a 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Health finds that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate as low as .1 parts per billion leads to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. A study released in early 2016 finds that glyphosate can cause changes to DNA function resulting in the onset of chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

The lawsuit alleges that, when marketing Nature Valley products, General Mills misleads and fails to disclose to consumers of the use and presence of glyphosate and its harmful effects. Plaintiffs are asking a jury to find that General Mills’ “natural” labeling is deceptive and misleading and therefore a violation of law, and require its removal from the market.

Read the full complaint here

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action. Visit: https://www.organicconsumers.org/

Moms Across America is 501(c)3 non profit and a national coalition of unstoppable moms raising awareness about GMOs and toxins in our food and environment. Their motto is "Empowered Moms, Healthy Kids.” Visit www.momsacrossamerica.org

Beyond Pesticides is a national grassroots non-profit organization headquartered in the District of Columbia that works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. For more information, see www.beyondpesticides.org. 

 

Why Stop The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-08-25 15:26
Fair Trade & Social Justice, Farm Issues, Politics & GlobalizationDana GeffnerHuffington PostAugust 24, 2016http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-geffner/why-stop-the-transpacific_b_11665450.html frack

wilpf.org

At the Democratic National Convention signs read No TPP, a concert is traveling the U.S. called Rock Against the TPP, and even Donald Trump wants to stop the TPP. Unlike Donald Trump, most of us are not protectionists looking out only for U.S. corporate interests and the rich 1 percent, but rather embrace global trade when it is through fair trade agreements and policies that protect farmers, workers, and consumers around the world as well as protects our planet. Those of us working in the fair trade movement, and in social justice have been working on fighting unjust trade agreements for years, and it is gaining momentum in the mainstream.

So what is the TPP? The TPP is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade agreement between 12 countries — the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru — that has been coined by anti-TPP activists as NAFTA on steroids. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was a trade agreement signed in 1994 by the United States, Mexico and Canada that displaced over 2 million farmers and agricultural workers in Mexico. Family farmers in the United States and Canada also struggled and lost income while large-scale farmers and agricultural corporations thrived. The TPP is expected to have similar effects on a much larger scale.

The government and mainstream media have reported that the TPP will benefit the agriculture sector. But what they are not saying is that the sector of the agriculture system that will benefit is the industrial system that harms people and the planet.

The United States is highly reliant on industrial agriculture, which means those 12 countries going into the agreement will be pitting their small-scale farmers against our large-scale farming practices. This will force small-scale farmers out of business and off their lands strengthening the industrial agricultural machine. The industrial food system drives climate change; we cannot break our reliance on industrial food without first breaking our reliance on unjust free trade agreements. So it is not the organic, regenerative, biodiverse farmer who provides your CSA or morning coffee who will benefit.

Tell Congress: Stop the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-08-24 09:12
Belong to campaign: Cook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

The factory farm industry is so full of bad actors it’s tough to say who’s the worst.

But Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) surely belongs at or near the top of the list.

Besides Tyson’s well-documented animal abuse record, its callous disregard for the safety of its employees, and its role as one of this country’s worst polluters, Tyson is also actively lobbying to prevent Congress from passing legislation that would provide basic protections for the farmers who raise the animals, under contract, destined for Tyson’s processing plants.

Why? So Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson can protect his billions in profits.

Over the years, Tyson’s farmers’ incomes have dropped, while Tyson has been feathering his nest thanks to higher and higher profit margins.  Tyson doesn’t even pay farmers enough to meet their operating costs. Of growers whose sole source of income is chicken farming, 71 percent of are living below the poverty line.

New but yet-to-be-enacted rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act would help protect farmers who supply chicken to Tyson. But if Tyson has its way, those rules will never see the light of day.

Take Action: Tell Congress to stop the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act!Read more

Toothpaste ‘Truthiness’

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-08-17 16:18
August 15, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics Toms of Maine Toothpaste 420x280

Stephen Colbert made it popular, but the word “truthiness” has been around for a long time.

Webster’s provides a list of definitions for "truthiness," including this one: (noun) : truth level of a statement; and this one: (noun) : The quality of stating what one wishes or feels to be true instead of what is actually true.

Tom’s of Maine, or more accurately, the brand’s majority owner, Colgate-Palmolive, was clearly guilty of “truthiness” when it created a webpage titled “How to Identify Organic Toothpaste.” On that page, intended primarily to promote the Tom’s of Maine toothpaste brand, the company stopped just short of overtly claiming the brand is organic. But it clearly implied that it is.

We complained (here’s the letter from our lawyer). And we asked you to complain, by emailing Colgate’s CEO, Ian M. Cook, and speaking out on social media.

You did. And within hours, we were contacted by a manager at Tom’s, and a Colgate lawyer. They apologized, and removed the webpage.

Some of you pointed out that Tom’s of Maine toothpaste doesn’t label its product organic. That’s true, but that wasn’t the point. In addition to falsely claiming that no USDA organic certification exists for personal products like toothpaste (it does), the company did everything it could to imply that the brand is organic—including using OCA’s name to imply endorsement.

Thanks to you, Colgate is no longer playing the “truthiness” game with the Tom’s of Maine brand.

Coincidentally, days after our alert went out, the truth police at Cornucopia Institute issued this report: Behind the Dazzling Smile:  Toxic Ingredients in Your Toothpaste.

Want to know which toothpaste is the most consumer-friendly? Check out Cornucopia’s Toothpaste Brand Scorecard.

The short-lived campaign against Tom’s was so successful, we thought it was high time we enlisted your help in identifying other cases of mislabeling, false advertising or Tom’s of Maine-like “truthiness.” Suspect a brand is misleading consumers? Let us know! Email: fraud@organicconsumers.org

Tell Tom’s of Maine: Your toothpaste is not organic. Stop misleading consumers!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-08-12 14:40
Belong to campaign: Coming CleanSafeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About OrganicsArea: USA

Tom’s of Maine, that homespun brand from the quaint little state of Maine, wouldn’t lie to you about its toothpaste, would it?

Yes, it would. It turns out that the popular brand, now owned by Colgate-Palmolive, is lying to you about quite a few things, including the biggest lie: that Tom’s of Maine toothpaste is organic (it’s not).

If you’re a conscious consumer who cares about everything you put in your mouth, including toothpaste, you might at some point have gone online to search for organic toothpaste. If you did, you might have been woefully misled.

Guess what happened when we googled “organic toothpaste?"

Several Tom’s of Maine toothpaste products popped up. Strange, given that Tom’s of Maine doesn’t even use organic ingredients in its toothpaste, much less does the brand offer a certified organic toothpaste.

Tom’s of Maine built its reputation on being an independent, honest, ethical (no animal testing) brand. But in 2006, Colgate-Palmolive bought a controlling 84-percent interest in the company. We all know what happens when the big, greedy, unethical (Colgate tests its products on animals) big guys buy up the little guys—nothing good.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Tom’s of Maine: Your toothpaste is not organic. Stop misleading consumers!Read more

Contemporary Shrimp Production Poses Risks to Consumers and the Environment

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-08-10 16:45
Environment & Climate, Health IssuesMartha RosenbergOrganic ConsumersAugust 9, 2016 shrimp 420x280 cc

Americans love shrimp. On average, we consume about 4.10 pounds of it a year, compared with only 2.8 pounds of canned tuna and 1.84 pounds of salmon. Most of that shrimp is imported from countries in Southeast Asia, where it’s produced using chemicals and drugs not approved in the U.S.

Shrimp may be the most popular seafood in the U.S. But would we eat as much of it if we fully understood the food safety, environmental and ethical issues associated with its production?

Like contemporary factory farm meat production, shrimp farming has become intensive. Shrimp are crowded into small ponds. Because the water in those ponds typically is not re-circulated, harmful waste builds up, oxygen is depleted and disease breaks out. To combat disease, fish farmers often turn to the excessive use of antibiotics. 

It isn’t just the shrimp itself that’s questionable. Shrimp production in Southeast Asia is rife with worker abuse and destruction of local farmland—which means destruction of local livelihoods. In Bangladesh, for instance, local farmers have lost land to industrial shrimp operations that are operated by non-locals. Their once-fertile land now is submerged under the commercial operations’ man-made ponds, which often are built by destroying mangrove forests which previously supported the local community. The "chemical soup" that commercial shrimp are grown in threatens local workers, and pollutes their water bodies and marine life with toxic effluent. When the ponds become so polluted that even antibiotics no longer work, the operators pack up and move on to a new location where they destroy another local environment.

Clearly, consumers should avoid imported shrimp. But unfortunately, it’s not easy. Labeling omissions and even outright fraud make it almost impossible to know where the shrimp you buy comes from, or how it was produced. Farmed fish are often labeled “gulf shrimp” even though an Oceana exposé found instances where packages of “gulf shrimp” included many non-gulf species—even aquarium pet shrimp. Yet packages marked just “shrimp” often, ironically, contain wild-caught shrimp. Such fraud costs Americans an estimated $25 billion annually says the Atlantic.

Mislabeling is more often than not intentional. The largest seafood vendors pressure the government not to enforce proper labeling, seafood writer Jerald Horst told 
the New York Times. The federal Country of Origin Labeling Law (COOL) used to mandate disclosure of where fresh seafood was farmed or caught, but the law didn’t apply to processed foods, including boiled and breaded seafood, seafood added to packaged meals, or shrimp sold in restaurants. However now, even that consumer protection is gone—Congress repealed COOL in December 2015.

Chemicals, including banned ones, dominate shrimp farming 

Commercial shrimp production in India, the second largest exporter of shrimp to the U.S, begins with a long list of chemicals, including urea, superphosphate and diesel. From there it gets worse.  Fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone (linked to Parkinson’s Disease), and the use of Borax and sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxin), are rampant in in India’s shrimp production, according to “Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood.”

By contrast, only one chemical, formalin, is approved for use in U.S. shrimp production. Formalin is a parasiticide which contains formaldehyde gas. It has no mandatory withdrawal time or legal residue tolerance.  Other chemicals, such as the antibiotics the chloramphenicol and quinolones, are completely banned in U.S shrimp production, while others are "unapproved" but widely used "off-label." 

Too many inspection loopholes

Both the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the shrimp industry have mechanisms to protect the consumer from bacterial and chemical shrimp risks, but the regulations are difficult to enforce. The FDA relies on the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) program, the PREDICT system, random shipment checks, "import alerts" and 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations to stop unhealthful shrimp. But there are only 200 fulltime inspectors to police 300 ports, according to interviews. HACCP does not include checks for a bacterium called Vibrio in shrimp. Widely but erroneously believed to be destroyed by a quick freezing process, Vibrio is known to sometimes survive freezing.

When imported shrimp arrives in the U.S., the FDA is in charge of ensuring its safety—but over 96 percent of shipments are not opened or checked at the ports. Instead, the FDA relies on an automated system that flags companies with prior offenses for greater scrutiny, including document inspection, visual inspection (is it really shrimp?) and actual lab tests. If a company or country is an actual violator of FDA regulations, shipments are automatically detained and denied entry under the FDA’s Import Alert program, without inspections or lab tests. Automatic detention of shipments is not lifted until a manufacturer, shipper, grower or importer demonstrates to the FDA that the violation has been corrected.  But the system isn’t foolproof. When a country is blocked from shipping shrimp it often "transships" through a different country, one that is believed to be safe, say seafood safety experts.

Most trade and seafood experts agree the solution to unsafe shrimp from farming operations is not stopping it at the port but at the pond, using third-party certification in the country where it is produced. Yet a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which assessed FDA third-party certification of shrimp production, found language barriers, data collection irregularities and a general feeling that "no one was minding the store." Six out of eight auditors, for example, did not even know what drugs and chemicals were approved in U.S. exports. 

Wild-Caught shrimp—better for you, bad for the environment

Wild-caught shrimp do not put consumers at the same risk of exposure to chemicals as farm-raised shrimp, especially imported farm-raised shrimp. But wild-caught shrimp takes a huge toll on the environment.

The process used to catch wild shrimp involves dragging cone-shaped nets, called otter trawlers, along the ocean floor. But these nets catch more than just shrimp. For every pound of wild-caught shrimp, another six pounds of other marine life, referred to as “bycatch,” is destroyed—and discarded. 

Bycatch, including dolphins and sharks, can be reduced if shrimpers replace otter trawlers with Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED). But some shrimpers forego these devices because they reduce the size of the shrimp catch. In 1987, Louisiana even passed a law prohibiting enforcement of federal TED regulations in its water, rightfully inspiring the Monterey Bay Aquarium to blacklist Louisiana wild shrimp. 

Is there a way to safely and ethically eat shrimp?

Clearly, designations like “gulf shrimp,” “wild caught,” "organic" or "turtle safe” mean nothing.  Unless labels are third-party certified, shrimp sellers can, and do, claim whatever they like on their labels. Luckily several third-party certified labels exist on shrimp packages that provide some transparency about production methods, from stocking density and chemicals used to negative environmental and social impacts, including the use of unethical labor. 

Certifications that are widely trusted are the Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices label (BAP), the Aquaculture Stewardship Council's Farmed Responsibly label, Whole Foods Market's Responsibly Farmed label and the Naturland label. 

But for the most part, when it comes to buying shrimp—whether from a store or a restaurant—it’s buyer beware.

Martha Rosenberg is a contributing writer to the Organic Consumers Association. 

 

Corporate Money Defeats GMO Labeling—What Would Gandhi Do?

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-08-02 16:03
Environment & Climate, Genetic EngineeringJuly 31, 2016 money wallet food cash greed 420x280.jpg

On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi and a small band of supporters set off on a 241-mile march across western India. Gandhi had devised the walk as an act of nonviolent protest against the British colonial government’s salt monopoly, which placed tariffs on the mineral and forbid Indians from producing it. Upon arriving at the coastal city of Dandi in early April, he illegally collected salt from the seaside as a symbolic act of defiance against the British Raj. His actions sent shockwaves across the subcontinent, inspiring scores of Indians to flout the salt tax and launch strikes and boycotts against colonial institutions. Gandhi and some 80,000 others were soon arrested, but not before their peaceful protest had captured the world’s attention and demonstrated the power of mass resistance to British rule. – “Remembering Gandhi’s Salt March,” by Evan Andrews.

The deed is done. On Friday, July 29, 2016, President Obama signed a bill that was written by corporations, paid for by corporations and that serves no one in this country—except corporations.

S.764, known by its opponents as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, preempts Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law and substitutes in its place a federal bill that, no matter how Obama and his Congress try to spin it, is not mandatory and does not require labels—at least not labels that anyone can read. Not to mention that most GMO ingredients will be exempt under this fake "law."

I could, once again, list all the reasons this bill fails consumers. But I and others have already done that countless times, to no avail. The bill is a sham, a slap in the face to the 90 percent of Americans who support labeling. It’s an attack on states’ rights. It’s another “gift” to Monsanto and Big Food.

And, for anyone who still harbored any doubt, S.764 is proof that our Democracy is broken, that our lawmakers answer to Corporate America, not to us, the people who elect them.

It would be easy, after four-and-a-half years of non-stop fighting for labels, to cave in to despair. But let’s not give Monsanto the satisfaction. Because the truth is, while we may not always be able to win in a policy arena awash in corporate money, we, as consumers, still have tremendous power to influence the marketplace.

It’s time to wield that power. Against poison-peddling biotech corporations. Against food companies that hide the truth about what’s in their products. Against those “leaders” in the organic industry who sold us down the river on GMO labeling.

It’s time to launch a Gandhi-style boycott.

If Vermont mounts a legal challenge to the DARK Act, we will endorse that effort. But in the meantime, we will channel our anger, our disappointment and above all, our energy, into the marketplace. Because that’s where we as consumers will have last word.

What we’ve accomplished so far

Before we get on to what’s next, let’s look at what the GMO labeling movement accomplished, despite passage of the DARK Act.

•    We educated a critical mass of American consumers about the health and environmental hazards of GMOs and the toxic chemicals that accompany them. When we started this battle, public awareness of genetically engineered food and crops, and the damage they inflict on the environment and human health, was marginal at best. Today “GMO,” “Monsanto” and “glyphosate” are household words.

•    We’ve doubled demand for organic and grass-fed food in the U.S. over the past six years. Organic food and grass-fed meat and animal products are now a $50-billion-a-year powerhouse, the fastest-growing segment of the food system. The market for non-GMO labeled products has grown to $25 billion. Organic, grass-fed and non-GMO foods now constitute approximately 10 percent of all grocery store sales, and represent a growing segment of restaurant sales as well.

•    We forced multi-billion-dollar junk food conglomerates, including General Mills, Kellogg’s, Campbell’s, Mars, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Dannon, Con-Agra, and others to start labeling their products as GMO, or else remove GMO ingredients, ahead of the July 1 date for the (short-lived) enactment of Vermont’s GMO labeling law. Now that Vermont’s law has been preempted, we need to pressure these companies to keep labeling—or we’ll call for a boycott of all of their organic products, including their organic brands.

•    We’ve alerted millions of consumers that they can’t trust the mass media, regulatory agencies or the scientific establishment. If consumers or farmers want truthful information about food and farming they need to tune in to the alternative and social media. This alternative media includes the mass circulation newsletters, websites and Facebook pages of groups like Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network, Moms Across America, Regeneration International, Seed Freedom and hundreds of others that refuse to regurgitate industry propaganda. We need to keep supporting the truth-seekers, like U.S. Right to Know, as they continue to expose Big Food’s dark secrets.

Where we go from here

It was worth fighting for labels on GMO foods. But we’ve always known that labels were just one tool in the toolbox. And that the GMOs in the food in our grocery stores are just one piece of a big, bad, dangerous puzzle.

Only about 20 percent of GMOs go into the food we buy. The other 80 percent of all GMO crops go into either animal feed or ethanol fuels. The growing of those crops, which requires millions of tons of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, exacts a terrible toll on our soils, our waters, our health, our future.

It’s time to mobilize public consciousness and market pressure and transform our entire degenerate chemical- and energy-intensive industrial food and farming system into a system that regenerates—a system that can restore biodiversity and revitalize public health, animal health, the environment, rural communities and the body politic, while drawing down billions of tons of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and safely sequestering this carbon in the soil and forests, where it belongs.

It’s time to drive GMOs off the market, for good.

In the coming weeks and months, we will launch critical new campaigns, some of them international in scope, designed to pressure the bad actors in the food industry to clean up their acts—or risk plummeting sales.

In the meantime, consumers can join the 500,000 people who have already begun exercising their marketplace clout by choosing to boycott brands, including organic brands owned by junk food giants who helped defeat labeling laws. You can download our Boycott/Buycott app here.

We also urge U.S. consumers to join citizens around the world in endorsing the International Monsanto Tribunal, a citizens’ tribunal which will take place October 15-16 in The Hague, Netherlands.

As we look to the future of this movement, let’s not forget the past. Now would be a good time to take a page out of Gandhi’s playbook.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.

 

Dangerous Liaisons: ChemChina's Bid for Syngenta

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-07-28 13:55
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesMartha RosenbergRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 26, 2016 evil pears mean bad gmo fruit food produce 420x280.jpg

We all love to hate Monsanto. We also know that Monsanto isn’t the only poison-maker trying to pass itself off as a “farmer-friendly producer of food to feed the world.”

Monsanto belongs to an exclusive club of dominant pesticide makers. That club, which includes Dow, Dupont, Bayer, Syngenta and BASF, is about to get a lot smaller. And a lot more dangerous.

Bayer has been trying for months to buy Monsanto. Dow and Dupont are in talks to merge. And Switzerland-based Syngenta may soon be owned by ChemChina.

It’s bad enough that less than a dozen multinational corporations (including Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer and Syngenta) control nearly 70 percent of the global seed market. If these mergers and buyouts go through, that number will shrink even further.

The recent merger and acquisition in the seed and chemical (why are the words "seeds" and "chemicals" even uttered in the same breath?) signals trouble in the industry, a fact Bayer CEO Werner Baumann recently admitted. That’s probably a good sign. 

But giving more control to even fewer corporations will definitely have a downside. Martha Rosenberg and Ronnie Cummins take a look at the proposed buyout of Syngenta by ChemChina.

Who is Syngenta?

Switzerland-based Syngenta AG is best known for its top-selling herbicide, atrazine; for trying to fool the world into thinking its genetically engineered Golden Rice will save the world; and for taking out pollinators with its neonicotinoid pesticides.

The global agro-toxics corporation, which produces agrochemicals, seeds and GMOs, was formed in 2000, through the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. The merger made Syngenta the world’s largest crop chemical producer by 2014, and also a world market leader in seeds and biotechnology. 

Syngenta describes itself as an integrated “crop protection” business that sells herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and seed treatments (including bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides), and also a lawn and garden business that sells flowers, turf, landscape supplies and pesticides. 

Syngenta operates in 90 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America, Latin America and in the Asia Pacific. In late 2015, Syngenta had a total market capitalization of $37 billion.

In 2014, Monsanto tried to acquire Syngenta, a clear rival, for a reported $40 billion. Syngenta rejected the offer, partly because Monsanto’s behavior has made the Biotech Bully from St. Louis one of the most hated corporations on the planet. Less than two years later, Syngenta said “yes” to a similar offer from China National Chemical (also called ChemChina,) a state-owned enterprise (SOE), which offered to buy the Swiss agrochemical company for $43 billion.

ChemChina is an amalgam of chemical, oil processing, agrochemicals and tire and rubber Chinese firms that are largely in government hands. 

The deal is one of three potential mega-mergers in recent months of chemical-seed-biotech giants. The others being Bayer-Monsanto and Dow Chemical-Dupont. As we recently noted about the proposed purchase of Monsanto by Bayer, the consolidations signal that the industry is not doing well.

“The crop chemicals industry is bound to consolidate because target companies are spending too much on research and development for new products,” admitted Monsanto’s Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann during its bid for Syngenta last year. “Pressures on the industry” are causing declining profits said Begemann. In fact, times have been so rough, last year the New York Times reported that Monsanto, “has been diversifying, emphasizing more conventional breeding and moving into new businesses, such as using microbes to control pests and offering digital data to help farmers manage their fields.” 

In April, analysts were bearish about Syngenta stock because of “continuous weakening of crop protection business and insecticide sales.”

While food safety and sustainability advocates oppose such vertically integrated models of patented seeds, fertilizers and pesticides for obvious reasons—they lock in supply chains of harmful foods and chemicals that imperil the environment, humans and other animals—the proposed buyout of Syngenta by a Chinese government-owned corporation raises a whole set of additional questions.  Specifically, a ChemChina purchase of Syngenta would be the biggest overseas Chinese acquisition in history, making China a multinational powerhouse in global agriculture in a way it has never been before. ChemChina’s takeover of Syngenta dwarfs China’s 2013 purchase of the U.S. factory farm meat giant Smithfield Foods for “only” $5 billion. 

U.S. producers fear a China-owned Syngenta

U.S. agribusiness and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) view a China-owned Syngenta as an economic threat to current U.S. imports to China and commodity prices. “Inconsistency” and policies “not based on science” may move China to block imports of U.S. bio- engineered crops, said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack recently. “I have a watchful eye on all of this and continue to be extremely concerned about the way in which biotechnology and innovation is being treated and impeded,” he said.  

Vilsack is no doubt thinking of China’s recent rejection of MIR 162 corn that U.S. farmers grew with Syngenta seeds, despite assurances from Syngenta that the seeds were pre-approved for China sales. Many lawsuits brought by U.S. producers have followed. Because of China's rejection of two types of Syngenta GMO corn—Viptera and Duracade—“exports of U.S. corn were down some 85 percent since 2013," says a complaint filed by farmer Jon Dereadt in Illinois 2015. China also rejected crops grown by U.S. farmers from Monsanto seeds in 2013, provoking more lawsuits.

These multinational consolidations are also being criticized by many U.S. farmers. A pork producer in North Dakota wrote in a letter to the Grand Forks Herald, noting China’s takeover of Smithfield Foods,  that “Shanghai Penguin Group of China has tried to buy the Kidman Ranch,” and such consolidations are “good only for the one doing the consolidating, never for the consumer or for the family farms producing Herald readers' food.”

Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan agreed, asking, “Where are the Teddy Roosevelts and the trust busters of today?” to put a stop to such ag consolidations.  “Enough is enough,” he said.

Bad news for Syngenta’s flagship atrazine?

Most people associate Syngenta with its top-selling herbicide atrazine, a hormone-disrupting chemical, banned in Europe, but still the second most-used chemical in U.S. agriculture, only behind Monsanto’s glyphosate (Roundup). Atrazine is consistently one of the most frequently detected toxic crop chemicals in drinking water because of its wide use on Midwestern corn fields.

In response to organic and food safety advocates exposing the obvious health and environmental risks of Atrazine, Syngenta conducted shameless disinformation and smear campaigns against scientists reporting the dangers. In fact, Syngenta’s PR team investigated the press and “spent millions to spin news coverage and public perceptions” about atrazine’s safety, reported the Center for Media and Democracy. Syngenta especially tried to block citizen lawsuits to make Syngenta pay for removal of atrazine from drinking water systems.

In addition to viciously attacking the credibility of Dr. Tyrone Hayes, professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley, whose research identified how atrazine demasculinizes and feminizes male frogs,  Syngenta planted ghost-written “scientific” papers by its paid operatives to make atrazine look safe. The company also  published a book in 2011 called "Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health," which attacked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and "harmful, unnecessary regulation."

Syngenta’s tactics didn’t work. In June, the EPA announced that the amount of  atrazine being released into the environment in the U.S.  is likely harming most species of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. 

“In the terrestrial environment, there are risk concerns for mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and plant communities across the country for many of the atrazine uses,” concluded the 518 page report from the EPA. While corn growers and Syngenta quickly tried to discredit the report, the EPA assessment will, we hope, finally lead to tighter regulatory limits on the product.

Golden rice scam

One of the most audacious Syngenta ventures was Golden Rice, genetically modified to make pro-vitamin A in the endosperm and aggressively billed in 2000, as a cure for widespread vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. 

Created by Ingo Potrykus at the Institute of Plant Sciences in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg in 1999, the pair worked out a deal in which Syngenta could develop Golden Rice commercially, overseen by a “Humanitarian Board" which included Syngenta, the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and public relations and marketing experts. 

Backers of the initiative to address world hunger with Golden Rice included the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the European Community Biotech Programme, the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Helen Keller International. 

Also helping Golden Rice was the International Rice Research Institute led by Gerald Barry, previously Director of Research at Monsanto.

Condemnation of the GMO rice product was swift and widespread. Critics pointed out that it was absurd to offer Golden Rice as the cure for vitamin A deficiency when there are plenty of alternative, infinitely cheaper sources of vitamin A or pro-Vitamin A, including green vegetables and unpolished colored rice, especially black and purple varieties which would also add essential vitamins and minerals. 

Golden Rice critics also cited scientific evidence that Vitamin A uptake depends on dietary fats or oils, often lacking in the diets of poor people—without those oils, GMO rice is useless as a source of Vitamin A.  And they pointed out that Golden Rice will exacerbate the industrial monocultures of the Green Revolution, which obliterate agricultural biodiversity and soil fertility, and result in ever-worsening mineral and micronutrient deficiencies in our food. These are the main causes of hunger and malnutrition in the Third World, said critics, along with poverty—and these problems can’t be solved with technology and GMOs.

The whole idea of GE seeds is to make money,” said Sarojeni V. Rengam, executive director of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP). “We want to send out a strong message to all those supporting the promotion of Golden Rice, especially donor organizations, that their money and efforts would be better spent on restoring natural and agricultural biodiversity rather than destroying it by promoting monoculture plantations and genetically engineered (GE) food crops.”

"Vitamin A rice is a hoax, and will bring further dispute to plant genetic engineering where public relations exercises seem to have replaced science in promotion of untested, unproven and unnecessary technology," agreed Dr. Vandana Shiva. Since the daily average requirement of Vitamin A is 750 micrograms, and one serving contains 30g of rice “one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vitamin A needs through ‘Golden rice.’ This is a recipe for creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it, Shiva said.
 
The website Food Freedom points out the similarities between Golden Rice to the “Sweet Potato Project,” launched by USAID and Monsanto in 2011, used as a Trojan horse to penetrate Kenyan markets. “Once in place, these regulations open the door for the biotech industry to bring in commercial, patented GE crops...[raising] serious equity concerns for both farmers and national governments as they become beholden to biotech giants and lose their rights to save and exchange seed,” according to the website.

Golden Rice could also be dangerous according to a number of scientists. The retinal it contains is reduced to retinol, or oxidized to retinoic acid which controls development of the nervous system, nerve differentiation and embryonic segmentation—making it a potential contributor to birth defects said David Schubert at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences La Jolla, California.

Sixteen years after its highly-publicized launch, even the scientific community has become skeptical of Golden Rice. “Heralded on the cover of Time magazine in 2000 as a genetically modified (GMO) crop with the potential to save millions of lives in the Third World, Golden Rice is still years away from field introduction and even then, may fall short of lofty health benefits still cited regularly by GMO advocates, suggests a new study,” according to Science Daily.

Syngenta’s other dangerous products

Sadly, for consumers and the environment, atrazine and Golden Rice are not the only controversial products sold by Syngenta. U.S. and European farmers have brought lawsuits claiming that toxicity from Syngenta’s GMO Bt 176 corn (which expresses an insecticidal Bt toxin derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis and a gene conferring resistance to glufosinate herbicide) has caused livestock deaths.

The charges originated with a German farmer who claimed his dairy cattle suffered mysterious illnesses and deaths after eating Bt 176. The farmer pointed to a feeding study allegedly commissioned by Syngenta that resulted in four cows dying in two days and abrupt discontinuation of the corn in dairy cow feed. Reports of similar deaths from Syngenta corn fed to livestock surfaced in the Philippines and India.

Like Bayer, Syngenta also makes neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of toxic chemicals responsible for the current bee genocide. Like Bayer, Syngenta is aggressively fighting regulation to phase out the dangerous chemicals. Syngenta’s application for a neonicotinoid pesticide was not approved in the UK 2014, a victory for environmental and bee activists. 

Will the ChemChina-Syngenta deal go through?

While the Global Capital website announced in June that ChemChina had procured its needed financing and the deal is “pretty much done,” other sources remain skeptical.  

According to the Diplomat website, the ChemChina offer to Syngenta “has sent government regulators in a tizzy, bringing into the limelight a little known American regulatory body called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Operating under the auspices of the U.S. Treasury Department, the committee is authorized to investigate foreign capital transactions and assess their possible national security implications for the United States.” A dealer breaker, says the Diplomat, could be how close some planned Syngenta’s U.S. plants would be to military bases. 

In addition to CFIUS scrutiny, the deal must also be approved by the European Union’s own regulatory body, the Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP) of the European Commission, which could be tougher. In previous decisions, consolidations have been nixed by the body because the decision-making powers of Chinese companies in question were not “sufficiently autonomous from the Chinese state.” ChemChina is state owned.

Still, questions about the ChemChina deal and Syngenta’s history of unsafe products have not stopped the Swiss giant’s new product lines or its U.S. approvals. In 2015, Syngenta rolled out its Acuron herbicide, Solatenol fungicide and Orondis fungicide and this year, California approved Syngenta insecticide Arilon.

The time has come for the Millions Against Monsanto movement and concerned consumers worldwide to state the obvious: Syngenta is just as bad as Monsanto. We need to boycott foods, seeds and garden supply products tainted with atrazine, neonics and GMOs whether or not Syngenta changes its name to ChemChina. Our health and the literal survival of our bees, butterflies and biodiversity depend upon consumers and farmers worldwide rejecting not only GMOs, but the entire degenerative system of industrial agriculture and factory farming.

Martha Rosenberg is a contributing writer to the Organic Consumers Association.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the steering committee of Regeneration International, a project of Organic Consumers Association.

Beyond Frankenfoods and the DARK Act: A Grassroots-Powered Revolution

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-07-20 21:06
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 18, 2016 green fist 750x500

Here’s your mid-summer culinary directive from Congress and the White House: Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods.

Don’t worry about mutant genes, pesticide residues, and a growing list of horrors in your food. Don’t worry about your health, your children’s health, global warming or the health of the environment.

Just put your trust in America’s industrial food system and in Monsanto’s minions—the indentured scientists, politicians, regulatory agencies and members of the mass media who all toe the line for the biotech industry.

In case some of us didn’t notice, given our mounting daily dose of insults and injustices, the federal government, aided and abetted by the Organic Trade Association (now known as the Organic Traitors Association), just slapped you and millions of other health and environmentally concerned consumers in the mouth. Ignoring the protests of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the entire grassroots food movement, ignoring 22 years of consumer pressure, multiple state ballot initiatives and “Right-to-Know” legislative efforts, the infamous DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know) is about to be enshrined in federal law by President O’Bummer.

On July 14, the House of Representatives voted 306-117 to kill Vermont’s popular mandatory GMO food labeling law, which had already begun to force major junk food and beverage giants (Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Campbell’s, Dannon, Smuckers, Starbucks) to label their GMO-tainted products nationwide. As soon as President Obama signs the DARK Act, (or simply lets it go into effect by not vetoing it) states will no longer have the right to mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The 90 percent of consumers who want to know what they’re eating can now look forward, on a permanent basis, to what amounts to no labeling. What we will get, if anything, in a few years will be bogus Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) trade-marked QR smart codes or 1-800 numbers on processed food packages that will serve to keep consumers in the dark about Frankenfoods and their omnipresent toxins, while pretending to provide so-called “disclosure.”

Passage of the Roberts-Stabenow bill, popularly known as the DARK Act, confirms what most consumers knew or suspected all along: we live in an authoritarian state, ruled by the “1%”, the corporate elite. This is not a democracy. The overwhelming majority of elected public officials and bureaucrats don’t give a damn about what you think or want. Short-term profits and out-of-control campaign donations literally trump public health, environmental, justice and climate concerns. Congress and the White House, Republicans and Democrats alike, are little more than “yes men and women” for their big donors, in this case multi-billion-dollar food corporations, grocery and restaurant chains, Monsanto and the rest of corporate agribusiness.

Money trumps all. That’s why activists from the Organic Consumers Association last week threw several thousand dollars in small bills from the visitors’ balcony onto the U.S. Senate floor, just moments before the passage of the DARK Act. They shouted below to a room of startled Senators, “Here’s Monsanto’s money, come and get it.” After “money bombing” the U.S. Senate, OCA Political Director Alexis Baden-Mayer and three other activists were arrested by the Capitol police. A CSPAN live video camera caught much of the action.

The big question for the food movement, and in fact for all of global civil society, is: What’s next? If Congress is bought and sold, if we can’t change federal public policy, if states’ rights and local rights are being steadily preempted, then how can we change our toxic, out-of-control food system, not to mention our toxic suicide economy and the rotten political system as a whole?

The answer of course is to build grassroots power.

Millions of us must channel our anger into actions designed to take back control of our health and our food, and our society. We must hit the Establishment where it hurts, in the bottom line. Boycott contaminated foods and other consumer products, and give your support (“buycott”) to organic and grass-fed producers and brands. Stop buying or consuming junk foods, and all heavily processed, GMO, factory farmed and chemical foods.

Take action today and everyday. Put your wallet back in your pocket unless the grocery store label or the restaurant menu says “organic,” “grass-fed,” or “GMO-free.” Learn or re-learn how to cook at home from scratch. Invite your friends over and plan how everyone can become part of the Revolution, a Revolution that we desperately need if we are going to survive and thrive.

Food policies and politics go hand-in-hand. Conscious consumers need to both change our consumer buying habits and stop supporting corrupt politicians. The U.S. currently is led, or rather misled, by a corporate-dominated corps of 500,000 elected and appointed public officials at the federal, state and local levels. Ninety percent of these so-called “public officials” are looking out for their cushy jobs and careers, by looking after the profits of corporations and special interests, instead of working for the public good. These handmaidens of the Elite need to be thrown out of office.

The Food Revolution will never really happen, unless we join forces with the U.S. (and global) grassroots as part of a larger Political Revolution.

It’s time to drive GMOs and the toxic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones, off the market, for good.

It’s time to take down not just GMOs, but the entire out-of-control system of factory farms, industrial agriculture and junk food.

It’s time to mobilize public consciousness and market pressure so we can transform our entire degenerate chemical- and energy-intensive industrial food and farming system, which is pumping out billions of tons of climate-disruptive greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroying soils, biodiversity and the climate, into a regenerative and organic system that can restore biodiversity and revitalize public health, animal health the environment, rural communities and the body politic, while drawing down billions of tons of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and safely sequestering this carbon in the soil and forests, where it belongs.

What we’ve accomplished so far

Congratulations to the USA food movement for slowly but surely winning consumers’ hearts and minds.

Congratulations for standing up to Monsanto, Big Food and corporate agribusiness, and for exposing their minions in Congress, the corporate mass media, and the sell-outs in academia.

Before we move forward, let’s take stock of what our food movement has accomplished so far, against all odds, by working together.

• We’ve educated a critical mass of American consumers about the health and environmental hazards of Genetically Modified Organisms and the toxic chemicals that accompany them. When we started this battle, public awareness of genetically engineered food and crops, and the damage they inflict on the environment and human health, was marginal at best. Today “GMO” and “glyphosate” are household words.

• We’ve doubled demand for organic and grass-fed food in the U.S. over the past six years. Organic food and grass-fed meat and animal products are now a $50-billion-a-year powerhouse, the fastest-growing segment of the food market. The market for non-GMO labeled products has grown to $25 billion. Organic, grass-fed and non-GMO foods now constitute approximately 10 percent of all grocery store sales, and represent a growing segment of restaurant sales as well.

• We’ve forced multi-billion-dollar junk food conglomerates, including General Mills, Kellogg’s, Campbell’s, Mars, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Con-Agra, Dannon, and others to start labeling their products as GMO, or else remove GMO ingredients, at least temporarily. Even after the passage of the DARK Act, companies that started and then stopped labeling their GMO-tainted brands will face a public relations disaster. Consumers will understand that the QR codes on thousands of non-organic processed food products are the “Mark of Monsanto,” the “skull and crossbones” prompting us to boycott them.

• We’ve alerted millions of consumers that they can’t trust the mass media, Congress, regulatory agencies, or the scientific establishment. If consumers or farmers want truthful information about food and farming they need to tune in to the alternative and social media. This alternative media includes the mass circulation newsletters, websites and Facebook pages of groups like Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network, Moms Across America, Regeneration International, Seed Freedom, and hundreds of others that refuse to regurgitate industry propaganda.

Ten steps toward the Food Revolution

The food movement has made huge strides in the past few years. But now is not the time to sit back and settle for what we’ve accomplished. We must build on our success, and ride our momentum to a future where organic and regenerative food and farming are the norm, not just the alternative.

Here’s what we need to do next:

• Boycott every food product that displays a QR code. Since Congress has stabbed us in the back and replaced Vermont’s mandatory GMO labels with QR Codes and 1-800 numbers, these QR Codes must become a veritable “skull and crossbones” symbol on food and beverage containers, helping us launch the largest boycott in modern history.

• Boycott factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry, i.e. everything that isn’t labeled or marketed as organic or 100% grass-fed or pastured. Factory farms are the lynchpin of industrial agriculture and fast-food restaurants. The U.S. factory farm meat, dairy and poultry cartel is an out-of-control, trillion-dollar industry based on cruel, filthy, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive animal prisons (euphemistically called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs). These animal prisons run on GMO- and pesticide-tainted animal feeds; labor exploitation; false advertising; corporate corruption of government; and the use of massive amounts of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, and growth promoters.

Factory farm products—meat, dairy, poultry and fish—are the number one cause of water pollution, soil degradation, greenhouse gas emissions and human diet-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease,   diabetes, and obesity. We will literally never get rid of GMOs, chemical-intensive mono-crops, antibiotic resistance, animal cruelty and agriculturally derived greenhouse gas emissions until we eliminate factory farms, which now imprison 95 percent of farm animals in the U.S., and 70 percent of all farm animals in the world.

Right now, the overwhelming majority of U.S. farmland is utilized to raise factory farm-destined animals before they are sent to the feedlots, or to grow GMO- and chemical-intensive grains to feed them. We need to stop feeding herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats) GMO- and pesticide-contaminated grain, and instead put the world’s billions of farm animals back onto the pastures, rangelands and agro-forestry paddocks, where they belong.

• Make organic, grass-fed and regenerative food and farming the dominant force in the market by 2025. We need to educate consumers and change public policy so as to make organic and regenerative food at least 50 percent of the market by 2025, just as France and other nations are starting to do. In order to do this, we will need to eliminate the multi-billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for industrial agriculture and GMOs that make chemical food seem “cheap,” compared to organic and grass-fed food, despite industrial food’s massive and costly damage to the environment, public health and the climate.

• Pressure investors and pension funds to divest from industrial agriculture and reinvest in regenerative agriculture, in order to reach our goal of 50 percent organic and regenerative by 2025.

• Ban patents on living organisms and eliminate monopoly control of seeds.

• Boycott foods, body care products and animal feeds derived from tropical deforestation.

• Stop subsidizing non-sustainable biofuels (corn, soy, palm oil).

• Cancel or defeat so-called Free Trade (NAFTA, WTO, TPP, TTIP) agreements that favor corporate-controlled industrialized agriculture and foster unfair labor practices. Instead, we must support fair trade and justice throughout the food and farm chain, including a $15 dollar-an-hour minimum wage in the U.S.

• Force governments and industry to move to zero fossil fuel emissions and mobilize grassroots support for the International 4/1000 Initiative to sequester as much carbon in our soils and forests through regenerative farming, grazing and land use as humans are currently emitting.

• Move beyond single-issue, "silo" thinking (“my issue is more important than your issue”) and start “connecting the dots” between food and farming and all the burning issues: health, justice, climate, environment, peace, and democracy.

If passage of the DARK Act has taught us anything, it’s that we must commit to working together to build a Movement of Movements powerful enough to bring about a political revolution, not just a food revolution.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.

OCA Mexico Defends Maya Beekeepers from Monsanto

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-07-20 16:58
July 19, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationErcilia SahoresFair Trade & Social Justice, Genetic Engineering cencos press conference 420x280.jpg

Press conference. In the picture: María Colin Greenpeace Mexico, Rodrigo Llanes, Colegio de Antropólogos de Yucatán, Valeria Enríquez, OCA Mexico and Edmundo del Pozo, Fundar.

The art of beekeeping in Maya communities can be traced back centuries. Beekeepers pass the skill down from one generation to the next.

For these indigenous communities in Mexico’s Campeche and Yucatán regions, beekeeping isn’t just a tradition or a hobby. For many, it’s a livelihood. 

And that livelihood is now being threatened by Monsanto.

On July 13, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) Mexico, Greenpeace Mexico, the Colegio de Antropólogos de Yucatán (School of Anthropology of Yucatán)  and Fundar Research Center held a press conference to expose the ongoing collusion between Monsanto and Mexican government authorities to deprive indigenous communities in Mexico’s Campeche and Yucatán regions of their right to participate in the process, known as consultation, for granting Monsanto permits to grow GMO soy crops.

During the press conference, the Civil Observation Mission, a project formed last year to help document specific violations of the consultation process, presented a report detailing the violations of the right to free, prior and informed consultation in two of the municipalities selected, Holpechén and Tenabo. 

At stake in this fight is the livelihood, the health, the legacy and the dignity of these Maya communities and their biodiversity. OCA Mexico, through our participation in the Civil Observation Mission, is working with these communities to create avenues where they can voice their concerns, express their decisions, and expose the damage that is being done to their local environments, their health and their livelihoods. communities. What is at stake, ultimately, is our dignity as human beings, and the imperative of ensuring that human rights prevail over corporate rights.

Background

As we reported last April, over the past decade, the Mexican government has granted Monsanto permits to develop over 253,000 hectares for the experimental planting of GM soy in nearly seven states. The government did this without formally consulting the surrounding indigenous communities, whose livelihoods depend on a rich tradition of organic honey production. 

When Maya authorities and beekeepers from Campeche and the Yucatán saw the impact soy was having on their highly prized organic honey production, they joined scientists and activists in a lawsuit against Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the government agencies responsible for granting the GM soy permits. The lawsuit accused the government of failing to follow the proper process for permitting, for destroying the livelihoods of Maya beekeepers and for violating the rights of indigenous communities through the excessive use of herbicides and related deforestation.

The courts ruled in favor of the Maya authorities in March 2014. The ruling was finalized in November 2015, when the federal government temporarily banned GM soy in Mexico and mandated that indigenous communities be consulted before any GMO soy permits could be granted. 

But Monsanto, which has a long history of violating Mexico’s laws, continues to flaunt the court ruling. And government officials have allowed it. This has resulted in the granting of permits to plant experimental GMO soy crops in Holpechén and Tenabo, despite the fact that the court-ordered rules for consulting with these communities were ignored. 

Shedding light on the violations

As noted above, during the July 13 press conference, the Civil Observation Mission presented a report detailing the violations of the right to free, prior and informed consultation in Holpechén and Tenabo. 

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169, article 7(1):

The peoples concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development’. 

But in the case of this consultation in Mexico, this rule of law is not being followed. 

During the press conference, Valeria Enríquez, advocacy director for OCA Mexico, highlighted the “importance of raising awareness about the irregularities in the consultation process and the importance of identifying and making public those failures.”

María Colin, legal analyst at Greenpeace Mexico said that the planting of GM soy “violates the right to work and the right to a healthy environment of the Maya communities.”

The Civil Observation Mission used the press conference to publicize the following flaws in the current consultation process:

• When representatives of the National Commission for the Development of the Indigenous People (CDI), the Intersecretariat Commission on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (CIBIOGEM) and the National Service of Health Innocuity and Agro-alimentary Quality (SENASICA) first presented the consultation process to the participating communities, they spent more time providing information about the characteristics of GM soy rather than explaining the consultation process. 

• There was a notable lack of community representatives during the meetings. Community members informed the Civil Observation Mission that they had been invited to attend the meeting the night before it took place. 

• Even with the presence of translators and interpreters, the materials provided at the meetings failed to ensure that the communities fully comprehended the purpose, scope and rules of the consultation process. A significant portion of the communities’ populations cannot read in Spanish or in Mayan. Ignoring this fact, the materials provided by the authorities were not designed to be didactic and to facilitate comprehension by the affected communities, thus reinforcing decades of stigmatization of Maya communities.

•One of the crucial violations highlighted during the conference and one of the key issues to observe in the following meetings is that members of non-participating communities infiltrated the meeting in order to persuade the Holpechén and Tenabo communities about the benefits of GM soy.

Fighting back

Beekeeping in Maya communities is an activity that has been passed on through generations and can be traced back centuries. But beekeepers are now being threatened by the environmental damage caused by GM crops in their communities, damage that includes deforestation, use of herbicides, contamination of their honey, death of pollinators, and the impact on human health.
 
To draw more international attention to this very important case, representatives of the Maya beekeeping communities affected by the Monsanto planting of GM soy and corn will present their testimonies during the Monsanto Tribunal in October in The Hague.

In the meantime, these communities will not remain silent about the potential threat posed by Monsanto’s GMO soy crops, or the failure of Monsanto and government officials to follow the legal process for granting permits for these crops.

Learn more:

https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/oca-helps-mayan-communities-fight-back-against-monsanto

https://twitter.com/ConsumidoresOrg

https://www.facebook.com/Asociaci%C3%B3n-de-Consumidores-Org%C3%A1nicos-1610162275885716/?fref=ts

http://ejfood.blogspot.mx/?view=classic

http://www.contralinea.com.mx/archivo-revista/index.php/2016/07/13/denuncian-irregularidades-en-consulta-a-indigenas-mayas-sobre-siembra-de-transgenicos/ (in Spanish)

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2016/07/14/sociedad/039n1soc (in Spanish)

http://consultaindigenamaya.org/tercer-reporte/?platform=hootsuite (in Spanish)

Ercilia Sahores is Latin American political director for Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association. 

No Good Reason

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-07-14 18:03
July 12, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization Obama, veto dark act, 420 x 280

Today, Congress rammed through a bill that is anti-consumer and anti-states’ rights.

And President Obama is expected to sign it very soon.

Please help us flood the White House with calls today (202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414) asking Obama to veto S. 764. If you’re in the D.C. area, please join our rally at the White House, Friday, July 15, at 1 p.m. in Lafayette Park.

It’s also not too late to sign these two petitions asking Obama to veto the DARK Act. Please sign here and here. We will deliver the petitions tomorrow, Friday July 15.

Why would President Obama sign the DARK Act, a bill that will preempt Vermont’s GMO labeling law and is clearly intended to hide information from consumers?

We can’t think of a single good reason.

This is the President who on the campaign trail promised to label GMOs.

This is the President who soon after he was sworn in, issued an executive order advising Congress not to preempt state laws. The DARK Act would unnecessarily preempt more than 100 state laws, some of which have been in place for decades.

And yet, according to news reports, Obama plans to sign this bill that denies the 90 percent of Americans the right to know what’s in their food by hiding that information behind confusing QR codes that require expensive smartphones, reliable internet service—and a whole lot of extra time on their hands.

Here’s what Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) has to say about the DARK Act:

One-in-five Americans in the U.S. does not have smartphones. That includes 50 percent of Americans who are low-income and living in rural areas, and over 65 percent of elderly Americans. If we end up going down the route of a QR code, all of these people will be prevented from accessing the information that this bill is supposed to make available to all consumers. And even if someone has a smartphone, they will have to scan every single item they purchase in order to obtain the desired information, and this is assuming they will have access to the internet in the grocery store. That’s anything but a quick response.
 
It is a bad idea. It is a bad idea. It is an intentional measure to deny consumers information. 

Even House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway said in a statement the bill is "riddled with ambiguity." And then he voted for it anyway. Because Conaway answers to Monsanto and Big Food, not his constituents.

TAKE ACTION: Tell President Obama to veto the DARK Act! Sign here and here.

Tweet Obama: @POTUS. 90% of Americans want GMO labels. Veto the DARK Act which allows confusing QR codes instead of labels.

Call the White House 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 to leave your comment! The comment line is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

Join the anti-DARK Act rally at the White House, Friday, July 15, 1 p.m., 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. (Lafayette Park)

We Can Still STOP the DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-07-12 15:22
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Monsanto scored a major victory on July 7, when the Senate passed S.764, the bill known as the DARK Act (because it would Deny Americans the Right to Know about GMOs).

But, this fight is far from over. The bill still must be passed by the House before it can go to the President.

Now that Vermont’s law has taken effect, we have proof that GMO labels have no impact on food prices. Most of the major U.S. food companies are labeling their GMO foods as “produced with genetic engineering” and not one has said that this imposes a significant cost.

TAKE ACTION: Call your U.S. Representative at 888-754-9091 to tell him or her to vote against the DARK Act (S.764). Read more

International Monsanto Tribunal Names Panel of Distinguished International Judges

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-07-12 13:53
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 11, 2016 Monsanto tribunal logo

Two Eminent International Lawyers Also Agree to Serve on the Tribunal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2016

Contact:
Netherlands: Tjerk Dalhuisen,, tjerk@monsanto-tribunal.org, +31614699126
U.S.: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207-653-3090
Mexico, Latin America: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@regenerationinternational.org, 52 55 6257 7901  

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—The organizers of the International Monsanto Tribunal today announced the installation of three international judges who will co-chair the citizens’ tribunal, scheduled for October 15-16 in The Hague, Netherlands. The three judges are: Ms. Dior Fall Sow, Senegal, a former advocate general at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Ms. Francoise Tulkens, Belgium, a former vice-president at the European Court of Human Rights; and Mr. Upendra Baxi, India, former president of the Indian Society of International Law.

The Tribunal organizers also announced two of the lawyers who will participate in the Tribunal.  Dr. Jackson Nyamuya Maogoto, UK, will prepare the case against Monsanto on the question of whether Monsanto is complicit in war crimes as defined in Article 8(2) of the International Criminal Court.

Maogoto said, “The potential for businesses to be perpetrators of international crimes was legally recognized by the Nuremberg Tribunal which held private German industrialists criminally liable for their support of the German war effort. This important Nuremberg legacy has quietly been subsumed over decades by the military-industry complex. It is time that the complicity and liability of corporations is reactivated. The International Monsanto Tribunal will serve to resurrect the Nuremberg legacy, ‘remind’ and re-energize the international law framework— business actors can be involved in international crimes.”

Dr Gwynn MacCarrick will serve as amicus curiae (or friend of the Tribunal) on the issue of ecocide. She is a lawyer and legal academic who will prepare the legal submissions in relation to the question of whether the past and present activities of Monsanto constitute a crime of ecocide, understood as causing serious damage or destroying the environment, so as to significantly and durably alter the global commons or ecosystem services upon which certain human groups rely.

MacCarrick said, “The work of the International Monsanto Tribunal will undoubtedly contribute to the progressive development of international law, by clarifying the content of the human rights responsibilities of companies, and by informing the international debate as to whether international criminal law should evolve to include the crime of ecocide."

Background on the judges

Dior Fall Sow, Senegal, is a consultant to the International Criminal Court, a former Advocate General at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and founding member and honorary chairwoman of the Senegalese Lawyers Association (AJS). The first woman appointed public prosecutor in Senegal, Sow also has served as officer and knight of the Order National du Mérite (Senegal). She has participated in many conferences and seminars around the topics of human rights, peace and security, humanitarian international law, and international criminal justice in many countries, including Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Italy and the U.S. She is also the author of many research papers on legal issues. Past posts also include: national director of Juvenile Correctional Education and Social Welfare;  director in charge of legal affairs in SONATEL; advocate general in the office of the Prosecutor for the ICTR; and main advocate general for the ICTR Appelate Division.

Françoise Tulkens, Belgium, has a Doctorate in Law, a Master’s degree in Criminology and a higher education teaching certificate (agrégation de l’enseignement supérieur) in Law. She was a Professor at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and has taught, in Belgium and abroad, as a visiting professor at the Universities of Geneva, Leuven, Ottawa, Paris I, Rennes, Strasbourg and Louisiana State University, in the fields of general criminal law, comparative and European criminal law, juvenile justice and human rights protection systems. From November 1998 to September 2012, she was a Judge in the European Court of Human Rights, serving as section president from January 2007 and as vice-president of the court,from February 2011. She has been an associate member of the Belgian Royal Academy since 2011. From 2011 to 2015 she chaired the Board of Governors of the King Baudouin Foundation. In September 2012, she was appointed to the United Nations Human Rights Advisory Panel for Kosovo. Since June 2013 she is a member of the Scientific Committee of the European Union Fundamental Rights’ Agency (FRA), of which she is currently the vice-chair. Tulkens is the author of many publications in the areas of human rights and criminal law and also co-author of reference books. She holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Geneva, Limoges, Ottawa, Ghent, Liège and Brighton.

Upendra Baxi, India, is a legal scholar, and professor of law in development at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. He has been the vice chancellor of University of Delhi and of the University of South Gujarat, Surat, India. He taught law at Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, where he also served as dean and vice chancellor. He has taught various courses at Universities of Sydney, Duke University, the American University, the New York University Law School Global Law Program, and the University of Toronto. He has also served as the honorary director (research) at the Indian Law Institute and the president of the Indian Society of International Law. Baxi's areas of special expertise in teaching and research include comparative constitutionalism, social theory of human rights, human rights responsibilities in corporate governance and business conduct, and materiality of globalization. In 2011, Baxi was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, by the Government of India. He is the author of many scholarly articles, including "The Struggle for Human Rights", Rethinking Human Rights. Edited by S Kothari and H Sethi. Bombay: Tripathy, 1989.

Background on lawyers

Dr. Gwynn MacCarrick, Australia, was former legal officer at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and former defense counsel for a militia commander charged with 23 counts of crimes against humanity before the United Nations Special Panel for Serious Crimes in Dili, East Timor.

Jackson Nyamuya Maogoto, UK is a senior lecturer in international Law at the University of Manchester (UK). His international law interests encompass the fields of international criminal law, international humanitarian and human rights law, use of force and peacekeeping and private military corporations in the execution of war. Jackson’sprofessional affiliations include: Australian Institute of International Affairs, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, American Society of International Law, Australia & New Zealand Society of International Law, Newcastle Law Society, International Law Association, International Institute of Space Law, International Society for Military Law & the Law of War, Law Reform Association (Australia), Royal Institute of International Affairs and The Nuclear Age Foundation. He is the author of seven books, two dozen book chapters and more than three dozen refereed articles in general and specialist Australian, American, European and African journals. He has participated and delivered numerous conference papers in domestic, regional and international fora.

Background on the International Monsanto Tribunal here and here. 

The Monsanto Tribunal is an international civil society initiative to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide. Eminent judges will hear testimonies from victims, and deliver an advisory opinion following procedures of the International Court of Justice. A parallel People's Assembly provides the opportunity for social movements to rally and plan for the future we want. The Tribunal and People's Assembly will take place between 14 and 16 October 2016 in The Hague, Netherlands.

###

 

President Obama: Pledge to Veto the DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2016-07-11 21:25
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Please veto any bill that comes out of the Congress that would preempt Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, which was enacted on July 1.

The Senate has produced a “compromise” federal labeling law that is being misrepresented as a “uniform, mandatory labeling solution.” House members have indicated they will support this bill.

TAKE Action: Ask President Obama to veto the DARK Act! Read more

Monsanto Wins 1st Senate Vote on Roberts-Stabenow DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-07-08 17:55
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Eager to do Monsanto’s bidding, the U.S. Senate yesterday voted 65-32 to limit debate on the Roberts-Stabenow bill, a federal GMO labeling bill that is unenforceable, full of loopholes and exemptions, and allows companies to hide information about GMOs behind QR codes that are inaccessible to at least a third of Americans who don’t own smartphones.

The Senate is expected to hold a final vote tonight (July 7, 2106) to pass the bill, which would send it back to the House (which passed its own version last July), and ultimately to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes!

 Read more

Organic Traitors Team Up with Monsanto and GMA on DARK Act

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-07-08 11:58
Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJune 28, 2016 organic_traitors_website.png

Editor's note: This article was written and first appeared before the Senate voted on July 7 to pass the Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill. 

"You (Gary Hirsberg from Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It) and the other Organic Traitors (Organic Trade Association, UNFI, Whole Foods, Environmental Working Group, Organic Valley) need to issue a joint press statement denouncing the anti-consumer, anti-states’ rights Roberts/Stabenow bill and telling Congress to step back and let the Vermont law do its work, forcing companies, including your bosses at Danone, to label or reformulate their GMO and pesticide-tainted foods." - Email from Ronnie Cummins to Gary Hirshberg and the Organic Elite on June 30, 2016

Organic brands owned by large corporations who are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Whole Foods Market (WFM), UNFI, and a cabal of sell-out non-profit organizations have surrendered to Monsanto and corporate agribusiness by embracing the latest version of the DARK Act (the Robert-Stabenow Senate Bill) that if passed, will nullify the Vermont law requiring mandatory GMO labeling.

Despite the fact that GMO- and pesticide-contaminated foods are dangerous, despite the fact that at least 90 percent of American consumers want to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered, despite the fact that the now-enacted Vermont GMO labeling law is already forcing major food corporations (General Mills, Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, Danone, ConAgra, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, Mars, Hershey’s, Wonder Bread, Starbucks, and others) to either disclose GMO contamination in their products, or reformulate and remove GMOs, a self-selected group of so-called “organic leaders” and Clinton Democrats in the Senate have gone over to the DARK side.

The growing list of Organic Traitors includes the head of Whole Foods Market, Walter Robb; Gary Hirschberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farm and the pseudo-pro GMO labeling group Just Label It; the Environmental Working Group, represented by Scott Faber, former head lobbyist for the pro-biotech Grocery Manufacturers Association; UNFI, the largest wholesaler of natural and organic foods; and the OTA, led by “natural” brands such as Smuckers and White Wave, and represented by their Board Chair Melissa Hughes from Organic Valley.

These self-selected “Good Food” and “Organic” leaders have been telling Congress behind closed doors—and now publicly—that they and the organic community will accept an industry-crafted DARK Act “compromise"—the Stabenow/Roberts bill— that eliminates mandatory GMO labeling and preempts the Vermont law with a convoluted and deceptive federal regime for QR codes and 1-800 numbers that is completely voluntary, with no firm guidelines for implementation, and no provisions whatsoever for enforcement. Perhaps even more outrageous, the legal definition of “bioengineered” foods under the new DARK Act means that 95 percent of the current GMO-tainted foods on the market, including foods made from Roundup-resistant and BT-spliced corn and soy, would never have to be identified.

Several of the Organic Traitors are now trying to avoid the ire of the organic community by pretending that they are not fully in favor of preempting the Vermont law with the Roberts/Stabenow DARK Act. Anger and resentment are mounting, with calls for companies to pull out of the OTA and renewed calls for boycotts of the Traitor Brands, who are also members of the GMA.

As the Center for Food Safety pointed out earlier today:

… by our calculation the OTA has brought along a minimum of 7-10 Senators against us that were with us before. That is their margin of victory. There is no way to sugar coat this. Should we be defeated a major force that changed from our March victory to this uphill battle is the OTA backroom deal.

In lobbying for the DARK Act, the OTA has employed the notorious Podesta Group (the same PR firm hired by Hilary Clinton and the Biotechnology Industry Association) to convince Senators to stab consumers in the back.

As Food Democracy Now wrote on June 29:

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 companies have just climbed into bed with Monsanto and stuck a knife in the back of every American who’s ever fought for GMO labeling.

According to a Politico story that came out June 28, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb joined his friends at Stonyfield, Smucker’s, and Organic Valley in selling out the American food movement.

Interviewed while on vacation, Walter Robb is now peddling this monstrous sell-out that protects Monsanto’s and Whole Foods profits, to the national media. Robb was quoted in Politica (as reported here) as saying:

It’s “An incredible thing” that the 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 and Just Label founder Gary Hirshberg Exposes Real Agenda

In an even more outrageous lie, Stonyfield Yogurt chairman Gary Hirshberg, who is also founder of the bogus corporate organic front group, Just Label It, an organization that worked 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, protects organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law.

Food Democracy Now goes on to say:

After years of using Just Label It as a corporate front group to undermine real grassroots campaigns and GMO labeling ballot initiatives and people like you, Gary Hirshberg and Just Label It are finally showing their true colors and working publicly to make it easier for corrupt Senators to vote for this toxic backroom deal that will undermine every American mother's basic right to know what's in the food they're feeding their children, like mothers in 64 other countries around the world already possess.

The bottom line is that the junk food “parent” companies of leading organic brands such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Danone, Smuckers, ConAgra, do not want GMO labeling, so they’ve instructed their underlings in the OTA to tell Congress (Republicans and Clinton Democrats alike) that it’s OK to kill the popular Vermont bill. Among the outrageous lies of the Organic Traitors is the claim that “25,000 more products” will be “labeled” under the DARK Act, when in fact, as even the FDA was forced to admit this week, almost no foods will have to be identified by a QR smart code or a 1-800 number, five years or so down the road, when the DARK Act finally gets implemented.

In other words, business as usual will prevail. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods.

This is not just a battle over our right to know what’s in grocery store foods. Consumers want labels so that we can avoid buying GMO and pesticide-tainted foods. Period. We need labels, like the European Union, so we can put an end to our suicidal “business-as-usual” industrial food system and regenerate public health, soil health and climate stability.

Millions of health-minded Americans, especially parents of young children, now understand that cheap, non-organic, genetically engineered, industrial food is hazardous. Not only does chemical- and energy-intensive industrial ag/factory farming destroy the environment, destabilize the climate, impoverish rural communities, exploit farm workers, inflict unnecessary cruelty on farm animals, and contaminate the water supply, but the end product itself is inevitably contaminated.

Routinely contained in every bite or swallow of non-organic industrial food are genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics and other animal drug residues, pathogens, feces, hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic sludge, slaughterhouse waste, chemical additives and preservatives, irradiation-derived radiolytic chemical by-products, and a host of other hazardous allergens and toxins.

There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless GMO-driven food and farming system that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s two billion seed-saving small farmers.

We need mandatory labels so that we can drive Frankenfoods, chemical agriculture, and factory farm products off the market. And if Congress and the Organic Elite take away our right to know, they will leave us no choice but to boycott 90 percent of the foods on grocery store shelves—in other words, everything, unless it’s labeled organic, grass-fed, or non-GMO. If the DARK Act becomes law, QR codes and 1-800 numbers will become the “skull and crossbones” label alerting consumers to boycott this product.

For the past two decades, Organic Consumers and our allies in the Natural Health Movement have taken on some of the most the powerful companies on Earth—Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Cargill, Archer Daniels, Kraft, Unilever, Nestlé’s, General Mills, Coke and Pepsi—the same companies that are responsible for releasing billions of tons of climate-disrupting greenhouse gas pollution, as well as the pesticides and junk foods that harm you and your family's health.

Now is the time to stand up against Monsanto and the Organic Traitors. Call the OCA toll free line 888-897-0174 and send a message to your U.S. Senators: Stop the Dark Act and let the Vermont GMO labeling law stand. And while you’re at, you might want to go to the Facebook pages of the Organic Traitors and give them a piece of your mind.

If the DARK Act passes in spite of all our best efforts, the sell-out Democrats and Republicans in the Congress and Organic Traitors might want to keep this in mind: we will never forgive nor forget.

Venceremos. We shall overcome.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead on GMO Labeling.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-07-07 16:38
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationKatherine PaulOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 6, 2016 Damn the torpedoes 420x280

Eager to do Monsanto’s bidding, the U.S. Senate yesterday voted 65-32 to limit debate on the Roberts-Stabenow bill, a federal GMO labeling bill that is unenforceable, full of loopholes and exemptions, and allows companies to hide information about GMOs behind QR codes that are inaccessible to at least a third of Americans who don’t own smartphones.

The Senate is expected to hold a final vote tonight to pass the bill, which would send it back to the House (which passed its own version last July), and ultimately to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes! Calls are the fastest, and most effective way to get your message through to Congress.

The Senate needed 60 votes yesterday in order to limit debate on the Senate version of DARK Act. But the bill now needs only 51 votes to pass the Senate and move on to the House.

Both the Senate and House versions are intended to overturn Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law which took effect July 1.

We’d be lying if we said the chances of stopping this bill are good—they aren’t. But that shouldn’t stop us from going full throttle to try to win over more Senators, and even call on Obama to veto this bill if it gets that far.

At the very least, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday in a speech on the Senate floor that the measure hasn't been fully vetted, the Roberts-Stabenow bill deserves a full debate:

"It's not fair to get an important piece of legislation and not have the opportunity to have hearings on the measure and offer amendments. We must not stand for the Republican leader jamming this bill through the Senate."

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes! Calls are the fastest, and most effective way to get your message through to Congress.

Scroll down to see how your Senators voted. If they voted against this awful bill, please thank them! If they voted for it, please let them know that QR codes are not labels, and a bill that exempts most of the common GMO ingredients isn’t acceptable.

Yesterday, OCA and many of our allies in the movement worked up until the last minute to convince more Senators to reject this latest version of the DARK Act. We made calls, we visited Senate home district and Washington offices.

We even staged a protest on the Senate floor, dropping 2,000 $1 bills to show our anger over how Monsanto’s money has corrupted the democratic process.

Some of our efforts paid off. Maine Senators Collins and King, who voted for the bill in a “test” vote on June 29, voted against the bill this time, after hearing from hundreds of their constituents who don’t want Maine’s GMO labeling bill overturned. If you live in Maine, please call today to thank Sens. Collins and King and ask them to vote NO again on the final vote.

Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) also saw the light, and voted against the DARK Act yesterday—if you live in Florida or Nebraska, please show these Senators some love today!

But we also had some disappointing “flippers” yesterday, including Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) who opposed the Roberts-Stabenow bill on June 29, but yesterday supported Monsanto, not consumers. If you live in Virginia or New Jersey, please call today and urge your Senators to support your right to know!

To reach any of these Senators, call 888-897-0174 and you will be connected to your Senator.

For everyone else, please scroll down for the vote count. There were 65 “yeas” and 32 “nays”. We’ve also included the amount of money each Senator has received from agribusiness over the course of their years in the Senate. The average agribusiness contribution for “yes” voters ($877,403) is more than twice as much as the average for "no" voters ($440,765).

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators TODAY! Thank your Senators who voted “No”. “Spank” your Senators who voted “Yes”. Call 888-897-0174.

Here are some talking points you can use when you call:

I don’t want to have to pull out a phone and scan a QR code in order to know what I’m buying. The Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill would kill the Vermont law that labels GMO foods as “produced with genetic engineering.” Vermont's law is working. GMOs are being labeled. Food prices are staying the same. The labels are being used nationwide. It exempts nearly all GMOs from labeling. It would take at least two years to take effect. And, it’s essentially voluntary because there would be no enforcement for non-compliance. At the very least, this bill deserves a full debate.

Tally for July 6, 2016 cloture vote

NO Votes (the "good guys"):

Blumenthal D-CTNO$43,033Booker D-NJ

NO

$215,250Boxer D-CANO$517,498Cantwell D-WANO$273,246Cardin D-MDNO$230,103Collins R-MENO$596,291Durbin D-ILNO$951,130  Gillibrand D-NYNO$627,514Heinrich D-NMNO$128,927Hirono D-HINO$108,150King I-MENO $74,515Leahy D-VTNO$356,995Markey D-MANO$118,144Merkley D-ORNO$222,442Mikulski D-MDNO$255,439Murkowski R-AKNO$463,144Murphy D-CTNO$132,650Murray D-WANO$667,307Nelson D-FLNO$873,540 Paul R-KYNO$416,761Reed D-RINO$110,550Reid D-NVNO$691,398Sanders I-VTNO$750,242Sasse R-NENO $329,935 Schatz D-HINO$88,750Schumer D-NYNO$814,930Sullivan R-AKNO$157,541Tester D-MTNO$476,153Udall D-NMNO$338,055Warren D-MANO$91,243Whitehouse D-RINO$98,408Wyden D-ORNO

$992,967

Total donations from agribusiness to Senators who voted NO: $12,212,251; Average donation: $440,765

YES Votes (the "bad guys"):

Alexander R-TNYES$980,283Ayotte R-NHYES$235,956Baldwin D-WIYES$160,709Barrasso R-WYYES$207,250Bennet D-COYES$473,397Blunt R-MOYES$2,069,365Boozman R-ARYES $646,471Burr R-NCYES$1,933,705Capito R-WVYES$456,720 Carper D-DEYES $203,662Casey D-PAYES$405,550Cassidy R-LAYES$504,933Coats R-INYES$527,927Cochran R-MSYES$2,333,394Coons D-DEYES $86,858Corker R-TNYES $664,527 Cornyn R-TXYES$1,688,149Cotton R-ARYES$508,940Crapo R-IDYES$1,170,466Cruz R-TXYES$1,647,662Daines R-MTYES$596,781Donnelly D-INYES $363,199  Enzi R-WYYES$350,502 Ernst R-IAYES $256,998 Feinstein D-CAYES $1,645,599 Fischer R-NEYES$536,262Flake R-AZYES$535,102  Franken D-MNYES $286,547 Gardner R-COYES  $946,349 Grassley R-IAYES$1,929,489 Hatch R-UTYES$725,633Heitkamp D-NDYES$236,975  Heller R-NVYES $258,140 Hoeven R-NDYES$405,020Inhofe R-OKYES$938,853Isakson R-GAYES $1,227,649Johnson R-WIYES$489,435Kaine D-VAYES$140,825Kirk R-ILYES$718,270 Klobuchar D-MNYES$720,592Lankford R-OKYES$226,040Manchin D-WVYES$196,850McCain R-AZ  YES $4,496,004 McCaskill D-MOYES $383,024  McConnell R-KYYES$3,373,204Menendez D-NJYES$647,774Moran R-KSYES$2,284,551   Perdue R-GAYES $489,830  Peters D-MI YES $238,147 Portman R-OHYES$1,011,940Risch R-IDYES $367,154  Roberts R-KSYES$2,808,111Rounds R-SDYES$258,600Rubio R-FLYES$1,141,265   Scott R-SCYES$403,300Sessions R-ALYES$927,652Shaheen D-NHYES$167,474Shelby R-ALYES$843,957Stabenow D-MIYES$1,565,978Thune R-SDYES$1,900,160Tillis R-NCYES$437,750Toomey R-PAYES$682,904  Vitter R-LAYES$657,365Warner D-VAYES

$518,317

Wicker R-MSYES$789,690  

Total donations from agribusiness to Senators who voted YES: $57,031,185;  Average donation: $877,403.

Not voting:

Brown D-OHNOT$379,952Graham R-SCNOT$1,131,590   Lee R-UTNOT$77,950 

(Senators and their votes, listed by state instead of alphabetically, here).

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes! Ask them to vote NO on the Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill!

Organic Traitors Team Up with Monsanto and GMA on DARK Act

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-07-01 09:06
June 29, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie Cummins organic_traitors_website.png

"You (Gary Hirsberg from Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It) and the other Organic Traitors (Organic Trade Association, UNFI, Whole Foods, Environmental Working Group, Organic Valley) need to issue a joint press statement denouncing the anti-consumer, anti-states’ rights Roberts/Stabenow bill and telling Congress to step back and let the Vermont law do its work, forcing companies, including your bosses at Danone, to label or reformulate their GMO and pesticide-tainted foods." - Email from Ronnie Cummins to Gary Hirshberg and the Organic Elite on June 30, 2016

Organic brands owned by large corporations who are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Whole Foods Market (WFM), UNFI, and a cabal of sell-out non-profit organizations have surrendered to Monsanto and corporate agribusiness by embracing the latest version of the DARK Act (the Robert-Stabenow Senate Bill) that if passed, will nullify the Vermont law requiring mandatory GMO labeling.

Despite the fact that GMO- and pesticide-contaminated foods are dangerous, despite the fact that at least 90 percent of American consumers want to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered, despite the fact that the now-enacted Vermont GMO labeling law is already forcing major food corporations (General Mills, Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, Danone, ConAgra, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, Mars, Hershey’s, Wonder Bread, Starbucks, and others) to either disclose GMO contamination in their products, or reformulate and remove GMOs, a self-selected group of so-called “organic leaders” and Clinton Democrats in the Senate have gone over to the DARK side.

The growing list of Organic Traitors includes the head of Whole Foods Market, Walter Robb; Gary Hirschberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farm and the pseudo-pro GMO labeling group Just Label It; the Environmental Working Group, represented by Scott Faber, former head lobbyist for the pro-biotech Grocery Manufacturers Association; UNFI, the largest wholesaler of natural and organic foods; and the OTA, led by “natural” brands such as Smuckers and White Wave, and represented by their Board Chair Melissa Hughes from Organic Valley.

These self-selected “Good Food” and “Organic” leaders have been telling Congress behind closed doors—and now publicly—that they and the organic community will accept an industry-crafted DARK Act “compromise"—the Stabenow/Roberts bill— that eliminates mandatory GMO labeling and preempts the Vermont law with a convoluted and deceptive federal regime for QR codes and 1-800 numbers that is completely voluntary, with no firm guidelines for implementation, and no provisions whatsoever for enforcement. Perhaps even more outrageous, the legal definition of “bioengineered” foods under the new DARK Act means that 95 percent of the current GMO-tainted foods on the market, including foods made from Roundup-resistant and BT-spliced corn and soy, would never have to be identified.

Several of the Organic Traitors are now trying to avoid the ire of the organic community by pretending that they are not fully in favor of preempting the Vermont law with the Roberts/Stabenow DARK Act. Anger and resentment are mounting, with calls for companies to pull out of the OTA and renewed calls for boycotts of the Traitor Brands, who are also members of the GMA.

As the Center for Food Safety pointed out earlier today:

… by our calculation the OTA has brought along a minimum of 7-10 Senators against us that were with us before. That is their margin of victory. There is no way to sugar coat this. Should we be defeated a major force that changed from our March victory to this uphill battle is the OTA backroom deal.

In lobbying for the DARK Act, the OTA has employed the notorious Podesta Group (the same PR firm hired by Hilary Clinton and the Biotechnology Industry Association) to convince Senators to stab consumers in the back.

As Food Democracy Now wrote on June 29:

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 companies have just climbed into bed with Monsanto and stuck a knife in the back of every American who’s ever fought for GMO labeling.

According to a Politico story that came out June 28, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb joined his friends at Stonyfield, Smucker’s, and Organic Valley in selling out the American food movement.

Interviewed while on vacation, Walter Robb is now peddling this monstrous sell-out that protects Monsanto’s and Whole Foods profits, to the national media. Robb was quoted in Politica (as reported here) as saying:

It’s “An incredible thing” that the 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 and Just Label founder Gary Hirshberg Exposes Real Agenda

In an even more outrageous lie, Stonyfield Yogurt chairman Gary Hirshberg, who is also founder of the bogus corporate organic front group, Just Label It, an organization that worked 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, protects organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law.

Food Democracy Now goes on to say:

After years of using Just Label It as a corporate front group to undermine real grassroots campaigns and GMO labeling ballot initiatives and people like you, Gary Hirshberg and Just Label It are finally showing their true colors and working publicly to make it easier for corrupt Senators to vote for this toxic backroom deal that will undermine every American mother's basic right to know what's in the food they're feeding their children, like mothers in 64 other countries around the world already possess.

The bottom line is that the junk food “parent” companies of leading organic brands such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Danone, Smuckers, ConAgra, do not want GMO labeling, so they’ve instructed their underlings in the OTA to tell Congress (Republicans and Clinton Democrats alike) that it’s OK to kill the popular Vermont bill. Among the outrageous lies of the Organic Traitors is the claim that “25,000 more products” will be “labeled” under the DARK Act, when in fact, as even the FDA was forced to admit this week, almost no foods will have to be identified by a QR smart code or a 1-800 number, five years or so down the road, when the DARK Act finally gets implemented.

In other words, business as usual will prevail. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods.

This is not just a battle over our right to know what’s in grocery store foods. Consumers want labels so that we can avoid buying GMO and pesticide-tainted foods. Period. We need labels, like the European Union, so we can put an end to our suicidal “business-as-usual” industrial food system and regenerate public health, soil health and climate stability.

Millions of health-minded Americans, especially parents of young children, now understand that cheap, non-organic, genetically engineered, industrial food is hazardous. Not only does chemical- and energy-intensive industrial ag/factory farming destroy the environment, destabilize the climate, impoverish rural communities, exploit farm workers, inflict unnecessary cruelty on farm animals, and contaminate the water supply, but the end product itself is inevitably contaminated.

Routinely contained in every bite or swallow of non-organic industrial food are genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics and other animal drug residues, pathogens, feces, hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic sludge, slaughterhouse waste, chemical additives and preservatives, irradiation-derived radiolytic chemical by-products, and a host of other hazardous allergens and toxins.

There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless GMO-driven food and farming system that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s two billion seed-saving small farmers.

We need mandatory labels so that we can drive Frankenfoods, chemical agriculture, and factory farm products off the market. And if Congress and the Organic Elite take away our right to know, they will leave us no choice but to boycott 90 percent of the foods on grocery store shelves—in other words, everything, unless it’s labeled organic, grass-fed, or non-GMO. If the DARK Act becomes law, QR codes and 1-800 numbers will become the “skull and crossbones” label alerting consumers to boycott this product.

For the past two decades, Organic Consumers and our allies in the Natural Health Movement have taken on some of the most the powerful companies on Earth—Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Cargill, Archer Daniels, Kraft, Unilever, Nestlé’s, General Mills, Coke and Pepsi—the same companies that are responsible for releasing billions of tons of climate-disrupting greenhouse gas pollution, as well as the pesticides and junk foods that harm you and your family's health.

Now is the time to stand up against Monsanto and the Organic Traitors. Call the OCA toll free line 888-897-0174 and send a message to your U.S. Senators: Stop the Dark Act and let the Vermont GMO labeling law stand. And while you’re at, you might want to go to the Facebook pages of the Organic Traitors and give them a piece of your mind.

If the DARK Act passes in spite of all our best efforts, the sell-out Democrats and Republicans in the Congress and Organic Traitors might want to keep this in mind: we will never forgive nor forget.

Venceremos. We shall overcome.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Monsanto Wins 1st Senate Vote on Roberts-Stabenow DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-06-30 23:21
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

On June 29, Monsanto scored a preliminary victory, winning a Senate “test vote” on a bill known as the DARK Act that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced to Deny Americans the Right to Know about GMOs.

There were 68 “yeas” and 29 “nays”. The average agribusiness contribution for “yes” voters ($867,518) is two-and-a-half times more than the average for "no" voters ($350,877).

Thank your Senators who voted “No”. “Spank” your Senators who voted “Yes”.

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes!Read more

Don't let Monsanto & Corrupt Corporate Organic Kill GMO Labeling

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-06-29 17:58
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Right now we’re being betrayed in Washington D.C. by a group of donation-hungry Senators and a handful of corrupt corporate organic companies that have just brokered an outrageous deal behind our backs in an effort to kill mandatory GMO labeling.

Just days before Vermont’s historic first-in-the-nation bill that's scheduled to go into effect this Friday, July 1st, an unholy alliance for corporate interests has crafted an outrageous corporate sellout by Monsanto, Just Label It, the Organic Trade Association, Stonyfield, Smucker's, Organic Valley and Whole Foods who are desperately trying to trample our basic democratic rights to protect their corporate profits.Read more