Senators: Please No DARK Act 'Sneak Attack'!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2015-10-05 14:15
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Could Monsanto and Big Food do an end run around the Senate on GMO labeling?

Yes, if history is any lesson. They could do it by launching a “sneak attack.” And there are several versions of the “sneak attack” they could use.

TAKE ACTION: Ask these five powerful Senators not to use a “sneak attack” to pass a Senate version of the DARK Act. Please sign our petition, then call your Senator (phone numbers below).Read more

DARK Act to get Senate hearing . . .

Organic consumers - Sat, 2015-09-26 16:02
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationSeptember 25, 2015 2015 3rd Qtr 130k

Dear Organic Consumer,

Ever since the House passed H.R. 1599, the DARK—Deny Americans the Right to Know—Act on July 23, we’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We won’t have to wait much longer.

Word is out that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which helped Monsanto write the DARK Act, has scheduled a lobbying day for October 7. And the DARK Act is set to be heard by the Senate Agriculture Committee, likely the week beginning October 5.

We have nearly $70,000 to go to meet our current fundraising goal by midnight September 30. We'll use the money to fight H.R. 1599 in the Senate. Can you make a donation today? Every donation, large or small, helps. You can donate online with a credit card, by phone or mail—details here.

Thanks to you, we’ve been able to meet with Senators all over the country, to let them know just how bad this bill is.

It’s been working, in the sense that a Senate bill has yet to be introduced—probably because Senators know that introducing a bill that stomps all over state and consumer rights, a bill opposed by 90 percent of their constituents, will make them very unpopular with voters.

But that little detail—the lack of an actual Senate bill—isn’t going to stop Monsanto. With the help of its Big Food allies, Monsanto-the-Poison-Pusher is forging ahead.

As the July 1, 2016 deadline to comply with Vermont’s mandatory labeling law draws dangerously close, Monsanto grows increasingly desperate.

As one EU country after another announces it will ban GMO crops, as food giants like General Mills and Kellogg’s struggle to survive, as McDonald’s, the king of junk fast food restaurant chains announces organic hamburgers in Europe, Monsanto reads the writing on the wall.

As the World Health Organization classifies Roundup as a human carcinogen, and as more physicians and scientists stand up to the Biotech Bullies, Monsanto finds itself backed into a corner.

You can bet, with such obscene profits at stake, Monsanto will come out of that corner more determined than ever to ram the DARK Act through the Senate.

We will fight back. But we need your help.

This could be our last hope to save the GMO labeling movement. Can you help us raise another $70,000 by midnight September 30? So we can ramp up the pressure on the U.S. Senate beginning October 1?

The DARK ACT would preempt any attempt by the FDA, or any other federal agency, to require labels on GMO foods. In fact, the DARK Act preempts the FDA from even allowing voluntary labeling of GMO foods.

We must stop this bill in the Senate. It will take all of us working together to do it.

  Thank you!    

Ronnie Cummins
National Director, Organic Consumers Association and Organic Consumers Fund

P.S. Donations made to the the Organic Consumers Association, a 501(c)(3) are tax-deductible. If you would like to make a non-deductible donation to the Consumers Fund, our 501(c) (4) lobbying arm, please click here for more details. Thank you!

I'm Keeping the Enemy Close.

Organic consumers - Tue, 2015-09-22 14:37
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationSeptember 21, 2015 2015 3rd Qtr 45k

Dear Organic Consumer,

As someone once said, it’s wise to “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” That’s why I’m a subscriber to the Monsanto-funded “Safe and Affordable Food Coalition” e-newsletter.

And that’s how I know the answer to this question: “How could the U.S. Senate ever vote for a bill as bad as H.R. 1599, the DARK—Deny Americans the Right to Know—Act?”

Answer: Because your Senator is being fed a steady diet of lies.

Any day now, the DARK Act could be introduced in the Senate. It could pass, just as it did in the House.  If we don’t stop it. Please help us raise another $155,000 during this fundraising cycle to help stop the DARK Act. You can donate online, by phone or by mail—details here.

Here’s what I read in the latest version of Monsanto’s fake news email:

As we ready ourselves for the debate on the Safe & Accurate Food Labeling Act in the Senate, we hope you’ll stand with us as we continue to fight for a common-sense, national food labeling law that brings much-needed transparency and consistency to marketplace.

And further down, this:

As we prepare for the next leg of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act’s journey to becoming the uniform, national labeling law we need -- we wanted to share several updates with you.

This is how Monsanto is portraying the DARK Act: as a “uniform, national labeling law.” That’s an argument your Senator likes. That’s an argument that says, hey, we recognize that GMOs should be labeled, so let’s create a “uniform national labeling law.”

But that’s a flat-out lie. 

What the DARK Act actually does, is preempt any attempt by the FDA, or any other federal agency, to require labels on GMO foods. In fact, the DARK Act preempts the FDA from even allowing voluntary labeling of GMO foods.

You know it. I know it. And Monsanto knows it. 

Does your Senator know it? Probably not. That’s why we’re working around the clock, armed with the latest studies, accompanied by unassailable experts, to reach every U.S. Senator.

Can you help support this work with a donation today? Any amount, large or small, will help. Details here on how to donate online, by phone or by mail.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the biotech and Big Food industries are lying about the DARK Act. They’ve lied for years about the effectiveness of Roundup. They’ve lied for years about the ever-increasing amounts of poison being dumped into our soil and onto our food.

But the worst lie of all, is the lie about how sick their poisons have made you, your friends, your families.

Scientists now know (and a recent report reveals that Monsanto has known all along) that glyphosate in low doses can be equally, if not more, toxic than the higher doses that are typically tested..

And the list of chronic and mortal diseases associated with low-dose exposure to glyphosate is long and frightening.

According to the latest numbers by the U.S. Geological Survey, a record 280 million pounds of Roundup were used in 2012. It’s only going to get worse until we convince our regulatory agencies to ban glyphosate.

In the meantime, we deserve to know if our food has been produced with a “probable carcinogen.”

This could be our last hope to require food corporations to tell you if the products you’re buying have been produced with genetic engineering, and Monsanto’s glyphosate—recently classified as a probable human carcinogen. Can you help us raise $155,000 by midnight September 30? 

Thank you!

Ronnie Cummins
National Director, Organic Consumers Association and Organic Consumers Fund

P.S. Donations made to the the Organic Consumers Association, a 501(c)(3) are tax-deductible. If you would like to make a non-deductible donation to the Consumers Fund, our 501(c) (4) lobbying arm, please click here for more details. Thank you!

Tell Congress: Please Support the PRIME Act So Consumers Can Support Local Farms, Not Factory Farms

Organic consumers - Mon, 2015-09-14 19:19
Belong to campaign: Organic TransitionsCook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: Environment & ClimateArea: USA

Ever wonder why it’s so difficult to find locally produced meat? And why it’s so expensive?
It’s because USDA regulations have stacked the deck in favor of factory farms, not local producers.

There’s a bill before Congress, H.R. 3187, the PRIME—Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption—Act, that would allow farmers to sell locally produced beef, pork and lamb within state lines, without having to first ship their animals hundreds or thousands of miles to a dwindling number of USDA-approved processing facilities.

The PRIME Act is good for local farmers, and good for consumers.
Factory farms are destructive on every level—they pollute our waterways, produce unhealthy meat full of antibiotics and hormones, emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases, and cause needless suffering to animals. The PRIME Act would help promote a more humane, environmentally responsible way to provide consumers with meat from their local farmers.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress: Please Support the PRIME Act (H.R. 3187) So Consumers Can Support Local Farms, Not Factory FarmsRead more

Will Monsanto Launch another 'Sneak Attack' in Congress?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-09-10 03:50
Genetic Engineering, Millions Against MonsantoAlexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 10, 2015 dark_red_eyes_420x280.jpg

Something is going to happen. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

So we were told recently by a Senate staffer, during one of the many meetings we’ve held with Senators to urge them to reject H.R. 1599, or what we refer to as the DARK—Deny Americans the Right to Know—Act.

Could that comment mean Monsanto is cooking up another “sneak attack,” similar to the one it conducted in 2013, that led to passage of the Monsanto Protection Act? Only this time, the sneak attack would be aimed at stomping out the GMO labeling movement?

It wouldn’t surprise us. A quick look at the lay of the land reveals that Monsanto and Big Food have several opportunities to rush the DARK Act into law, without a hearing or a stand-alone vote in the Senate.

How likely is that to happen? We don’t know for certain. But it’s worth remembering that Monsanto and Big Food are nothing if not opportunists. Please sign our petition asking key Senators to reject a Monsanto “sneak attack” that would send the DARK Act sailing into law, without due democratic process.

A Bill to End GMO Labeling for Good

In case you’re still in the dark about the DARK Act, here’s the Readers Digest backgrounder. (There’s plenty more here, including fact sheets, leaflets, talking points and toolkits).

Rep. Mike “Agribusiness Puppet” Pompeo (R-Kan.) introduced H.R. 1599 earlier this year. He then managed to rush it through the House, where it passed by a vote of 275 to 150 on July 23 (2015).

The bill is a sweeping attack on states’ rights to self-govern on the issue of GMO labeling, and on consumers’ right to know if their food has been genetically engineered. If the Dark Act becomes law, there will never be GMO labels, safety testing of GMOs, protections for farmers from GMO contamination or regulations of pesticide promoting GMO crops to protect human health, the environment or endangered pollinators.
Under what most of us would consider a fair and democratic process, the bill would move next to the Senate, where there would be the opportunity for debate, amendments and a vote. 

But with the July 1, 2016 enactment of Vermont’s GMO labeling law, Act 120, looming, Monsanto is probably thinking it doesn’t have time to slog through a Senate hearing and stand-alone vote, especially as the Senate has yet to introduce its own version of the bill. And perhaps even more daunting than the July 1 deadline, is the prospect that the DARK Act might get watered down, or worse yet killed, in the Senate—a risk Monsanto would likely prefer to avoid.

Four Potential Sneak Attack Scenarios

So, what are the potential “sneak attack” scenarios that would allow Monsanto to push through the DARK Act this year, without going through the normal Senate process?

There are several. They all take advantage of the fact that Congress is seriously behind on its work, and that the threat of a government shutdown looms.

When Congress leaves its must-pass legislation to the last minute, bills don’t go through the normal legislative process where votes and amendments take place in committee hearings and floor debates. Instead, bills are negotiated behind closed doors, then, to increase the likelihood they’ll pass, brought to votes with only limited debate and amendments.

In a skit titled “You Stuck What Where?” the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart described how this last-minute legislating makes it easy for lawmakers to sneak provisions into bills, with no accountability:

It turns out, members of Congress involved in writing a bill while the bill is in subcommittee, are allowed to add any provision they want, anonymously. No fingerprints. The laws of the most powerful nation are written with the same level of accountability as internet comments.

This year, Congress could procrastinate until December and then cram all of its must-pass legislation into one “grand bargain.” This would be the perfect opportunity for Monsanto to launch a “You Stuck What Where?” sneak attack. We might not even know until it’s too late, if unscrupulous House and Senate leaders were to slip the DARK Act into a “grand bargain” that included appropriations, reauthorizations, extensions of expiring legislation, and an increase in the debt ceiling. 

But, even if these bills are dealt with individually, there’s still ample opportunity for sneak attacks.

How could Monsanto sneak the DARK Act into law? Here are what we believe are the scenarios industry lobbyists are probably considering.

1.    They’ll sneak it into a must-pass spending bill.

The government needs to be funded by September 30. But Congress is way behind in its work on its spending bills. Not a single one of a dozen annual appropriations bills has passed both chambers yet this year. That increases the likelihood that lawmakers will try to pass another Continuing Resolution to keep spending at basically the same level as last year, and keep the government open.

This would give Monsanto a chance to launch the same “sneak attack” strategy it used in 2013, when the Monsanto Protection Act (Monsanto called it the Farmers Assurance Provision) was slipped into a six-month Continuing Resolution cobbled together at the 11th hour to avert a government shut-down. 

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) played a big role in the 2013 Monsanto Protection Act “sneak attack.” He could do it again with the DARK Act, especially if he convinces Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to help him.

The only question for Monsanto is if the Continuing Resolution will last long enough to block the July 1, 2016 implementation date of Vermont’s new GMO labeling law. Continuing Resolutions are normally short-term, 3 months or as long as 6 months. This wouldn’t help Monsanto.

But, Congress may choose to meet its end-of-the-fiscal-year deadline (September 30) by passing a full-year continuing resolution. If this happens, any riders that get attached to the resolution would have a twelve-month lifespan. That could mean a DARK Act that would delay the implementation of Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

2.    They’ll sneak it into the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization bill.  

On September 17, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) will bring the Senate version of the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization bill to his committee for amendments, debate and vote. The Child Nutrition Act expires on September 30, and should be reauthorized before then for another five years. But, as with the spending bills, if Congress doesn’t finish its reauthorization work it can opt for a short-term extension. 

If Sen. Roberts, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, wanted to do a favor for his Big Ag donors who have given him $791.2k so far this election cycle, he could let Sen. Blunt, slip the DARK Act into the Child Nutrition Act. There would be little anyone could do about that, unless they were willing to risk the future of the school lunch program past September 30, when the legislation expires. 

If Monsanto can’t get Sen. Roberts to act alone, the other Senators on the Agriculture Committee could be enlisted in a team effort. With a two-person majority, the committee’s 11 Republicans could vote to attach the DARK Act to the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization without any Democrat’s support.

3.    They’ll sneak it into another bill as an amendment

If Monsanto doesn’t manage to stick the DARK Act into an appropriations or reauthorization bill anonymously, it can try for an amendment to one of these bills, once either of the bills hits the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t been given $1.1M from agribusiness so far this election cycle for nothing. Monsanto and its allies know that the DARK Act could live or die depending on how important it is to Sen. McConnell. As the Senate Majority Leader, he controls which bills go to the floor and which amendments may be offered.

If the DARK Act doesn’t get attached to another piece of legislation by a committee chair or by a vote in committee, it could be brought to the floor as stand-alone legislation. This rarely happens in the Senate, because it takes 60 votes (a bipartisan effort) to cut off debate and avoid a filibuster.

But amendments to legislation are different. An amendment requires only 51 votes to pass—as long as the amendment is germane. (Non-germane amendments require 60 votes.) Of course, what’s “germane” is largely up to the Senate Majority Leader. 

The ability to wield these parliamentary tactics gives Sen. McConnell enormous power and will make him the top target of Monsanto’s lobbying machine.

4.    They’ll sneak it into the budget reconciliation bill.

The FY 2016 budget passed by Congress earlier this year allows for a “budget reconciliation” bill to be considered and passed by majority vote—only 51 votes in the Senate.  The bill can also be amended with only 51 votes.

For Monsanto’s sneak attack strategy, the catch is that, under the rules of this reconciliation, the underlying provisions of a reconciliation bill must have a “budget effect.” It’s very difficult to imagine Monsanto being able to make the case that passing the DARK Act could save the government money. However, the rule can be broken with 60 Senators voting to override an objection.

The “budget reconciliation” bill is optional, so it’s likely that Congress won’t act on it until 2016.

When it comes to the DARK Act, will consumers be at the table? Or, as our Senate staffer friend suggested, on the menu? We don’t know yet. But we do know which Senators might be able to give Monsanto a hand with a “sneak attack.” Please read and sign our petition. 

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director for the Organic Consumers Association.

Ronnie Cummins is international director or the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica.

Burt’s Bees, Neonics and Poisoning Our Food

Organic consumers - Tue, 2015-09-08 15:05
Environment & Climate, Genetic EngineeringKatherine PaulOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 6, 2015 Burts Bees

WestportWiki via Wikimedia Commons CC

On August 27 (2015), we published an action alert asking consumers to ask Burt’s Bees to cut ties with the corporations that make neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonics are a class of pesticides implicated in the mass die-off of honeybees.

We also asked that instead of supporting research (through the Pollinator Partnership) on other causes of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), or research on alternative pesticides, Burt’s Bees use its corporate clout to demand that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ban the use of neonics.

Our action alert prompted an angry phone call from the executive director of the Pollinator Partnership. Burt’s Bees also responded, by setting up an auto-reply email (which many of you received) defending the brand’s participation in the Pollinator Partnership, and insisting that the Burt’s Bees brand is dedicated to protecting pollinators.

We stand by the alert, which as of September 7, had generated almost 18,000 emails to Burt’s Bees. Here’s why.

Where OCA stands on pesticides and other chemicals

Before we get into the details surrounding this specific alert, or the angry and defensive reactions it triggered, let’s clarify the position of the Organic Consumers Association: Neonicotinoid pesticides specifically, and pesticides (and herbicides) in general, should be banned from the U.S. food system, as should most chemical fertilizers. Period.

To varying degrees, these chemicals all destroy soil health. They destroy water quality. (The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is now the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to the latest estimate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and neonics were detected in half the sampled streams in the U.S., according a report released August 18, 2015, by the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey).

In addition to destroying soil health and polluting our water, chemical fertilizers also directly contribute to global warming.

The bottom line is this: Unhealthy soil produces unhealthy food; polluted waters and global warming are threats to human health; and toxic chemicals on our food aren’t good for us.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there are traces of 29 different pesticides in the average American’s body. The government agencies that defend the widespread use of toxic chemicals in U.S. agriculture do so on the basis of what they refer to as “safe” residues, as determined by the regulatory agencies, often with input from corporations, and only by looking at each chemical independently. These agencies don’t study the impact of the toxic chemical cocktails resulting from exposure to multiple pesticides or chemicals.

We agree with Andre Leu, author of the “Myths of Safe Pesticides,” that there are, in fact, no “safe” limits of pesticides, especially when it comes to children:

Given the body of scientific data linking the additive and synergistic effects of chemical mixtures to numerous adverse health effects, serious concerns need to be raised as to why regulators allow these formulated mixtures to be used on the assumption that they are safe. There are no credible scientific data to determine a safety level for the residues of the actual registered pesticide products used in food production and found in food until whole formulations are tested. (p. 12).

For this reason, and because we believe corporate-controlled chemical-intensive industrial agriculture is at the root of many problems, including global warming, public health and global poverty, OCA advocates for chemical-free, organic regenerative (or agroecological) farming practices that foster biodiversity and protect crops naturally. These practices, which include crop rotation, cultivation of different plant varieties, stimulation of beneficial insects and natural predators, have proven successful and productive, according to many farmers, and as outlined in a report that followed from the March 2013 conference “Pollinator Friendly Farming Is Possible.”

Why We Targeted Burt’s Bees

Back to the Burt’s Bees action alert and subsequent fallout.

The once-beloved Burt’s Bees brand was purchased by The Clorox Company in 2007. Craig Stevenson, vice president and general manager of Clorox, who is also responsible for the Burt’s Bees product line, is on the board of the Pollinator Partnership.

Who supports the Pollinator Partnership? Many government and nonprofit organizations, and, in addition to Burt’s Bees, 33 other corporations—including Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto, the companies responsible for manufacturing and/or selling the neonicotinoids that have been linked to the mass die-off of honeybees.

Do we believe corporate bean-counters at Clorox, Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto are deeply concerned about the impact neonics, or other pesticides or chemicals, have on pollinators, or on human health and/or the health of the environment?

We don’t. More likely, Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta support the Pollinator Partnership in the hope of furthering their own agendas, which include diverting attention away from neonics as the primary culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder environment and/or advancing research into alternative pesticides—from which they can profit.

We’re not alone in our thinking. In its 2014 Follow the Honey Report, Friends of the Earth documented how companies like Bayer have copied tobacco industry public relations tactics in an effort to manufacture doubt about the role neonics have played in decimating honeybee colonies.

Similarly, Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto have deployed a mix of PR tactics to divert attention away from neonicotinoids as a key contributor to bee declines. They have typically promoted a “multiple factors” argument that downplays and manufactures doubt about pesticides’ role, while emphasizing varroa mites, pathogens, and bee forage as primary forces threatening bees.

For example, Helmut Schramm, head of Bayer CropScience Germany, explained: “It’s generally known that the varroa mite is the main enemy of the bee.” To further distract attention, Bayer has even erected a giant sculpture of the varroa mite on a bee at its “Bee Care” Center in Germany. As the New York Times notes, “Conveniently, Bayer markets products to kill the mites too.”

What Mr. Schramm doesn’t mention is that neonics weaken the honeybees’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to varroa mites. Or that, as The New York Times pointed out, Bayer also conveniently markets products to kill the mites.

There are no doubt many well-intentioned organizations and staff members who support and work for the Pollinator Partnership. But the fact that the Pollinator Partnership takes money from the likes of Clorox, Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto raises questions about influence. Those questions surfaced the minute we read this letter from the Pollinator Partnership’s executive director, the beginning of which reads much like Bayer’s propaganda.

Neonicotinoids come with a bee hazard statement on the label as they have been determined to have the potential to harm bees; but the question is, to what extent are these substances alone responsible for CCD? CCD has been shown to be the result of multiple factors, as detailed by the recent EPA-USDA report issued last week. CCD, however, is just one of the many problems that have beset honey bees; and there are considerably more issues that face the rest of the pollinating community including other bees, bats, birds, butterflies, flies and more.

The Pollinator Partnership feels that science needs to lead the discussion on neonicotinoids, CCD, and all pollinator health issues, and that decisions based on anything less have the potential to lead us into more, not fewer, problems.

Neonicotinoids were developed as a response to and as a replacement for previous chemicals that had proven risks associated with bee kills and human health concerns. With respect to neonicotinoids, we really do not know enough yet; and we are hoping that new science, including research we are conducting this year, will help clarify this.

Our response to these statements?

Labeling a poison doesn’t make the poison okay. It doesn’t matter if neonics are only part of the problem—the fact that they are part of the problem means their liberal use shouldn’t be allowed in the food production system. Science is leading the discussion, and yes we do know enough yet, even the EPA’s own scientists, according to internal documents, believe neonics are toxic to bees. And even if we’re still waiting for “new” science, we ought to be following the precautionary principle, which roughly translated means “better safe than sorry.” And that means halting the use of neonics.

We stick to our assertion that Burt’s Bees should disassociate itself with any organization or corporation that believes otherwise.

Do We Really Want Neonics on Our Food?

It’s great that we’re studying the impact of neonics on pollinators. Pollinators play a critical role in food production, and even if they didn’t, we ought to be concerned about the mass die-off of any species, as these events lead to loss of biodiversity and have serious implications for all life on earth.

But focusing exclusively on the impact of neonics on pollinators distorts the what ought to be the real debate around not only neonics, but all toxic chemicals used to grow food.

According to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, which measured neonic residues on foods that humans commonly eat:

All fruit and vegetable samples (except nectarine and tomato) and 90% of honey samples were detected positive for at least one neonicotinoid; 72% of fruits, 45% of vegetables and 50% of honey samples contained at least two different neonicotinoids in one sample, with imidacloprid having the highest detection rate among all samples. All pollen samples from New Zealand contained multiple neonicotinoids and 5 out of 7 pollen from Massachusetts detected positive for imidacloprid. These results show the prevalent presence of low level neonicotinoid residues in fruits, vegetables and honey that are readily available in the market for human consumption and in the environment where honeybees forage. In light of the new reports of toxicological effects in mammals, our results strengthen the importance to assess dietary neonicotinoid intakes and the potential human health effects.

According to a recent article in Rolling Stone, a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found neonics in 30 percent of cauliflower, 22 percent of cherry tomatoes and in more than a fourth of bell peppers. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration found them in 29 percent of baby food, according to the article.

We’re talking about a poison, which works in the same way nerve poisons work, according to the “Myths of Safe Pesticides” (p. 15). And we’re allowing it on our food (and on the seeds used to grow that food), and on the food of vulnerable, toxin-sensitive infants and children, while we wait for “new” studies.

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) describes the cumulative and chronic effects of neonics on bees like this:

Neonicotinoids function by binding to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in insects’ brains, receptors which are particularly abundant in bees,  increasing during development from larval to adult stages. This binding leads to an over-accumulation of acetylcholine, resulting in paralysis and death. The most recent scientific observations point to a long-lasting effect in which molecules unbind from receptors, but  remain in the bee brain, possibly rebinding multiple times before metabolization occurs. Whether this constitutes effectively irreversible, cumulative toxicity remains unclear; but  chronic toxicity effects over time are a likely result.

Can we safely assume humans are immune to these “cumulative and chronic” effects? Especially infants and children, whose smaller body mass and rapid physical development increase their vulnerability to toxins?

Here’s the Kicker—Neonics Don’t Even Work!

As PANNA points out, neonics can be applied as a spray, but are more commonly used as systemics, or seed coatings:

Systemic pesticides are applied as seed coatings or soil drenches and are taken up through the plant’s vascular system and then transmitted to all parts of the plant, including pollen and nectar. Neonicotionids are very persistent and therefore accumulate over time in the environment. Most neonicotionoids are classified as acutely toxic to bees. But single, high-dose (i.e. acute) exposures are likely less common than are the chronic, sublethal exposure levels faced by bees over time as they forage in the field.

Rolling Stone cited conservative estimates showing that neonics are used on 100 million acres of U.S. farmland.

According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP):

Seed treatment applications are prophylactic, meaning they are used whether or not there is any evidence of pest pressures. At least 30 percent of soybean seeds planted annually (approximately 22.5 million out of 75 million acres) are pretreated with neonic insecticides (two of the primary four being imidacloprid and thiamethoxam). But corn has the highest use and acreage with around 94 percent of U.S. corn treated with a neonicotinoid. That widespread use has quickly elevated the Midwest to the highest levels of neonicotinoid use in the country. These neonicotinoids don’t stay in the plants and soil however, but find their ways into the water as well. A recent U.S. Geological Survey report confirmed this, finding neonicotinoids were common in streams throughout the Midwest.

So we’re killing the bees, polluting the water, and for what?

Here’s the kicker: According to numerous studies, pre-treating seeds with neonics provides little or no benefit to farmers. The IATP, which produced a paper http://www.iatp.org/documents/unknown-benefits-hidden-costs on the use of neonics as seed coatings says:

Despite their widespread use, there is surprisingly little field trial research available on the efficacy of neonicotinoids in providing yield benefits. A series of recent reports are actually pointing in the other direction, with evidence that indicates that neonicotinoids are of dubious value to farmers and in fact, under certain circumstances, may even inhibit yield. A review of 19 studies in scientific journals looked at how neonic treatments affect yields of major U.S. crops: corn, soybeans, canola, dry beans, and wheat. The review by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) found that in most studies, neonic treatments did not increase yield. This was particularly the case when there was only moderate or low pest pressure, which is the reality on the majority of crop acres. European reports of crop yields before and after neonic bans were in place additionally show no discernable difference, further confirming the lack of measurable yield benefits.

The conclusions drawn by these studies bring us back full circle to our position that neonics ought to be banned. That’s what the European Union did in December 2013, after the European Food Safety Authority said neonics posed an unacceptable danger to bees. The ban was subsequently (and temporarily) lifted in June 2015, amid loud protests from consumers and environmental groups. Before the ban was lifted, and while corporations were working to overturn it, a reporter for The Guardian wrote this, which pretty much sums up what we think:

The EU's ban on neonicotinoids has removed a band-aid from a suppurating and seemingly incurable wound - the reliance of agriculture on chemicals that harm the environment. Should Syngenta's appeal to the government be accepted, then neonicotinoids may assist some farmers to bring in the yields for this year. But should the ban continue, what happens next year? Will we simply be having this conversation again?

Non-chemical alternatives exist that could support farmers to cost-effectively move away from their near total reliance on pesticides. But you cannot patent a parasitic wasp. So their development is stalled and apart from some small exceptions, research ignores biological pest management. This means the agriculture industry is mostly one vast train trapped on a chemical track.

So to Burt’s Bees, we reiterate our call to sanity. We don’t need more science, more alternative poisons, more years of wavering and vacillating, more stalling. What we need is to end the rampant and reckless use of poisons that profit-seeking corporations have falsely led us to believe we need, and return to organic, regenerative farming practices that heal the earth, and all that inhabits it.

We ask that Craig Stevenson, and everyone else at Burt’s Bees ponder this question, posed by Jane Goodall:

Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.


Food Fight 2015: Taking Down the Degenerators

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-09-03 12:43
All About Organics, Environment & ClimateRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 3, 2015 vegetables_produce_sky_420x280.jpg

If governments won’t solve the climate, hunger, health, and democracy crises, then the people will…  Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, speaking at the founding meeting of Regeneration International, 
La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica, June 8, 2015

Degenerate—(verb) to decline from a noble to a lower state of development; to become worse physically and morally; (noun) a person of low moral standards; having become less than one’s kind…”.  - New Webster’s Dictionary, 1997 Edition

Welcome to Degeneration Nation. 

After decades of self-destructive business-as-usual—empire-building, waging wars for fossil fuels, selling out government to the highest bidder, lacing the environment and the global food supply with GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, toxic sweeteners, artery-clogging fats, and synthetic chemicals,  attacking the organic and natural health movement, brainwashing the body politic, destroying soils, forests, wetlands, and biodiversity, and discharging greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere and the oceans like there’s no tomorrow—we’ve reached a new low, physically and morally. 

Distracted by know-nothing media conglomerates and betrayed by cowardly politicians and avaricious corporations, homo sapiens are facing, and unfortunately in many cases still denying, the most serious existential threat in our 200,000 year evolution—catastrophic climate change, compounded by deteriorating public health and the dictatorial rise of political elites and multinational corporations such as Monsanto. 

Unless we move decisively as a global community to transform our degenerative food, farming and energy systems, we are doomed.

To reverse global warming and restabilize the climate, we will need not only to slash CO2 emissions by 90 percent or more, taking down King Coal and Big Oil and converting to renewable sources of energy, but we must also simultaneously remove or draw down 100-150 ppm of the excess (400 ppm) CO2 and greenhouse gases that are already overheating our supersaturated atmosphere. How do we accomplish the latter? Through regenerative agriculture and land use. 

Fortunately, this is possible because more and more consumers are connecting the dots between what’s on their dinner plates and what’s happening to Planet Earth. They, along with environmentalists, animal rights, food justice, climate and health activists, have created a global grassroots movement aimed at dismantling our destructive, degenerative industrial food and farming system. And despite Big Food’s desperate attempts to maintain the status quo, this powerful movement is escalating the war on degeneration.

Under siege, Big Food fights back

On the food, natural health and anti-GMO fronts, our battles for a new regenerative (non-GMO, non-chemical, non-factory farm, non-fossil fuel) food, farming and land use system are educating and energizing millions of people. The profits of the big junk food, chemical, and GMO corporations are falling, while demand for organic and climate-friendly grass fed foods continues to skyrocket. 

In the last quarter Monsanto’s profits fell by 34 percent, while the company’s highly publicized attempt to buy out agri-toxics giant Syngenta fell flat, in no small part due to the “worst corporation in the world” reputation that the global Millions Against Monsanto Movement has managed to hang around Monsanto’s neck. 

In the U.S., the growing power of the anti-GMO movement has forced the passage of a game-changing mandatory GMO labeling law in Vermont. The Vermont law will go into effect July 1, 2016, forcing national brands to either remove GMOs from their products or label them. The Vermont law will also make it illegal to label GMO-tainted foods as “natural.” Many national brands have already begun removing bogus “natural” or “all natural” claims from their packaging.

Consumer pressure on Whole Foods Market (WFM) has likewise forced the organic and natural products giant to declare that all 40,000 foods, including meat and take-out, in WFM stores will have to be labeled as GMO or GMO-free by 2018.  Other chains, such as the rapidly growing Natural Grocer, have already gone GMO-free.  

While a number of major food brands and chains, such as Hershey’s and Chipotle’s, have already begun removing GMOs from their products, the impending Vermont law has created panic among the Biotech Bullies, with Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association attempting to ram through the passage of the draconian, highly unpopular DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act (H.R. 1599) in Congress, even though 90 percent of Americans want GMO foods labeled. 

The DARK Act will nullify the Vermont GMO labeling law and take away the long-established constitutional right of states to label foods and regulate food safety. But such a blatant attack on states’ and consumer rights will also likely create a major backlash. Even the mass media has warned that the forced passage of the DARK Act, either through Congressional vote, or more likely, a back-room-deal rider inserted into a Federal Appropriations bill, will likely enrage health- and environmentally conscious consumers. As Fortune magazine reports, Big Food may indeed be able to ram through the unpopular Dark Act, but this outrageous maneuver will likely lead to “a classic case of winning the battle and losing the war.” 

The global grassroots swarm: next steps

Now that we’ve stung Monsanto and Food Inc. (corporate agribusiness) with thousands of campaigns, boycotts, protests, litigation and legislative efforts, what are our next steps in the great 2015 Food Fight?

  1. Defeat the DARK Act in the U.S. Every major anti-GMO and alternative food and farming network in the U.S. is now mobilizing against the DARK Act, which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives 275-150. We must mobilize, as never before, to stop this outrageous bill in the Senate. But we must also be prepared for dirty tricks, a secret rider inserted into one or more Congressional Appropriations Bills that will not require an open debate or vote in the Senate. And if, despite all our efforts, the DARK Act becomes law, we must be prepared to carry out our own skull-and-crossbones labeling by aggressively testing all of the major (non-organic) U.S. food brands, including meat and animal products, and by exposing the GMOs, pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters that make these degenerate foods unfit for human consumption. Following our exposure of Food Inc.’s dirty little secrets, we must then launch an ongoing boycott to drive these foods off the market.

  2. Expand and deepen our message. We need to change our campaign message from “Boycott and Ban GMOs” to “Boycott and Ban GMOs, as well as the toxic chemicals, animal drugs and factory farms that are an integral part of the industrial/GMO food and farming system.” GMOs in processed foods are a major threat to our health and the environment, but they are only part of the problem of our degenerate food system. Polls consistently show that U.S. consumers are equally alarmed by the toxic pesticides, antibiotics and synthetic hormones in non-organic foods. We need to emphasize that GMOs are pesticide delivery systems, and that GMOs are not only found in most processed foods and beverages, but they are also found in nearly all non-organic, non-grass fed meat and animal products. Every bite of factory-farmed meat, dairy or eggs, every sip of factory-farmed milk, not only contains GMOs, but also the toxic pesticides, antibiotics and animal drugs that are slowly but surely destroying public health. We also need to point out that every time you pull up to the gas pump, you are filling up your tank with not only greenhouse gas-emitting gasoline, but Monsanto’s chemical-intensive, soil destroying GMO corn ethanol as well.

  3. Frame the overall fight as degenerative food, farming and land use, versus regenerative agriculture and land use. Even before GMOs hit the market in 1994, in the form of Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone, America’s industrial food and farming system was terrible for human health, the for the environment, farm animals and rural communities. If we somehow managed to get rid of all GMOs tomorrow, our (non-organic) food system would still be degenerating our health, biodiversity, water quality, and most importantly, our climate. The industrial food and farming system, with its destructive deforestation and land use, is the number one cause of global warming and climate disruption. But at the same time as we expose the hazards of industrial food and farming we must spread the good news that regenerative agriculture is not only better for our health, but that it can fix the climate crisis as well, by sequestering in the soil several hundred billion tons of excess atmospheric carbon over the next two decades. We need to Cook Organic, not the Planet. This requires a new message, and a broader coalition beyond simply “GMO-free.”

  4. Get ready to go to war. Given how desperate Monsanto and Big Ag have become, we must prepare for any eventuality. The reason Big Food and Big Biotech are escalating the war against consumer choice and food safety is because a critical mass of the public no longer believes the lies. Monsanto and Big Food understand full well that they are losing the battle for the hearts and minds and consumer dollars of the majority, not only in the U.S. but globally. That’s why they are pushing the DARK Act and negotiating secret international trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, deals that would take away consumer rights to label and ban GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics and other dangerous animal drugs. This is no longer simply a food fight, but a war. We need to step up our public education, grassroots mobilization and most importantly, our marketplace pressure and boycotts.

  5. Link together the food, farm, forest, climate and economic justice movements. The climate crisis, even though many people don’t understand this yet, is the most important issue that humans have ever faced. The food and farm movement needs to move beyond single-issue campaigning to challenge the entire system of industrial agriculture, junk food, ethanol production and factory farming. We need to educate people to understand that industrial food and farming, GMOs, destructive deforestation and land use, and mindless consumerism are the major causes of global warming and climate destabilization. There will be no GMO-free, or organic food on a burnt planet. At the same time the climate movement must move beyond its 50-percent solution (reducing and eliminating fossil fuel emissions), to the 100-percent solution of zero emissions plus maximum carbon sequestration in the soils and forests through regenerative organic agriculture, planned rotational grazing reforestation, and land use.

The hour is late, but we, the global grassroots, still have time to mobilize and act, to regenerate the system before it further degenerates us.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica. 

Tell Burt’s Bees: Stop Consorting with the Bee Killers!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2015-08-28 17:05
Belong to campaign: Save the BeesCategory: Environment & Climate, Health IssuesArea: USA

It’s been less than two months since Burt Shavitz, nature-lover, beekeeper and co-founder of Burt’s Bees died, at the age of 80. And even though Burt sold the company years ago to Roxanne Quimby, who in turn sold it to the Clorox Co. for a cool $925 million, Burt is probably rolling over in his grave to see his beloved company supporting an expensive, glossy, public relations campaign, paid for by Bayer CropScience, and aimed at obfuscating the fact that Bayer is one of the world’s most prolific killer of bees.

How could that “bee,” you ask?

Burt’s Bees is one of the companies signed on to the Pollinator Partnership, an organization that on the surface appears very concerned about the plight of honeybees. In fact, the Pollinator Partnership is a corporate creation whose primary purpose it is to shift the blame for Colony Collapse Disorder away from the real cause: Bayer’s (and other companies’) neonicotinoid pesticides. And right there on the Pollinator Partnership’s board of directors is Craig Stevenson, vice president and general manager of the Clorox Company, who is also responsible for the Burt’s Bees product line.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Burt’s Bees: Stop Consorting with the Bee Killers!Read more

Tell Bayer: Stop Selling Bee-Killing Pesticides!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2015-08-28 13:26
Belong to campaign: Save the BeesCategory: Environment & ClimateArea: USA

In January, you helped us induct the world’s leading bee-killer, Bayer CropScience, into the Corporate Accountability International Hall of Shame. Bayer is the leading manufacturer of neonicotinoid pesticides,identified by scientists as the primary culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Since January, the plight of U.S. honeybees has grown even worse. Forty-two percent of the nation’s honeybee colonies died off between April 2014 and April 2015.

What is Bayer’s reaction to these alarming statistics? A litany of excuses and a host of tobacco industry-style public relations campaigns, including establishing its own “Bee Care” Center.
It’s time for Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers to wake up and smell the poison.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Bayer: Stop Selling Bee-Killing Pesticides! Read more

Tell these 12 Senate Democrats: Don’t Cosponsor the DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-08-20 21:04
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Now that the House has passed H.R. 1599, the so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” we’re waiting to see who introduces a Senate version of the bill, and what that bill will look like.
But before anything can happen in the Senate, Monsanto and Big Food need to find a Democrat and a Republican willing to introduce the Senate version of H.R. 1599, or as we prefer to call it, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act.

On the Republican side, word on the street is that Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) may step up to the plate as soon as Congress returns from its August recess. Whether it’s Hoeven who does the deed, or another Republican, Monsanto and Big Food will still need a Senate Democrat to also cosponsor the bill. Anything less than a bipartisan effort will fail.
So who are the likely suspects on the Dem side of the aisle? We’ve identified 12 Democratic Senators who we think might be willing to carry the water for Monsanto. We need your help to convince them that going against the will of nine out of 10 voters could spell political suicide.

TAKE ACTION: Please sign the petition asking these 12 Senate Democrats to promise they won’t cosponsor a Senate version of the DARK Act!Read more

Avian Flu: A Chicken and Egg Story?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-08-20 13:20
All About Organics, Save Organic Standards (SOS), Environment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Farm IssuesKatherine Paul and Tagwongo ObomsawinOrganic Consumers AssociationAugust 19, 2015 baby-chick-grass-green_420x280.jpg

According to a recent report, this year’s Avian Flu outbreak has cost the state of Iowa, the country’s largest egg producer, $1.2 billion in sales, lost wages and losses for farmers. Minnesota and Nebraska also suffered heavy losses.

In all, about 200 farms in 15 states were affected by this year’s outbreak, costing U.S. egg and poultry exporters more than $380 million, said the Poultry & Egg Export Council, as reported by Associated Press.

The outbreak was no picnic for the birds, either. In Iowa, 30 million hens and 1.5 million turkeys were euthanized because of the H5N2 virus. As the Guardian reported:

When avian flu infects a single bird on a chicken farm, the whole population has to be destroyed in order to stop the spread. In Iowa, for example, where an egg farm holds anywhere from 70,000 to 5 million birds, infection means slaughtering an unimaginable number of animals.

Minnesota and Nebraska also suffered heavy losses this year. Nationwide, the flu killed about 50 million birds.

Avian Flu brings with it a measure of human suffering, too, as poultry workers find themselves jobless. It also creates a hardship for consumers, who pay skyrocketing prices for eggs. According to one report, egg prices in the Midwest are breaking all-time highs, thanks to this year’s outbreak.

To hear the media and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tell it, the solution to Avian Flu is to stockpile vaccines. That notion rattles broiler meat exporters, who say other countries won’t buy their vaccinated meat. (This year’s flu outbreak affected egg-producers; broiler producers were largely spared).

Talk of vaccines isn’t exactly music to the ears of consumers, either. They want fewer, not more, vaccines used on factory farms.

Is there another way to deal with Avian Flu? Yes, says Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, COO of the Main Street Project, a large-scale organic regenerative poultry project under way in Minnesota, Mexico and Guatamala. Haslett-Marroquin argues that we should focus more on prevention, and less on a cure. That means replacing today’s poultry factory farms with an alternative organic, regenerative model.

It turns out that we haven’t been asking the right question, which is: Which came first? The diseased chicken? Or the chicken disease?

Identifying the culprit, or culprits

Typically, wild migrating birds are blamed for infecting poultry flocks with H5N2. Human “biosecurity errors” are suspects, too, as are wind and ventilation systems, according to a report in Fortune magazine. Still, the USDA admits that the problem is likely more complex than that. Truth be told, the agency can’t pinpoint, at least with any reasonable certainty, “one factor or group of factors in a statistically significant way at this time” responsible for the latest outbreak.

Industrial poultry farms engage in elaborate biosecurity measures to prevent contamination of their flocks. According to the Center for Disease Research and Policy:

The egg industry’s huge “layer operations”—the sort that house millions of birds in one place—are designed to protect birds from contamination, says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota at the University of Minnesota. The animals’ environment is tightly controlled, and workers who enter the henhouse follow special hygiene protocols; often, they must shower in and out, change clothes and wear special boots. But when a virus pierces such defenses, or when defenses lapse, having all of one’s eggs in one basket (so to speak) can make the impact more devastating.

Yet all those special clothes, extra showers and “special hygiene protocols” didn’t protect farmers and their flocks this year. Some argue that it was because of lapses in the industry’s biosecurity audit program—only 43 percent of farms were actually audited.

Whether it’s a failure of the protocols themselves, or the failure of poultry farm operators and workers to adhere to the protocols, it’s hard to reconcile descriptions of near-sterile cleanliness standards with the reality of factory farms—where millions of birds are crammed into filthy, unnatural and highly stressful conditions, deprived of the ability to nest, roost, flap their wings or even see the light of day.

As demand grows, so grow the factory farms

According to the United Egg Producers, there are about 181 egg-producing companies in the U.S., with flocks of 75,000 hens or more. These companies represent about 99 percent of all the layers in the U.S.

Egg-producing factory farms are inhumane. They are also big polluters of the environment. And they’re not a healthy place for people to work, either.

And as it turns out, industrial poultry farms aren’t a healthy place for birds, no matter how many times workers shower and change their clothes, or engage in other  “biosecurity protocols.”

And that, says Haslett-Marroquin, is why the birds on industrial poultry farms, who live in misery, under stress, deprived of a normal diet, in a controlled, rather than natural environment, are more vulnerable to disease.

All viruses or bacteria that make animals sick need an entry point. Confinement animal production is based on the complete manipulation of the animal's life cycle outside of its natural environment.  No natural environment = no naturally developed defenses which result from exposure to such natural conditions and a lifetime of interactions with these conditions. These characteristics define the intricate environmental control systems that must be installed in confinement operations in order to keep ALL bacteria, viruses, dust particles, temperature, humidity, and especially natural behaviors that the bird wants to manifest, under control. The result, is an animal that is VERY vulnerable to a natural environment and a quick entry point for such aggressive viruses such as the bird flu.

According to Haslett-Marroquin, it’s impossible to achieve completely sterile conditions outside of a laboratory. Viruses eventually will find their way into CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations, the industry name for “Factory Farms). Without a doubt, he says, animals raised in factory farm conditions will never develop resistance that can be converted into a natural disease control strategy going forward.

Dr Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture for the Humane Society of the United States, told the Guardian that commercial poultry farms “are designed like a disease incubator,” thanks to dark, moist and crowded conditions. Sunshine and warm temperatures, on the other hand, are effective at killing the virus.

The Guardian also cited genetics as another contributor to the weakened immune systems of birds raised on factory farms.

On top of that, the genetic makeup of birds found in factory farms is often less diverse than those raised in backyard flocks. Due to the industry’s reliance on homogenous breeding techniques, commercially raised broilers are all pretty much genetically identical. Broilers and turkeys are artificially selected and bred to produce birds that grow quickly – at a rate 300% faster than those birds raised in 1960, according to the ASPCA–and produce as much breast protein as possible, to the point where the birds have a hard time standing upright.

Avian Flu isn’t going away anytime soon, says the USDA. But Haslett-Marroquin is probably less concerned about a potential outbreak than his factory farm neighbors in Minnesota. His regenerative design system presents a greater challenge for viruses to find an entry point. But if they do, he says, he’ll use that as an opportunity to continue research and development of avian flu-resistant strains of birds that have already been produced in Mexico and throughout Latin America.

As regenerative systems improve, we have seen significant improvements in the quality of plants and their resistance to diseases and pests that normally affect them, and we have seen healthy egg layers and meat birds (with the exception of industrial cornish broiler breeds) for over 6 years. We have no hesitation in concluding that these overall environmental conditions enhance the birds’ ability to fight diseases—a phenomenon that has proven true for humans and other species as well.

While the operators of poultry factory farms finish cleaning up the carnage and wring their hands in anticipation of another Avian Flu outbreak, and while the USDA stockpiles vaccines they’re not even sure will work, maybe it’s time to ask: What’s the real problem? Avian Flu? Or factory farms?

Katherine Paul is associate director for the Organic Consumers Association.

Tagwongo Obomsawin is a writer and researcher for the Organic Consumers Association.

President Obama: Pledge to Veto the DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-08-12 21:25
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

On July 23, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill which is intended to permanently prevent passage of any state or federal law mandating the labeling of GMOs in your food. 

H.R. 1599 is now before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. A Senate version of the bill is expected to be introduced soon. 

H.R. 1599, funded by Monsanto and Big Food, is disingenuously called the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.” But we call it the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, because that’s what it would do.
There are two excellent reasons President Obama should veto this bill, or any bill like it that preempts mandatory labeling at the state or federal level.

First, President Obama promised labels on GMO foods, in a campaign speech he gave in 2007, in Iowa.  Second, on May 20, 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order to heads of executive departments and agencies stating that “preemption of State law by executive departments and agencies should be undertaken only with full consideration of the legitimate prerogatives of the States and with a sufficient legal basis for preemption.” 

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

Regeneration: Global Transformation in Catastrophic Times

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-08-05 23:44
All About Organics, Environment & Climate, Farm IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationAugust 4, 2015 farm-landscape-rainbow-fence-clouds-420x280.jpg

Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention…. It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress. Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster.  - Pope Francis, Papal Encyclical “Laudato Si,” June 18, 2015

Regenerate—to give fresh life or vigor to; to reorganize; to recreate the moral nature; to cause to be born again.” (New Webster’s Dictionary, 1997)

A growing number of climate, food, environment, health and justice advocates are embracing and promoting a world-changing concept: regeneration.  

What is regeneration? And why are a so many public figures, including Pope Francis, calling for regeneration or revolution, rather than “halfway measures” such as sustainability or mitigation? 

The inconvenient truth of course is that our degenerate “profit-at-any-cost” global economy is killing us. The living Earth—our soils, forests and oceans—and the “rhythms of nature” are unraveling. Greed and selfishness have displaced sharing and cooperation. Land grabs, Empire-building, resource wars, and out-of-control consumerism have become the norm.
Catastrophic times demand radical solutions. It’s time for change, big change.

Our heat-trapping, climate-disrupting, fossil fuel-intensive, industrial agriculture-and deforestation-induced CO2 monster in the sky, now approaching 400 parts per million (ppm), is the most serious threat humans have ever faced. Either we take down King Coal and Big Oil and switch to renewable energy, and simultaneously move, literally suck down, several hundred billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and naturally sequester this CO2 in the soil and forests—through regenerative farming, grazing and land use practices—or we are doomed. 

According to activist and author Vandana Shiva, “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy." 

But just what do we mean by Regenerative Agriculture? 

Solving the Soil, Food and Health Crisis

The international community has set itself three important goals: to stop the loss of biodiversity, keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and ensure everyone has the right to adequate food. Without fertile soil, none of these objectives will be achieved. - Soil Atlas: Facts and figures about earth, land and fields, Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2015

The loss of the world’s fertile soil and biodiversity, along with the loss of indigenous seeds and knowledge, pose a mortal threat to our future survival. According to soil scientists, at current rates of soil destruction, (i.e. decarbonization, erosion, desertification, chemical pollution), within 50 years we will not only suffer serious damage to public health due to a qualitatively degraded food supply characterized by diminished nutrition and loss of important trace minerals, but we will literally no longer have enough arable topsoil to feed ourselves. Without protecting and regenerating the soil on our four billion acres of cultivated farmland, 14 billion acres of pasture and rangeland, and 10 billion acres of forest land, it will be impossible to feed the world, keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, or halt the loss of biodiversity.

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, healthy forests, healthy oceans, rivers and lakes, healthy people, a healthy climate . . . our physical and economic health, our very survival as a species, depends upon whether or not, and how quickly, we can carry out a global campaign of Regeneration. 

According to a recent policy proposal by the French government, we need to increase plant photosynthesis and carbon sequestration in global soils by at least 0.4 percent each year if we are to head off runaway global warming. 

Tom Newmark of the Carbon Underground explains the basic concept of Regeneration: 

There is a technology that exists today that will suck excess CO2 out of the atmosphere. That technology is called photosynthesis. When I look outside my office window I see plants. Through photosynthesis, plants convert sunlight, CO2 and water to carbohydrates and oxygen. Plants are sucking tens of billions of tons of CO2 and creating plant sugars/carbohydrates. Some plant sugars we eat and some pass through the plant and get converted into humus, soil organic matter. This isn’t rocket science. This is a biological fact.

The soil itself is the largest available sink for CO2. There is more carbon currently sequestered in the living soils of the planet (2,700 billion tons), than there is in the entire atmosphere and biotic community combined (plants, and trees).The bad news is that by ripping up the soil through industrial agriculture abuse, we’ve put excess CO2 into the atmosphere.

The good news is that if we farm and ranch in harmony with carbon cycles, we can put carbon back in the soil—quickly. Scientists say that we can get back to 350 ppm in 10 years. All we have to do is increase soil organic matter in all grasslands on the planet by one percent. That is all we need to do to bring it back to 350 ppm. Nature can fix this problem that humans have created.

Along with educating ourselves and our community, we must utilize marketplace pressure to change our degenerate food and farming systems. We must boycott the fossil fuel-emitting, soil-destroying, climate-destructive products of industrial agriculture and the junk food industry. We must support those farmers and businesses whose products regenerate our health, our soils and our forests. Marketplace pressure, public education, and public policy change must go hand-in-hand.

A recent article in the Guardian summarizes Regenerative Agriculture this way:

Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, remineralises soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertiliser runoff.

The benefits of raising and grazing beef cattle, sheep, goats, dairy cows, poultry and pigs “in ways that mimic nature” are many. These practices are more humane, they rebuild soil fertility and they sequester carbon in the soil. 

But there’s another important benefit to these techniques, one that is driving consumers away from factory farm foods. These practices produce animal products that are qualitatively healthier than CAFO products, because they are higher in Omega 3 and “good” fats, and lower in animal drug residues and harmful fats that clog arteries, destroy gut health and cause cancer.

Our agricultural soils have lost 25-75 percent of the soil carbon they once held in storage before the onslaught of industrial agricultural and destructive land use practices. The most important task of our generation is Regeneration: to put this dislodged, heat-trapping atmospheric carbon back into the soil and forests, where it belongs.

The Climate Crisis: Halfway Solutions Are Not Enough

Unfortunately, the current climate change movement up until now has focused almost exclusively on reducing fossil fuel emissions. There has been little or no mention of the critical role soil and forests play as carbon sinks or repositories for excess CO2 in the atmosphere. 

Reducing fossil fuel emissions to zero over the next few decades, as called for by climate activist leaders such as Naomi Klein and 350.org, will solve half the problem, but only half. By the time we reach zero emissions under this “50-percent solution” scenario, sometime around 2050, even the most optimistic projections are that already have passed the "danger zone" of 450 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, a level that will likely detonate runaway global warming, and catastrophic climate change. 

So widespread is this fixation on fossil fuel emissions that even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the upcoming Paris Climate Summit have yet to recognize soil and soil regeneration practices as important carbon sinks. Yet there is a growing body of scientific evidence to support the idea that Regenerative Organic Agriculture, grazing, reforestation and land use practices, scaled up globally, could not only mitigate, but actually, over several decades, reverse global warming. 

We need to embrace the regenerative “100-percent solution” if we want to get back down to the safe level of 350 ppm or lower, as soon as possible. And we need to pressure the IPCC and national governments to acknowledge the importance of carbon sequestration through regenerative land use practices.

A number of critics have told me and others that we should not talk about natural sequestration of CO2 in the soil, nor the enormous regenerative potential of organic food, farming and forestry, because this “positive talk” will distract people from the main task at hand, drastically reducing fossil fuel emissions and taking down King Coal and Big Oil. Of course we need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels, extractivism and over-consumption into conservation, sustainable living and renewable energy. We must all become climate activists and radical conservationists. 

But we must also become advocates of Regenerative Organic Agriculture and forest/land use.

Unite the Food, Forest and Climate Movements

The large and growing anti-GMO, organic food and natural health movement must begin to think of itself as a movement that can fix not only the world’s health and hunger crisis, but the climate as well.  Given that the degenerate GMO, factory farm and industrial food and farming system as a whole (production, chemical crop inputs, processing, transportation, waste, emissions, deforestation, biofuel/ethanol production) is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing even the transportation, utilities, housing and industry sectors, climate activists need to start thinking of themselves as food, farming and natural health activists as well.

There will be no organic food, nor food whatsoever, on a burnt planet. Nor will there ever be a 90-percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution without a transformation of our food and farming and land use practices, both in North America and globally.

We must begin to connect the dots between fossil fuels, global warming and related issues, including world hunger, poverty, unemployment, toxic food and farming, extractivism, land grabbing, biodiversity, ocean destruction, deforestation, resource wars, and deteriorating public health. As we regenerate the soil and forests, and make organic and grass-fed food and fiber the norm, rather than just the alternative, we will simultaneously develop our collective capacity to address all of the globe’s interrelated problems.

The extraordinary thing about de-industrializing food and farming, restoring grasslands and reversing deforestation—moving several hundred billion tons of carbon back from the atmosphere into our soils, plants and forests—is that this regeneration process will not only reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate, but will also stimulate hundreds of millions of rural (and urban) jobs, while qualitatively increasing soil fertility, water retention, farm yields and food quality.

Regeneration holds the potential not only to restore forests and grasslands, recharge aquifers, restore and normalize rainfall, but also to address and eliminate rural malnutrition, poverty, unemployment and hunger. 

So who will carry out this global Regeneration Revolution? 

Of course we must continue, and in fact vastly increase, our pressure on governments and corporations to change public policies and marketplace practices. But in order to overturn “business-as-usual” we must inspire and mobilize a vastly larger climate change coalition than the one we have now. Food, climate, and economic justice advocates must unite our forces so we can educate and mobilize a massive grassroots army of Earth Regenerators: three billion small farmers and rural villagers, ranchers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, urban agriculturalists, and indigenous communities—aided and abetted by several billion conscious consumers and urban activists. 

The time is late. Circumstances are dire. But we still have time to regenerate the Earth and the body politic.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica. He is also a member of the steering committee for the newly formed Regeneration International. 

Senator Sanders: Protect Our Right to Know. Stop the DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-07-30 17:41
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USAVT - Vermont

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is in a better position than anyone to stop H.R. 1599, Monsanto's bill to prevent states and the FDA from requiring food manufacturers to label the GMOs in their products.

We know Sen. Sanders supports labeling. But now that the House has passed H.R. 1599, we need Bernie to speak out loudly and often, in public, about this pro-industry, anti-consumer bill. We need him to tell the mass media, and his fellow Senators, that legislation to preempt mandatory labeling of GMOs is unconstitutional, and must be stopped.

Right now, the media is following Bernie's every move, and hanging on his every word. Will he help us get this issue the attention it deserves? Will he rally his fellow Senators against this bill? Will he filibuster this bill, if necessary?

We hope so. That's why we're trying to get 100,000 signatures on this petition, by midnight, Thursday, August. 3. 

TAKE ACTION: Tell Bernie Sanders: Protect Our Right to Know. Stop the DARK Act!Read more

Open Letter to Bernie Sanders: Please Lead the Effort to Protect Consumers’ Right to Know

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-07-29 21:22
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationJuly 28, 2015 bernie1.jpg

Photo: AP

Dear Senator Sanders,

On behalf of the Organic Consumers Association, which represents more than one million Americans, I ask that you take the lead in protecting the right of consumers to know if their food contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by issuing a public statement opposing H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, and by urging your fellow Senators to oppose a Senate version of this bill.

On July 23 (2015),  the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, a bill written by the biotech and processed food industries that preempts states’ rights to pass laws requiring the mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and would prevent passage of a federal mandatory GMO labeling law.

In other words, if this bill becomes law, U.S. consumers will be permanently deprived of this basic information.

H.R. 1599 is a prime example of how corporate money corrupts the political process in order to create laws that protect corporate profits at the expense of American citizens. According to a report from Open Secrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, the 275 members of the U.S. House who voted in favor of H.R. 1599 received $29.9 million in contributions from the agribusiness and food industries in the 2014 cycle.

H.R. 1599 legally sanctions corporate deceit by guaranteeing the legal right of food manufacturers to withhold the fact that their products contain GMOs.  In place of requiring food manufacturers to disclose this information—information that these same companies are required to disclose under labeling laws enacted in 64 other countries—H.R. 1599 creates a government-run, voluntary non-GMO labeling program that places the burden of labeling on producers of non-GMO products. Contrary to  what the bill’s proponents claim, it does nothing to ensure that the 90 percent of consumers who want GMO foods labeled will ever actually have this information.

H.R. 1599 gives the producers of GMO foods an unfair advantage in the marketplace by allowing companies to continue to deceive consumers. If GMOs are as safe as the industry claims, why not label them, and let consumers make an informed choice? Isn’t that how the free market is supposed to work?

H.R. 1599 is also a direct attack on the Tenth Amendment and states’ rights. In fact, it is being rushed through Congress specifically to head off enactment of Vermont’s Act 120, the country’s first GMO labeling law, slated to take effect July 1, 2016.

As a Senator from Vermont, an outspoken critic of corporate influence in politics, and a sponsor of the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore)  to establish a uniform federal standard for mandatory labeling of GMOs (this bill would be preempted by H.R. 1599), you are in the ideal position to draw mass media attention to this issue, and to convince your fellow Senators that it should not progress any further.

H.R. 1599 was sold to Congress on the basis of unfounded claims that mandatory labeling will raise food costs, that state GMO labeling laws will create a “messy patchwork” of regulations creating a financial burden for food manufacturers, and that there is scientific consensus that GMOs are safe. All of these claims have been proven false, over and over, by legitimate economists, scientists and journalists.

Please issue a public statement opposing H.R. 1599, and please lead a movement in the U.S. Senate to defeat this bill, or any version of a bill that would preempt state or federal mandatory labeling of GMOs.

Thank you.


Ronnie Cummins
International  Director
The Organic Consumers Association

Tell Your Senators: Defend States' Rights to Label GMOs!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-07-29 21:17
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

On July 23 (2015),  the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, a bill written by the biotech and processed food industries that preempts states’ rights to pass laws requiring the mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and would prevent passage of a federal mandatory GMO labeling law.
The House vote was 275 -150. The “yay” voters received $29.9 million in contributions from the agribusiness and food industries during the 2014 cycle, according to a report by Open Secrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics.
We need your help to keep this bill from becoming law, by stopping it in the Senate.
The sole purpose of H.R. 1599 is to deceive consumers by guaranteeing food manufacturers the legal right to hide the fact that their products contain GMOs. That’s why we call this bill the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act.
TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Senator: Support Consumer and States' Rights. Reject Rep. Pompeo's DARK Act—H.R. 1599—and any other federal legislation that would preempt states’ rights to label GMOs!Read more

BREAKING: You Don’t Matter. House Votes for Monsanto’s Right to Deceive Consumers

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-07-23 17:23
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationKatherine PaulOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 22, 2015 2015 donate button

Dear Organic Consumer,

Today, 275 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 1599, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. By voting for the DARK Act, these politicians voted against truth and transparency, against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling.

They voted against the 90-percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs. They voted against the producers of non-GMO foods.

They voted against you.

Please help us raise $100,000 to prevent this bill from moving forward. Your donation today will go directly to fund additional lobbyists and grassroots organizers so this bill never becomes law. You can donate online now, or by mail or phone. Details here.

Now that the DARK Act has been approved by the House, we’ll have to stop it in the Senate. We have to move fast—because Monsanto is desperate to pass a bill that preempts mandatory GMO labeling laws at the state and federal levels, before Vermont’s GMO labeling law takes effect next year.

H.R. 1599 was sold to Congress via multi-million dollar public relations and lobbying campaigns built on lies and deception. The bill’s sole purpose is to support an industry—Monsanto’s poison-peddling industry—that was founded on lies and deception from the get-go.

Were the Congress members who voted against you fooled by Monsanto’s slick, deceitful packaging of this so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”? Or did they simply vote with their wallets, stuffed full of biotech and junk food industry cash?

We don’t know. But we know this: We can’t let this bill get through the U.S. Senate.

Please help us raise $100,000 to prevent this bill from moving forward. Your donation today will go directly to fund additional lobbyists and grassroots organizers so this bill never becomes law. You can donate online now, or by mail or phone. Details here.

Less than 24 hours before the House vote, the industry-funded front group behind H.R. 1599 was still pushing out the lies. The “Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food,” feigning concern for consumers, emailed members urging them to support the DARK Act because if we require mandatory labeling, it will increase the cost of your food by $500/year. That lie has been debunked over and over, by legitimate independent studies. It’s a lie based on a study funded by, and which remains the intellectual property of, the Council for Biotech Information—of which Monsanto is a member.

Less than 24 hours before the House vote, a staffer in the office of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, told a caller that the DARK Act gives consumers what they want: the means to know whether or not their food contains GMOs. “Consumers can choose to presume that all foods have GMO contents unless they are labeled or otherwise presented as non-GMO.  Meaning that it is knowable and it is known by the public which products have GMO and which don't,” claimed a Pompeo minion.

More lies. The DARK Act creates a voluntary, government-run non-GMO certification program. Unless every producer of non-GMO products pays to have those products certified non-GMO, consumers will still have no way of knowing which products contain GMOs, and which don’t. And why should the burden of labeling fall on the producers of non-GMO foods, when the risk factor is associated with those foods that do contain GMOs?

H.R. 1599 would repeal existing state GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont’s Act 120, and would preempt any future state or federal laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods or foods containing GMOs. That’s unconstitutional, according to the Campaign for Liberty, which said this in a statement yesterday:

Whatever your views on GMOs, there is no Constitutional justification for the federal government to preempt state laws in this area. There certainly is no justification for Congress to preempt private sector efforts to meet consumer demands for non-GMO foods, while allowing those who support the use of GMOs to do so.

Yet 275 members of the U.S. House today voted against the U.S. Constitution. And if we don’t stop them, a majority of U.S. Senators could do the same.

You are part of a growing movement, informed by science and motivated by concern for your health and the health of the planet. Ours is a powerful movement. But we are up against powerful industries with bottomless pockets.

If we are going to stop the federal government from taking away our right to demand truth and transparency in labeling, we will have to double or triple our size and our impact. And we have to do it now.

Please help us raise $100,000 to prevent this bill from moving forward. Your donation today will go directly to fund additional lobbyists and grassroots organizers so this bill never becomes law. You can donate online now, or by mail or phone. Details here.


Ronnie Cummins
National Director, Organic Consumers Association and Organic Consumers Fund

Thank you!

P.S. Don't let the U.S. Senate kill the GMO labeling movement! Donations made to the Organic Consumers Fund, our 501(c) 4 lobbying arm, are not tax-deductible. If you want to support our grassroots advocacy and education campaigns to defeat the DARK Act, you can make a tax-deductible donation to our 501(c)3 here.

Tell Ace Hardware and True Value to Stop Selling Bee-Killing Pesticides!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2015-07-23 16:04
Belong to campaign: Save the BeesCategory: All About Organics, Farm Issues, Honey BeesArea: USA

It’s time to talk about the birds and the bees, while we still have them.
For years we’ve fought to stop the use of neonicotinoid  poisons that chemical companies put in our food and gardens. And we’re winning. This April, Lowe’s joined a growing list of companies that promise to phase out and limit neonic products  from their store shelves. 
That’s good news. But our work is far from done. Ace Hardware and True Value continue to sell these proven bee killers.
TAKE ACTION! Tell Ace Hardware and True Value to Stop Selling Bee-Killing Pesticides!Read more

Consumers, Health Advocates and Farmers Mobilize Massive Movement in Opposition to Congressional “DARK Act” Aimed at Preempting Labeling and Safety Testing of Genetically Engineered Foods

Organic consumers - Wed, 2015-07-22 17:30
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 22, 2015 stopmonsanto.png

Passage of HR 1599 by the House Sparks Outrage, Triggers National Grassroots Lobbying Campaign to Stop the Bill

July 23, 2015
CONTACT: Organic Consumers Association: Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org

FINLAND, Minn. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, commonly known as the “DARK Act” (Deny Americans the Right to Know), a bill falsely represented by its sponsors as providing “certainty” and “clarity” for controversial genetically engineered foods, In fact, the legislation’s intent is to permanently preserve the right of food manufacturers to deceive consumers.

“We can only presume that the majority of Representatives who voted in favor of this legislation were duped by the multi-million dollar public relations and lobbying campaigns, funded by Monsanto and Big Ag, that falsely frame H.R. 1599 as pro-consumer, and perpetuate the myth that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have been thoroughly safety tested and proven safe,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association. “How else to explain why Congress would vote against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling, and against the 90-percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs?

“We are committed to stopping this outrageous, anti-consumer, anti-democracy legislation from succeeding,” Cummins said. “We will do so by mobilizing a massive opposition movement that transcends political party affiliations, and that unites consumers of all ages with organic farmers and retailers whose livelihoods are threatened by this legislation, and with the medical and scientific experts who are outspoken about the potential health and environmental risks associated with GMO crops and foods.”

H.R. 1599, deceptively titled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” is sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), on behalf of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, of which Monsanto, Dow, Dupont and other chemical companies are members.

The bill would repeal existing state GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont’s Act 120, and would preempt any future state or federal laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods or foods containing GMOs.

H.R. 1599 would also codify the Food and Drug Administration’s position that genetically modified foods and ingredients don’t require labeling because they are as safe as those produced through conventional agriculture, thus ensuring that there will never be independent pre-market safety testing of GMO foods. The American Medical Association has recommended mandatory pre-market safety testing of these controversial gene-spliced foods, rather than the current system that relies on an FDA “voluntary consultation” process based on the industry’s own testing.

H.R. 1599 would also establish a voluntary “GMO-Free” labeling program, overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it would allow foods containing GMOs to be labeled “natural.”

H.R. 1599 has been sold to lawmakers on the basis of false claims. Contrary to what proponents of H.R. 1599 say:

1. There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs, according to hundreds of scientists. Moreover, more than 80 percent of GMO crops are genetically engineered to be heavily sprayed with the toxic herbicide, Roundup. Roundup was recently declared a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization.

2. Labeling foods will incur little or no cost to food manufacturers or consumers. Food industry lobbyists have repeatedly used the “increased cost” argument to oppose mandatory nutrition or GMO labeling, basing their argument on a study funded by the Council for Biotech Information. But food manufacturers routinely update labels and numerous independent studies support the fact that labeling GMOs will not increase costs. In fact, many food corporations are preparing to implement a QR bar code system for labeling food ingredients, including GMOs—a system that would incur greater costs than merely adding the words “produced with genetic engineering” to their labels.

3. H.R. 1599 will create, not eliminate confusion for consumers, by allowing foods that contain GMOs, which are artificially created in a laboratory, to be labeled “natural.”

4. State GMO labeling laws will not create a “patchwork” of laws that would be cumbersome or costly for food manufacturers. State GMO labeling bills have been written using a single model, all of which would require the same wording: “produced with genetic engineering.”

“H.R. 1599 allows big corporations, such as Monsanto and Coca-Cola, to continue to deceive consumers,” Cummins said. “This bill not only takes away states’ rights to require labeling of GMOs, but also creates a government-run GMO-Free labeling system that places the expense and burden of labeling on organic and non-GMO food producers who do not expose consumers to risk, rather than requiring the perpetrators of the risks associated with cancer-causing chemicals and inadequately tested technologies to truthfully disclose the ingredients in their products. It’s no wonder that more than 90 perecent of Americans have lost faith in Congress. It’s time to hold every member of Congress accountable. Either they stand with Monsanto and Big Food in support of the DARK Act, or they stand with the overwhelming majority of their constituents for truthful labeling and consumer choice.”

In an op-ed July 13, 2015, in the New York Times, Mark Spitznagel, founder and chief investment officer of Universa Investments, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of “The Black Swan” and professor of risk engineering at New York University School of Engineering, wrote:

The G.M.O. experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever. It creates yet another systemic, “too big too fail” enterprise — but one for which no bailouts will be possible when it fails.

“To carry out a vast genetic experiment on the American public is outrageous,” Cummins said. “To continue to do it covertly, without full disclosure, is criminal. If necessary, we will mount the largest-ever food and food safety campaign in U.S. history to prevent Congress from turning the DARK Act bill into law.”


House Ag Committee Says ‘No’ to GMO Labeling, What’s Next?

Organic consumers - Tue, 2015-07-14 15:03
July 13, 2015Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering stopmonsanto.png

With no debate and only a voice vote, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture today (July 14, 2015) passed out of committee H.R. 1599, a bill to preempt states’ rights to label GMOs. Within hours, it was announced that the bill will go straight to the House floor, as early as next week, with no vote in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

If we don’t stop it in the House next week, the fight to stop this “Mother of All Monsanto Protection Acts” will take place next in the U.S. Senate, by early fall. In his opening statement this morning, Committee Chairman Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) (who shortly after today’s vote said he will co-sponsor H.R. 1599) couldn’t have sounded more like a Monsanto employee if he’d tried. Conaway nailed the biotech industry’s favorite talking points and mistruths, beginning with this one:

In testimony before this Committee, multiple representatives of the food and agricultural sectors commented on the cost burden that would be placed on our food system if we were to allow the 50 States, more than 3000 counties and nearly 20,000 towns and cities in the United States to establish their own laws regulating interstate commerce.

Time and again, independent experts have stated that the cost of labeling GMO foods and ingredients, to manufacturers, retailers and consumers, would be negligible here in the U.S., just as it has been in the more than 60 countries that already require labeling. GMO labels are costless, as pointed out in this Washington Post article. Companies regularly update their food packaging as they come up with new designs or marketing strategies.

And then there was the ultimate lie about GMOs, that they have been “proven safe:”

We all recognize that the overwhelming consensus within the science community is that these biotech products are safe.  We likewise understand that each and every biotech product in the marketplace today has been reviewed thorough a voluntary food safety consultation process at the Food and Drug Administration.

Wrong. Ever since GMOs were introduced into the food system in the 1990s, without adequate, independent, pre-market safety testing, there have been scientists and an increasing volume of of research indicating that these genetically engineered foods and the toxic chemicals that accompany them are hazardous to human health and the environment. The American Medical Association believes GMO foods should be subjected to pre-market safety testing. And there is surely no consensus, as hundreds of scientists worldwide have confirmed, on the safety of GMOs that have already been approved. That is a flat-out lie.

Conaway spoke instead about the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s “voluntary food safety consultation process” as if that were a valid means of proving safety.

Glaringly absent from Conaway’s statement was any mention of the toxic chemicals used to grow GMO crops, and allowed to remain as residue on GMO foods. Not one word was spoken about the World Health Organization’s recent determination that glyphosate, the chemical used on more than 80 percent of GMO crops, is a probably human carcinogen.

None of these statements, coming from a lawmaker with ties to Big Ag, were particularly surprising. But what should concern any consumer ,voter, citizen or just plain common-sense thinking human being, is that Conaway’s statement clearly focused on how to promote the profits of corporations, rather than on how to protect people from foods that have not been proven safe, and the arsenal of toxic chemicals used to grow them. It was all about “marketing,” and how we need a government program for food producers who want to voluntarily label their products as GMO-free, or containing GMOs.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has long been in the business of assisting producers to develop programs and tools to take advantage of market opportunities. The Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee recently examined the programs of the Agricultural Marketing Service.  The Subcommittee concluded that the agency has the resources and expertise to develop and administer a robust marketing program for those wishing to notify consumers of the presence or absence of genetically engineered ingredients in their food products.  What the agency doesn’t have is the law to make it work uniformly across the country like we did 25 years ago when we passed the Organic Foods Production Act.

Not one word on the devastation to the environment. Not on word on how chemical-intensive, fossil-fuel-intensive industrial agriculture is one of the largest contributors, if not the largest contributor, to global warming—and how if we don’t fix this system, we can’t be serious about averting a climate disaster.

As Pope Francis said recently, on the topic of genetic engineering and its use of toxic pesticides:

It creates a vicious circle in which the intervention of the human being to solve a problem often worsens the situation further. For example, many birds and insects die out as a result of toxic pesticides created by technology, they are useful to agriculture itself, and their disappearance will be compensated with another technological intervention that probably will bring new harmful effects… looking at the world we see that this level of human intervention, often in the service of finance and consumerism, actually causes the earth we live in to become less rich and beautiful, more and more limited and gray, while at the same time the development of technology and consumerism continues to advance without limits.

H.R. 1599 is an assault on consumer rights, an assault on democracy and states’ rights. And if passed, it will only escalate the assault on our health, and the health of Planet Earth.

Please help us continue to fight this disastrous and undemocratic piece of legislation.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.