Archive for the tag “GMOs”

Connecting the Dots: GMOs and Our Food Future

Monarch_Butterfly_Danaus_plexippus_Milkweed

The recent New York Times editorial, which argues against labeling genetically modified foods (GMOs), is shocking in its shortsightedness. The thrust of the argument is that GMOs pose no risk to consumers; the editorial reads, “there is no reliable evidence that genetically modified foods now on the market pose any risk to consumers.”

But the previous day, the Times published an article noting a startling decline in monarch butterflies — the most in recent decades — which the article attributes to changing weather patterns and changed farming practices. More specifically, the article quotes experts who say that the decline is a result of “the explosive increase in American farmland planted in soybean and corn genetically modified to tolerate herbicides.” The article goes on to say:

“The American Midwest’s corn belt is a critical feeding ground for monarchs, which once found a ready source of milkweed growing between the rows of millions of acres of soybean and corn. But the ubiquitous use of herbicide-tolerant crops has enabled farmers to wipe out the milkweed, and with it much of the butterflies’ food supply.”

Much like bees, the monarch butterfly provides essential pollination for many of our food crops — this pollination is the foundation of our food supply. According to a study by researchers at UC Berkeley, one third of the world’s food supply is dependent on pollinators. Chip Taylor, director of the conservation group Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas said that, “If we pull the monarchs out of the system, we’re really pulling the rug out from under a whole lot of other species.”

To say that GMO crops pose no threat to consumers when their use is clearly debilitating this vital butterfly species, is a careless misrepresentation of the long-term effects these novel crops are having on our food systems and perhaps the very foundation of a secure food future. With greater foresight we must more thoughtfully connect the dots between harm to our environment and harm to ourselves.

 

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Prop 37 Fails: Why We Can’t Rely on Policy to Change Our Food System

On Tuesday, Californians voted on Proposition 37, which if passed, would have required the mandatory labeling of genetically-modified foods (GMOs). Ultimately, the proposition failed by a relatively narrow margin: 46.9 percent to 53.1 percent. This indicates that close to half of all California voters (or more than four million people) would like GMOs labeled and greater transparency on the part of the food industry. As for those who voted no, many were likely swayed by the aggressive marketing (read: propaganda) efforts of the Big Food companies that poured more than $45 million dollars into the “No on 37″ campaign.

According to public health lawyer Michele Simon, Big Food companies like Monsanto, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Nestle, and Kraft, which donated funds to “No on 37″ engaged in lying, scare tactics, misrepresentation, and various dirty tricks to protect their profits and keep California voters uninformed about their food choices.

None of this should surprise anyone who has been paying attention to the power that Big Food corporations wield and the deception they employ to encourage consumers to buy products that are causing harm to their health, the environment and their communities.

The problem with the tactic employed by proponents of Prop 37 is that the food movement attempted to directly confront Big Food in a legislative, policy-based battle. Prop 37 proponents worked in the arena that Big Food controls. Our governmental food agencies are strongly influenced by Big Ag and Big Food through lobbying and PAC donations. As Americans, we function under a state of corporate socialism and in no situation is this more apparent than when it comes to our food.

Engaging a government with deep ties to Big Food was a valiant and courageous effort, but the proposition’s failure shows that the food movement should rely more on itself and less on the government. This is the same government that appointed former head of public policy at Monsanto, Michael Taylor, as deputy commissioner of foods at the FDA. This is also the same government that continually hands out subsidies to the producers of the largest commodity crops like corn and soy, which are predominately (upwards of 90 percent) GMO. The federal government also determines the content of school lunches across the country and exhibited its allegiance to Big Food corporations when Congress voted to keep the designation of pizza as a vegetable in school meals — much to the pleasure of Big Food companies like ConAgra and Schwan’s, which manufacture and sell these products to schools.

Tom Philpot pointed out recently that if that food movement wants to make this bold of a move, it had better be ready for a fight. Or put more pithily, Philpot quotes Omar of The Wire, “‘Come at the king, you best not miss.'”

The real answer to usurping power from corporations like Monsanto, Kraft and Coca-cola lies in navigating terrain these corporations aren’t already deeply entrenched in. The “Yes on Prop 37″ campaign raised nine million dollars to get its message out but was outspent fivefold by Big Food. The food movement learned a valuable lesson in the failure of Prop 37: We can’t outspend Big Food and we can’t out campaign them — but we can outsmart them.

This is precisely why the food movement should be operating with more stealth, savvy and direct-action style engagement. One example of this and an immediate solution to the lack of labeling on GMO foods is for consumers to label foods themselves (visit labelityourself.com). This site provides ready-made warning labels for GMO foods and advocates for guerrilla-style tactics. “Label It Yourself is a decentralized, autonomous grassroots campaign born out of our broken food system,” according to the site. “We have been asking our government to label food products so we can make educated decisions about what we eat. The government has ignored our requests and so we are taking matters into our own hands.”

Mandating the labeling of GMOs in California would have been an enormous victory for the food movement but the fact that Prop 37 failed indicates that we need to speak louder and with more ferocity. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it has become abundantly clear that time is of the essence. Big Ag is the second largest contributor to climate change and it accounts for roughly a third of emissions globally. We can’t wait to be saved from the devastation that climate change is bringing to our communities.

Localizing our food supply and minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides presents a viable alternative to Big Ag’s devastating forms of food production and has the potential to create truly sustainable and resilient communities. But let’s not wait for legislation or for the government to cut ties with Big Food — let’s cut those ties ourselves as we develop, build, and connect the localized food communities that are forming all over the country. We can create an alternative food infrastructure. It’s time for the “food movement” in its myriad and infinite permutations, to coalesce into a force to be reckoned with. This didn’t happen with Prop 37 or a legislative battle but it can be done. What are we waiting for?

Written by Kristin Wartman and Erika Lade, also published on The Huffington Post

Warning! May Contain GMOs

February 27th is the Global Day of Action to Occupy Our Food Supply. Occupy Big Food is very concerned about the failure by corporations and our government to label our foods properly. As it stands now, food corporations are not required to label foods that contain ingredients that come from GMO crops. This is largely due to the fact that corporations know warning labels on foods might turn customers off, or will at least spark questions in their minds — questions like, what’s a GMO? Should I be eating it? We believe our government should require GMO foods to have mandatory labels so that consumers can begin to make more informed decisions about what they’re putting into their bodies. Until then, what can we do? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Our food coop in NYC (the largest food coop in the country), with the help of the Non-Gmo Project, is taking another approach and is now requiring that foods be labeled “Non GMO” when free of GMO crops. Grocery stores across the nation could better serve their consumers and communities by doing the same.

We as consumers have a right to know. #F27 is only the beginning, spread the word.

Retailers click here for more information
Consumers click here

Did you know?

  • Most processed and packaged foods contain GMOs, the most recent estimate is 70 percent
  • GMO foods are required to be labeled in 15 European Union Nations as well as Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand. The US is one of the only major food-producing countries in the world that doesn’t require labeling GMO foods
  • GMO crops have shown they carry significant and new environmental harms, including transgenic contamination of natural crops, wild plants, and massive increases in pesticide use
  • Scientists warn that GMOs may: Set off allergies, increase cancer risks, damage soil fertility, produce antibiotic resistant pathogens, damage food quality, harm Monarch butterflies and beneficial insects such as ladybugs, create super-pests, super-weeds, and new plant viruses, produce dangerous toxins, increase the use of toxic pesticides, contaminate organic and non-GMO crops

 Monsanto: The world’s largest GMO company

Monsanto a Near Monopoly

  • Monsanto is the planet’s largest seed vendor: 87 percent of the acreage dedicated to genetically engineered crops contained crops bearing Monsanto traits
  • Monsanto controls more than 95 percent of the nation’s sugar beets, 94 percent of the soybeans, and 88 percent of the corn grown in this country
  • Corn and soy are in everything. They’re in the animal feed in industrial farms and they’re in nearly every packaged and processed food and beverage
  • Next time you pick up a package, if you see corn, soy, cottonseed oil, canola oil, or sugar and they are not organic, you can be pretty certain these are GMO crops
  • Almost any food with oil in it is either Monsanto GMO soy, Monsanto GMO canola, or Monsanto GMO cottonseed oil The bottle that says pure “vegetable oil” is usually 100 percent GMO soy
  • Soy protein (GMO, unless organic) is used in a variety of foods such as salad dressings, soups, imitation meats, beverage powders, cheeses, non-dairy creamer, frozen desserts, whipped topping, infant formulas, breads, breakfast cereals, pastas, and pet foods
  • Soy protein is also used for emulsification and texturizing. Specific applications include adhesives, asphalts, resins, cleaning materials, cosmetics, inks, pleather, paints, paper coatings, pesticides and fungicides, plastics, polyesters, and textile fibers

Monsanto and US Government Ties

  • The biotech industry has spent over half a billion dollars on GMO lobbyists in the last decade, and Michael Taylor, the FDA deputy commissioner for foods, was once vice president for public policy at Monsanto
  • As of April 2011 81 Transgenic crops have been approved by the USDA and not a single request has been denied
  • Monsanto gave $186,250 to federal candidates in the 2008 election cycle through its political action committee (PAC) – 42% to Democrats, 58% to Republicans. For the 2010 election cycle they have given $72,000 – 51% to Democrats, 49% to Republicans

Monsanto’s Creations

  • Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) is now owned by Eli Lilly and has come under fire from Breast Cancer Action for links between the consumption of hormone-tainted animal products and rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancer
  • Monsanto brought Agent Orange to the world, a highly toxic, cancer-causing herbicide used in the Vietnam war. Veterans who were exposed to this herbicide have suffered terrible consequences such as rare cancers, skin diseases, multiple sclerosis, birth defects in their children and psychological disorders
  • Monsanto invented polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are such toxic chemicals that their production has been banned virtually worldwide and according to EPA data, Monsanto consistently ranks as one of the largest corporate generators of toxic emissions into the US environment. Meawhile PCBs continue to endanger the health of marine mammals, birds, humans and even entire eco-systems
  • Monsanto has made Roundup, its most successful herbicide. Human exposure to Roundup has resulted in nausea, skin and eye inflammation, bronchial constriction and nervous system disorders
  • Monsanto made Alachlor, a pesticide, which the Environmental Protection Agency considers a carcinogen, has caused lung, stomach and nasal tumors in lab animals and has contaminated over 46,000 US drinking water wells

 Monsanto and the Environment

  • The Mississippi River has suffered from the company’s pollution. Its Illinois plant discharges an estimated 34 million pounds of toxins annually into the river. Its Iowa plant which produces alachlor and butachlor, releases at least 265,000 pounds of chemicals per year directly into the Mississippi
  • In 1991, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office fined Monsanto one million dollars for illegally discharging 200,000 gallons of acid-laden wastewater from a plant and failing to report the release immediately
  • In 1990, Monsanto paid 648,000 dollars to settle charges that it allegedly failed to report significant risk findings from health studies to the EPA as required under the Toxic Substance Control Act
  • In 1988, Monsanto agreed to a 1.5 million dollar settlement in a chemical poisoning case filed by over 170 former employees of the company’s Nitro, West Virginia facility
  • Monsanto is responsible for more than 50 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites, attempts to clean up Monsanto Chemical’s formerly uncontrolled hazardous waste sites

A sampling of common foods that most likely contain GMO ingredients

Kellogg’s: Rice Krispies // Corn Flakes // Frosted Flakes // Special K // Apple Jacks // All Bran // Pops // Crispix // Froot Loops // Mini Wheats // Raisin Bran // Pop Tarts // Eggo Waffles // Morning Star Veggie Burgers // Morning Star Vegan Veggie Burgers // Morning Star Chik’n Nuggets // Morning Star Veggie Sausage // Keebler Chips Deluxe // Famous Amos Cookies // Carr’s Table Water Crackers

Kraft/Nabsico: Chips Ahoy Cookies // Capri Sun // Boca Burgers // Cheez Whiz // Cool Whip // Corn Nuts // Crystal Light // Country Time // Honey Maid Graham Crackers // Jell-O // Kool-Aid // Kraft Singles // Lunchables // Maxwell House Coffee // Miracle Whip // Fig Newtons // Oreos // Oscar Mayer // Philadelphia Cream Cheese // Planters Nuts // Polly-O //Ritz Crackers // Snackwell’s // Teddy Grahams // Triscuits // Velveeta // Wheat Thins //

Frito-Lay: Lay’s Potato Chips // Doritos // Tostitos // Cheetos // Fritos // Sun Chips // Cracker Jack // Rold Gold Pretzels // Ruffles // Munchies // Stacy’s Pita Chips // Smartfood Popcorn //

Quaker Oats: Quaker Oats Oatmeal // Life Cereal //Oat Bran // Quick Oats // Instant Oatmeal // Natural Granola // Chewy Granola Bars // Rice Cakes // Grits // Wheat Germ//

Nestle: Nesquick // Butterfinger // Crunch Bars // Kit Kat // Nescafe // Buitoni  // Lean Cuisine // Hot Pockets // Stouffer’s // Coffee-mate // Carnation // Juicy Juice // Nestea // Dreyer’s // Haagen-Das // Nestle Ice Cream Campbell’s Soup: Condensed Soups // Chunky Soup // Select Harvest // Healthy Request // Pace // Pepperidge Farm // Prego // Swanson // V8

What are you doing to Occupy Our Food Supply on F27? Let us know!

Stand in Solidary with Farmers & Against Monsanto

A Citizen’s Assembly in Support of Family Farmers vs. Monsanto Jan. 31, 2012, NYC

New York, New York – January, 16 2012 –  We wish to assemble free and peaceful citizens outside the Manhattan District court in an effort to present the important message to family farmers that millions of Americans stand behind them as they seek their day in court. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. This has resulted in onerous costs to farmers through high technology patent fees for seeds as well as burdensome litigation costs in defending themselves against lawsuits asserted by Monsanto. 
In many cases organic and conventional farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops in order to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and April 2010, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against American farmers in at least 27 different states, for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents and/or breach of its license to those patents, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. As a result of these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

The lawsuit OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) et al vs. Monsanto was filed on behalf of 300,000 organic and non-GMO farmers and citizens to seek judicial relief in “protect[ing] themselves from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic (GMO) seed”. The judge has requested and agreed to hear oral argument in order to make a decision of whether or not to allow the farmers’ case to move forward in the courts after Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“We are family farmers and we are headed to court in New York City on January 31 to let the judge know that our survival as farmers depends on this lawsuit. We’re not asking Monsanto for one penny. We just want justice for our farmers and we want court protection from Monsanto.”
- Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA President and Wood Prairie Farm, ME
 “I don’t think it’s fair that Monsanto should be able to sue my family for patent infringement because their transgenic seed trespasses onto our farm and contaminates and ruins our organic crop. We have had to abandon raising corn because we are afraid Monsanto wouldn’t control their genetic pollution and then they would come after us for patent infringment.  It’s not right.”
-Bryce Stephens, Stephen’s Land and Cattle Co.- Jennnings, KS

We are encouraging supporters of farmers’ rights to grow food without fear and intimidation to assemble outside the courtroom in a peaceful manner to support the farmers in their claims, recognizing that these injustices affect us all and that this case is deserving of the court’s time and attention on January 31, 2012.

Due to limited space, only a small number of individuals will be able to enter the courtroom and listen to the proceedings. We respectfully ask that farmers and plaintiffs in the case be given priority to hear this case in person as each plaintiff has traveled many miles and put a great deal on the line to be a part of this case.
In the spirit of peaceful assembly and respect for the courts, we request that you adhere to the following principles:
 
Principles for Citizens’ Assembly
1. Assemble outside the court in a show of support for family farmers and their right to grow food without the threat of intimidation, harassment or loss of income.
2. Assemble peacefully to present a positive message that America’s citizens stand behind family farmers and support their rights of legal protection under the Constitution.
3. Bring signs that portray messages of:a. Hope b. The positive impacts of sustainable and organic agriculture c. Solutions to our current crisis in food, agriculture and society d. Support for farmers who seek justice in the courts
4. Be respectful of court security requests and follow them faithfully.
5. Maintain a respectful distance from the court entry on Pearl Street, making sure not to block access for foot traffic or vehicles.
6. Maintain a tone of respect for the court and the sanctity of our legal process as the judge hears the merits of this important case.
7. Cell phones, cameras and tape recorders are prohibited inside the courthouse. Those who enter the courthouse must conform to court security protocols.
8. No signs, t-shirts with slogans or other disruptions, visual or otherwise, are appropriate or allowed in the courtroom.
9. No chanting or loud noises allowed outside the courthouse as all must maintain their conduct in ways that are respectful to the judicial process and in accordance with the seriousness of the case.
10. Please follow the instructions of designated assembly captains who will continue to update you as the events of the day unfold.
As advocates for farmers and supporters of a citizen-based democracy we greatly appreciate your support for family farmers and your agreement to act in accordance with these principles in order to guarantee farmers’ rights to grow food without fear and intimidation.
 
Location to Hear Plaintiffs and Attorney Comment After Hearing
Once oral arguments are heard in the court, farmers, plaintiffs and lead attorney Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation will be available for comments to supporters and the media, at the Southwest Corner on 500 Pearl Street, at Pearl Street and Cardinal Hayes Place.
For those planning on assembling at 9 am, Pearl Street has been recommended to gather respectfully and overflow can gather at Foley Square.
*If link does not work, Google: 45 Cardinal Hayes Place, New York, NY for location of assembly, which is the intersection of Pearl Street and Cardinal Hayes Place.
 
Click here to RSVP to attend the Citizen’s Assembly.
 

From OSGATA: The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is a not-for-profit agricultural organization made up of organic farmers, seed growers, seed businesses and supporters. OSGATA is committed to developing and protecting organic seed and it’s growers in order to ensure the organic community has access to excellent quality organic seed free of contaminants and adapted to the diverse needs of local organic agriculture. www.osgata.org

Monsanto vs. Organic Farmers — In NYC Court

Jim Gerritsen -- one of the family farmers suing Monsanto

Will Organic Farmers See Their Day in Court?
Judge to consider oral argument in lawsuit against Monsanto

NEW YORK – December 29, 2011 – In a development celebrated by the organic plaintiffs, Judge Naomi Buchwald announced yesterday that oral arguments on Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto will be heard in federal district court January 31, 2012 in Manhattan. Judge Buchwald’s decision will establish if organic farmers are to see their day in court.

The eighty-three family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses, and agricultural organizations comprising the organic plaintiff group represent over 300,000 individuals.  The landmark lawsuit, filed in March 2011, challenges the validity of Monsanto’s transgenic/GMO patents and seeks court protection for innocent family farmers who may become contaminated by Monsanto seed.

“We are grateful that Judge Buchwald has agreed to our request to hear oral argument on the motion,” said Jim Gerritsen, President of lead plaintiff OSGATA. “Last August we submitted our written rebuttal and it made clear that Monsanto’s motion was without merit. Our legal team, from the Public Patent Foundation, is looking forward to orally presenting our position.  The family farmers deserve their day in court. We are anxious that this case go to trial as soon as possible so that our innocent farmers may receive Court protection.”

OSGATA is a membership organization composed primarily of farmers and seed businesses. Their mission is to develop and protect the organic seed industry along with their growers. In an effort to raise funds, OSGATA has launched a “Farmers Travel Fund” enabling family farmers from the plaintiff group to attend the court proceedings and related events.

Background information on the OSGATA v. Monsanto lawsuit may be found at www.osgata.org .

Occupy Monsanto Rally

We occupied Monsanto yesterday when CFO, Pierre Corduroux, addressed top banking executives and investors at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Times Square for the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2011 Industrials conference.

We marched down Broadway in the middle of Times Square chanting, “Hey Monsanto! We don’t want your GMOs!” Once we arrived at The Crowne Plaza, the police had cordoned off a little patch of sidewalk for us to hold our rally. Many weren’t happy about being penned in, but we were able to exercise our First Amendment right — this hasn’t been the case at many OWS rallies.

We chanted and mic-checked Monsanto for over an hour. Many Times Square passers-by stopped to ask and listen in and we were able to reach people who might not have heard of Monsanto otherwise.

Here are some important facts to know about Monsanto:

  • Monsanto brought Agent Orange to the world, a highly toxic, cancer-causing herbicide used in the Vietnam war. Veterans who were exposed to this herbicide have suffered terrible consequences such as rare cancers, skin diseases, multiple sclerosis, birth defects in their children and psychological disorders.
  • The Mississippi River has suffered from the company’s pollution. Monsanto’s Illinois plant discharges an estimated 34 million pounds of toxins annually into the river. Its Iowa plant which produces alachlor and butachlor, releases at least 265,000 pounds of chemicals per year directly into the Mississippi.
  • In 1990, Monsanto paid 648,000 dollars to settle charges that it allegedly failed to report significant risk findings from health studies to the EPA as required under the Toxic Substance Control Act.
  • In 1988, Monsanto agreed to a 1.5 million dollar settlement in a chemical poisoning case filed by over 170 former employees of the company’s Nitro, West Virginia facility.
  • Monsanto has made Roundup, its most successful herbicide. Human exposure to Roundup has resulted in nausea, skin and eye inflammation, bronchial constriction and nervous system disorders.
  • Monsanto controls more than 93% of the soybeans and 80% of the corn grown in this country. And corn and soy are in everything! They’re in the animal feed in industrial farms and they’re in nearly every packaged and processed food and beverage. They are GMO crops. Read this for more on the health risks of GMOs.
  • President Obama has put Monsanto’s own former VP, Michael Taylor, in charge of food safety. As of April 2011, 81 Transgenic crops have been approved by the USDA and not a single request has been denied.
  • For more on the monopolization of the food supply and the connection between OWS and our food system, please read my article on Civil Eats. For yet another issue with Monsanto, read Tom Philpott’s article on Mother Jones published today.


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