July 23, 2014

Big Agriculture Takes Control of Congress – Gets Immunity from GMO Lawsuits

pin it button Big Agriculture Takes Control of Congress   Gets Immunity from GMO Lawsuits

Washington Capitol Night Big Agriculture Takes Control of Congress   Gets Immunity from GMO Lawsuits

Health Impact News Editor Comments:

Since the Alliance for Natural Health published this report below, more information has been uncovered about the GMO protection rider that Food Democracy Now had labeled “The Monsanto Protection Act.” The law containing the rider was signed by President Obama late last night (March 26th). David Rogers of Politico has done some good investigative reporting to find out who introduced this rider, and it was Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri, the state where the headquarters for Monsanto is located. The other rider in this bill that removed certain basic safeguards for poultry farmers is linked to the new chairman of the appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Ag budget, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, home of the headquarters of Tyson foods, the largest poultry producer in the U.S. The former head of the same committee who used to resist these types of riders was Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, the state with the second largest production of organic foods, many consisting of small family farmers. Senator Kohl retired from the Senate after the last session.

Here are some excerpts from the Politico article:

Big Agriculture flexes its muscle

Congress holds the purse strings, but who holds Congress these days when it comes to farm policy: the meatpackers and Monsanto? So it seemed last week as lawmakers sent the White House an updated budget for the Agriculture Department complete with industry-backed orders on how Secretary Tom Vilsack should run the place.

Even the typically conservative American Farm Bureau opposed this last action. And proponents would argue that the doomed poultry rules were never more than minimal protections for growers, such as requiring 90-day notice before a contract is canceled by a packer. “It’s almost as if the poultry companies are sending the signal through Congress: ”’you can’t touch us,’” said Steve Etka, who represents a coalition of growers. “It doesn’t get much lower than that,” said Mike Weaver, a 61-year-old West Virginia chicken farmer. “They should all be ashamed. Anyone who could do that doesn’t have much integrity or soul.”

The orders to Vilsack on genetically modified seeds are more subtle but potentially far reaching. In no uncertain terms, the amendment tells the secretary how he must respond the next time a court order challenges one of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds for which the St. Louis-based giant is a pioneer in commercializing. The language is unusually strong: the secretary “shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law… immediately grant” temporary permits to continue using the seed at the request of a farmer or producer wanting such a stewardship program.

The Center for Food Safety, a Washington-based nonprofit which has been waging its own guerrilla war with the biotech industry, denounced the Monsanto measure as “corporate welfare” and a backroom deal. “Monsanto flexed its muscle and won,” said attorney Bill Snapes, who serves as counsel to the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity.

Vilsack’s own reaction suggests he has doubts about the amendment’s legal standing. “Secretary Vilsack has asked the Office of General Council to review this provision,” the department told POLITICO, “As it appears to pre-empt judicial review of a deregulatory action which may make the provision unenforceable.”

All this happened with little or no floor debate and in a period of turmoil for the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who had resisted such House-riders in the past as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Ag budget, retired from the Senate at the end of last year.

On balance, these changes tipped the balance even more toward the National Chicken Council, representing the big poultry processors. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who took over the Ag spot from Kohl, hails from the home state of Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale. Perdue Farms, a second big council member, has deep roots on Maryland’s Eastern Shore represents by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) who succeeded Inouye as chairman.

But the biggest player may have been Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a battle-scarred veteran of the House GOP leadership who is now rebuilding his power base in the Senate. Coming from Missouri, Blunt is a strong ally for both the poultry companies and Monsanto, and as the ranking Republican on the Ag appropriations subcommittee, he was a consistent and determined presence.

Watching the bill with dismay was Sen. Jon Tester, a 56-year-old Montana Democrat and one of the few farmers in Congress. In his lifetime, Tester has witnessed firsthand the immense consolidation of power at the top of the meat industry and was one of those in Congress who urged the Ag Department to be more aggressive with its regulatory power under the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act. At the same time, as an organic farmer himself, Tester is leery of the power enjoyed by Monsanto and the introduction of new GMO (genetically modified organism) products tailored to work better with herbicides. Tester’s background and Western roots encapsulate many of the tensions today in agriculture itself.

Tester waited too long to be a major force, and critics would argue that as a member of the Appropriations panel, he should have seen the train coming at him sooner. But he did file amendments — which were never allowed votes — to strip out both the riders. In private, he made his displeasure known to top Appropriations Committee staff, and he delivered a strongly worded floor speech likening the provisions to essentially earmarks for industry.

Read the Full Story Here: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/big-agriculture-tom-vilsack-monsanto-89268.htm

The Latest on the GMO Rider

by Alliance for Natural Health

Where do we go from here?

The Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government passed both the Senate and the House last week—and despite all our mutual efforts, it still contained the dangerous GMO rider we’ve been telling you about. The Senate, and in particular, the Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, let us down, despite earlier signals they would stand up to Monsanto on this one. Senate Democrats were unwilling to remove the biotech rider, despite the efforts of hundreds of organizations and businesses and tens of thousands of phone calls and Action Alert messages sent.

As you’ll recall, the newly passed rider will strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of illegal, potentially hazardous genetically engineered crops while USDA is performing an environmental impact statement. It will not only affect future judicial orders—it will also invalidate several recent orders that found the approval of GMO crops were unlawful, and will allow the planting of those GMO crops even while the USDA assesses environmental hazards.

Since the USDA is totally behind GMO crops, removing court restraints really means that there are no controls on GMO planting at all. No safety reviews (USDA can’t even do them, only FDA, which refuses), and not even any real environmental assessments. This is one of the most blatant examples of money talking in politics that we have seen, and we have seen plenty of them in recent years.

There is also a real question whether the rider is constitutional—how can Congress contravene judicial actions? That would seem to contradict the separation of powers doctrine. We will be reviewing this and other questions with legal counsel.

Unfortunately, the Democrats were the ones who pushed this rider and allowed it to go through unhindered. What did they receive in return? This is the big unanswered question, as no one is willing to “take credit” for the rider (Editor’s note: see update above). We spoke to the office of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, and asked our lobbyists to see what they could find out, but we still did not get any answers. Barbara Mikulski, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman, is not a big recipient of biotech funds, and she’s usually our ally on this issue—so it is even stranger that the rider’s language would arise out of her committee. Procedurally, it is irregular for a rider to become law that was not passed through the committee of jurisdiction first—in this case, the Judiciary or Agriculture Committee. In fact, Congress held no hearings on the biotech rider, and many Democrats on the committee were initially unaware of its presence in the CR in the first place.

We do know that Monsanto and other biotech companies give a great deal of money to politicians. Opensecrets.org has not collated the information for 2013 as yet, but their figures reveal that contributions to both parties have increased dramatically in recent years. From 2011 to 2012, the agribusiness industry contributed $89,675,179 to political campaigns—65.9% to Republicans, 22.3% to Democrats—with Monsanto topping the list of contributors. The biggest recipients? In the Senate, it was Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) with $739,926 in agribusiness donations, and in the House, Frank Lucas (R-OK) with $720,590. However, neither of these individuals serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where the rider language was inserted.

Technically, this CR will be in effect only for six months—its purpose is to fund the government just through September 30—and the GMO provision will expire when the CR expires. In practice, however, this will happen only when Congress enacts a 2014 Appropriations Bill, and it’s not likely they’ll have one written, debated, and enacted by September 30, the end of the 2013 fiscal year. If they don’t have a new bill by then, they will simply change the date on the CR and extend it once again—and everything will remain as it is, including the GMO rider.

In other words, it’s extremely unlikely that the GMO rider will simply go away. Our only chance to end this provision is to make sure it doesn’t get included in the 2014 Appropriations Bill. This will require a huge and sustained grassroots effort—and a strong message to Congress to stop trying to sneak biotech riders by us. We as concerned citizens shouldn’t stand for it! ANH-USA will continue to work on lobbying, strategizing with various grassroots partners, and doing outreach. And we will, as always, keep you posted every step along the way.

Read the Full Article Here: http://www.anh-usa.org/the-latest-on-the-gmo-rider/

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Michigan Officials Destroy $5,000.00 of Good Organic Food from Family Farm

Michigan Officials Destroy $5,000.00 of Good Organic Food from Family Farm

The government-sponsored dump of nearly $5,000 of milk, eggs, butter, and cream from Michigan’s My Family Co-Op yesterday (July 21, 2014) carried a very clear and powerful political message to all Americans: We control your food and we don’t like you buying your food outside the corporate food system. Every now and then, we are going to remind you of what bad children you are being by taking your food and throwing it in the garbage. In fact, we are going to do more than remind you, we are going to completely humiliate you by preventing you from even feeding it to farm animals and instead forcing it to be disposed of in a landfill or dumpster.

If you think I am exaggerating the intent of what is going on here, ask yourself this question: When was the last time you saw government agents seize and condemn food from a place like Foster Farms or Taco Bell or Del Monte or Kellogg’s or Trade Joe’s when their food has been found to contain pathogens, or made people sick? There’s been not even a suggestion that food at My Family Co-Op contained pathogens or made anyone sick.

Michigan Officials Seize Private Food from Family Co-op

Michigan Officials Seize Private Food from Family Co-op

David Gumpert is reporting that agents from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development pulled over the My Family Co-op’s refrigerated truck this week, and placed a seizure order on their private food which was being delivered to food club members. My Family Co-op operates a “herd-share” program that allows private club members to contract with them and share in the ownership of their farm operations to produce and deliver farm-fresh food.

These types of private food clubs are popping up all over the country, bypassing the commercial retail distribution of commodity food found in grocery stores. Big Ag, Big Dairy, and others are obviously opposed to such systems that allow farmers to sell directly to consumers, and use government regulations to go after peaceful farm operations trying to produce healthy food for those who want to bypass the commodity processed food market.

David Gumpert, however, brings up a good point in explaining that most ag inspectors that try to seize private food really have no police powers, and can be resisted. Some food clubs have successfully resisted some seizures, forcing government officials to get court sanctioned orders that can be enforced by law enforcement officials. They key is to know your rights and not be intimidated, and David Gumpert posted on his blog:

SIX WAYS TO PUT A STOP TO GOVERNMENT SEIZURES OF PRIVATELY-OWNED FOOD

Genetically “Tweaked” Chickens Suffer from Lack of Fertility: Is the End of Commercial Poultry Near?

Genetically “Tweaked” Chickens Suffer from Lack of Fertility: Is the End of Commercial Poultry Near?

A Reuter’s story this week is reporting that the world’s largest chicken breeder is suffering from rooster infertility due to genetic manipulation. The popular Ross male breed of roosters is used to produce as much as 25 percent of the nation’s chickens raised for meat (broilers). As a result, chicken production is down, and prices will continue to rise.

So what are these “genetic manipulations” causing these problems? There is supposedly no GMO chicken in the market, but chicken genome has been mapped since 2004. Has the public actually been eating GMO chicken for some time now? What is the future of the commercial poultry industry and their factory birds?

Is Glyphosate Responsible for your Health Problems?

Is Glyphosate Responsible for your Health Problems?

The use of Roundup and other related glyphosate-based formulas threaten human health. The widespread use of these toxic substances can be directly linked to dozens of degenerative and life threatening diseases. They are causing infertility, birth defects, and the death of unborn children. The effects are multigenerational. People who eat glyphosate contaminated food will produce children who are predisposed to many types of digestive dysfunctions, that is, if such couples are even able to conceive children.

We know for certain that glyphosate is toxic to human health. Of course, the chemical companies, the U.S. government, and agribusiness don’t agree. In the matter of food toxicity, we cannot depend upon government agencies to protect our health. The United States is rapidly going bankrupt, because of ballooning healthcare expenditures. As Americans, we are sick and getting sicker. The grand experiment which set out to feed us a low-fat high-carbohydrate diet is killing us. The grand experiment that uses fear to get people to take dozens of vaccines is destroying our immune systems. Glyphosate is adding its toxic burden to these other experiments by creating a food supply that is loaded with disease causing toxic chemicals.

Clearly the grand experiment on the entire U.S. population involving Roundup and GMO food is failing miserably. Nevertheless, chemical companies and manufacturers of genetically altered seed keep on pressing forward to invent even more toxic chemicals for their ever increasing number of modified seeds.

Study: Indiana Corn Pesticides Linked to Autism

Study: Indiana Corn Pesticides Linked to Autism

  Investigation: Indiana corn pesticides linked to autism By Alexis Gray Fox28 Excerpts: ELKHART – A recent UC Davis study found pregnant women living within a mile of  fields were pesticides were sprayed were 60 percent likelier to have a child with autism. Since that study was published, director of Notre Dame autism research lab

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