News regarding the dangers of GMOs and biotech, and the advantages of organic sustainable agriculture.
A $66 billion buyout by the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer could make it harder for consumers to avoid products from the biotech behemoth. The number of companies controlling our food supply is about to shrink even further now that Bayer has bought Monsanto for $66 billion in cash, creating the world’s largest seed and pesticide company. The new megacorporation will control 25% of the world’s seeds and pesticides. Along with two other proposed biotech mergers, three companies will soon control the lion’s share of the world’s agricultural services, from seed production, to the herbicide and pesticide sprays that go on them, to the biotechnology used to produce them all. Monsanto/Bayer, Dow/DuPont, and Syngenta/ChemChina will sell 59% of the world’s seeds and 64% of the world pesticides.
On Friday, July 29, 2016 President Obama signed into law the GMO Labeling bill recently passed by Congress. This law preempts Vermont’s first-of-its-kind GMO Labeling law, which had just gone into effect on July 1, and authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a mandatory disclosure program for “bioengineered” (aka GMO) foods. Now that the law has been enacted, all eyes are on USDA, which has the primary responsibility of implementing the law. USDA has one year to conduct the QR code feasibility study, and two years to develop the labeling standards and regulations. Both of these processes will also require public input before being finalized. USDA is likely to see thousands upon thousands of comments from stakeholders during these next phases of implementation. By law they are required to consider all comments received, suggesting that a long process is ahead. The agency is also likely to hold public meetings to allow stakeholders the opportunity to submit oral, as well as written, testimony. Given the highly contentious nature of this legislation and the GMO debate in general, we hope to see USDA proceed through this process in as transparent and inclusive a manner as possible. All of these issues point to a lengthy and involved few years before a final disclosure requirement is in place. And regardless, once the regulations have gone through the public rulemaking process, a legal challenge is highly likely, which could further delay implementation.
Farmers in Arkansas and Missouri have filed more than 100 complaints with state agriculture agencies over a toxic weed killer that is drifting from adjacent farms and damaging their crops. The herbicide is not only stunting the growth of soybeans – it's also being used illegally. As National Public Radio and The Wall Street Journal reported, farmers say the chemical, known as dicamba, is being illegally sprayed by neighboring farms growing genetically modified crops from seeds created and sold by Monsanto, known as Roundup Ready 2 Xtend.
Glyphosate herbicide disrupts the development of the uterus of female rats when they are exposed for 7 days after birth, a recent study by Argentine researchers shows. The glyphosate herbicide caused cell proliferation and structural changes in the rats’ uterus. This was in spite of the fact that no signs of chronic or acute toxicity or differences in weight gain were seen in treated pups. Glyphosate herbicide also disrupted the expression of proteins involved in uterine development. The authors conclude that exposure to glyphosate herbicide may affect female fertility and/or promote the development of uterine cancer. They also state that their study is the first to show endocrine-disrupting effects of a glyphosate-based herbicide on the uterus of newborn and prepubertal rats, supporting the possibility that glyphosate-based herbicides might be endocrine disruptors.
A recent study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) has found that a startling number of American streams carry traces of drugs. The researchers sampled 59 small streams in the Southeast for 108 different pharmaceutical compounds, and one or more chemicals were detected in every sampled stream. Steams tested positive for six chemicals on average. Among the most common drugs found in the streams were acetaminophen (Tylenol), lidocaine (a pain reliever), tramadol (an opioid pain reliever), fexofenadine (an antihistamine found in Mucinex and Allegra, among others), and metformin (a type 2 diabetes drug). The contamination of our environment with pharmaceuticals is increasingly problematic. Not only are they in our drinking water, they’re in our food supply as well. Biosolids—a euphemism for human waste—are being pushed on unsuspecting farmers by local or state governments as a cheap fertilizer alternative, even though they can be riddled with drugs and personal care products and are rarely if ever tested for these substances. And the pharmaceuticals found in biosolids can wreak havoc on animal and plant life.
We’ve been reporting on the Roberts-Stabenow bill for some weeks now. The public is being told it’s a “mandatory labeling” bill. We call it a “liar labeling” bill—a complete sham that is designed to avoid real mandatory labeling. Bad news: the Senate just passed it, 63 to 30. Now the Roberts-Stabenow bill moves to the House of Representatives. Time is running out to kill or amend this legislation. We must at the very least amend it.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave lawmakers a technical assessment of the GMO labeling bill, outlining a number of contradictions and loopholes contained in the bill. The FDA pointed out that the definition of “bioengineering” wasn’t broad enough and could allow some processed foods to evade a label because they wouldn’t contain genetic material even though they stared from genetically modified foods. For example, oil made from genetically engineered soy may not require a label, since the final product wouldn’t contain genetic material. This is a real concern. Depending on the amount of GMO content the USDA decides will qualify a food for a label, respected food research groups have estimated that 99% of all GMO food could be exempt from labeling.
It’s mandatory labeling in name only. It discriminates against the poor. And it is clearly a gift to Big Food. For weeks now, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have been working on a GMO labeling bill that would pre-empt Vermont’s mandatory labeling law. Late last week they finally reached a compromise, and it’s not good. The bill requires the labeling of packaged food containing GMOs in one of three ways: an electronic code that consumers can scan; a USDA-developed symbol; or a label. The bill leaves it to manufacturers to decide which of the three methods they prefer. Now guess which method Big Food will choose? We have no doubts that they will choose the electronic code that can only be read with a scanner. They know that few will want to do this and even fewer will be able to.
Two 2016 studies would have us think GMOs and Glyphosate are safe! But who, exactly, is behind the research? Major studies just released claim that genetically modified (GM) foods—and the chemical used on them, glyphosate—are safe to eat. Following publication, there has been a steady drumbeat in the media essentially claiming that the case is now closed: GMOs are safe. We say, “Not so fast.” The National Research Council (NRC)—the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)—“examined epidemiological data on incidence of cancers and other human health problems over time,” and says there is no reason to be wary of genetically modified foods. However, more than half of the authors of the NRC report are involved in GMO development or promotion or have other ties to the biotech industry. It is shameful that the National Academy of Sciences cannot police this. Indeed, it seems too intimidated even to try.
All across America citizens have rallied together to fight against the biotech industry for food freedom laws. People want the right to grow and choose their own food, and to protect themselves from the biotech industry seeking to control agriculture with their GMO and chemical-based approach to food production. Their products, such as genetically modified seeds, herbicides, and pesticides, contaminate even organically-grown foods. From the Food Sovereignty movement started in Maine back in 2011, to the citizens of Jackson County Oregon voting to ban GMO crops in their county, it has been a long battle for local communities to grow and market their own locally produced products against the tyranny of the federal government trying to force states and local communities to follow their own laws that strip away state rights and personal rights, in favor of protecting the biotech industry and mass food production and distribution. Recently, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that Congress needed to pass mandatory nationwide GMO labeling legislation. Some U.S. companies have implemented their own GMO labeling procedures, along with some states and local communities, but Vilsack and the federal government believes they can do it better: “The problem with all of that is there is no consistency,” Vilsack said. “There is no predictability. There is no stability and the consumer can be easily confused because everybody might do it slightly differently if there is no standard.” Is the federal government suddenly concerned about consumer rights and GMO transparency in food labeling? Can we really trust the federal government with protecting the rights of consumers through GMO mandated labeling laws? Expecting the federal government to police the multi-national food companies that control most of the nation's food supply, when that same government is acting to protect them, is foolish. A nationwide federally-mandated GMO labeling law would actually benefit the bitotech industry, and not consumers.