Half of the European Union’s 28 countries and three of its regions have opted out of a new GM crop scheme, in a blow to biotech industry hopes. Under new EU rules agreed in March, 15 countries have now told Brussels they will send territorial exclusion requests to the big agricultural multinationals including Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer. Applications from Latvia and Greece have already been accepted by the firms and if that pattern is extended, around two-thirds of of the EU’s population – and of its arable land – will be GM-free.
A Perspective article published in the New England Journal of Medicine calls for the labeling of genetically modified foods. "We believe the time has come to revisit the United States' reluctance to label GM foods," writes Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, co-author with Charles Benbrook, of the article entitled "GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health." The two write that such labeling "is essential for tracking emergence of novel food allergies and assessing effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops. It would respect the wishes of a growing number of consumers who insist they have a right to know what foods they are buying and how they were produced."
Germany has initiated a move to stop the growing of genetically modified crops under new European Union rules, documents seen by Reuters showed on Monday. German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt has informed German state governments of his intention to tell the EU that Germany will make use of new "opt-out" rules to stop GMO crop cultivation even if varieties have been approved by the EU, a letter from the agriculture ministry seen by Reuters shows. A new EU law approved in March cleared the way for new GMO crops to be approved after years of previous deadlock. But the law also gave individual countries the right to opt out by banning GMO crops even after they have been approved as safe by the European Commission.
Our society is largely built on the idea that science can help us make good, solid decisions. But now we're facing a world so rife with problems caused by the very sciences that were supposed to keep us healthy, safe, and productive, it's quite clear that we're heading toward more than one proverbial brick wall. In a sense, the fundamental role of science itself has been hijacked for selfish gain. Looking back, you can now see that the preferred business model of an industry was created first, followed by "scientific evidence" that supports the established business model. When the science doesn’t support the company’s economic gains, it’s swept under the rug, even if people are dying and the planet is becoming irreparably poisoned as a result. Today we live in a world where chemical companies and biotech giants can easily buy and pay for their own research studies, as well as the lobbying to support whatever legislation they need passed in their favor. Conflicts of interest have become the norm within virtually all fields of science, which creates a completely unworkable – and dangerous – situation in the long run.
An article published today in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine by two of the nation’s most respected experts on pesticides and children’s environmental health calls for the Food and Drug Administration to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) food. This comes after the House of Representatives passed a bill last month that would block states from enacting their own labeling laws and make it nearly impossible for the FDA ever to implement national mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Titled “GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health,” the paper by Philip J. Landrigan, M.D. and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. focuses on the widespread adoption of GMO crops across the U.S. and the resulting explosion in the use of toxic herbicides – some of them, like Monsanto’s glyphosate, linked to cancer – and argues that labeling these foods is a matter of protecting public health.
Federal lobby disclosure forms from big food and biotechnology companies, and their trade groups opposed to mandatory GMO labeling reveal a surge in lobbying expenditures during the first half of 2015, according to a new analysis by EWG. A major reason for the explosion in lobbying money is the food industry’s support for the Deny Americans the Right to Know – or DARK – Act (H.R.1599), which the House passed last month by a vote of 275-150. The legislation blocks state GMO labeling laws, blocks state laws prohibiting “natural” claims on GMO foods, and makes it virtually impossible for FDA to create a mandatory national GMO labeling system. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents these and other food manufacturers, reported expenditures of $5.1 million that mentioned GMO labeling and hired 32 lobbyists exclusively to advocate for legislation to block state and federal GMO industry lobbying dwarfed expenditures reported by GMO labeling advocates, including EWG and Just Label It, which disclosed $2.5 million in the first two quarters of 2015, $2 million in all of 2014, and nearly $1 million in 2013. Since 2013, industry lobbyists have outspent GMO labeling advocates by 25-to-1. “The gap between the amount of money spent by Big Food and that spent by public interest groups is simply mind-boggling,” Foley said.
As we reported last week, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced a bill that has been championed by the Monsantos of the world, not to mention the Big Food industry. The deceptively titled “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015” would preempt state efforts to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws with a completely voluntary standard. It would also block communities and states from banning the cultivation of GMO crops. Late last week, by a vote of 275 to 150, the DARK Act passed the House, and is now on it’s way to the Senate. While it still is unclear if the Senate will consider the DARK Act or take up a similar bill that is reportedly being written by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), any step forward for this bill is dangerous for the 93% of Americans who want to know what’s in their food.
The industry-sponsored voluntary GMO labeling bill is heading for a floor vote in the House, and could be voted on any day now. If the DARK Act passes the House, its next stop would be the Senate. We reported in May that Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) is preparing his own—again, completely voluntary—GMO labeling bill. Whether the Senate will consider the House-approved DARK Act, or Hoeven’s bill when it’s ready, or neither, remains to be seen. New additions to the DARK Act also prevent local communities from banning GMO crops!
Rep. Mike Pompeo’s voluntary GMO labeling bill has been amended to include another brazen giveaway to Big Food and the biotech industries. We’ve been closely monitoring the progress of the bill introduced by Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) and backed by industry. It’s titled, deceptively, the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015”—and the news hasn’t been good. A few weeks ago, we reported that a Senate version of Pompeo’s bill was in the works while the House bill continued to gain co-sponsors and bipartisan support. Worse, a new draft of the Pompeo bill doubles down in pandering to the Big Food and biotech industries. In this revision, states and localities would be prevented from banning GMO crops. That’s right—states would no longer have any oversight over genetically engineered crops! Over the last few weeks, the bill has been continuing to gain momentum. Hearings on the measure have been held in the Energy and Commerce and the Agricultural committees, and a “mark-up” session is expected to happen soon, bringing the bill even closer to a vote.
A current proposed federal law on GMO food would prevent States from passing their own GMO laws on labeling GMO foods. This past week, Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group reported that Rep. Mike Pompeo's anti-GMO labeling bill, H.R. 1599, would also prevent companies from voluntarily labeling their products with non-GMO claims. Section 102 of Pompeo’s bill would make any non-GMO claim a violation of federal labeling law – unless the non-GMO claim was approved through a new certification program to be established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under Pompeo’s bill, it could take the USDA at least a year, and more likely years to set up such a certification program. If you do not want the federal government forcing companies to stop voluntarily informing their consumers about whether or not their products have GMO ingredients in them, then urge your federal elected officials to oppose H.R. 1599 (and any Senate equivalent).