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).
10,000 Sue Syngenta Over Unapproved GMO Corn Shipped to China – U.S. Farmers Lose $5 Billion in Sales
Town hall meetings have been taking place recently regarding corn litigation with the Syngenta company. The lawsuit is regarding claims that Syngenta sold genetically modified corn with a strain called MIR-162 to China without their approval of the modification. "The first shipment that tested positive for MIR-162," Hecker Law Group attorney Jacob Hecker said, "was destroyed by the Chinese in 2013. Afterwards all other shipments with trace amounts of the strain were sent back to where they came from." Due to the boycott, agriculture experts say the cost of the damages involved is in the range of $5 billion.
This past weekend (June 6, 2015) a historic ban on growing GMO crops went into effect in Jackson County, Oregon. The ban was the result of a ballot initiative in 2014, where citizens voted overwhelmingly to ban the growing of GMO crops in Jackson County, Oregon, by a 65.9% to 34.1% measure. This was seen as a significant victory, since the corporate opposition to the GMO ban spent over $1 million to try and defeat the measure. Just after the GMO ban ballot initiative was passed, two GMO alfalfa farmers sued Jackson County saying the GMO ban would cause them undue financial hardship and violated their constitutional rights. But a federal judge rejected their request to block the ban on May 30th. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke ruled that the GMO ban is not pre-empted by Oregon's "right to farm" law. Non-GMO farmers now seem to have a clear path to sue GMO farmers if their crops are contaminated by GMO crops in Jackson County, which would be a first in the U.S.
Will Foods Contaminated with Glyphosate have to Carry a Prop 65 Cancer Warning to be Sold in California?
In late March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined that glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup—is a Class 2 A “probable carcinogen.” This determination is nothing short of devastating to Monsanto and other chemical technology companies that rule our food supply, and recent “astroturf” attack on Dr. Oz reveals just how desperate they are to quell rising concerns. Not only is the IARC considered the global gold standard for carcinogenicity studies, it’s also one of the research agencies from which the California agency of environmental hazards gets its data to declare carcinogens under Prop 65. So, eventually, foods containing glyphosate will likely have to carry a Prop 65 cancer warning label to be sold in California.
Seeds are under attack everywhere. Under corporate pressure, laws in many countries increasingly put limitations on what farmers can do with their seeds and with the seeds they buy. Seed saving, a thousand-year-old practice which forms the basis of farming, is fast becoming criminalised. What can we do about this?