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.
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.
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.
A handful of scientists around the United States are trying to do something that some people find disturbing: make embryos that are part human, part animal. The researchers hope these embryos, known as chimeras, could eventually help save the lives of people with a wide range of diseases. "We're not trying to make a chimera just because we want to see some kind of monstrous creature," says Pablo Ross, a reproductive biologist at the University of California, Davis. "We're doing this for a biomedical purpose."
Mexico’s unique and treasured native corn varieties could be under threat as Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer, vies to plant genetically modified (GMO) corn in the country. In August 2015, a Mexican judged overturned a September 2013 ban on GMO corn, thus opening more business opportunities for Monsanto and other agribusinesses pending favorable later court decisions. Monsanto even announced in October 2015 that it was seeking to double its sales in the country over the next five years. The GMO corn ban remains pending a ruling on the appeal, but a final decision could end up in Mexico’s supreme court.
Iowa State University researchers are moving ahead with a long-delayed project in which a dozen students will be paid to eat one genetically modified banana each. Earlier this week, activists delivered petitions calling on the project’s halt to university officials and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is funding the project. The activists said more than 57,000 people signed the petition. “ISU students are being asked to be the first to consume a product of unknown safety,” the activists said in a prepared statement. “The study is not being conducted in a transparent manner, and concerned ISU community members have not been able to receive answers about the research design, risks, nature of the informed consent given by the subjects and the generalizability of the study.” The trial is expected to take place sometime this year.
Jackson County, Oregon, has just joined the small but growing ranks of “GE-free zones” in the U.S., which prohibit the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops. It’s at least the eighth county in the country to create such an ordinance, and efforts are springing up to pass similar measures in other places. The Jackson County designation was made final on Dec. 22, when a federal judge approved a consent decree protecting the zone.
They’re being decimated by an incurable fungus. Some scientists think they have an answer—genetic engineering—but will it be tasteless “frankenfruit”? When most people speak of bananas, they’re thinking of a single variety—the yellow Cavendish banana found in almost all grocery stores. But the popularity of this banana has made it susceptible to a fungal disease known as Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which is quickly spreading across the globe and is likely to hit South America, where 80% of Cavendish bananas are grown. The effort to quarantine fungus-ridden plants has largely failed, so researchers are exploring other options. Fortunately, other banana varieties still exist and are often much more flavorful than the Cavendish. Keep in mind also that in nature, flavor is often closely associated with nutritional value. It is no coincidence that the Cavendish, selected for ease of transport and sale, not taste, is often both tasteless and low in nutrition.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the pervasive herbicide, Roundup. Its usage on crops to control weeds in the United States and elsewhere has increased dramatically in the past two decades. The increase is driven by the increase over the same time period in the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, the widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds among the GM crops (necessitating ever-higher doses to achieve the same herbicidal effect), as well as the increased adoption of glyphosate as a desiccating agent just before harvest. GM crops include corn, soy, canola (rapeseed), and sugar beet. Crop desiccation by glyphosate includes application to non-GM crops such as dried peas, beans, and lentils. It should be noted that the use of glyphosate for pre-harvest staging for perennial weed control is now a major crop management strategy. The increase in glyphosate usage in the United States is extremely well correlated with the concurrent increase in the incidence and/or death rate of multiple diseases, including several cancers. These include thyroid cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia. The World Health Organization (WHO) revised its assessment of glyphosate's carcinogenic potential in March 2015, relabeling it as a "probable carcinogen."