Nel's New Day

August 21, 2014

GMO Labeling, Women’s Issue

Filed under: Environment,Women's issues — trp2011 @ 8:55 PM
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A blog on Nels New Day this summer discussing GMO food-labeling legislation apparently hit a sore spot. The blog described how members of the House subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, including Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), “agreed that people who oppose GMOs or want them labeled are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance.” The committee’s position was that they should pass legislation to protect the population from being afraid. According to Schrader, “It’s obvious that while the science in the EU in incontrovertible about the health and safety benefits of genetically modified hybrid crops, that because of politics, people are afraid to lead, and inform consumers.”

The Central Oregon Coast chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women) typically re-posts Nels New Day blogs on the COC NOW. Schrader’s chief of staff posted the following on the COC NOW Facebook page:  “I wonder if any of NOW’s donors are concerned that their resources are being used on such things as GMO labeling initiatives and not focusing on protecting women’s reproductive rights?”  Later he described GMOs as “perfectly safe” and cited an editorial from the Boston Globe “that is a little more objective than your original post.”

Posting blogs doesn’t use any resources except for a person’s time. In addition, NOW addresses far more issues than reproductive rights: a woman is more than a uterus. Women’s health is one of those issues, and food is important to health.

The question of GMOs being “perfectly safe” has not been proved. The studies in the United States are largely funded by companies such as Monsanto that sell GMOs, and research is done only on animals on a short-term basis. The Boston Globe editorial used  information from the Genetic Literacy Project, a slick website well-funded by Monsanto, among others companies and operated by a former journalist/author who understands net manipulation. With his skills, he has saturated the web with this project and its message. Unfortunately, the loss of funding for journalism has allowed big businesses and special interest groups to provide their version of “news” to the people of the United States because many journalists no longer have time to do their own research.

Over a year ago, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced H.R. 1699, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. About the millions of dollars to block his bill, he wrote, “It’s very telling that corporate food manufacturers are pouring millions of dollars into defeating GMO labeling efforts, including my bill that would create a national labeling standard. This spending spree is a desperate attempt to derail solid legislation that is supported by an overwhelming number of Americans who just want to know what’s in the food they eat.”

Big business has poured millions into the effort to keep people from knowing what is in their food. In just the first quarter of this year, the food industry spent $9 million lobbying Congress to oppose laws requiring labeling for genetically modified products. That’s almost the same amount as for all of 2013. The biotech and food industries have spent over $80 million since 2012 to defeat GMO labeling.

Polls show that as many as 93 percent of the people in the United States want GMO labeling. Safeway’s shareholders have called on the company to label GMOs, and other companies, including Whole Foods, Chipotle and Ben & Jerry’s, have adopted policies to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs in products. General Mills has dropped GMOs from Cheerios.

Almost all GMOs are engineered to tolerate higher levels of herbicides. A major problem with GMOs is that they have built-in pesticides that develop superweeds and superbugs resistant to the existing GMO technology. That requires more and more pesticides which have increased by 400 million pounds in the last 15 years because of GMO agriculture. The glysophate (Roundup) herbicide commonly used in GMO agriculture is highly toxic to not only air, rain, and rivers but also bees and humans. Brazil farmers report that GMO insect-repellent corn has become less resistant to destructive caterpillars. Necessary additional coats of insecticides are damaging the country environmentally and economically.

Over six months ago Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) urged President Obama to require GMO labeling in a directive to the FDA. She argued that the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act (FD&C) prohibits the misbranding of food, including “misleading” labels. Any label that fails to reveal material facts about the product is misleading, according to the statute.

Showing the dangers of GMOs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will ban neonic pesticides and phase out GE feed for wildlife in the next 18 months. There is evidence that GMO foods are linked to a 400 percent increase in food allergies in children over the past 20 years since GMOs were first introduced into the commercial food market. GMO pesticide toxins are now showing up in the blood of both pregnant mothers who eat GMO corn products and their unborn babies.

As Martin Donohoe and Ray Seidler pointed out, the European Union mandated GMO labeling in 1997. U.S. food companies kept selling their products in Europe, and they didn’t raise prices. In fact, Monsanto, the company paying to stop labeling in the U.S., praised the labels for providing people with important information. The company’s advertising stated, “Monsanto fully supports UK food manufacturers and retailers in their introduction of these labels. We believe you should be aware of all the facts before making a purchase.” Sixty-four countries, almost one-third of the world’s population, mandate labeling for GMOs.

China has started to reject a variety of GM corn, costing U.S. farmers at least $3 billion. In less than a year, China has turned away over 1.45 million metric tons, corn that had to find other buyers, probably at a discount which takes money from U.S. farmers. This spring, the Chinese Army banned all GMO grains and oil from its military supply stations “because of public concern over health risks and high-level discomfort with China becoming overly reliant on GMO strains developed by foreign companies.”  Russia also refuses GMO products, and the U.S. is having trouble trading with Europe.

The New Yorker is the latest in  the anti-labeling crowd, using the excuses that almost all food is genetically engineered and that modification through breeding is the same as using radiation or chemicals to mutate food. The author, Michael Specter, points out that “officials at the F.D.A. have no desire to put labels on products unless there is a clear scientific reason to do so, as there is with tobacco.” Yet big tobacco industries successfully fought labeling for over a half century after some scientists knew that smoking was dangerous. The businesses promoted and funded biased research, lobbied politicians to oppose public regulation, and influenced voters through expensive public relations campaigns.  Monsanto and other biotech companies are doing the same thing. As they know, whoever controls the seed, controls the world.

AcresPesticide-264x300Specter’s claims that GMO crops use less water and demand less from the environment are flat-out wrong.  “Drought-resistant” GMOs have less yield with less water. The environment is damaged through the excessive use of pesticides (as the following chart shows). Worst of all, farmers are hurt economically. GMOs make farmers dependent on purchasing patented or hybrid seeds, a fact that caused at least 300,000  suicides in India because of farmers went bankruptcy after shifting to GMO seeds. In the United States, GMO corn can cost $150 more per bag than conventional corn, crops cost more from higher pesticide needs costs, and the seeds cost more because they cannot be reused for another crop. GMO companies make money from spreading half-truths and misinformation about GMOs.

Revenue-GE-Seeds DeFazio’s bill is in keeping with the priorities for the Oregon Democratic Party. Under Legislative Action Items, #12 is “Require labeling of genetically engineered foods.” Schrader’s position opposes his party’s platform.

If GMOs are “perfectly safe,” why are companies opposed to labeling? The entire question of the proposed bill that Schrader supports is not whether to get rid of GMOs but whether states can pass laws mandating labeling. As Harley Pasternak wrote in U.S. News and World Report, “So who are many of our elected officials serving? Could it be that that Monsanto, other chemical companies and big food companies regularly fill the coffers of our elected officials to fund their reelection campaigns? Just wondering.”

The argument from the committee, including Kurt Schrader, is that the legislature should decide what information people have. It’s the same patriarchal attitude that men held over women for centuries, and that also makes this bill about stopping GMO labeling a woman’s issues.

April 1, 2014

Fools on April Fools’ Day

April Fools’ Day! The day that kids love to play pranks on adults and other kids. The day that goes back to the Roman celebration Hilaria on the first day of the year that is longer than the night. So I’ll celebrate the day by writing about the fools of our time.

My current favorite fools are all the people who think that the Green family of Hobby Lobby, suing to keep their religious beliefs, genuinely care about their avoidance of contraception—which they call “abortion.” While the family refuses to allow their insurance to pay for employees’ contraception, they hold more than $73 million in mutual funds with manufacturers of emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Teva, Pfizer, Bayer, AstraZeneca—all produce contraceptives. In addition, Hobby Lobby’s health insurance covered Plan  B and Ella for years; they only dropped this coverage when they decided to file a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

Other fools:

Edward Farrell: Perhaps the dumbest man in the United States is the vice-mayor of Maricopa (AZ) for his praise of Fred Phelps. Known for his picketing of funerals of fallen soldiers with signs saying that they deserved to die, Phelps and followers planned to picket the Arizona funeral of the 9-year-old girl killed when then Rep. Gabby Gifford was shot. After the 84-year-old leader of the Westboro  Baptist Church in Topeka (KS) died, the satiric Onion published an “obituary” that described his achievements:

“Nowhere in this country can same-sex partners enter into domestic partnerships, file joint tax returns, or adopt children. The unmitigated failure of the gay rights movement is something that can be singlehandedly attributed to Fred Phelps and his tireless efforts to show us that this was an unholy behavior.”

On his Facebook page, Farrell wrote, “We need more Fred Phelps in this world. May you rest in peace sir.” He later retracted his statement, saying that he didn’t know who Phelps or the Onion was. Maybe Maricopa doesn’t need a vice-mayor.

Walmart: The company that gets profits from underpaying employees who then get benefits from taxpayers has discovered that it may have lost $3 billion a year by cutting back on the number of employees. That’s what the empty shelves from stocking problems have cost the company. They now plan to “add labor hours as part of an effort to bolster ‘in-store execution.’” Over the last five years, Walmart opened more than 600 new stores but employees 20,000 fewer people. The company even got downgraded by an investment research firm that found the company’s “relentless focus on costs does seem to have taken some toll on in-store conditions and stock levels.” The other fools in this story are the taxpayers who keep paying the $243 billion every year in benefits for poorly-paid employees because of the low minimum wage.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370: The biggest fools in the disappearance of an aircraft over three weeks ago are the U.S. media that obsessively reported on—nothing. Hour after hour, CNN and Fox entertained its audience about—nothing. Only one thing was discovered: the oceans are full of human-created garbage from lost shipping containers, plastic raw industrial material, and consumer items from people living within 60 miles of coastlines. Entire houses have been found floating in the Pacific Ocean since the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

Plastic trash in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” about the size of Texas, is 100 times more than 40 years ago. Another garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the coast goes from Cuba to Virginia. We’re the fools for turning our food source into a garbage dump.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS): The companies that want all foods in the United states to be genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) may have found a patsy to present its bill to Congress. A coalition of grocery, food manufacturing, farmers, and commodity groups wants a “voluntary system” for labeling food that uses GMOs. Such giants as ConAgra and Kraft say they’re just trying to correct the “enormous misinformation” spread by past failed ballot initiatives in California and Washington. Last year, Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a mandatory GMO-labeling plan. About 93 percent of the public support labeling.

Benghazi: The famous couple, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) have joined Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) “to investigate the terrorist attacks on our compounds in Benghazi.” After 18 months, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) gave up his futile attempt to tar the president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There has never been evidence of any wrongdoing on their part in the disaster that killed four people over 30 months ago, but the 2016 election is fast approaching. The Department of Defense has spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours for Congress’s six investigations into Benghazi with 50 congressional hearings. Issa spent almost as much time on that as the House did on the Affordable Care Act.

Ukraine:  Obama wants peace, but the GOP wants to attack any country that has anything that the United States wants. In the case of Iraq, it was oil. In Ukraine, the U.S. wants to throw Russia out of its only warm-water port and surround the country with missile bases.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stomps around the senate floor, yelling about how we should have bombed someone last week. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton accuses the U.S. of being a nation in decline because of its dealings with Russia. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the man who was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,  said that even a “trained ape” has better foreign policy skills than President Obama.

President Obama has declared sanctions toward Russia after Crimea moved back to a part of the country, eliminated Russia from the powerful G8 group, and makes plans to send ground troops to the Baltic States of Eastern Europe, but none of it satisfies the conservatives, most of them from the South. In Better off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Chuck Thompson writes, “The southerner’s enthrallment with war and bloodshed, his veneration of defeat and disaster, his zeal for religious crusade, and easy compliance with the corporate profit motive, has repeatedly dragged the nation into unnecessary wars.”

After the growing success of the Affordable Care Act, the GOP needs another drum to beat. Thus the party has chosen their 2014 position as “Democrats are weak on national security.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused Obama of trying “to alienate and abandon our friends, and to coddle and appease our enemies.” Former Vice-President Dick Cheney blamed what he sees as Obama’s weakness that led Putin to take over Crimea. Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 while Cheney was vice-president, and George W. Bush did nothing.

Most of these same GOP legislators shouting that we need war avoided military service. McCain has his history of being a Vietnam POW, but the dissolution of the draft created a nation of chickenhawk lawmakers. Mike Lofgren, a 28-year member of Congress and author of The Party Is Over, wrote, “If you ever wondered how the United States came to be embroiled simultaneously in two major wars and a half dozen covert ones in the past decade, the cheerleading of Washington’s laptop commandos, with their disproportionate influence in major media, has been a major factor.”

The GOP party of no–erasing health care for everyone except the wealthy, eradicating women’s rights, taking away voters’ rights from anyone who might oppose them, and giving tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people–has no suggestions for improving the infrastructure, lowering the unemployment, and fixing the climate change disaster. Their only foreign policy is saber-rattling.

As Chuck Thompson wrote, “How depressing that we already know that the next Republican warmonger to sweep into power will do so on the same tarnished epaulets of military fanaticism enabled by the outsized influence of the southern polity on electoral America. Southerners are a military people. We were back then, still are today.”

This year we commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. Do the chickenhawks want a third world war on this anniversary? China is nervous about the missiles pointed at Russia because China is also surrounded by U.S. naval and air bases. The two countries may declare themselves allies, and the Republicans might decide to take them on. If we take on China and Russia, we might not lose the battles, but we’ll be defeated in the ensuing economic war.

Climate-deniers: If we don’t blow ourselves up by declaring war on Russia and China, the climate will do us in. The U.N. has a second of four reports about the climate. That’s for another day, but Joe Barton (below) is representative of the backward, ignorant thinking of GOP members of Congress.

Joe Barton harnessing the wind

September 27, 2013

Zombie Monsanto Law Must Be Stopped

A piece of good news hiding among the lack of Cruz Control antics this week is the Senate’s decision to drop the Monsanto Protection Rider. Last March Monsanto paid Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) $64,000 to put a rider into the must-pass farm bill to protect companies that sell GMOs from any lawsuits. The Secretary of Agriculture was instructed to allow the cultivation and sale of GMO crops even though they posed a potential risk to farmers of nearby crops, the environment, and human health. Monsanto wrote the language for the rider and then gave it to Blunt. That exemption for companies such as Monsanto, however, disappears in just four days.

The House put the Monsanto Protection Rider back into the House version of the short-term appropriations bill, the Continuing Resolution (CR) that also including the defunding of  Obamacare. But that rider was stripped from the appropriations bill that the Senate returned to the House.  Some of the Democrats who voted against the rider may be hurt in their upcoming elections. For example, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), appointed to the Senate in 2012, knows the danger that genetically-modified crops present to his state.

A new group, the New Democrat Coalition, may be more supportive of protecting Monsanto and GMOs. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) knows how bad GMOs are for his state agriculture. A member of the New Dems, Colleen Hanabusa, plans to primary Schatz and follow the group’s support of big business through lowering their tax rates, eliminating regulations, and establishing the Trans Pacific Partnership described as “the wish list of the top 1 percent.” In their advocacy of big corporations, the New Dems see biotech as the “future of the U.S.,” pushing to extend patents and give corporate welfare to the companies.

GMO companies want to keep people ignorant of the contents of their food. don’t even want to let people know what is in their food. Here’s what many people don’t know:

  • Labeling genetically engineered foods (GMOs) will not cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
  • Buying certified organic products does not let consumers avoid GMOs because food companies are permitted to use the term “natural” for products with GMOs.
  • Labeling laws will not result in new lawsuits against farmers, food producers, and store owners about food label terminology. It’s actually Monsanto that continually sues farmers across the country for growing their own seeds.
  • Labeling GMOs will not create a “bureaucratic nightmare” for grocers and retailers.
  • Genetically engineered do pose health safety risks. A study showed that GMO corn sprayed with Monsanto’s Round Up herbicide resulted in massive tumors, organ failure, and premature death in rats. Other studies link these foods to allergies, organ toxicity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, birth defects, high infant mortality rates, fertility problems, and sterility.
  • GE foods are not as, or more, nutritious than organic foods that contain higher levels of beta carotene, vitamins C, D and E, health-promoting polyphenols, cancer-fighting antioxidants, flavonoids that help ward off heart disease, essential fatty acids, and essential minerals. GMO corn has 14 parts-per-million (ppm) of calcium while non-GMO corn has 6130 ppm, or 437 times more. Non-GMO corn also has 56 times more magnesium and seven times more manganese than GMO corn.
  • The World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and other respected medical and health organizations do not conclude that GE foods are safe.
  • We do not need GMOs to feed the world because GE crops don’t lead to greater crop yields. Conventional plant breeding, not genetic engineering, is responsible for yield increases in major U.S. crops.
  • The creation of GE seeds is not comparable to the cross-breeding that our ancestors did to create hardier versions of heritage crops. Cross breeding is the product of guided natural reproduction, while GMOs are created in a laboratory using high-tech and sophisticated techniques. One of these techniques involves gene-splicing which is used to cross a virus or a bacteria with a plant. These untested, unnatural creations are the antithesis to what our ancestors did, and what responsible farmers do: cross-pollinate different varieties of the same plant to help naturally bring forth desirable characteristics.
  • GE crops do not reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides. In fact GE crops greatly increase the use of these toxic chemicals. According to a new study by Food and Water Watch, the “total volume of glyphosate applied to the three biggest GE crops — corn, cotton and soybeans — increased 10-fold from 15 million pounds in 1996 to 159 million pounds in 2012” with the overall pesticide use rising by 26 percent from 2001 to 2010. The use of GE crops are now driving up the volume of toxic herbicides needed each year by about 25 percent.
  • GE crops are harmful to the environment. In addition to polluting the environment with herbicides and pesticides, GE crops lead to biodiversity loss and the emergence of “super bugs” and  “super weeds” that threaten millions of acres of farmland, thus requiring the need for even more dangerous and toxic herbicides. GMO use endangers many critical species, including the honey bee, frogs, birds, fish and the Monarch Butterfly. The island of Molokai in Hawaii has had its air and water quality destroyed by Monsanto’s almost-2000-acre test facility. Worldwide, people in areas around GMO farms report horrific bloody skin rashes, an uptick in asthma, and toxic pesticides that leach into the groundwater.

A recent study shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, may be “the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment” because it damages cellular systems throughout the body. It’s also the most popular herbicide on the planet and therefore likely to be pervasive in the world’s food supply. Scientists reported “signature of sarin” in Syrians who died several weeks ago, the same signature as the contents of Roundup.

A 2012 study published in the journal Archives of Toxicology shows Roundup to be toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications. Industry regulators and long-term studies look at glyphosate in isolation, instead of looking at Roundup’s full formulation, which includes secret added ingredients. These “confidential” and unlabeled ingredients, when measured as a whole, affect all living cells, including human cells.

Genetically-engineered seeds are available for three of the four major crops in the U.S.: corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Planting GE wheat seeds is illegal, but an Oregonian farmer found GE wheat growing in his fields last June, 12 years after Monsanto stopped its field trials. That one discovery risked the possibility of wheat farmers in Oregon not being able to export any of its crops because other countries such as Japan and China don’t want GE crops. The farmers could lose up to $3 million.

This month, a broker rejected an alfalfa crop in Washington state after testing positive for the genetic presence of Roundup Ready. The fourth-most widely grown crop in the United States, alfalfa has a value of about $8 billion; exports hit a record high of $1.25 billion last year. Washington is one of the nation’s biggest export alfalfa producers. In addition to being unable to export alfalfa to many countries, farmers may not be able to sell the crop for feed to domestic livestock because of GM contaminants.

Jack Heinemann, a New Zealand scientists, thinks that people may not be able to contain GE crops. A GE rice variety never commercialized was exported to France in 2006, and GE corn unapproved for human consumption showed up in Taco Bell taco shells.

The FDA reported that Monsanto concluded the wheat it tested was safe. With the reemergence of the wheat, Monsanto assures consumers that the FDA declared the safety of this wheat over a decade ago. In essence, Monsanto told FDA that the wheat is just fine so they are now saying that the FDA says that the wheat is safe.

Another danger comes from pharma crops, those engineered to produce pharmaceuticals or a toxic industrial compound. The USDA approved almost 400 field tests of these crops starting in 1991. In 2002, stalks of corn designed to produce a pig vaccine were mixed with $2.7 million worth of Nebraska soya beans for human consumption.

Large GMO companies such as Monsanto don’t want people to know that rat poison is an ingredient in their food products, and they don’t want people to file lawsuits against them if someone accidentally finds out. The House has voted to let Monsanto put poison in their seeds with impunity. Tomorrow they will probably hold the country hostage so that GOP House members will continue to be paid for their GMO support. Monsanto also spent $4.5 million to defeat an initiative to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods—in just one state.

For the past six months, no farmer could sue Monsanto for the damage to their crops, but Monsanto was able to sue farmers if seeds accidentally migrated into their fields. This has to stop. Zombie bills are those that seem to have a life of their own, that keep rising up. The zombie bill of the Monsanto Protection Rider needs to be eviscerated–permanently.

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