Nel's New Day

July 12, 2014

Legislators Want to Keep People Ignorant

Filed under: GMOs — trp2011 @ 9:47 PM
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When children are young, parents sometimes keep information from them to protect them from the harsh realities of the world. In the past decade, the government has started doing the same thing. Last year, it was recommended that women not get mammograms because they would be upset by false positives.

Kansas passed a law this past spring ordering doctors to tell their pregnant patients that abortion can cause breast cancer. Of course, that’s not true, but conservatives are never concerned about facts. They just want to believe that they’re protecting the gentler sex. Kansas children are also prevented from learning about sex and contraception.

The most recent way to protect the delicate sensibilities of people in the United States is to prevent labeling. Because members of the subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture firmly believe that genetic engineering of food crops is a total success, they want to keep those foods from being labeled. The panel agreed that people who oppose GMOs or want them labeled are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance. Labels would make this fear worse so the legislators should stop this from happening.

Even my own U.S. representative, Kurt Schrader (D-OR), thinks that political leaders, especially in the European Union, are afraid of pro-labeling people. He said, “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.”

Committee members carefully selected only pro-GMO witnesses who failed to talk about the development of “super weeds” and “super bugs,” decreased biodiversity, over-reliance on single-crop factory farming, and potential health risks.

Because the authoritarian conservatives are eager to protect the populace, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) are proposing a bill to keep states from requiring GMO labeling and allow genetically engineered food to be labeled “100 percent natural.” These people believe in states’ rights unless it gets in the way of their campaign funds. Fortunately, some people are objecting, including Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). According to them, labeling is an inexpensive way to let people know what’s in their food so they can decide what they want to eat.

Once again, conservative legislators are on the opposite side from popular opinion. About three-fourths of people in the nation are concerned about GMOs, and 93 percent of us support mandatory GMO labeling on foods. It’s only Big Food—that pays our legislators—who are fighting legislation for labeling. Last year, the industry made so many misrepresentations about a measure on the ballot and poured so much money into fighting the initiative that it was defeated. The same thing happened earlier in California.

In a British survey, 61 percent of the farmers said that they would grow GMO crops, but only 15 percent of them said that they would eat the product. The farmers know something that the House conservatives don’t: GMO food products destroy health and kill people. Last year, a scientific study about rats fed on “Roundup ready” GMO maize was debunked because some people felt that it lacked a stringent peer review process. After following these guidelines, the study is back—with the same results of severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances. Most treatment groups had higher rates of large tumors and mortality.

Current safety testing from the industry is for only 90 days, an inadequate time because chronic diseases don’t manifest themselves until mid-life. The study also differs from industry studies because it publishes the raw data, something that the GMO industry doesn’t want people to see.

The connection between GMOs and serious health problems became obvious in the 1990′s when a new form of kidney disease swept through Sri Lankan agriculture workers. A joint study by Rajarata University and the California State University eventually found the link between a common herbicide introduced to widespread use during the late 1970′s, glyphosate, sold under the brand name “RoundUp” here in the United States. Sri Lanka lacked U.S. regulations to prevent water contamination or protect workers, and heavy metals within the soil caused binding with the glyphosate. The same situation occurred in Central America and India, also areas with lax regulations.

The United States, despite some regulations, suffers from GMO poisoning, exacerbated by spraying soybeans with the weedkiller in the 1990s. In April it was revealed that breast milk carries many times the allowable amount of glyphosate, and scientists found glyphosate at “760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides.” The EPA, however, allows higher levels that the EU and has been convinced by the industry that glyphosate doesn’t accumulate in the body. Yet, urine from consumers in the United States has ten times the glyphosate as urine in European consumers. This summer, the industry hopes to approve dicamba and 2,4D, elements in the defoliant in Agent Orange used to clear jungles during the Vietnam War.

Even Russia demands labeling if foods contain over 0.9 percent of GMOs. “If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.

The USDA has never denied an application from Monsanto for new genetically engineered crops. Monsanto’s growth hormones for cows was approved by Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lobbyist turned USDA administrator and FDA deputy commissioner.  This was after Margaret Miller, a former Monsanto employee, oversaw a report on the hormones’ safety and then took a job at the FDA where she approved her own report. Islam Siddiqui, a former Monsanto lobbyist, wrote the USDA’s food standards, allowing corporations to label irradiated and genetically engineered foods as “organic.” Monsanto’s board members have worked for the EPA, advised the USDA, and served on President Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

Glyphosate has been linked to increased cancer risk, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation; lung congestion; increased breathing rate; and damage to the pancreas, kidney and testes. Gluten intolerance has dramatically increased within the past two decades at the same time that GMOs have been covering the United States.  The Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) Jeffrey M. Smith asserts that GM foods–including soy and corn–are the possible “environmental triggers” to gluten disorders that affect almost 20 million people in the nation.

GMOs have ingredients that kill rats, but the legislators want to protect people from knowing whether foods are genetically modified because people will get afraid. The question isn’t whether to ban GMOs; it’s merely a matter of labeling.  Legislators are afraid that they’ll lose campaign donations if they don’t stop people from knowing what’s in their food.

December 13, 2013

Push Back at Monsanto

The island of Hawaii has emerged victorious over a monster corporation: Mayor Billy Kenoi signed a bill last week that prevents biotech companies from operating on the island and bans any new genetically-altered crops other than papaya. In October Mexico banned, on an interim basis, planting genetically-engineered corn; last July Italy became the ninth European country to ban Monsanto’s GMO corn.

Europe is so unwelcoming that Monsanto has pulled eight of its nine pending applications with the European Commission. The company plans to continue its conventional seed business there and will try to renew approval to cultivate the one GM corn variety commercially grown in Europe. Its original application, approved in 1998, was the last one to be accepted there.

Millions of small-scale farmers in Africa have repeatedly objected to using GMO crops and want their governments to ban them. Traditional African farming systems developed a diversity of seed varieties to deal with farming challenges. Seeds have been bred for flavor and nutrition as well as adaptation to different soils and weather patterns, a far better system than GMOs. Another problem for African farmers is that saving Monsanto’s GMO seed is illegal while 80 percent of African farmers save seed that they have bred.

Monsanto, the producer of the killer defoliant Agent Orange with annual overall sales of $14.86 billion, claims that the corporation is “a sustainable agriculture company,” but Southeast Asia disagrees. Genetically-modified seeds destroy the soil while demanding repurchasing because of the renewable traits. Since 1995, 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide after insurmountable debt derived from Monsanto’s cotton. Many farmers killed themselves from pesticides intended for their crops. Part of the debt came from Monsanto’s unbelievable increase for a kilogram of cotton seeds from 7 to 17,000 rupees in just the year 2009.

GMO cotton cannot be intercropped with food crops, requires irrigation instead of being rain-fed, creates new pests demanding 13 times more pesticides than the traditional cotton, and fails to meet the claims of 1500/kg/year when farmers were able to harvest only 300-400/kg/year.

Another problem waiting to happen is the “golden rice,” a genetically-engineered variety designed to produce pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene). Millions of dollars have been spent to develop this instead of solutions such as food supplements and fortification. “Golden rice” can easily contaminate non-GE rice, and traditional and organic rice farmers will lose their markets, especially export markets. Any unexpected hazardous effects could put people and food security at risk in countries around the world. For example, a diet based solely on rice could make malnutrition worse. When researchers fed the experimental “golden rice” to children in China, they failed to tell parents what their children were eating.

Europe is denying the applications with good cause. More and more evidence is emerging that Roundup, Monsanto’s top-selling pesticide destroys vital human intestinal bacteria and contributes to rapid increase of food allergies and serious human diseases including cancer, autism, neurological disorders , Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Children and elderly people are most susceptible to this poisoning.

Pigs fed GMO corn and soy feed had a notably higher rate of severe stomach inflammation, according to a recent study. Rats fed GMO corn died prematurely after developing tumors. A 2012 French study regarding these tumors, an investigation into the “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” was published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.

As soon as the study was published, Monsanto raised concerns of bias and choice of rats. Although the researchers stand by their study, Wallace Hayes, editor-in-chief of the publishing journal retracted the study. An exhaustive investigation of the study resulted in no findings of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of data, but that the study was inconclusive. It is to be noted that the journal that retracted the study had recently appointed biologist Richard Goodman as associate editor. Goodman worked for Monsanto for seven years and has a history of supporting GMOs.

In the late 1990s, the scientist Marc Lappé, found that Monsanto’s claims that the increase of yields from their technology was highly overstated. After he wrote Against the Grain, Monsanto threated the publishers if they were to release the book. A year ago Monsanto bought out Beeologics, which had been concerned with studying and protecting bees from “colony collapse disorder.”

Insects are becoming far more resistant to GMOs, requiring the use of more and more pesticides. Sales of corn insecticide doubled in 2012 because of the rootworm resistance in the U.S.  The EPA recently raised the permitted levels of Roundup residue on grains and vegetables to more dangerous levels because of the growing resistance.

Last summer the World Food Prize Foundation awarded a Monsanto executive the “Nobel Price of food” for creating GMOs. The award is given to “outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world.” In 2008 Monsanto gave $5 million to the foundation making the award, which favors industrial agricultural. Maintaining seed diversity and promoting healthy soil ecology are essential to “real food security” and a strategy more than worthy of recognition.

Farmers achieved a victory against Monsanto last summer after a court ordered the corporation to not sue farmers for patent infringement as they discover GE contamination. With that decision, farmers can now sue Monsanto for damages in a contamination problem without being concerned about a countersuit of patent infringement. A possible case is the discovers of Monsanto wheat in a crop, wheat that was discontinued several years ago.

Maine, along with Connecticut, has passed a GMO labeling law. There isn’t much chance of these laws going into effect, though, because they have three caveats:

  • Four other Northeastern states must enact legislation.
  • One must border Connecticut/Maine (respectively).
  • The four Northeastern states must have a combined population of at least 20 million.

Maine’s law requires one from New Hampshire; Connecticut can use Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts (which contains one of the world’s leading biotechnology hubs), and Rhode Island. All these states must pass the same law to reach the population unless New York decides to opt in.

Between 60 and 70 percent of all food sold in the United States is genetically engineered, but none of these foods is labeled as such. In last November’s election, Washington state came close to passing a law that would require food labeling of GMO products. Although 93 percent of the people in the United States support food labeling, the $22 million for anti-labeling advertising swung the vote in Washington at the last minute. Sixty-four nations, including all of Europe, have labeling requirements. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) is now planning to block labeling across the United States through federal law.

Much has been written about secret surveillance since Edward Snowden released records from the National Security Agency. Most people don’t know that corporations such as Monsanto and Wal-Mart also spy on activists and non-profit groups with little fear of retribution. These companies employ former CIA, NSA, FBI, military, and police officers to monitor and infiltrate groups critical of the corporations. According to a report from Essential Information:

“Many different types of nonprofits have been targeted with espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing-home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups.”

Monsanto has purchased many members of Congress who try to pass amendments preventing state labeling laws and anti-lawsuit measures regarding Monsanto to the farm bill. Earlier this year under the guidance of former Monsanto lawyer Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO, the House passed the Monsanto Protection Act that allowed crops with GMO seeds to be planted and sold, regardless of a judicial order.

Fortunately, Congress seems incapable of passing almost any laws. Sending the budget bill to the Senate, once pro forma, was considered a miracle this past week. Let’s hope that Congress continues its pattern of  “first, do no harm.”

May 25, 2013

Genetically Modified Democracy*

“Take Action” was the theme of last Saturday’s blog; since then people have been doing just that, including those who were willing to be arrested in Washington, D.C. during their protest against unfair home disclosures.

Today, a global movement against the giant chemical and seed corporation Monsanto, was started by Tami Canal of Utah, who was fed up with having to spend “a small fortune” in order to feed her family things she says “aren’t poisonous.” Canal’s call for a “food fight” on Facebook has led to 436 demonstrations in 52 countries and 250 cities around the world with over 2 million participants.

A short-term goal of March against Monsanto was creating awareness about the serious consequences of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). I was telling my partner about my plans for the blog, and even she—coming from a family of farmers–questioned what was wrong with having genetically engineered seeds.

San DiegoAnother goal was to encourage people to boycott Monsanto-owned companies that market their unsafe products. Companies need a mandate to label GMOs, laws that Monsanto pays millions of dollars to oppose. Canal wrote about dangerous products for children: “Froot Loops is 100-percent genetically engineered, and that’s a children’s cereal. That’s irresponsible and unacceptable on so many levels.”

People also need to demand further scientific research on the health effects of GMOs. Studies already show that genetically modified foods lead to pre-cancerous cell growth, infertility, and severe damage to the kidneys, liver and large intestines. Chemical herbicides sprayed onto GMO crops cause hormone disruption, cancer, neurological disorders and birth defects.

The ultimate goal is a total ban on Monsanto in the United States in the same way that at least 60 other countries worldwide have done.

Monsanto’s industrial agriculture approach is lethal:

The profiteering poisonous chemical company poses as agribusiness. Monsanto made its fortune killing and maiming people through Agent Orange in the Vietnam War and carcinogenic toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s). These accumulate in plants and animals that make up our food supply. Chemicals linked to Monsanto’s Roundup pesticides are linked to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and cancer. The company’s genetically engineered seeds contain massive amounts of Monsanto herbicides and pesticides. Earlier this year, a French court declared Monsanto responsibility for the chemical poisoning of French grain grower, Paul Francois, who suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

In Hawaii, Monsanto was joined by Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and BASF to test their toxic chemicals, inundating the islands with over 5,000 tests and destroying the land and the health of the state’s natives. In addition to the use of deadly chemicals, Monsanto uses monocropping, repeatedly planting only one crop in the same spot. The system strips nutrients out of the soil and drives farmers to use the herbicide, Roundup. A side effect of the pesticides and fertilizers are climate change and reef damage, decreasing the biodiversity of Hawaii.

Now Monsanto is moving into the health food market. They have made a deal with DSM Nutritional Products to sell a new type of genetically engineered (GE) soybean: one with supposed nutritional benefits. This new soybean, filled with the typical Monsanto herbicides and other chemicals, is called the SDA Omega-3 soybean.

state departmentTaxpayers fund the State Department to support Monsanto. The biotechnology page of its Office of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Textile Trade Affairs reads: “Agricultural biotechnology helps farmers increase yields, enabling them to produce more food per acre while reducing the need for chemicals, pesticides, water, and tilling. This provides benefits to the environment as well as to the health and livelihood of farmers.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has increased the limits of Roundup residue allowed on grains and vegetables to even more dangerous levels. At the same time, Monsanto, Dow, and the biotech industry have applied for approval of a new and highly controversial generation of super toxic herbicide-resistant GE crops, including “Agent Orange” (2,4-D and dicamba-resistant) corn, soybeans, and cotton.

Monopoly puts farmers out of work. Farmers are forced to pay Monsanto a fee every year that they use their seed originally created by the company. In a recent Supreme Court Case, 75-year-old soybean farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, was ordered to pay Monsanto over $85,000 in damages for using second-generation seeds genetically modified with Monsanto’s pesticide resistant “Roundup Ready,” treatment. He had planted seeds purchased from the local grain elevator, which is usually used for feed crop. Monsanto even sues farmers whose fields have become contaminated with Monsanto’s seeds.

Once Monsanto created a monopoly, it increased the price of the Roundup herbicide and squeezed out conventional farmers using non-transgenic seeds so that they could not compete in the market. The company also uses its power to coerce seed dealers out of stocking many of its competitor products. An anti-trust suit against Monsanto was quietly closed last year. Over 30 years ago, Monsanto began buying out such seed companies as Asgrow (soybeans), Delta and Pine Land (cotton), DeKalb (corn), Seminis (vegetables), and Holden’s Foundation Seeds.

The Indian Ministry of Agriculture has stated that “more than 1,000 small farmers kill themselves each month, most of them because of their massive GM-generated debts.”

Controlling the food leads to privatizing the water. Private corporations already own 5 percent of the world’s fresh water, and billionaires and companies, including Monsanto, are purchasing the rights to groundwater and aquifers. Monsanto is accused of dumping its toxic chemicals, including PCBs, dioxin, and glyophosate (Roundup) into the water supply of nations worldwide before it privatized the water sources, filtering the water and selling it back to the public.

bluntMonsanto runs the FDA and writes its own protection laws for politicians that it has purchased. Ex-Monsanto executives run the FDA that fails to research long-term effects of GMO products. This last spring, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)  put the “Monsanto Protection Act” into the Agricultural Appropriations provisions of the HR 933 Continuing Resolution spending bill, which stopped a federal government shutdown. [photo] The Act bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and keeps anyone from suing Monsanto regarding unsafe crops. Even if a court review determines that a GMO crop harms humans, the seeds can to be planted if the USDA approves them. Blunt said he “worked with” Monsanto to write it.

Environmental nightmares continue. Monsanto and other biotech conglomerates are connected to the decline of bee colonies in the US and abroad. When bees disappear, the food supply disappears. Butterflies and birds are also vanishing. The company has also concealed its pollution with toxic PCBs. Monsanto does not contribute to “sustainable agriculture” the way that it claims. Instead, it blocks adequate global food production. And more.

Monsanto’s policies and products promote pesticide resistance. Its increase of herbicide use perpetuates gene contamination because engineered genes tend to show up in non-GE crops.

State by state, legislators are introducing laws written by ALEC, the corporation-owned organization, to stop anyone from preventing Monsanto’s damage and allowing them to continue without judicial oversight. [photo]

Thanks to Tami Canal for increasing awareness of the mastermind behind the destructive pesticides and genetically engineered seeds that pervade the farm fields of the world.

Another person fighting Monsanto is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who introduced an amendment to the upcoming Senate Farm Bill which would repeal the “Monsanto Protection Act.” This act will expire at the end of September when the temporary spending measure does unless it is rolled into the next one.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (V-I) proposed an amendment to the farm bill allowing Vermont and other states to require labeling on foods with GMO ingredients. Early in May, the Vermont House voted 99-42 calling for this legislation. Sixty-four countries around the world already require the labeling of genetically modified foods, including all of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand. The American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association have passed resolutions that support labeling foods with genetically engineered ingredients.

Sanders’s amendments was voted down 71-27, and Merkley’s amendment was blocked in committee. Both said, however, they wouldn’t quit and agree that people have the right to know what’s in the food that they eat. Some people believe that states have a constitutional right to label food, if the federal government isn’t required to do this, thanks to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This right has been ruled constitutional in federal court.

On the House side,  Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced a bill that “prohibits states from enacting laws that place conditions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within its own borders, but are produced in other states”–meaning no GMO labeling. King’s amendment passed.

A new app, called Buycott, may help people avoid companies that sell GMOs. Although only on iPhone at this time, creators are working to develop one that can handle the enormous amount of traffic this this has generated.  Basically, you scan an item, and Buycott will show the corporate tree. If you join user-created boycott campaigns, you can see if it is made by one of the companies that paid to fight mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.

*Thanks to Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association for the title of the blog.


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