Genetically Engineered Foods
By U.S. Right to KnowFood  12:43PM EST
EPA Bows to Industry in Delay of Glyphosate Cancer Review

By Carey Gillam

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was slated to hold four days of public meetings, Oct. 18-21, focused on essentially one question: Is glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, safe?

However, the EPA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meetings were "postponed," just four days before they were suppose to meet, after intense lobbying by the agrichemical industry, including Monsanto. The industry first fought to keep the meetings from being held at all, and argued that if they were held, several leading international experts should be excluded from participating, including "any person who has publicly expressed an opinion regarding the carcinogenicity of glyphosate."

As the meetings drew near, CropLife America, which represents the interests of Monsanto and other agribusinesses, specifically took issue with at least two scientists chosen for the panel, alleging the experts might be unfavorably biased against industry interests. On Oct. 12, the group sent a letter to the EPA calling for Dr. Kenneth Portier of the American Cancer Society to be more deeply scrutinized for any "pre-formed conclusions" about glyphosate. More notably, CropLife called for leading epidemiologist Dr. Peter Infante to be completely disqualified from panel participation.

"EPA should replace Dr. Infante with an epidemiologist without such patent bias," CropLife told the EPA. The chemical industry group said Infante was unlikely to give industry-sponsored research studies the credibility the industry believes they deserve. CropLife said Infante has testified in the past for plaintiffs in chemical exposure cases against Monsanto.

Croplife also argued that because Infante was the "only epidemiologist on the glyphosate SAP" he would have enhanced influence in the evaluation of epidemiological data about glyphosate and cancer. The CropLife letter was dated Oct. 12 and by Oct. 14, the EPA announced it was looking for additional epidemiology expertise to ensure "robust representation from that discipline." The EPA also said one panelist had voluntarily departed, though the agency refused to say who that panelist was.

Challenging Infante's role is a gutsy move. After all, Infante spent 24 years working for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration helping determine cancer risks to workers during the development of standards for toxic substances, including asbestos, arsenic and formaldehyde. His resume includes a stint at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health where he conducted epidemiological studies related to carcinogens, and he has served as an expert consultant in epidemiology for several world bodies, including the EPA and the World Trade Organization.

According to sources close to the situation, Infante remains a panelist as of this week, but there is no certainty when the meetings might be rescheduled, and what the panel membership might look like when they are rescheduled. The EPA has refused to discuss who remains on the panel, but some onlookers believe that the EPA was clearly bowing to agrichemical industry interests.

"This is outrageous. The industry wants to say that our own government scientists, the top ones in their fields, aren't good enough for these panels," said Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at the Consumers Union. "If the EPA wants to add extra epidemiologists that is great but why didn't they do it before? They are doing this because of pressure from industry."

The industry clearly has much at stake, as does the public. Glyphosate is the key ingredient in Monsanto's branded Roundup herbicides as well as herbicides marketed by numerous agrichemical companies around the world. It is also the key to what has been 20 years of sales of genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops developed by Monsanto. The future sales of both the chemical and the crops are being jeopardized by the mounting concerns that glyphosate can cause cancer and other illnesses or disease.

Scientists around the world have been raising red flags for years over worrisome research findings, and last year the International Agency of Research on Cancer, said glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen. More than three dozen lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto by people claiming Roundup gave them non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and both European and U.S. regulators are evaluating the chemical for continued use.

Since the International Agency of Research on Cancer classification, Monsanto has asked the EPA to back industry assurances that glyphosate is safe, and so far, the EPA has done exactly that, issuing a series of reports and memos that dovetail with Monsanto's position. Monsanto also has sought to bolster arguments for glyphosate's safety by pointing to supportive research papers published in late September in Critical Reviews in Toxicology. Monsanto hired the group that arranged for the panel, and most of the 16 scientists involved are former Monsanto employees or Monsanto consultants. At least one, Gary Williams, has also consulted for Monsanto on litigation matters involving glyphosate.

It seems more than a little hypocritical that those scientists are presented as credible by the industry, but scientists like Infante and Portier are said to be unfit to advise the EPA because of suspected bias. Like Infante, Portier has a long track record as an independent scientist. He is vice president of the Statistics & Evaluation Center at the American Cancer Society. He has participated in more than 60 other SAP meetings and has served on expert and advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Toxicology Program, and the World Health Organization Food and Agriculture Organization.

Portier also would not comment about the industry concerns about him, the postponement or changes to the makeup of the SAP, other than to say that as of today, he remains on the panel. EPA said it is "working to reschedule as soon as possible." But the delay and the maneuvering by industry to influence panel participation does little to bolster consumer confidence for the likelihood of an objective outcome.

By GreenpeaceFood  01:10PM EST
5 Renowned Judges Heard 30 Witnesses Describe Crimes Against Humanity at Monsanto Tribunal

By Watcharapol Daengsubha

Last weekend, farmers, scientists and activists from all over the world gathered at the Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, to present the case against destruction caused by one of the corporate giants that promotes industrial farming.

Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague on Oct. 15.Greenpeace

The symbolic Monsanto Tribunal aimed to hold Monsanto—the giant agrochemical company—to account for its alleged atrocities against humanity and the environment. This event is far from over. It will echo back through the food system as the tribunal's participants bring home lessons, solutions and renewed hope for change.

First day of the tribunal, judges Tulkens (left) and Dior Fall Sow.Greenpeace

Five internationally renowned judges heard 30 witnesses. Experts gave their accounts of the environmental damage wrought by Monsanto. One testimony described how monoculture has caused a great loss to seed variety. They compared the patenting of seeds to a new form of colonization.

Seng Channeang, Cambodian small-scale farmer.Greenpeace

These testimonies will give people all over the world a well-documented legal brief to be used in lawsuits against other similar corporations.

"Although this is not legally binding, it is legally sound," said Arnaud Apoteker, member of the steering committee of the tribunal. "The witnesses were presenting real cases to real judges. The lessons from this event can be used in ensuing local battles."

One of the 30 witnesses, Feliciano Ucam Poot, a Mayan farmer from Mexico, submitted evidence to support his allegations that glyphosate and other chemicals are linked to children's sickness.

"Before the introduction of glyphosate and other agrochemicals, I did not see our people suffer from sickness like this," he said. "A lot of people are suffering like us and this tribunal will ensure that our stories will be heard around the world."

Scene from the Monsanto Tribunal Press Conference on Oct. 15.Greenpeace

Do we need these agrochemicals to feed the world? A question asked of Hans Herren, a renowned scientist and president of the Millennium Institute at the Monsanto Tribunal. "By producing less waste we can feed 10 million people. We need to make more health per acre, not calories per acre," he said.

Running parallel to the tribunal hearings was a People's Assembly, where people from around the world discussed solutions to the impacts caused by industrial agriculture. As many of the witnesses pointed out, one of the greatest challenges they face is to make their voices heard. This assembly provided a much needed forum for communities to come together and find sustainable solutions to common problems.

The People's Assembly, The Hague.Greenpeace

"We should fight for ourselves. Nobody is free from danger if our food is toxic," said Farida Akhter of UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives), Bangladesh.

The stories of people like Feliciano and the concerns of Farida are echoed by millions of voices from across the world; from beekeepers in Mexico to small scale producers in France and farmers in India.

The judges of the tribunal will assess these allegations, examine all evidence put forth and publish their findings in December.

Judges at the Monsanto Tribunal.Greenpeace

These issues aren't limited to farmers and environmentalists—they concern us all. We all have a choice: As citizens and consumers, we can all make decisions to shape the future we want.

Here are 12 things you can do to start the eco-food revolution.

Watcharapol Daengsubha is a food and ecological agriculture campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

By Lorraine ChowFood  11:52AM EST
The People Take on Monsanto for Crimes Against Humanity in International Tribunal

Starting tomorrow, 30 witnesses and legal experts from five different continents will testify before five international judges at the three-day Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Their testimonies will attempt to hold the agrochemical giant accountable for their alleged "crimes against humanity" and destruction of the environment, or "ecocide."

Monsanto Tribunal organizers have called Monsanto's Roundup "the source of the greatest health and environmental scandal in modern history."Monsanto Tribunal Facebook

This symbolic trial, which will be live streamed from Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. GMT+2 on the tribunal website, will follow guidelines of the United Nations's international court of justice and will have no legal standing. Rather, its purpose is to gather legal counsel from the judges as well as legal grounds for future litigation.

"The aim of the tribunal is to give a legal opinion on the environmental and health damage caused by the multinational Monsanto," the tribunal organizers state on their website. "This will add to the international debate to include the crime of Ecocide into international criminal law. It will also give people all over the world a well documented legal file to be used in lawsuits against Monsanto and similar chemical companies."

Monsanto, which is inching closer to a $66 billion takeover from German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has faced a never-ending slew of health and environmental controversies over its products since, well, the beginning of the twentieth century.

Monsanto's historical line-up of products includes banned and highly toxic chemicals such as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant Agent Orange); PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl); and Lasso, a herbicide banned in Europe. Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto's best-selling weedkiller RoundUp, is the most widely used pesticide in the world. Monsanto is also the world's largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker, giving them a major hand over the world food supply.

The trial, which will proceed on the same weekend as World Food Day, is organized by Organic Consumers Association, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) Organics International, Navdanya, Regeneration International, Millions Against Monsanto as well as dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups.

Tribunal organizer Vandana Shiva is an outspoken critic of Monsanto. "Monsanto has come to be seen as one of the most dangerous corporations on the planet," the physicist, author, activist and founder of Navdanya said in a statement.

"It has earned this reputation through a history of producing products toxic to humans and the environment, as well as well-documented manipulation of scientific evidence, disingenuous PR efforts and applying relentless political pressure worldwide to promote its products. Life, society and democracy are under threat. We refuse to allow this future to unfold."

Andre Leu, president of IFOAM, said, "Monsanto is able to ignore the human and environmental damage caused by its products, and maintain its devastating activities through a strategy of systemic concealment: by lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by resorting to lying and corruption, by financing fraudulent scientific studies, by pressuring independent scientists, and by manipulating the press and media. Monsanto's history reads like a text-book case of impunity, benefiting transnational corporations and their executives, whose activities contribute to climate and biosphere crises and threaten the safety of the planet."

Monsanto will not be present at the trial, calling it a "staged" event organized by the organic food industry "where the outcome is pre-determined."

"As this is a stunt staged and supported by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM)—an umbrella organization of organic agriculture organizations, and their associates such as Navdanya and others who are fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture—we will not participate," states an open letter signed by the company's Human Rights Steering Committee.

"To address these ever increasing challenges collaboratively and advance our commitment to human rights, we welcome a genuine constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and agriculture production," the letter also states. "These conversations are much needed to help find sustainable solutions to those challenges."

Tribunal organizers have responded to Monsanto's allegations of a mock court. "Other similar tribunals have found both for and against corporations," Damien Short, director of the Human Rights Consortium at London University, told The Guardian. "This is a test of international law. It has moral force and the tribunal's decision will be evidence-based. Peoples' tribunals are testing the law."

"Under existing [international] law, it is impossible to bring criminal charges against a company like Monsanto or its management, for possible crimes against human health and the integrity of the environment," Lucy Rees, speaking on behalf of End Ecocide on Earth, also told the publication.

Greenpeace has been a vocal supporter of the tribunal. "The industrial scale of agriculture today has broken our food system," the environmental group said. "Giant agri-businesses fail to take into account the health of the environment and the communities who depend on it. Monoculture and dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides are taking its toll on the planet, animals and us."

According to a tribunal newsletter, witnesses and experts who will be present at the trial includes health experts, "victims" and representatives from communities affected by the spraying of pesticides in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Sri Lanka and Paraguay; farmers and seed savers from Australia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Canada, France; beekeepers from Yucatan, Mexico; and scientists from Brazil, Germany, France, the UK and the U.S. Former UN special rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter will also testify.

By Lorraine ChowFood  07:26AM EST
New Report Busts Myth That GMOs Are Needed to 'Feed the World'

It's well believed that by the year 2050, 9 billion people will call Earth home. With so many mouths to feed, the United Nations says that world food production must double or else people will go hungry. In order to feed Earth's swelling population, U.S. agriculture and agribusiness interests, notably Monsanto, have insisted that American farmers aggressively ramp up grain and meat production. Hugh Grant, the CEO of Monsanto, asserts that genetically modified (GMOs) crops are an essential tool to ensure global food security.

Environmental Working Group

However, according to a report, Feeding the World, released today by Environmental Working Group (EWG), the agricultural industry promulgates this "feed the world" mantra as a way to deflect attention from their environmentally destructive practices. In fact, as the authors of the report determined, U.S. agricultural exports are mostly feeding people in wealthy countries that can afford to buy them rather than the most undernourished countries.

Environmental Working Group

"Since 2009 we have continued to hear a lot of agricultural interests claim that American farmers need to increase their production of commodities and meat products in order to 'feed the world,' implying that our farmers are feeding hungry people across the globe," Anne Weir Schechinger, EWG's senior analyst for economics and author of the report, told EcoWatch. "These interests are deflecting attention from the environmental damage caused by current farming practices, and to discourage any reform from happening to current agriculture policy that could really benefit the environment."

For the study, Weir Schechinger and co-author Craig Cox, EWG's senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, examined where U.S. agricultural exports are going, and what products are being exported to see who the U.S. is actually feeding.

Using trade data, the authors found that 86 percent of American agricultural exports in 2015 went to 20 of the world's wealthiest and most developed export destinations, including Canada, China, Mexico and the European Union.

As the press release of the report describes:

"Weir Schechinger's analysis determined that the 20 export destinations that consumed the vast majority of America's agricultural bounty scored medium, high or very high on a development scale created by the United Nations Development Program. None had large numbers of hungry people. Half of all U.S. exports going to these relatively affluent nations consisted of meat and dairy products, and animal feed.

"Only half of 1 percent of U.S. agricultural exports last year went to 19 nations, including Haiti, Yemen and Ethiopia, that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization determined had very high or high undernourishment. The value of U.S. food exports to the top 20 wealthy destinations was 158 times the exports to the 19 most seriously undernourished countries.

"Even more striking, between 2004 and 2013, U.S. exports and food aid combined contributed between only 2 to 4.4 percent of the food supply of those 19 undernourished countries."

"Poverty is the main reason people go hungry," an infographic of the report states. "Nearly all the agricultural products the U.S. exports go to countries that can afford to eat more meat and diversify their diets."

Environmental Working Group

Of course, feeding the world's growing population is of utmost importance, which is why the EWG report suggests a number of solutions to do so, such as providing the tools and training necessary for communities in poor regions to sustainably grow their own food; significantly increasing international development aid for infrastructure developments to improve roads and build markets to improve access to foods; alleviating poverty and expanding income for women and the very poor; improving nutrition and health education; and ending wars and conflicts.

EcoWatch was able to discuss the report with Weir Schechinger via email. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. What would you say are the biggest environmental concerns about modern U.S. agriculture?

A. There are numerous environmental and public health damages that are caused by current agricultural practices. There are many water quality issues, like the toxic algal blooms caused by fertilizer run-off from farm fields that we're seeing in Toledo, Ohio, as well as the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Another problem is the contamination of drinking water due to nitrates, like we're seeing in many places including here in Iowa, as well as pesticide contamination of drinking water throughout the U.S. Additionally, soil erosion is increasing on many farm fields, leading to production losses and clogged waterways. Loss of biodiversity is a major problem that occurs whenever native grasslands or wetlands are brought into agricultural production. We're also contending with threats to public health from increased antibiotic resistance due to large-scale animal production, since 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are used on livestock.

Q. Some would argue that the reason GMOs have not been adopted in the poorest nations is due to social and political pressures. For instance, many groups in Africa are opposed to GMOs. Many countries in Europe as well as other countries around the world have tight restrictions on GMOs.

A. Bringing GMOs to undernourished countries will not solve hunger. Research has shown that poverty is the main cause of hunger, and growing genetically engineered crops will not directly bring smallholder farmers in undernourished nations out of poverty. Helping smallholders grow more food is a great way to decrease levels of hunger, but GMOs are not a silver bullet to do that. Income generation and economic growth, along with improving access to food through infrastructure development and providing better education especially in health and nutrition can all help decrease hunger.

Q. Would you say that the "feed the world" rationale is a cover for agribusiness companies like Monsanto to drive profits?

A. Agribusinesses do genuinely want to help feed people in hungry countries. Many agribusinesses have programs in undernourished countries that aim to help smallholder farmers increase crop production. But a lot of these same agribusinesses use the "feeding the world" rationale to cover up the environmental damages that are partially due to their products. They also use this rationale to maintain the status quo in farm policy, to deflect any proposals that would change farm policy to lead to less environmental harm.

Q. If an American farmer were to read this study, what would you want his or her main takeaway to be?

A. Exporting grain and meat products is a good business opportunity for American farmers, but that does not carry with it the same moral imperative as solving hunger worldwide. The "feeding the world" argument should not be used to justify the considerable environmental damage that agriculture does to water, soil and public health. Agricultural conservation and pollution prevention practices should be used everywhere they are needed to protect our natural resources and public health.

By U.S. Right to KnowFood  08:57AM EST
FDA Tests Confirm Baby Foods Contain Residues of Glyphosate

By Carey Gillam

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is quietly starting to test U.S. foods for traces of glyphosate, has found residues of the cancer-linked pesticide in a variety of oat products, including plain and flavored oat cereals for babies.

Data compiled by an FDA chemist and presented to other chemists at a meeting in July in Florida showed residues of glyphosate in several types of infant oat cereal, including banana strawberry- and banana-flavored varieties. Glyphosate was also detected in "cinnamon spice" instant oatmeal, "maple brown sugar" instant oatmeal and "peach and cream" instant oatmeal products. In the sample results shared in the presentation, levels ranged from nothing detected in several organic oat products to 1.67 parts per million in non-organic varieties.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, the most heavily used weed killer in the world. Concerns about glyphosate residues in food spiked after the World Health Organization in 2015 said a team of international cancer experts determined glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. Other scientists have raised concerns about how heavy use of glyphosate is impacting human health and the environment.

The EPA maintains that the chemical is "not likely" to cause cancer, and has established tolerance levels for glyphosate residues in oats and many other foods. The levels found by the FDA in oats fall within those allowed tolerances, which for oats is set by the EPA at 30 ppm. In the European Union, the tolerance for glyphosate in oats is 20 ppm.

Monsanto, which derives close to a third of its $15 billion in annual revenues from glyphosate-based products, has helped guide the EPA in setting tolerance levels for glyphosate in food, and in 2013 requested and received higher tolerances for many foods. The company has developed genetically engineered crops designed to be sprayed directly with glyphosate. Corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets are genetically engineered to withstand being sprayed with glyphosate.

Oats are not genetically engineered. But Monsanto has encouraged farmers to spray oats and other non-genetically modified crops directly with its glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide shortly before harvest. The practice can help dry down and even out the maturity of the crop.

"A preharvest weed control application is an excellent management strategy to not only control perennial weeds, but to facilitate harvest management and get a head start on next year's crop," Monsanto's "pre-harvest staging guide" says.

In Canada, which is among the world's largest oat producers and is a major supplier of oats to the U.S., Monsanto marketing materials tout the benefits of glyphosate on oat fields: "Pre-harvest application of Roundup WeatherMAX and Roundup Transorb HC are registered for application on all oat varieties—including milling oats destined for human consumption."

Glyphosate is also used by U.S. oat farmers. The EPA estimates that about 100,000 pounds of glyphosate are used annually in production of U.S. oats.

Glyphosate is also used on wheat shortly before harvest. A division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) has been testing wheat for glyphosate residues for years for export purposes and have detected the residues in more than 40 percent of hundreds of wheat samples examined in fiscal 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Even though the FDA annually examines foods for residues of many other types of pesticides, it has skipped testing for glyphosate residues for decades. It was only in February of this year that the agency said it would start some glyphosate residue analysis. That came after many independent researchers started conducting their own testing and found glyphosate in an array of food products, including flour, cereal and oatmeal.

Monsanto and U.S. regulators have said glyphosate levels in food are too low to translate to any health problems in humans. But critics say such assurances are meaningless unless the government actually routinely measures those levels as it does with other pesticides.

And some do not believe any level of glyphosate is safe in food. Earlier this year, Taiwan recalled more than 130,000 pounds of oat supplies after detecting glyphosate residues.

And, San Francisco resident Danielle Cooper filed a lawsuit in May 2016 seeking class action status against the Quaker Oats Co. after glyphosate residues were found in that company's oat products, which are used by millions of consumers. Cooper said she expected the oat products, which have been labeled as "100% Natural," to be pesticide free. "Glyphosate is a dangerous substance, the presence and dangers of which should be disclosed," the lawsuit states.

Quaker Oats has said any trace amounts of glyphosate found in its products are safe, and it stands by the quality of its products.

EPA, FDA Drop the Ball on Honey

In addition to oats, the FDA tested earlier this year samples of U.S. honey for glyphosate residues and found all of the samples contained glyphosate, and some of the honey showed residue levels double the limit allowed in the European Union, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the U.S., so any amount is problematic legally.

Despite internal discussions about a need to pursue action after the honey findings in January, the FDA did not notify the honey companies involved that their products were found to be contaminated with glyphosate residues, nor did it notify the public.

The FDA has also tested corn, soy, eggs and milk in recent months, and has not found any levels that exceed legal tolerance.

"These preliminary results showed no pesticide residue violations for glyphosate in all four commodities tested," FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney said. "However, the special assignment is ongoing and all results must go through the FDA's quality control process to be verified. The tests on honey were not considered part of the official special assignment.

"Dr. Narong Chamkasem, an FDA research chemist based in Atlanta, tested 19 samples of honey as part of a research project that he individually conducted."

The glyphosate residue testing by the FDA may be headed for a slowdown. Sources say there is talk of closing the FDA's Atlanta laboratory that has conducted the pesticide residue tests and shifting the work to other facilities around the country. The FDA would not comment on this.

Both European and U.S. regulators are evaluating glyphosate impacts for risks to humans and the environment. The EPA is holding four days of meetings in mid-October with an advisory panel to discuss cancer research pertaining to glyphosate, and debate is ongoing over whether or not the team of international scientists who last year declared it a probable human carcinogen were right nor not.

Aaron Blair, the chairman of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) working group that classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans, said that the science on glyphosate is still evolving. He said that it is common for it to take years, sometimes decades, for industry and regulators to accept certain research findings and for scientists to reach consensus. He likened glyphosate to formaldehyde, which many years ago was also classified by IARC as "probably carcinogenic" to humans before it was later accepted to be carcinogenic.

"There is not a single example of IARC being wrong, showing something is a probable carcinogen and then later it is proven not to be," Blair said.

Carey Gillam is the research director for U.S. Right to Know.

By Kristin FalzonFood  09:29AM EST
Third GMO Arctic Apple Gets USDA Approval

A third genetically-modified (GMO) apple was commercially approved last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Arctic Fuji apple from Okanagan Speciality Fruits, which is engineered to keep from browning, joins the company's two other varieties—the Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny.

The company said around 40 percent of apples are wasted because of superficial bruising and browning and created its apples to help keep the popular fruit from being prematurely thrown in the trash while claiming to keep its original texture and flavor. In order to prevent apples from browning, the company said it has "silenced" the enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO) that drives oxidation in apples.

Michael Firko, deputy administrator for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the new status for the Arctic Fuji is the "most scientifically sound and appropriate regulatory decision."

Neal Carter, Okanagan Specialty Fruits' founder and president, said the feedback they have gotten from consumers has been very positive. "The response to Arctic Fuji apples and our overall platform to deliver direct benefits to consumers has been encouraging," Carter said. "We are confident the positive feedback we have received will translate to the marketplace."

However, not everyone agrees.

"Many big apple buyers don't want this. Consumers don't want this. It's not only an unnecessary product, but the risks have not been fully examined," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said.

"Regulators have glossed over the possible unintentional effects of this technology, including the potential economic impacts on farmers, the potential of contamination for non-GMO and organic apple crops and the potential impact of the non-browning gene silencing, which could also weaken plant defenses and plant health."

The USDA appeared to have made the decision in favor of the company despite feedback they received during a 30-day public comment and review on the government's website. Many of the more than 620 commenters said they were opposed not only to the variety, but to all GMO food. Others commented that they were concerned that the GMO apple would deceive consumers and asked for it to be labeled as such.

Carter told Capital Press the company's Arctic Golden variety will be available for test marketing in stores in the western U.S. in the fall and will be labeled as GMO in the nutritional information area of packaging when regulations require it. He also said the company will seek USDA approval for its Arctic Gala next year, hoping for approval in 2017 or 2018.

"Food companies and restaurants, apple growers and growers associations, and consumers don't want GMO apples. Yet this company is introducing them," Ken Roseboro, publisher of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, said.

"And of course they won't be labeled as GMO in the U.S. for at least two years with the weak GMO labeling bill that was recently passed, and even then they may just have a QR code. There are already non-GMO, non-browning apples available, including the Non-GMO Project verified Opal apple and ones developed at Washington State University, but the media ignores those options in favor of so-called 'high tech' GMO apples."

By Organic Consumers AssociationFood  11:31AM EST
Bayer-Monsanto Merger a '5-Alarm Threat to Our Food Supply'

By Katherine Paul

It's been about a week since Monsanto and Bayer confirmed their intention to say "I do"—ample time for media, lawmakers, consumer and farmer advocacy groups, and of course the happy couple themselves, to weigh in on the pros and cons.

Reactions poured in from all the usual suspects.

Groups like the Farmers Union, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth and others didn't mince words when it came to condemning the deal. (Organic Consumers Association tagged it a "Marriage Made in Hell" back in May, pre-announcement, when the two mega-corporations were still doing their mating dance.)

Predictably, the corporate heads of state last week promoted the proposed $66 billion deal as an altruistic plan to improve "the lives of growers and people around the world." Last week, they told Senate Judiciary Committee members that the merger "is needed to meet a rising food demand."

Is anyone out there still buying the line that Monsanto and Bayer are in the business of feeding the world? When the evidence says otherwise?

Even if that claim weren't ludicrous, who thinks it's a good idea to entrust the job of "feeding the world" to the likes of Bayer, a company that—as part of the I.G. Farben cartel in the 1940s—produced the poison gas for the Nazi concentration camps, and more recently sold HIV-infected drugs to parents of haemophiliacs in foreign countries, causing thousands of children to die of AIDS?

The sordid, unethical, greedy, monopolizing and downright criminal histories of both Monsanto and Bayer have been well documented. Does allowing them to merge into the world's largest seed and pesticide company pose what two former Justice Department officials call "a five-alarm threat to our food supply and to farmers around the world?"

In a press release, Pesticide Action Network senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman said:

Just six corporations already dominate worldwide seed and pesticide markets. Additional consolidation will increase prices and further limit choices for farmers, while allowing Monsanto and friends to continue pushing a model of agriculture that has given us superweeds, superbugs and health-harming pesticides. Instead, we need to invest in agroecological, resilient and productive farming.

Without question, this deal, which strengthens the ties between Big Pharma, Big Food and Big Biotech, will hurt farmers and consumers—not to mention an ecosystem already on the brink.

But for those of us committed to ridding the world of toxic pesticides and hideous factory farms, to restoring biodiversity, to cleaning up our waterways, to revitalizing local economies, to helping small farmers thrive, to reclaiming and regenerating the world's soils so they can do their job—produce nutrient-dense food while drawing down and sequestering carbon—the marriage of Bayer and Monsanto doesn't change much.

As we wrote when the deal was announced, Monsanto will probably pack up its headquarters and head overseas. The much-maligned Monsanto name will be retired.

But a corporate criminal by any other name—or size—is still a corporate criminal.

Merger or no merger, our job remains the same: to expose the crimes and end the toxic tyranny of a failed agricultural experiment. #MillionsAgainstMonsanto will simply morph into #BillionsAgainstBayer.

a katz /

Feed the world? Or feed the lobbyists?

Bayer and Monsanto had plenty of time to perfect their spin on the merger before the big announcement. Yet even some of the most conservative media outlets saw through it.

A Bloomberg headline read: "Heroin, Nazis, and Agent Orange: Inside the $66 Billion Merger of the Year."

From the article:

Two friends making dyes from coal-tar started Bayer in 1863, and it developed into a chemical and drug company famous for introducing heroin as a cough remedy in 1896, then aspirin in 1899. The company was a Nazi contractor during World War II and used forced labor. Today, the firm based in Leverkusen, Germany, makes drugs and has a crop science unit, which makes weed and bug killers. Its goal is to dominate the chemical and drug markets for people, plants and animals.

Monsanto, founded in 1901, originally made food additives like saccharin before expanding into industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and agriculture products. It's famous for making some controversial and highly toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, now banned and commonly known as PCBs, and the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. It commercialized Roundup herbicide in the 1970s and began developing genetically modified corn and soybean seeds in the 1980s. In 2000, a new Monsanto emerged from a series of corporate mergers.

A skeptical Wall Street Journal reporter suggested that the merger, one of three in the works in the agricultural industry, is a sign of trouble. "The dominance of genetically modified crops is under threat," wrote Jacob Bunge on Sept. 14.

Bunge interviewed Ohio farmer Joe Logan who told him, "The price we are paying for biotech seed now, we're not able to capture the returns."

This spring, Mr. Logan loaded up his planter with soybean seeds costing $85 a bag, nearly five times what he paid two decades ago. Next spring, he says, he plans to sow many of his corn and soybean fields with non-biotech seeds to save money.

Nasdaq took the merger announcement as an opportunity to highlight numbers published by showing that Monsanto and Bayer are not only the two largest agrichemical corporations in the world, they're also two of the biggest spenders when it comes to lobbying.

Together, according to OpenSecrets, Bayer and Monsanto have spent about $120 million on lobbying in the last decade. Monsanto's spending has been largely focused on the agricultural industry, while Bayer has spent heavily in the pharmaceutical arena.

Both Monsanto and Bayer forked over millions to keep labels off of foods that contain GMOs, according to OpenSecrets.

A big issue for both companies has been labeling of genetically modified foods, which both companies oppose. That put them in support of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599), which was signed into law this summer. The law permits corporations to identify products made with genetically modified organisms in ways that critics argue will be hard for consumers to interpret, while superseding state laws that are sometimes tougher, like the one in Vermont.

To be clear, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act was just an intentionally misleading description of a bill intended to protect corporations from having to reveal the GMO ingredients in their products.

A criminal by any other name

Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague made a big announcement of its own. For the first time in history, the ICC will "prioritize crimes that result in the 'destruction of the environment,' 'exploitation of natural resources' and the 'illegal dispossession' of land," according to a report in The Guardian.

The announcement came within the same two-week period as three new reports on the sad state of our ecosystem, all of which implicate industrial agriculture:

  • Researchers at the University of Virginia University of Virginia reported that widespread adoption of GMO crops has decreased the use of insecticides, but increased the use of weed-killing herbicides as weeds become more resistant, leading to "serious environmental damage."
  • Mother Jones magazine reported that "A Massive Sinkhole Just Dumped Radioactive Waste Into Florida Water. The cause? A fertilizer company deep in the heart of phosphate country."
  • NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that when it comes to global warming, "even the records themselves are breaking records now" after reporting that Earth just experienced its hottest August on record. What's that got to do with Bayer and Monsanto? Industrial, chemical, degenerative agriculture is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic regenerative agriculture, by contrast, holds the greatest promise for drawing down and sequestering excess carbon from the atmosphere.

Whether or not regulators approve the Bayer-Monsanto merger, these companies will continue their rampage against nature. Governments and courts have a lousy track record when it comes to holding these, and other, corporations accountable for the damage they've inflicted, over decades, on human health and the environment.

The ICC has signaled that this may change. In the meantime, frustrated with the lack of action and fed up with paying the price for making corporations like Bayer and Monsanto filthy rich, the grassroots are fighting back.

On Oct. 15-16, a panel of distinguished international judges will hear testimony from 30 witnesses and scientific and legal experts from five continents who have been injured by Monsanto's products. This grassroots-led international citizens' tribunal and People's Assembly (Oct. 14-16) will culminate in November with the release of advisory opinions prepared by the judges. The tribunal's work, which includes making the case for corporations to be prosecuted for ecocide, is made all the more relevant by the ICC's announcement.

The International Monsanto Tribunal is named for Monsanto, the perfect poster child. But the advisory opinions, which will form the basis for future legal action, will be applicable to all agrichemical companies—including Bayer.

In the meantime, we encourage citizens around the world who cannot participate in the official tribunal and People's Assembly, to show solidarity by organizing their own World Food Day "March Against Monsanto."

Monsanto. Bayer. The name doesn't matter, and though size does matter when it comes to throwing weight around, the crimes perpetrated by the companies remain the same. It's time to stop them.

By EWContributorFood  11:56AM EST
Vietnam Welcomes Monsanto’s GMOs Despite Horrific Legacy of Agent Orange

By Christina Sarich

One of Monsanto's former companies, among nine contractors responsible for creating Agent Orange, sprayed more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide on an area of South Vietnam about the size of the state of Massachusetts between 1962 and 1971.

In a caustic plot twist, the Vietnamese government says it hopes to have 30 to 50 percent of its cropland planted with GMOs by 2020—exactly 55 years after the U.S. government first devastated Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas.

U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam.Wikimedia Commons

Monsanto and the U.S. government alike have issued statements saying Monsanto deserves no blame for making chemical agents that have caused hundreds of thousands of birth defects and contaminated Vietnam's land so inexorably that even without applying additional herbicides to transgenic crops, they shall remain toxic for decades.

Babies are still being born today with horrific birth defects—decades after Agent Orange was sprayed so haphazardly across Vietnam. Nearly 4.8 million Vietnamese people have been exposed, causing 400,000 deaths and a grab bag of health issues that would make a haunted house seem cheery. An estimated 650,000 victims are suffering from chronic illnesses linked to Agent Orange in Vietnam, alone.

The Vietnamese government has never officially stated its stance on the grievous actions of Monsanto and other military contractors for the U.S., focusing instead on reparations for victims of Agent Orange. As one of the makers of Agent Orange, Monsanto claims they were just following the recipe for the formula as directed by the U.S. government.

Instead, the country seems to be embracing a company headquartered in the U.S. and its incessant propaganda promoting genetically modified organisms.

Furthermore, dioxin, found in Agent Orange, is one of the most dangerous chemicals ever made by man. Though the U.S. military carries out orders to help remove dioxin "hot-spots," their actions include heating the old Da Nang air base to temperatures above 600 degrees Fahrenheit, a level said to render the toxin harmless. There is no scientific proof that this even works.

A draft report released for public comment in September 1994 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clearly describes dioxin as a serious public health threat, yet Cao Duc Phat, Vietnam's former agriculture minister says there's no problem. "GMOs are a scientific achievement of humankind, and Vietnam needs to embrace them as soon as possible," he stated.

This is a surprising statement since dioxin and other herbicides are part of the overall platform upon which genetically modified crops are sold. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in recent years, more than 93 percent of soy planted in America was "herbicide tolerant," meaning it was engineered to withstand herbicides (sold by the same companies who patent and sell the seeds).

Although the toxicity of dioxins harms human health through other means of contamination, such as through industrial emissions, Enlist Duo, the latest herbicidal development by Dow Agrochemical and Monsanto is a combination of both 2,4-D and glyphosate. It has been called the "Agent Orange" of GMOs by environmentalists, though others dispute this fact.

Meanwhile, Monsanto, who has absolved themselves from any responsibility in practically defecating on Vietnam with their insidious chemicals, is creating yet a new herbicide for use in the U.S. Companies like Dow Chemical and Bayer are also implicated in putting more dioxin into the environment—and they too promote the GMO agenda.

Enlist Duo—the latest herbicide, which is a combination of 2,4-D (another component of Agent Orange), choline and glyphosate—is set to be approved anytime.

Dekalb Vietnam, which operates under U.S. mega-corporation Monsanto; Pioneer Hi-Bred Vietnam, under the U.S.'s Dupont; and Syngenta of Switzerland have been licensed to carry out lab research and tests on genetically-modified seeds in Vietnam since 2011.

Moreover, Monsanto received the endorsement of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which announced that their worm- and weed-killer-resistant varieties are "environmentally friendly."

Fifty-five years after rendering almost an entire country cancerous, chemical companies like Monsanto are welcomed with open arms into Vietnam. It boggles the mind.

Reposted with permission from

By U.S. Right to KnowFood  09:06AM EST
FDA Finds Glyphosate in Honey

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found residues of the weed killer glyphosate in samples of U.S. honey, according to documents obtained by the consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know through a Freedom of Information Act request. Some samples showed residue levels double the legally allowed limit in the European Union.

There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the U.S., so any amount of detectable glyphosate in honey could technically be considered illegal. Some of the honey tested by the FDA had glyphosate residues at 107 parts per billion, well more than the 50 parts per billion set as a maximum allowed in the European Union, the documents state.

Records obtained from the FDA, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, by U.S. Right to Know detail a range of revelations about the federal government's efforts to get a handle on rising concerns about glyphosate. In addition to honey, the records show government residue experts discussing the prevalence of glyphosate found in soybean samples and the belief that there could be a lot of "violation for glyphosate" residue levels in U.S. crops.

Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, is the most widely used herbicide in the world and concerns about glyphosate residues in food increased after the World Health Organization in 2015 said its cancer experts determined glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. Other international scientists have raised concerns about how heavy use of glyphosate is impacting human health and the environment.

Even though the FDA annually examines foods for residues of many pesticides, it has declined to test for glyphosate residues for decades. It was only in February of this year that the agency said it would start some limited testing for glyphosate residues. That came after many independent researchers started conducting their own testing on various foods two years ago, finding glyphosate in an array of products, including flour, cereal and oatmeal.