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Chef Tom Colicchio Stands With Federal Lawmakers as GE Food Labeling Bill Is Reintroduced
Concerned consumers have been pushing for the right to know what's in the food they buy for many years. And companies like Monsanto have been pushing back with their money and political influence to make sure that doesn't happen. So the fight continues for consumers who want companies to be required to label their products if they contain genetically engineered ingredients.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) announced today that Chef Tom Colicchio joined Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) as they reintroduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. Originally introduced in April 2013, the bill would direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require food manufacturers to labels foods that are genetically modified (GMOs).
“We cannot continue to keep Americans in the dark about the food they eat,” said DeFazio. “More than 60 other countries make it easy for consumers to choose. Why should the U.S. be any different? If food manufacturers stand by their product and the technology they use to make it, they should have no problem disclosing that information to consumers.”
Tom Colicchio, who owns Craft Restaurants, joined the elected officials because he has been a longtime advocate of using the political system to reform our food system. He co-founded Food Policy Action in 2012 "to hold legislators accountable on votes that have an effect on food and farming." Food Policy Action's site contains an arsenal of information about how each elected official is voting on food policy issues. Colicchio hopes the information will be used by Americans to "Vote with their forks and elect more food policy leaders across the country."
Speaking in support of the GMO Right to Know Act with @BarbaraBoxer @RepPeterDeFazio @SenBlumenthal pic.twitter.com/5fFBmd0pud
— Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) February 12, 2015
"The public wants more information about the food they are buying and how it’s grown," said Colicchio. “I applaud Senators Boxer and Blumenthal and Representative DeFazio for their leadership and urge their colleagues to join them in standing up for the 93 percent of Americans who want to know whether their food has been genetically modified.”
The bill has many other supporters including Environmental Working Group and Just Label It. Along with Food Policy Action and CFS, these organizations collected signatures from more than 1.4 million people who demand that the FDA require GMO labeling.
The FDA has allowed genetically modified foods to be sold without labeling because it claims these foods are not "materially" different from other foods. Companies can, of course, voluntarily label foods produced with genetically modified ingredients, but Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs at CFS points out, "Not one single company has done so. Consumers want to know more than ever how their food is produced, and a mandatory genetically engineered food labeling bill will give consumers the information they’re looking for while balancing the need by companies for a national labeling standard."
Earlier this week, farmers from across the country flew to Washington, DC to urge Congress to pass a GMO labeling law. Many farmers are using more and more toxic herbicides such as Roundup and the new Enlist Duo "for use on crops genetically engineered to withstand herbicides such as glyphosate," CFS said. Monsanto's Roundup has been linked to a number of human and environmental health problems.
GMOs have not only failed to reduce the need for harmful herbicides—as promised—but they've led to farmers using even more harmful herbicides to deal with superweeds. “We’ve run the first 20 years of the GMO experiment and now know that in fact GMOs require more herbicides over time," said Mary Ellen Kustin, senior policy analyst at Environmental Working Group. "With even more toxic compounds like 2,4-D and dicamba being approved for use on GMO crops, consumers should be able to make informed decisions about what food they’re buying.”
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?