GE Food Labeling Campaigns Gain Momentum Nationwide
Check out these updates on genetically engineered (GE) food labeling campaigns in Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington.
According to Alison Auciello, an Ohio organizer with Food & Water Watch, there’s been a flurry of activity in the Ohio "Let Me Decide" campaign. From Cleveland to Granville to Cincinnati, Ohioans are pushing for nationwide labeling of GE foods.
On Feb. 15, we met with Cleveland City Council members Joseph Cimperman and Matt Zone, asking them to sponsor a resolution to pressure the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal legislators to mandate labeling of GE foods. Cimperman and Zone are excited to be working with us and are committed to bringing the resolution before the Cleveland City Council. Should Cleveland pass the resolution, they will become the second city in Ohio to call for GE labeling, following the lead of Cincinnati, which unanimously passed the resolution last November. We will continue our efforts to pass similar resolutions in Ohio and call on Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to work toward national legislation for GE labeling.
On Feb. 16 and Feb. 17, we attended the 34th annual Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) conference—Ohio’s largest on sustainable food and farming conference. We were invited to present a workshop on the campaign to label genetically engineered foods in collaboration with Ariel Miller, an activist working with OEFFA to organize support for a national mandate to label GE food. Our presentation included an overview of genetically engineered foods, the health and environmental impacts of GE foods, myths perpetuated by biotech companies like Monsanto and the campaign to label GE food.
Judging from the questions Ariel and I got, the farmers and good food advocates are not only supportive of GE labeling, they want to make sure their farms aren’t contaminated with genetic material from neighboring farms. Contamination is a big concern for farmers here in Ohio and across the country, who fear Monsanto could potentially bring lawsuits against them for the possession of their patented genetic material. OEFFA has joined in the lawsuit to protect farmers against this type of intimidation from Big Agribusiness.
Throughout the conference, workshop speakers tied in their own issues to the problems presented by GE foods to the work they are doing—from sustainable farming practices to bringing whole, healthy foods from farm to plate. Farmers, advocates and consumers alike vowed to keep GE foods off their farms, out of their businesses and off their plates. A Food & Water Watch partner on food issues and fracking, Mo Tressler from All Things Food in Bryan, OH, stressed in her workshop how important the connection is between the farmer and the consumer. From her perspective, not only should we know what’s in our food, we should know and support our local farmers.
Warren Taylor, of Snowville Creamery, calls for nothing short of a revolution to take on the corporate control of our food system and democracy. He says that if we want to change the policies that perpetuate corporate subversion of our democracy, we’ve all got to throw our hat in the ring.
According to Seth Gladstone, eastern region communications manager at Food & Water Watch, of the many busy days at the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton, Feb. 21 stood out. Legislators and hurried staffers weaved through the crowded hallways from committee hearings to caucus meetings and back. Lobbyists and reporters moved from hushed conversations to new hushed conversations. And activists devoted to causes ranging from gun control to education reform to Lou Gehrig’s Disease gathered in meeting rooms and offices to press their cases with lawmakers.
But perhaps the broadest and most diverse group of activists at the statehouse that day were gathered for a single, united cause: the launch of a statewide campaign seeking legislation requiring the labeling of GE foods in New Jersey. Along with Food & Water Watch, a mix of activists and advocates from environmental, labor, health, student, farming, faith and business organizations were joined to tell legislators and the press, "Let me decide” when it comes to GE foods.
“Over the years, consumers have fought for labeling of calorie counts, fat content and ingredients lists so they can make smarter, healthier choices for their families,” said Jim Walsh, Food & Water Watch’s eastern region director. “But as food production technology evolves, so should our food labeling. Consumers have a right to know which products on market shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients. In short, let us decide.”
Amanda Nesheiwat, a student leader with NJ Sustainable Collegiate Partners, echoed Jim’s sentiment. “Just as we label food with allergy warnings, we should label GE foods. The health risks tied to GE foods are reason enough not to give corporations the power to dictate the decisions that consumers should be able to make on their own,” said Nesheiwat.
Joining the activists at the statehouse were two state legislators representing two different political parties, both pledging their commitment to do all they could among their peers to move GE labeling legislation in the coming weeks and months. Assembly Members David Wolfe (R) and Linda Stender (D) both spoke passionately about their own personal motivations—family health, constituency health and community health—for working hard to make a GE labeling law a reality in New Jersey.
On a busy day at the statehouse, optimism ran strong that New Jersey might become the first state in the union to label genetically engineered foods. The campaign marches on.
According to Nisha Swinton, an organizer for Food & Water Watch, supporters of the Right to Know GMO CT coalition united at the Legislative Office Building on Feb. 8 to ask the Connecticut General Assembly a candid question: Are you standing up for consumers’ rights to know whether or not the food they eat and feed their families with has been genetically engineered?
Food & Water Watch is excited to support the great work and grassroots power that GMO-free CT has initiated to pass groundbreaking legislation to label genetically engineered foods in Connecticut. The growing Connecticut coalition includes GMO-Free CT, Northeast Organic Farming Association CT, Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and many others—more than 100 local, state and national organizations who are committed to ensuring Connecticut consumers know whether their foods are genetically engineered. Over the past few weeks alone, 109 businesses and organizations across the state have joined the coalition, 180 residents have attended campaign action meetings and grassroots leaders have scheduled more than 20 educational events around the state.
The vast majority of processed foods contain GE ingredients, which are largely untested, unlabeled and potentially unsafe. Unfortunately, far too many American consumers remain clueless about whether or not their food is genetically engineered, but Connecticut residents are sharp, informed, driven and refuse to sit back in silence when it comes to demanding that GE food be labeled. Perhaps the most critical action we can take right now towards creating and sustaining an honest food system is to label GE foods. Once these foods are labeled, all consumers—regardless of where their live or how much money they make—become empowered with the knowledge to choose safety over processed chemicals.
“As someone who has lived in the Hartford area all of my life and worked as a reporter for several of the state’s newspapers, I am keenly aware of the sophistication and intelligence among Connecticut residents. I have faith that business owners, residents and coalition allies will not stop fighting until they know for certain that GE food labeling will become a way of life,” says Joanna Smiley, Food & Water Watch public relations volunteer.
Rep. Phil Miller (D-Essex) and Diana Urban (D- North Stonington), in separate committees, introduced a bill to label GE foods, which is currently in the revisor’s office. Next steps and the exact time frame is still to be determined, but we will keep building public support and awareness for the bill.
Julia DeGraw, northwest Organizer for Food & Water Watch, is proud to work on the “Label It WA” campaign to pass a GE food labeling law (I-522) in Washington State. Citizens deserve the right to know what’s in their food and it appears that Washington could lead the way in being the first state to pass a GE food labeling law.
Our field campaign is off to a great start. With our allies including Label It Washington and Seattle Tilth, we are laying the groundwork for victory. We hosted five days of action throughout the state collecting photo petitions from locations like the iconic Pike Place Market, University of Washington Vancouver and the Main Market Coop in Spokane. GE food labeling volunteers are having fun as they build this historic campaign in Washington.
On Jan. 31, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified the signatures that will ensure that I-522—The Peoples right to know Genetically Engineered Food Act—will either be voted into law by the legislature or go to the ballot for public vote this November. On Feb. 14, the state legislature held a public hearing on the initiative, which was well attended with supporters of the initiative. From the hearing, it seems most likely that the legislature will choose to let the initiative go to a popular vote.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- How Do You Stay Safe Now That States Are Reopening? - EcoWatch ›
- Florida Breaks U.S. Daily Record With Over 15,000 New ... ›
By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
- DNC Ignores Progressive Climate Activists - EcoWatch ›
- Who's a Climate Champion and Who's a Climate Disaster? - EcoWatch ›
- California Makes Face Masks Mandatory to Fight Pandemic ... ›
- Here's Why COVID-19 Can Spread So Easily at Gyms and Fitness ... ›
- Hot Weather and COVID-19: Added Threats of Reopening States in ... ›
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
- New England Fishing Communities Being Destroyed by 'Climate ... ›
- Shrimp Fishing Banned in Gulf of Maine Due to Ocean Warming ... ›
- Atlantic Salmon Is All But Extinct as a Genetically Eroded Version of ... ›
A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.
- Hot Weather and COVID-19: Added Threats of Reopening States in ... ›
- 50 Million Americans Are Currently Living Under Some Type of Heat ... ›
- Second Major Heat Wave This Summer Smashes Records Across ... ›
By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
- Anti-Racism Protests Are Not Driving Coronavirus Spikes, Data ... ›
- Cell Phone Tracking Analysis Shows Where Florida Springbreakers ... ›