Trump Administration Sued Over GMO Food Labeling
Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are charged with implementing the new labeling rules, and part of that process is a study on "electronic and digital disclosures" (like QR codes) for GE foods, as opposed to on-package text. That study was required to be finished by July 2017, with an opportunity for public participation, but USDA never completed the study or published it for public comment.
"Because this is a controversial topic and crucial decision, Congress required this QR code study be completed by July and that the public's views be included. In court, statutory directives matter—not tweets. We won't let the Trump Administration get away with ignoring the law," said George Kimbrell, legal director for CFS.
The federal GE food law requires USDA to establish federal standards for labeling by July 2018. The withheld study will inform the agency's ultimate decision, which is why it was required to be completed a year earlier. One of the most controversial aspects of the law is how it will require companies to label GE foods, and whether companies will be able to forgo clear, on-package labeling through the use of QR codes and other digital disclosures. The new federal law allows USDA to consider several options: on-package text, a GE symbol on packages or "electronic or digital disclosures," which would require shoppers to use a smart phone to scan packages to access a website or call a 1-800 number for every single product to find out if it was produced with genetic engineering. The study is crucial because it will analyze if this type of digital labeling will make the information accessible or not, based on several factors. If USDA concludes, based on the study, that these disclosures will not provide consumers sufficient access, then USDA must require consumers be given alternative options.
"Americans deserve nothing less than clear on-package labeling, the way food has always been labeled," continued Kimbrell. "Allowing companies to hide genetically engineered ingredients behind a website or QR code is discriminatory and unworkable."
In the U.S., there has never been a food labeling requirement met by "QR" codes instead of on-package labeling. Electronic labeling will not provide disclosure to a large portion of Americans, disproportionally affecting minority, low-income and elderly people:
- Studies show that half of low-income people do not own smartphones.
- Almost half of rural people do not own smart phones.
- Minorities make up a disproportionate percentage of low-income and rural Americans.
- Two-thirds of the elderly do not own smart phones.
- Overall, only 64 percent of Americans own a smart phone.
- Few people have ever used a QR code: only 16 percent have ever scanned a QR code and only 3 percent of those people do it regularly.
A shopper would have to scan all of the many items s/he is shopping for on any given shopping trip (which for a family of four could easily amount to more than 50 items). This would be an undue burden on the consumer and greatly impede access to information that is currently required for all other forms of food labeling. On-package labeling is simple, quick and effective. QR codes, websites and 1-800 numbers are not.
By Matthew Savoca
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.
Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.
"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.
Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
By Patrick Rogers
If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.
By Jason Bittel
Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.