Organic Leaders Support Washington GE Food Labeling and Your Right to Know
Proposition I-522, a citizen’s initiative on the ballot on Nov. 5 in Washington state, would mandate clear labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. It has become the latest battleground pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar agribusiness corporations.
Recent polling indicates strong support for the Washington state informational labeling measure. But a flood of money to fight the ballot initiative has rolled in from Monsanto, DuPont and other biotechnology interests and food manufacturers, now totaling more than $11 million, according to Washington state election records.
“Consumers might be surprised to find out that some of their favorite organic and natural brands, hiding behind their lobbyist, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, are contributing bushel baskets of cash towards thwarting the consumer’s right to know what is in their food in Washington,” says Mark Kastel, codirector of The Cornucopia Institute.
Cornucopia has released an infographic designed to inform consumers and let them make purchasing decisions reflecting their values. Many organic and natural food manufacturers are financially supporting the genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling effort. They and other proponents are identified in Cornucopia’s infographic along with the biotech and agribusiness concerns fighting the labeling effort.
Last year, a similar GMO labeling measure was narrowly defeated in California, with Monsanto and its allies pouring more than $46 million into their campaign and outspending labeling supporters by five to one. Many prominent organic and natural brands were outed in California by Cornucopia for their opposition to GMO food labeling.
Just recently, the powerful Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) publicly scrubbed its website of its members, a move thought by many to be an effort to mask which corporations/brands helped underwrite the $2.2 million already donated by the GMA against I-522. They haven’t, however, been able to remove this web archive detailing their membership.
“They are obviously trying to hide their membership,” says Trudy Bialic, director of public affairs for PCC Natural Markets, a Seattle-based, member-owned grocery cooperative. PCC has been working on GMO issues since 1994 when rBGH—a genetically engineered growth hormone for dairy cattle—was a contentious issue.
Assessing the dollars fueling both campaigns, Bialic observes that “not one individual is listed as a contributor on the ‘No’ side, while the ‘Yes’ side is being funded by thousands of individuals.” PCC itself has contributed $198,344 in support of I-522.
GMA spokesman Brain Kennedy told Politico, that “GMA fully supports the No on 522 Campaign in Washington State, and will continue to support the campaign’s effort to defeat this costly, confusing and unnecessary proposal.”
Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food at the state level is viewed as a watershed event by many industry observers, given the inaction on the popular proposal at the federal level. Monsanto, its biotech allies, and GMA in particular, have been credited for bottlenecking the federal labeling law.
“Just as we’ve observed in Europe, where labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms is mandatory, we fully expect that, when given a choice, consumers will choose organic or non-GMO products,” said Mark A. Kastel, codirector of the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia. “And the industrial food lobby is fully cognizant of this—that’s why they’re fighting like hell against this grassroots effort.”
One leading organic manufacturer that has been actively promoting and funding a “yes on I-522″ vote is Nutiva. “We support I-522 because everyone has a right to know what’s in our food,” says John W Roulac, Nutiva’s founder and CEO. Roulac has been working hard to convince other corporate executives to step up as well. He has committed Nutiva to donating $75,000.
Other prominent commercial backers of state citizen initiatives, viewed as heroes in the organic movement, include Nature’s Path, the prominent cereal manufacturer, and the soap manufacturer, Dr. Bronner’s. Additional organizations throwing their financial weight behind the consumer’s right to know include the health website Mercola.com and the Organic Consumers Association.
The biggest single donor to the “No” campaign is Monsanto. The biotech giant has contributed $4.8 million—an amount greater than all of the funds collected by the right-to-know forces.
“Consumers are increasingly interested in ‘voting with their forks,’ and many want to support companies that share their values,” notes Jason Cole, a researcher for Cornucopia who compiled the data for the infographic. “We know that many organic and ‘natural’ brands, owned by corporate agribusiness, fought the California food labeling effort. We believe, until it is shown otherwise, that many of these same companies are likely clandestinely supporting a defeat of the Washington state effort by funneling their dollars through the Grocery Manufacturers Association.”
Visit EcoWatch’s GE FOOD page for more related news on this topic.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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