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Think You're Eating '100% Natural' Chicken? Think Again

By Kari Hamerschlag

Many health conscious consumers are reducing their consumption of red meat in favor of chicken—especially products labeled and promoted as "100% natural"—believing they are a healthier option produced without routine antibiotics, artificial substances or other drugs.

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Huge Victory: Court Revokes EPA's Approval of Nanosilver Pesticide

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded Tuesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unlawfully allowed a novel antimicrobial pesticide product "NSPW-L30SS" (previously "Nanosilva"), made with silver nanoparticles, for use in an unknown number of textiles and plastics.

The court voided EPA's approval, preventing the product from entering the marketplace and the environment. The opinion is the first of its kind to address EPA's responsibilities in issuing conditional registrations of new pesticides such as this one.

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Judge: EPA's Approval of Bee-Killing Pesticides Violated Federal Law

A federal court has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) systematically violated the Endangered Species Act—a key wildlife protection law—when it approved bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids.

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$3 Million Earmarked for 'Government-Controlled Propaganda Campaign to Convince Americans GMOs Are Safe'

The recently passed Congressional budget that averted government shutdown will allocate $3 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promote "the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic and humanitarian impacts" of biotech crops and genetically modified (GMO) ingredients in food to consumers—many of whom are wary of the products.

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Photo credit: Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest

Court Orders EPA to Close Loophole, Factory Farms Required to Report Toxic Pollution

The DC Circuit Court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday to close a loophole that has allowed hazardous substances released into the environment by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to go unreported.

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EPA Sued for Approving Dow's Deadly Pesticide Combo

Farmers, conservation groups and food and farm justice organizations stood up today to protest against the contamination of rural communities, our food supply and the environment by filing a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration.

The groups are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under new administrator Scott Pruitt for approving Dow AgroScience's Enlist Duo, a mixture of the weed-killing chemicals glyphosate and 2,4-D—both of which are known to be highly toxic. The novel combo pesticide is sprayed directly on corn, soybean and cotton plants that are genetically engineered by Dow specifically to survive exposure to the pesticide. The EPA approved the use of the pesticide in 34 states.

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USDA Grants Final Approval for Monsanto/Scotts' Genetically Engineered Grass

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a final deregulation decision Wednesday approving Monsanto and Scotts' genetically engineered (GE) bentgrass, even as the highly invasive creeping grass continues to spread unchecked beyond its Oregon and Idaho test plots.

Decades-old outdoor experiments have proven the bentgrass impossible to control since it escaped from "controlled" plots and invaded irrigation ditches, riverbanks and the Crooked River National Grassland, crowding out native plants and the wildlife that depends on them. Despite more than a decade of efforts and millions of dollars spent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Scotts and Monsanto have failed to curb the spread of the invasive grass. Yet now the USDA has capitulated to Monsanto's and Scotts' request that federal regulators relinquish any authority over the GE grass, leaving local landowners and state of Oregon to wrestle with the problem.

"The USDA's decision ignores a groundswell of united opposition from state departments of agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, university professors, scientists, farmers and conservationists," said Lori Ann Burd, director of the environmental health program at the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Because this blatant bow to industry will continue to harm farmers, endangered species and the precious landscape, the USDA has left us with no choice but to explore our legal options to return the burden of controlling this weedy grass back to the shoulders of the corporate profiteers who brought it into the world."

The GE bentgrass has already illegally contaminated at least three Oregon counties and the ultralight grass seeds and pollen have proven impossible to eradicate. Farmers and noxious weed experts in eastern Oregon have been outspoken critics of the proposal to approve the grass. In response to widespread contamination, GE creeping bentgrass was declared a noxious weed in Malheur County in 2016. With this approval the responsibility for controlling contamination now shifts from the USDA, Scotts and Monsanto to individual farmers and landowners, left alone to grapple with the problem.

"This decision is a slap in the face to family farmers," said Jerry Erstrom, chairman of the Malheur County Weed Board.

"It's extremely disappointing that the USDA has ignored the concerns of those of us affected by the existing contamination, as well as the Oregon and Idaho departments of agriculture and concerned folks from across the region. I just can't believe that they will turn this loose and let Scotts and Monsanto walk away from what they did here."

Unlike the USDA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized the danger of the novel GE grass and its likelihood of spreading out of control. The federal wildlife agency concluded that if approved, the grass is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the endangered Willamette daisy and Bradshaw's lomatuim and harm the critical habitat of the endangered Fender's blue butterfly and Willamette daisy.

"USDA's approval of this genetically engineered grass is as dangerous as it is unlawful," said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety. "The agency is giving Monsanto and Scotts a free pass for the harm their product has already caused farmers and the environment and is irresponsibly gambling future harm on nothing more than their empty promises." The Center for Food Safety won a 2007 legal victory declaring the GE creeping bentgrass field trials unlawful. Kimbrell authored this December 2016 article on the GE bentgrass saga to date.

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Since 1974, when Roundup was first commercially sold, more than 1.6 billion kilograms (or 3.5 billion pounds) of glyphosate has been used in the U.S. Photo credit: Flickr

Monsanto, California Battle Over Listing Glyphosate as a Carcinogen

Next week, Monsanto and California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) will face off over the agency's plan to list the herbicide glyphosate as a carcinogen. The outcome of this legal battle could have major ramifications to California's long-established regulatory program.

It all started back in Sept. 2015 when the OEHHA issued a notice of intent to list the chemical as known to the state to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65. The OEHHA determined that glyphosate met the criteria under the "Labor Code" listing mechanism, which directs the office to add a chemical or substance to the Prop 65 list of known carcinogens if it meets certain classifications by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The France-based IARC concluded that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)" in March 2015.

Monsanto then filed a lawsuit against the OEHHA in January 2016 to prevent the listing, arguing that the Labor Code listing mechanism is unconstitutional because the office delegated law-making authority "to an unelected and non-transparent foreign body that is not under the oversight or control of any federal or state government entity."

Glyphosate happens to be the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, the world's most popular herbicide. The chemical is applied onto "Roundup Ready" crops that are genetically modified to resist applications of the spray. The agribusiness giant has long maintained the safety of their flagship product and has vehemently denied glyphosate's link to cancer and has also demanded a retraction of the IARC's report. The company's lawsuit also cited the OEHHA's own 2007 study concluding that the chemical was unlikely to cause cancer.

In response, the OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss Monsanto's lawsuit. The office asserted in its motion that the listing mechanism "simply provides a way for OEHHA to make the most of scarce resources." According to the motion, IARC's scientific determinations are "the gold standard in carcinogen identification," and are trusted and relied upon by state governments, the federal government and foreign governments alike.

At the upcoming Jan. 27 hearing in Fresno Superior Court, both sides will make their arguments before a judge decides whether to dismiss the case or allow it to proceed.

"Monsanto's lawsuit is significant for a number of reasons," Kevin Haroff and Marina Cassio of Marten Law wrote in a blog post. "It raises fundamental issues over how scientific health assessments can appropriately be used as the basis for governmental actions, with broad-reaching implications for both consumers and the overall economy. As a practical matter, it also challenges a key element of a unique California regulatory program that has now been in place for three full decades."

The OEHHA's Labor Code listing mechanism using IARC's classification scheme has been tested in court before. In 2013's Styrene Information & Research Center v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (SIRC v. OEHHA), the trial court and appeals court determined that the OEHHA could not just rely on the IARC's classification scheme to list a chemical as a known carcinogen in the state. Rather, the court decided that a listing must always be supported by a finding that the chemical in fact is known to the state to cause cancer. In the end, the OEHHA was required to reevaluate four listed substances and six substances under consideration for listing.

"Put another way, an IARC Group 1 or 2A classification decision could create a presumption that a chemical must be listed as a known carcinogen under Proposition 65; however, court decisions construing the application of the Labor Code listing mechanism and similar provisions suggest that at least in some circumstances the presumption should be a rebuttable one," Haroff and Cassio point out.

"This may be important to how the courts will respond to Monsanto's legal challenge to OEHHA's proposed glyphosate listing," the authors continue. "Monsanto's argument that Proposition 65 improperly delegates lawmaking power to IARC assumes that OEHHA plays no independent role in identifying chemicals known to the state to cause cancer using the Labor Code listing mechanism. OEHHA could counter that that it does play an independent role, since under SIRC v. OEHHA, it has an independent obligation to find that there is evidence sufficient to establish that a chemical is 'known to the state of California' to cause cancer."

On the same day of the hearing, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman will hold a press conference in Fresno in support of the OEHHA. The press conference will take place outside the courthouse at Noon PST and EcoWatch will stream the event live on Facebook.

Kennedy and Michael L. Baum, senior partner at Baum Hedlund, will speak in support of the state of California's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, will speak in support of protecting farm workers from harmful herbicides and pesticides.

Several of Baum Hedlund's and Kennedy's California Roundup cancer clients will also be speaking at the press conference.

Since Monsanto's lawsuit was filed, a number of organizations have intervened on both sides. The organizations that support California's OEHHA include the AFL-CIO, Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Canadian Labor Congress, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Law Foundation.

The organizations supporting Monsanto include California Citrus Mutual, California Cotton Ginners & Growers Association, California Grain and Feed Association, Almond Alliance of California, Western Plant Health Association and Western Agricultural Processors Associations.

The OEHHA has received more than 9,300 written comments in response to the listing. The comments are mostly from individuals and groups supporting the proposed listing. Monsanto, chemical producers and industry groups have also submitted comments opposing the listing. The public comment period is now closed, and OEHHA has yet to take final agency action on the listing.

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Has Europe Been Right All Along to Renounce GE Crops?

By Reynard Loki

Editor's note: The terms GE (genetic engineering) and GMO (genetically modified organism) are often used interchangeably, but their meanings are different. GMOs, which are produced when plant breeders select genetic traits that may also occur naturally, have been around for centuries. Common examples are seedless watermelons and modern broccoli. The subject of much recent debate are GE foods, which have only been around in recent decades and are produced by transferring genes between organisms. The resulting GE organisms—either plant- or in the case of GE salmon, animal-based—would not otherwise occur in nature. This article is about GE foods.

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