By Ken Roseboro
Consumer advocates and non-GMO food experts have criticized the non-GMO certification of Cargill's EverSweet sweetener by NSF's Non-GMO True North program because the product is derived from a genetically engineered yeast and should be considered a GMO.
Sold by Cargill, EverSweet is described as a "next generation, zero calorie sweetener." It is derived through a fermentation process using a GMO yeast, which produces the compounds Reb M and Reb D similar to those found in a stevia leaf. NSF says the yeast is not in EverSweet.
But Dana Pearls, senior food and technology policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the True North non-GMO verification of EverSweet "sets a dangerous precedent for greenwashing other GMO products."
"All products derived from genetic engineering, including the GMO EverSweet, must be regulated, assessed, and labeled," she said. "Ingredients like EverSweet that are derived from genetic engineering are the new GMOs, and labeling must be honest and transparent."
At Odds With Non-GMO Project Standard
"You can't make a truly non-GMO product using genetic engineering," said Megan Westgate, Non-GMO Project executive director. "A product like EverSweet would not be eligible for verification under the Non-GMO Project Standard because it's produced by genetically engineered yeast."
Cargill claims the GMO yeast is "completely filtered out" of the end product sweetener. This allowed the product to be certified by NSF's Non-GMO True North program, according to NSF spokesperson Lindsay Karpinskas. She said the True North standard includes a range of exemptions for enzymes used as processing aids, which are not present in the finished product. These include vitamins, minerals, non-viable or inactivated microorganisms, and microbial growth media such as the fermentation feedstock used to produce Reb M and Reb D in EverSweet.
"These exemptions allow products derived from microorganisms and enzymes to be certified because genetically engineered ingredients are not present in the finished product," Karpinskas said.
But Westgate says it doesn't matter that the GMO yeast isn't in the finished product. "How can you take a GMO microbe and produce something non-GMO with it? It just doesn't really make sense."
John Fagan, CEO of Health Research Institute, a molecular biologist who has extensive experience developing non-GMO standards worldwide, also said Reb M and Reb D in EverSweet should not be certified as non-GMO.
"Technically, Reb M and Reb D are products of a microorganism that is genetically engineered to produce enzymes that enable the yeast to produce Reb M and Reb D. That yeast was specifically engineered to produce Reb M and Reb D, so the genetic engineering that was done to that organism was not incidental to Reb M and Reb D."
Jim Thomas, program director at the ETC Group, a non-profit advocacy group that tracks new GMO technologies, said it's misleading to describe the GMO yeast used to produce Reb M and Reb D as just a processing aid.
"That's a bit like saying a cow is a processing aid for making milk," Thomas said.
Fagan said there are potential human health concerns with EverSweet. "The issue of safety is a real one. When you put new enzymes into a cell using genetic engineering, this changes the balance of the metabolic network in the cell, resulting in metabolites being present at levels not normally found in the cells. These levels are not something the manufacturer can predict or control, and some of these metabolites may be toxic."
Fagan also sayid contaminants can result when Reb M and Reb D are extracted from the GMO yeast, and that these could be toxic or allergenic.
Loophole Allows Other GMO-Derived Ingredients to Be Non-GMO Certified
The fermentation process used to make compounds like EverSweet is known as synthetic biology and is one of the new genetic engineering technologies that include gene editing. A growing number of companies are using synthetic biology techniques that involve altering the DNA of microorganisms such as yeast, algae and bacteria to produce compounds like flavors, fragrances and ingredients that previously have been extracted from plants. Evolva, which works with Cargill to produce EverSweet, has also created a synthetic biology form of vanillin, an alternative to natural vanilla extract. The ETC Group has compiled a database of some 350 synthetic biology products on the market or in development.
Fagan said NSF's True North standard doesn't address synthetic biology products. "Reb M and Reb D are clearly synbio products, and synbio products are definitely classified as GMO by CODEX and the other authoritative definitions of GMO. Given that True North certified them as non-GMO, it would appear that they may have missed the whole synbio category of GMO products."
Another problem is that while the use of GMO processing aids are exempt from GMO labeling in European regulations and Vermont's GMO labeling law, the True North extends that exemption to include other compounds, said Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union.
"The real issue is that any ingredient or additive that comes from a GMO microorganism is exempt (from the True North standard). This is a very problematical loophole."
As a result, Hansen is concerned that more synthetic biology ingredients could also be non-GMO certified. "So, not only can this genetically engineered stevia (EverSweet) get a True North non-GMO label but the Impossible Burger could also get such a label, since the soy leghemoglobin is produced by GMO yeast. Indeed, you could have a product where all the main ingredients were produced by GMO microorganisms and still get the True North Non-GMO Standard."
NSF's True North and the Non-GMO Project are the two certification programs approved for companies making non-GMO claims on products sold in Whole Foods stores. NSF is also a technical administrator to the Non-GMO Project.
Pearls urges NSF to change its standard. "True North's standards should be updated to include new genetic engineering techniques, following the lead of the Non-GMO Project and the National Organic Standards Board (which in 2016 voted to update U.S. organic standards to exclude ingredients derived from next generation genetic engineering techniques)."
"We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things," Trump said today. The president noted that the Iran nuclear deal was a point of contention, but there were other issues where the two famously clashed, including Trump's withdrawal of the U.S. from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
However, it appears Tillerson found out about his firing like this rest of us—via Twitter.
"The Secretary did not speak to the President this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted," Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein said in a statement.
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to… https://t.co/bQrfIvM6iT— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1520945073.0
The Trump administration has gone through several high-level personnel changes during the president's first year in office. Earlier reports suggested that the former ExxonMobil CEO—who reportedly called his boss a "moron"—would soon be on his way out.
During his short tenure at State, Tillerson focused on cutting costs and eliminating staff, including the crucial position of U.S. climate envoy. Many positions at the department remain unfilled.
"Although the Trump administration is packed with billionaires and industry lobbyists, we can't say we're surprised to see Rex Tillerson's stilted and awkward tenure as Secretary of State end," said Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch. "America's premier oil and gas booster should have no role in U.S. diplomacy at a time when we urgently need to transition off of fossil fuels."
Critics have previously spoken against Tillerson's personal and business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his company's storied history of climate deception—even though Exxon admits climate change is real now.
While Pompeo does not head a giant fossil fuel corporation, he has received millions in campaign funds from the billionaire Koch brothers, criticized the Paris climate deal as a "costly burden," and described the assertion that climate change is a national security threat as "ignorant, dangerous and absolutely unbelievable."
"Mike Pompeo is a climate denier and should not be leading the State Department," Hauter noted. "He's been referred to as 'the Koch Brothers' Congressman.'"
Naomi Ages, Greenpeace USA Climate Director, similarly added: "Donald Trump has now somehow picked someone even worse than Rex Tillerson to run the State Department. Greenpeace has been opposed to Tillerson as Secretary of State from the moment he was nominated, and we continue to believe that the U.S. government cannot and should not be run by fossil fuel industry flunkies. Mike Pompeo, though, is uniquely unqualified to be Secretary of State in an entirely different way than Rex Tillerson was. In addition to being a climate denier, like his predecessor, Pompeo is a Koch brothers' shill and a dangerous choice who will continue to denigrate the United States' reputation abroad and make us vulnerable to threats at home."
Hauter also denounced the former Kansas congressman for authoring legislation that preempted state GMO labeling laws, "and would likely continue the U.S. state department's role in promoting genetically modified crops around the world."
"We urge the Senate to reject his nomination," Hauter said.
Tillerson was ineffective at State but Pompeo could be even worse. I served with him in the House – he denies the r… https://t.co/bz35XdznAM— Rep. Barbara Lee (@Rep. Barbara Lee)1520949482.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
After evidence of pesticides killing off pollinators surfaced in 2016, scientists went on a quest to see if pesticides were seeping into anything else. Now, in an unprecedented study, the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Iowa reported findings of neonicotinoids—a class of pesticide used to kill off insects—in treated drinking water, marking the first time these chemicals have ever been identified.
The researchers behind the new study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, took samples from 48 streams that feed the Iowa River, a primary source for drinking water throughout the midwest, and found that 63 percent of the samples contained at least one neonicotinoid compound. The samples were taken shortly after corn and soy were planted in nearby fields.
Even more concerning, samples taken from local tap water and the water treatment plant at the University of Iowa showed three main neonicotinoids, proving that filtration practices are not enough to purify the drinking water. The water was collected over the course of seven weeks, but higher concentrations are likely to occur within one to three days of planting.
"Having these types of compounds present in water does have the potential to be concerning," Gregory LeFevre, a coauthor of the study told The Washington Post. "But we don't really know, at this point, what these levels might be."
There is not enough research on human health surrounding the ingestion of pesticides, especially over a prolonged period of time. But, in a 2015 study on the impacts of neonicotinoids on human health, scientists found that chronic exposure to high concentrations were not that harmful and showed weak findings. However, in smaller vertebrate animals, the effects can be severe. A 2015 study of the effects of neonicotinoids on wildlife concluded that they may cause neurological and developmental issues.
Though the study was exclusive to Iowa, it could have far-reaching effects on the entire U.S.
"Everything in the watershed is connected," LeFevre said. "This is one of many types of trace pollutants that might be present in rivers."
Monsanto has officially broken ground on a $975 million expansion to its Luling plant in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. The facility will manufacture dicamba, a controversial herbicide used in the company's new XtendiMax weedkiller for GMO soybeans and cotton.
Despite the company's promise to bring 120 new full-time jobs to the area, it seems many locals are unhappy with the project.
EPA Approval of Monsanto's Dicamba Will 'Massively Increase Use of Toxic Pesticides' on GMO Crops https://t.co/jeLHlmAgi4 @GMOFreeUSA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478905512.0
Angry online comments have flooded the Times-Picayune's coverage of the Feb. 3 groundbreaking. The newspaper's Facebook post of the story has garnered 433 shares and 114 comments so far, with many people criticizing the new plant as well as the company itself.
"120 jobs isn't worth having this toxic company in your backyard...," the top Facebook comment states. The comment was "Liked" 117 times.
"Diacamba [sic] is bad. California just won the right to label Roundup as cancer causing," a newspaper reader commented. "So excited for Cancer Alley to grow."
Indeed, California could become the first state to require Monsanto to label its glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, as a possible carcinogen following a judge's tentative ruling on Jan. 27. Monsanto opposes the ruling, saying its top-selling product is safe.
Judge Blocks Monsanto's Bid to Stop California From Listing Glyphosate as Carcinogenic https://t.co/srYsV0fmtA @justlabelit @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485814210.0
But Monsanto's $975 million investment on dicamba represents a major shift from its "bread-and-butter glyphosate herbicide business," as Reuters noted. Glyphosate, the world's most widely applied herbicide, has faced intense backlash ever since the World Health Organization's cancer research arm linked the compound to cancer in March 2015.
The other major problem with glyphosate is the proliferation of "superweeds" that have grown resistant to the herbicide. Monsanto's new XtendiMax weedkiller, a combination of dicamba and glyphosate, is designed to address the problem.
Many health and environmental advocates, however, are worried that the company's new focus on dicamba will just put the world on another pesticide treadmill and create stronger weeds.
"Pesticide resistant superweeds are a serious threat to our farmers, and piling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides," said Dr. Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Dicamba was at the center of major controversy in the agricultural space last summer. Monsanto was criticized for selling its dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans to farmers for several growing seasons before gaining federal approval for the pesticide that goes along with it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only approved the XtendiMax formulation in November. The EPA's delayed approval led to farmers illegally spraying older versions of highly volatile dicamba on their crops last summer, sparking a massive swath of complaints from farmers who saw crop damage from the herbicide drifting onto their fields.
Damage was reported across 10 states on a number of non-target crops such as peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans, the EPA said.
10 States Report Crop Damage From Illegal Dicamba Use on Monsanto's GMO Seeds https://t.co/KcqhwWoSq3 @GMOTruth @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1472867707.0
XtendiMax is said to be less drift-prone than older versions of dicamba. Monsanto has also given farmers specific instructions for its application. The company has high hopes for its new product, projecting that the XtendiMax system will be utilized on about 15 million soybean acres and 3 million cotton acres in 2017.
"Monsanto is committing to a nearly billion dollar Dicamba expansion where a new tool to fight invasive species/pests will be produced," Mike Strain, Louisiana's commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, said after the groundbreaking ceremony last week.
"This herbicide should greatly benefit our Ag producers. The expansion will also bring approximately 1000 construction jobs to St. Charles Parish and about 100 new direct jobs to the area."
The new facility in Luling is expected to be completed in 2019.
Before Inauguration Day, the Trump era has opened with an extremist agenda that poses an alarming threat to our people, our environment and the core values we share about justice, fair play and our commitment to leave future generations a livable world. Already, we've seen a set of cabinet nominees dominated by fossil fuel advocates, billionaires and bankers; a president-elect who says "nobody really knows" what's happening to our climate; and a full-on witch hunt for the experts who know the truth.
#Trump Declares All-Out War on Environment With Fossil Fuel-Loving Cabinet https://t.co/8ZG3u1A6a6 @greenpeaceusa @Greenpeace @350 @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482084229.0
This is not normal. It's the most radical approach to American governance we've seen in our lifetime. Whatever we voted on in November, nobody voted for dirty water and air. Nobody voted to walk away from climate leadership and millions of clean energy jobs. And nobody voted to hand over our country to a pollute-ocracy that puts polluter profits first—and puts the rest of us at risk.
The following list addresses some, but not all, programs, policies and initiatives the Trump administration and GOP lawmakers have targeted. This could become the worst legislative and executive assault in history against the common sense safeguards we all depend on to protect our environment and health. At risk is the water we drink, the air we breathe, our public oceans, coasts and lands and the very approach we've taken for generations in this country to protect our common inheritance.
At the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), we will stand up and hold this government to account, by making sure the public understands what's at stake—for our country, our people and the common future we share.
Climate and Energy
The Clean Power Plan: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the first national standards reducing dangerous carbon pollution from our largest source, fossil fuel power plants. The Clean Power Plan provides reasonable state-specific goals for carbon cuts, flexibility for states to meet them and a federal plan that will cut a key driver of climate change 32 percent by 2030 and stimulate growth in clean energy. More here and here.
Here are 10 questions the Senate must ask Scott Pruitt and Rex Tillerson. https://t.co/vsK1hAhcT4 via @EcoWatch— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1483562166.0
International Climate Agreement: The Paris climate agreement signed by nearly 200 nations and effective as of Nov. 4, 2016 is a global response to the threat of climate change. It aims to hold global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. More here and here.
HFC International Commitments: In October 2016, more than 140 countries signed onto the Kigali Agreement, which calls for phasing down powerful climate-warming pollutants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol, the treaty that saved the ozone layer. Industry supports the agreement. More here.
Reducing Methane Pollution and Natural Gas Waste in the Oil and Natural Gas Industry (BLM & EPA): These standards will reduce methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and toxic air emissions from fracking and other oil and gas operations. Leaks and purposeful venting waste gas that could be sold and used while threatening health and worsening climate change. More here and here.
Restrictions on public financing for overseas coal projects: The Obama administration restricted U.S. funding for overseas coal power plants to limit climate change. This affects the Export Import Bank and other entities. More here.
Assessing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (CEQ): The White House Council on Environmental Quality issued guidance to federal agencies on analyzing the climate impacts of their proposed actions before deciding on how to proceed. More here.
One of the main concerns of the anti-GMO crowd is the supposed outsized influence that the biotech industry has over academia, science and public policy. For instance, you might have heard of the term "Monsanto shill"—which refer to professors, scientists and politicians who are paid to push certain products.
13 Academics Who Are Shills for Corporate Giants https://t.co/3ccg4ReKcB #BigOil #BigFood @NRDC @sierraclub @food_democracy @Greenpeace— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473704917.0
Now, a new study published in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal PLOS ONE gives more credence to the anti-GMO concern.
French researchers have determined that financial conflicts of interest can be found in a large number of published articles on GMO crops. Significantly, if a conflict of interest was determined, the study's outcome tended to be more favorable to the company that funded it.
For the study, the research team combed through hundreds of published articles focusing on the efficacy or durability of genetically modified Bt crops and any ties that the researchers carrying out the study had with the biotech industry. These articles focused on GM maize and cotton developed by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Pioneer. Such crops have been inserted with a pest-resistant toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.
A conflict of interest was determined if an author declared an affiliation to one of the biotech companies or received funding or payment from them.
"We found that ties between researchers and the GM crop industry were common, with 40 percent of the articles considered displaying conflicts of interest (COI)," the study states. "In particular, we found that, compared to the absence of COI, the presence of a COI was associated with a 50 percent higher frequency of outcomes favorable to the interests of the GM crop company."
This means that conflicts of interests are not only pervasive in GMO research, it could be leaving an impact.
Thomas Guillemaud, lead author and director of research at France's National Institute for Agricultural Research, told AFP that he and his team found 579 articles that clearly indicated if there was or was not any financial conflict of interest.
Of the 350 articles without conflicts of interest, 36 percent were favorable to GM crop companies. However, of the 229 studies with a conflict of interest, 54 percent were favorable to GM companies.
Monsanto Shareholders Approve Bayer Merger to Form World's Largest Seed and Chemical Company https://t.co/2cEeaJjiZt @GMOFreeUSA @GMOTruth— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481756711.0
However, the authors admitted their study had some limitations:
"First, we explored only two characteristics of Bt crops: efficacy and durability. Other characteristics and consequences of these transgenic plants, including all those relating to the environment (e.g. the impact of Bt crops on non-target insects) or health, merit a similar analysis."
"Second, as we used the addresses of authors to identify their affiliations, only one type of affiliation, that relating to employment, was considered. However, authors may have affiliations to GM crop companies of other types, such as being members of advisory boards, consultants, or co-holders of patents, and this could also have a significant impact on the outcomes of studies on GM crops. We did not consider these affiliations as they are not usually reported in articles (COI statements became obligatory in some journals only recently and, as revealed here, they remain very rare). The consideration of other types of affiliation would require a survey that would be difficult to perform given that more than 1,500 authors were considered in this study.
"Third, we have considered only the links between authors and GM crop companies. Other stakeholders (e.g. Greenpeace, The Non-GMO Project, The Organic Consumers Association, The Network of European GMO-free Regions) oppose GM crop companies in being openly against the use of GM crops. An inverse relationship might therefore be expected between the outcomes of studies on GM crops and the presence of COIs relating to these stakeholders. We were unable to test this hypothesis because we identified no financial interests connected with anti-GMO stakeholders, in terms of the professional affiliation of the authors or their declared funding sources.
"Finally, this study focused exclusively on financial COIs. Non-financial COIs, also known as intrinsic or intellectual COI—due to personal, political, academic, ideological, or religious interests—might also have a significant impact on the outcomes of research studies. It is difficult to decipher intellectual COIs and, as for the detection of non-professional affiliations with GM crop companies, it would be a major challenge to perform such an analysis given the large number of authors considered."
But as Guillemaud noted to AFP, "The most important point was how we also showed there is a statistical link between the presence of conflicts of interest and a study that comes to a favorable conclusion for GMO crops."
"When studies had a conflict of interest, this raised the likelihood 49 percent that their conclusions would be favorable to GMO crops," he added. "We thought we would find conflicts of interest, but we did not think we would find so many."
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been nominated to serve as U .S. Ambassador to China in Donald Trump's Administration, a pick that has some of Big Ag's biggest players celebrating.
Donald Trump has chosen Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as ambassador to China. Twitter
Branstad is the longest-serving governor in U.S. history with 22 non-consecutive years and going under his belt. During his tenure, he has built significant relationships with Iowa's agribusinesses and has helped spur trade of the state's beef, pork and soy products to Asian consumers, and once struck a $4.3 billion deal with Chinese officials for Iowa's exports.
This past October, China signed a $2.1 billion deal for Iowa soybeans to feed Chinese livestock. In November, less than a week after Trump's presidential win, Branstad traveled to China to promote Iowa beef and pork. It was his seventh such trip to China as governor.
The Republican governor's friendship with Chinese president Xi Jinping goes back three decades after Xi visited rural Iowa in 1985.
"Ensuring the countries with the two largest economies and two largest militaries in the world maintain a collaborative and cooperative relationship is needed more now than ever," Branstad said after Trump's announcement.
I'm honored and humbled to accept this responsibility as Amb to China; Iowa will never be far from my heart #iagov https://t.co/kkyXBYNElZ— Terry Branstad (@Terry Branstad)1481143271.0
At a Wednesday meeting in St. Louis with United Soybean Board and the American Soybean Association, Monsanto chief technology officer Robb Fraley praised the president-elect's latest top-level pick.
"[Fraley] said Branstad's past work on behalf of biotech acceptance and advocacy for U.S. agriculture makes him an excellent choice for the role," according to Farm Journal editor Susan Luke.
China, Monsanto and Iowa are all linked by the humble soybean. Monsanto controls 90 percent of soybean production in the U.S. and Iowa happens to be a top soybean grower, with 97 percent of the state's soybeans grown from genetically modified (GMO) seeds. China is the world's largest soybean consumer, importing about 25 percent of all U.S. soy produced.
Soybeans sold to China are "the largest U.S. agricultural export as their value rose from about $400,000 annually during 1996-97 to as high as $14.5 billion in 2014," Fred Gale, U.S. Department of Agriculture agricultural economist told ChinaDaily USA.
China's booming population is driving increased meat consumption and increased imports of corn and soybeans to feed livestock. Incidentally, China has banned the cultivation of GMO crops, as Chinese consumers are generally fearful of the food's perceived health risks. Rather, the country buys GMO soy for cooking oil or animal feed. But in recent years, China has pushed for the domestic commercialization of GMO soybeans, spending billions on research. President Xi himself called for the domestic cultivation of GMO crops in 2014.
Branstad's nomination was also praised by Iowa Corn Growers Association president Kurt Hora, noting that China does not just buy corn to feed its animals, it's also a large buyer of U.S. ethanol.
"China is an important market for U.S. corn in all forms including the second-largest purchaser of U.S. ethanol last marketing year; and a critical buyer of U.S. distiller's dried grains (DDGS). The China/Hong Kong market is also the third largest customer for both U.S. pork and beef exports," Hora said.
Corn ethanol has been touted as an energy alternative, but the biofuel "might be worse than petroleum when total greenhouse gas emissions are considered," Scientific American explained.
Mother Jones's Tom Philpott called Trump's choice of Branstad a "gift" to Big Ag, highlighting the governor's close ties to Bruce Rastetter, the CEO of Summit Agriculture Group, a major Iowa pork and ethanol producer, who contributed $164,875 towards Branstad's run for governor in 2010. Eldon Roth, CEO of Beef Products International, contributed another $152,000.
Not only that, "back in 2011, the governor also tapped Rastetter's brother Brent, who then ran a business constructing industrial-scale hog-rearing facilities, to the state's Environmental Protection Commission. Branstad also signed into law one of those infamous "ag gag" bills, championed by Big Ag, that make it a crime to secretly document conditions inside livestock farms," Philpott wrote.
Ronnie Cummins, the director of the Organic Consumers Association, criticized Trump's latest pick.
"[The selection of] Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for U.S. Ambassador to China is good news for the factory farm cartel, the ethanol lobby, Big Pharma Bayer and Monsanto, but very bad news for organic consumers and farmers, as well as everyone in the world who cares about justice, healthy food and soils, the environment, humane treatment of animals and re-stabilizing our dangerously out-of-control climate," Cummins told EcoWatch.
Ken Roseboro, the editor and publisher of the Organic & Non-GMO Report, agreed.
"As an Iowan, I've seen that Governor Terry Branstad has been a big supporter of factory farms in Iowa, which threaten the environment, human health and quality of life for Iowans," Roseboro told EcoWatch. "His appointment as Ambassador to China is likely to accelerate that unsustainable trend since China is deeply involved in Iowa's pork production and factory farms."
Health and environmental advocates have been very critical of Trump's recent slew of nominations for his incoming administration. Just yesterday, the president-elect announced his pick of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 350.org's Executive Director May Boeve called Pruitt a fossil fuel "puppet."
OMG! #Trump Picks #ScottPruitt, 'Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry,' to Head @EPA https://t.co/NOqLYyg4zn @billmckibben @MarkRuffalo @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481145607.0
"Donald Trump appears destined for the Guinness Book of Records for appointing the most corrupt and dangerous administration officials in U.S. history," Cummins told EcoWatch. "If I were a Reality TV host, my message to Donald and his cronies would be clear: You're fired."
A New York Times report concluded that, compared to Western Europe, the United States and Canada have "no discernible advantage" in yields after embracing GMOs.Flickr
Investigative reporter Danny Hakim's piece argues that in the last two decades GMO crops have been a mainstay in conventional agriculture and the technology has not led to larger yields nor reduced pesticide use, despite the biotech industry's promises of both. He also notes that the fear that GMOs are unsafe to eat are "largely unsubstantiated."
Using United Nations data, Hakim compared the yields of GMO corn and sugar beets in the U.S. and Canada with their non-GMO counterparts in Europe, which is
largely suspicious of GMOs and strictly regulates its cultivation.
"The United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields—food per acre—when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany," he wrote.
Hakim's conclusion, he points out, is similar to a report from the National Academy of Sciences that found GMO crops have not, to date, increased actual yields and should not be exclusively relied upon to meet long-term food security needs.
Academies of Science Finds GMOs 'Safe,' But 'More Research Needed' https://t.co/Bfz9pkKd5D @justlabelit @TrueFoodNow— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1463606120.0
As per the New York Times article:
"One measure, contained in data from the United States Geological Survey, shows the stark difference in the use of pesticides. Since genetically modified crops were introduced in the United States two decades ago for crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, the use of toxins that kill insects and fungi has fallen by a third, but the spraying of herbicides, which are used in much higher volumes, has risen by 21 percent.
"By contrast, in France, use of insecticides and fungicides has fallen by a far greater percentage—65 percent—and herbicide use has decreased as well, by 36 percent."
The article also highlighted the tragic cycle of ever-stronger herbicides to combat herbicide-resistant superweeds. For instance, 10 states have reported devastating crop damage after farmers illegally sprayed their GMO soybeans and cotton with drift-prone dicamba in order to beat back weeds that have evolved against Monsanto's flagship product, Roundup.
"The NYT has finally admitted what a number of us have been saying for 20 years," Ronnie Cummins, founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association, told EcoWatch via email. "GMOs are designed to increase the sales of the proprietary toxic pesticides and patented seeds of Monsanto and the other gene giants, and offer nothing in the way of increased nutrition, yield, adaptation to
climate change, nor reduction of pesticide and chemical inputs."
10 States Report Crop Damage From Illegal Dicamba Use on Monsanto's GMO Seeds https://t.co/KcqhwWoSq3 @GMOTruth @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1472867707.0
In September, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant appeared in a joint appearance of their proposed
$66 billion merger which would create the world's largest seed and pesticide company.
Both chiefs echoed Big Ag's mantra that GMOs increase crop yields in an environmentally friendly way and is one solution to feed a global population that will reach 10 billion by 2050.
"We are fully committed to helping solve one of the biggest challenges of society, and that is how to feed a massively growing world population in an environmentally sustainable manner," Baumann said. "What we do is good for consumers. We help produce efficient, safe, healthy and affordable food. It is also good for our growers because they have better choices to increase yields in a sustainable way."
The New York Times report, however, makes it clear that this narrative needs much further scrutiny.
1/Lots of reaction to my story on GMO crops & whether they increase yields and reduce pesticide use, as promised. https://t.co/vkQOYu1Vto— Danny Hakim (@Danny Hakim)1477823032.0
14/Overall, most persistent claim I hear from industry is GMOs are critical to feed the world. That’s why yield issue is relevant.— Danny Hakim (@Danny Hakim)1477915221.0
By Christina Sarich
One of Monsanto's former companies, among nine contractors responsible for creating Agent Orange, sprayed more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide on an area of South Vietnam about the size of the state of Massachusetts between 1962 and 1971.
In a caustic plot twist, the Vietnamese government says it hopes to have 30 to 50 percent of its cropland planted with GMOs by 2020—exactly 55 years after the U.S. government first devastated Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas.
U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam.Wikimedia Commons
Monsanto and the U.S. government alike have issued statements saying Monsanto deserves no blame for making chemical agents that have caused hundreds of thousands of birth defects and contaminated Vietnam's land so inexorably that even without applying additional herbicides to transgenic crops, they shall remain toxic for decades.
Babies are still being born today with horrific birth defects—decades after Agent Orange was sprayed so haphazardly across Vietnam. Nearly 4.8 million Vietnamese people have been exposed, causing 400,000 deaths and a grab bag of health issues that would make a haunted house seem cheery. An estimated 650,000 victims are suffering from chronic illnesses linked to Agent Orange in Vietnam, alone.
The Vietnamese government has never officially stated its stance on the grievous actions of Monsanto and other military contractors for the U.S., focusing instead on reparations for victims of Agent Orange. As one of the makers of Agent Orange, Monsanto claims they were just following the recipe for the formula as directed by the U.S. government.
Instead, the country seems to be embracing a company headquartered in the U.S. and its incessant propaganda promoting genetically modified organisms.
Furthermore, dioxin, found in Agent Orange, is one of the most dangerous chemicals ever made by man. Though the U.S. military carries out orders to help remove dioxin "hot-spots," their actions include heating the old Da Nang air base to temperatures above 600 degrees Fahrenheit, a level said to render the toxin harmless. There is no scientific proof that this even works.
A draft report released for public comment in September 1994 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clearly describes dioxin as a serious public health threat, yet Cao Duc Phat, Vietnam's former agriculture minister says there's no problem. "GMOs are a scientific achievement of humankind, and Vietnam needs to embrace them as soon as possible," he stated.
This is a surprising statement since dioxin and other herbicides are part of the overall platform upon which genetically modified crops are sold. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in recent years, more than 93 percent of soy planted in America was "herbicide tolerant," meaning it was engineered to withstand herbicides (sold by the same companies who patent and sell the seeds).
Although the toxicity of dioxins harms human health through other means of contamination, such as through industrial emissions, Enlist Duo, the latest herbicidal development by Dow Agrochemical and Monsanto is a combination of both 2,4-D and glyphosate. It has been called the "Agent Orange" of GMOs by environmentalists, though others dispute this fact.
Meanwhile, Monsanto, who has absolved themselves from any responsibility in practically defecating on Vietnam with their insidious chemicals, is creating yet a new herbicide for use in the U.S. Companies like Dow Chemical and Bayer are also implicated in putting more dioxin into the environment—and they too promote the GMO agenda.
Dekalb Vietnam, which operates under U.S. mega-corporation Monsanto; Pioneer Hi-Bred Vietnam, under the U.S.'s Dupont; and Syngenta of Switzerland have been licensed to carry out lab research and tests on genetically-modified seeds in Vietnam since 2011.
Moreover, Monsanto received the endorsement of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which announced that their worm- and weed-killer-resistant varieties are "environmentally friendly."
Reposted with permission from UndergroundReporter.org.
India is steeped in a synthesized controversy created by Monsanto on the first GMO crop supposedly approved for commercialization. Engaged in litigation on many fronts, Monsanto is trying to subvert India's patent laws: Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, Essential Commodities Act and Competition Act. It is behaving as if there is no Parliament, no democracy, no sovereign laws in India to which it is subject. Or it simply doesn't have any regard for them.
Light Brigading / Flickr
In another theatre, Monsanto and Bayer are merging. They were one as MoBay (MonsantoBayer), part of the poison cartel of I.G. Farben. The controlling stakes of both corporations lie with the same private equity firms. The expertise of these firms is in war. I.G. Farben, Adolf Hitler's economic powerhouse and pre-war Germany's highest foreign exchange earner, was also a foreign intelligence operation. Hermann Schmitz was president of I.G. Farben, Schmitz's nephew Max Ilgner was a director of I.G. Farben, while Max's brother Rudolph Ilgner ran the New York arm as vice-president of Chemnyco.
Paul Warburg, brother of Max Warburg (board of directors, Farben Aufsichtsrat), founded the U.S. Federal Reserve System. Max Warburg and Hermann Schmitz played a central role in the Farben empire. Other "guiding hands" of Farben Vorstand included Carl Bosch, Fritz ter Meer, Kurt Oppenheim and George von Schnitzler. Each of them was adjudged a "war criminal" after World War II, except Paul Warburg.
Monsanto and Bayer have a long history. They made explosives and lethally poisonous gases using shared technologies and sold them to both sides in the two world wars. The same war chemicals were bought by the Allied and Axis powers, from the same manufacturers, with money borrowed from the same bank.
MoBay supplied ingredients for Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Around 20 million gallons of MoBay defoliants and herbicides were sprayed over South Vietnam. Children are still being born with birth defects, adults have chronic illnesses and cancers, due to their exposure to MoBay's chemicals. Monsanto and Bayer's cross-licensed Agent Orange resistance has also been cross-developed for decades. Wars were fought, lives lost, nations carved into holy lands — with artificial boundaries that suit colonization and resource grab — while Bayer and Monsanto sold chemicals as bombs and poisons and their brothers provided the loans to buy those bombs.
More recently, Bayer CropScience AG and Monsanto are believed to have entered into a long-term business relationship. This gives Monsanto and Bayer free access to each other's herbicide and paired herbicide resistance technology. Through cross-licensing agreements, mergers and acquisitions, the biotech industry has become the I.G. Farben of today, with Monsanto in the cockpit.
The global chemical and GMO industry—Bayer, Dow Agro, DuPont Pioneer, Mahyco, Monsanto and Syngenta—have come together to form the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) to try and become bigger bullies in this assault on India's farmers, environment and democratically-framed laws that protect the public and the national interest. This is in addition to Association of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises (ABLE), which tried to challenge India's seed price control order issued under the Essential Commodities Act in the Karnataka high court. The case was dismissed.
The new group is not "seed industry;" they produce no seeds. They try to stretch patents on chemicals to claim ownership on seeds, even in countries where patents on seeds and plants are not allowed. This is the case in India, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and many other countries.
All Monsanto cases in India are related to Monsanto un-scientifically, illegally and illegitimately claiming patents on seed, in contempt of India's laws, and trying to collect royalties from the Indian seed industry and farmers. The FSII is an "I.G. Farben 100-Year Family Reunion," a coming together of independent and autonomous entities.
The Farben family chemical cartel was responsible for exterminating people in concentration camps. It embodies a century of ecocide and genocide, carried out in the name of scientific experimentation and innovation. Today, the poison cartel is wearing G-Engineering clothes and citing the mantra of "innovation" ad nauseam. Hitler's concentration camps were an "innovation" in killing; and almost a century later, the Farben family is carrying out the same extermination—silently, globally and efficiently.
Monsanto's "innovation" of collecting illegal royalties and pushing Indian farmers to suicide is also an innovation in killing without liability, indirectly. Just because there is a new way to kill doesn't make killing right. "Innovation," like every human activity, has limits—set by ethics, justice, democracy, the rights of people and of nature.
[email protected]: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger & #Farmers Commit #Suicide http://t.co/nXJDEugLaP http://t.co/Jef9K9TkAt— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1439574016.0
I.G. Farben was tried in Nuremberg. We have national laws to protect people, their right to life and public health, and the environment. India's biosafety and patent laws and the Plant Variety Act are designed to regulate greedy owners of corporations with a history of crimes against nature and humanity.
Industry is getting ready to push its next "gene," the GMO mustard (DMH-11). The GMO mustard, being promoted as a public sector "innovation," is based on barnase/barstar/gene system to create male-sterile plants and a bar gene for glufosinate resistance. In 2002, Pro-Agro's (Bayer) application for approval of commercial planting of GM mustard based on the same system was turned down.
Although banned in India, Bayer finds ways to sell glufosinate illegally to Assam's tea gardens and the apple orchards of Himachal Pradesh. Sales agents show the sale of glufosinate under the "others" category to avoid regulation. These chemicals are finding their way into the bodies of our children without government approval. Essentially, all key patents related to the bar gene are held by Bayer Crop Science, which acquired Aventis Cropscience, which itself was created out of the genetic engineering divisions of Schering, Rhone Poulenc and Hoechst. Then Bayer acquired Plant Genetic Systems and entered into cooperation agreement with Evogene, which has patents on genome mapping.
Before any approval is granted to genetically-engineered mustard, the issue of limits to patentability needs to be resolved on the basis of Indian laws and patents on plants and seeds and methods of agriculture must not be allowed. Deepak Pental, a retired professor and GMO-Operative, will not commercialize GMO mustard seed. His officers at Bayer/Monsanto/MoBay will.
Given our experience with GMO cotton, The Ministry of Environment & Forests is considering the option of putting in place guidelines for socio-economic assessment to judge proposed GMO varieties on the basis of factors such as the economy, health, environment, society and culture.
At the core of socio-economic assessment is the issue of monopolies and cartels, and their impact on small farmers. Even though patents on seeds are not allowed, for more than a decade and a half, Monsanto has extracted illegal royalties from Indian farmers, trapping them in debt and triggering an epidemic of farmers' suicides. Monsanto's war on India's foot soldiers—farmers—is a war being waged by the Farben family, on our Earth family.
By Nika Knight
Experiments involving genetically engineered animals have nearly tripled in Germany in the past 10 years, driven by a burgeoning global industry that involves inventing and patenting genetically altered species for scientific research, says a new study commissioned by Germany's Green Party and conducted by the research group Testbiotech.
A GMO mouse with a gene related to hair growth removed from its genome, at left, next to a mouse with an unaltered genome.Wikimedia Commons
"The massive increase in animal testing in the genetics field is unacceptable," Nicole Maisch, the Green Party's parliamentary spokesperson for the protection of animals and consumer policy, told the newspaper Der Westen.
"Particularly when the experiments' usefulness from a medical standpoint is extremely questionable or when the trials have revealed themselves to be unsuccessful," Maisch said, "we must not allow any more animals to be tortured."
The study, which was released Wednesday and shared with Süddeutsche Zeitung and newspapers owned by Germany's Funke Mediengruppe, found that nearly 950,000 animals were subjected to experiments in Germany in 2013 alone and a full third of those involved genetically modified animals.
The genomes of mice, rats and fish are being tinkered with the most, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung, but rabbits and pigs are popular choices, too.
Moreover, Süddeutsche Zeitung notes:
In contrast to conventional animal testing, the research on genetically manipulated animals is especially deadly, says Silke Strittmatter of the organization Doctors Against Animal Experiments: "We can safely assume that up to 54 animals die for the creation of a single genetically modified animal." To achieve the desired outcome, scientists must experiment with many variations, which in many cases involves breeding multiple generations and then killing them. In this fashion, the number of genetically altered animals is increasing, despite the fact that in the last two years, for the first time the number of animals used for traditional experimental trials has fallen.
A race to patent and profit from genetically modified species is driving the growing global market for such creatures, observes the German newspaper: "Researchers patent altered animals, such as "knockout mice" and sign license deals with corporations, which in turn aggressively market the animals to laboratories—as "custom-manipulated rodents," for example."
The newspaper continues:
In the USA, biotech corporations market patented animals aggressively. [Study author Christoph] Then describes a downright "price war." Patents for new genetic engineering techniques then lead to more animal trials. In recent years, patent applications were even submitted for genetically modified primates and great apes—and some of those were approved. It is for this reason that the speaker for the Green faction on genetic engineering, Harald Ebner, is calling for a Europe-wide ban on patents on living things.
Ebner also told Süddeutsche Zeitung that he fears so-called "free trade" deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will lead to the worldwide dispersal of products from genetically modified animals.
The newspaper observes that "meat and other products from genetically modified animals cannot be sold in Germany. [...] In other countries, however, among other things scientists are experimenting with altering the ingredients of milk by changing the genes of cows. For such experiments, embryos must be genetically altered and then implanted in a surrogate. The Testbiotech study notes that these experiments often involve pain and suffering, as such laboratory animals are frequently killed in order to remove cells or the genetically modified embryo."
It seems other countries have reason to worry, as the U.S. government continues to fight for pro-GMO legislation. Indeed, when President Obama last week signed into law a corporate-friendly GMO labeling bill, he "scratched out the laws of Vermont, Connecticut and Maine that required the labeling of genetically engineered foods," reports AlterNet.
"He also nullified the [GMO] seed labeling laws in Vermont and Virginia that allowed farmers to choose what seeds they wanted to buy and plant," the progressive outlet observes, adding that "for good measure he preempted Alaska's law requiring the labeling of any [GMO] fish or fish product, passed to protect the state's vital fisheries from contamination by recently approved genetically engineered salmon."
On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi and a small band of supporters set off on a 241-mile march across western India. Gandhi had devised the walk as an act of nonviolent protest against the British colonial government's salt monopoly, which placed tariffs on the mineral and forbid Indians from producing it. Upon arriving at the coastal city of Dandi in early April, he illegally collected salt from the seaside as a symbolic act of defiance against the British Raj. His actions sent shockwaves across the subcontinent, inspiring scores of Indians to flout the salt tax and launch strikes and boycotts against colonial institutions. Gandhi and some 80,000 others were soon arrested, but not before their peaceful protest had captured the world's attention and demonstrated the power of mass resistance to British rule. — Remembering Gandhi's Salt March, by Evan Andrews
The deed is done. On July 29, President Obama signed a bill that was written by corporations, paid for by corporations and that serves no one in this country—except corporations.
Join 500,000 consumers who are boycotting brands owned by companies that refuse to label. https://t.co/jRMur2lJLh https://t.co/IuwKOyLyue— Organic Consumers (@Organic Consumers)1470261911.0
S.764, known by its opponents as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, preempts Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling law and substitutes in its place a federal bill that, no matter how Obama and his Congress try to spin it, is not mandatory and does not require labels—at least not labels that anyone can read. Not to mention that most GMO ingredients will be exempt under this fake "law."
I could, once again, list all the reasons this bill fails consumers. But I and others have already done that countless times, to no avail. The bill is a sham, a slap in the face to the 90 percent of Americans who support labeling. It's an attack on states' rights. It's another "gift" to Monsanto and Big Food.
And, for anyone who still harbored any doubt, S.764 is proof that our Democracy is broken, that our lawmakers answer to Corporate America, not to us, the people who elect them.
It would be easy, after four-and-a-half years of non-stop fighting for labels, to cave in to despair. But let's not give Monsanto the satisfaction. Because the truth is, while we may not always be able to win in a policy arena awash in corporate money, we, as consumers, still have tremendous power to influence the marketplace.
It's time to wield that power. Against poison-peddling biotech corporations. Against food companies that hide the truth about what's in their products. Against those "leaders" in the organic industry who sold us down the river on GMO labeling.
It's time to launch a Gandhi-style boycott.
If Vermont mounts a legal challenge to the DARK Act, we will endorse that effort. But in the meantime, we will channel our anger, our disappointment and above all, our energy, into the marketplace. Because that's where we as consumers will have last word.
Retweet if you agree with Jane Goodall. #ThursdayThoughts https://t.co/tvXKAeNWX8— Organic Consumers (@Organic Consumers)1470356423.0
What We've Accomplished So Far
Before we get on to what's next, let's look at what the GMO labeling movement accomplished, despite passage of the DARK Act.
We educated a critical mass of American consumers about the health and environmental hazards of GMOs and the toxic chemicals that accompany them. When we started this battle, public awareness of genetically engineered food and crops and the damage they inflict on the environment and human health, was marginal at best. Today "GMO," "Monsanto" and "glyphosate" are household words.
We've doubled demand for organic and grass-fed food in the U.S. over the past six years. Organic food and grass-fed meat and animal products are now a $50-billion-a-year powerhouse, the fastest-growing segment of the food system. The market for non-GMO labeled products has grown to $25 billion. Organic, grass-fed and non-GMO foods now constitute approximately 10 percent of all grocery store sales and represent a growing segment of restaurant sales as well.
We forced multi-billion-dollar junk food conglomerates, including General Mills, Kellogg's, Campbell's, Mars, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Dannon, Con-Agra and others to start labeling their products as GMO or else remove GMO ingredients, ahead of the July 1 date for the (short-lived) enactment of Vermont's GMO labeling law. Now that Vermont's law has been preempted, we need to pressure these companies to keep labeling—or we'll call for a boycott of all of their organic products, including their organic brands.
We've alerted millions of consumers that they can't trust the mass media, regulatory agencies or the scientific establishment. If consumers or farmers want truthful information about food and farming they need to tune in to the alternative and social media. This alternative media includes the mass circulation newsletters, websites and Facebook pages of groups like Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network, Moms Across America, Regeneration International, Seed Freedom and hundreds of others that refuse to regurgitate industry propaganda. We need to keep supporting the truth-seekers, like U.S. Right to Know, as they continue to expose Big Food's dark secrets.
Where We Go From Here
It was worth fighting for labels on GMO foods. But we've always known that labels were just one tool in the toolbox. And that the GMOs in the food in our grocery stores are just one piece of a big, bad, dangerous puzzle.
Only about 20 percent of GMOs go into the food we buy. The other 80 percent of all GMO crops go into either animal feed or ethanol fuels. The growing of those crops, which requires millions of tons of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, exacts a terrible toll on our soils, our waters, our health, our future.
It's time to mobilize public consciousness and market pressure and transform our entire degenerate chemical- and energy-intensive industrial food and farming system into a system that regenerates—a system that can restore biodiversity and revitalize public health, animal health, the environment, rural communities and the body politic, while drawing down billions of tons of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and safely sequestering this carbon in the soil and forests, where it belongs.
It's time to drive GMOs off the market, for good.
In the coming weeks and months, we will launch critical new campaigns, some of them international in scope, designed to pressure the bad actors in the food industry to clean up their acts—or risk plummeting sales.
In the meantime, consumers can join the 500,000 people who have already begun exercising their marketplace clout by choosing to boycott brands, including organic brands owned by junk food giants who helped defeat labeling laws. You can download our Boycott/Buycott app here.
As we look to the future of this movement, let's not forget the past. Now would be a good time to take a page out of Gandhi's playbook.