Update, Sept 4: The bottom of this article has been updated with the Missouri Department of Agriculture's new guidelines and a statement from Beyond Meat.
The mandate, which came into effect on Tuesday, prohibits companies from "misrepresenting" products as meat if they are not from "harvested livestock or poultry." The measure was approved by the legislature in May and signed by former-Gov. Eric Greitens on June 1. Violators could be fined $1,000 and face imprisonment for a year, according to USA TODAY.
The initiative was backed by the state's pork producers, the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association.
"The big issue was marketing with integrity and ... consumers knowing what they're getting," Missouri Cattlemen's Association spokesman Mike Deering told USA TODAY. "There's so much unknown about this."
The terminology change could force a costly overhaul of certain brands' marketing and packaging in the state, Munchies reported. For instance, companies such as Gardein sell products such as Meatless Meat; Whole Foods' 365 brand touts Meatless Meatballs, Meatless Burgers and Meatless Breakfast Patties. It could also hamper Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based startup developing "lab-grown" tissues cultured from animal stem cells.
Additionally, the St. Louis Dispatch reported that plant-based burger company Beyond Meat just expanded its manufacturing facility in Columbia. It employs more than 200 workers in mid-Missouri and is poised to add another 250 employees.
On Monday, a coalition of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the Good Food Institute (GFI) and vegetarian foodmaker Tofurky filed a complaint in a Missouri federal court challenging the law.
The groups say the law is designed to protect the meat industry against the growing $5 billion plant-based "fake meat" sector, which has boomed from the public's increasing appetite for healthier, more humane and environmentally sustainable food products.
"As more and more consumers are making the conscious choice to remove animals from their plates, Missouri is putting its thumb on the scale to unfairly benefit the meat industry and silence alternative producers," said ALDF executive director Stephen Wells in a statement.
The groups maintain that the state's consumer protection agency has no evidence that consumers are confused by the labels of plant-based products.
The lawsuit alleges that the new law violates constitutional principals such as free speech, discriminates against out-of-state companies, denies fair and honest competition in the marketplace, and infringes on the Due Process Clause because the vague language in the law makes it difficult for companies to know what is and is not legal.
"Americans don't like censorship, and they don't like the government picking winners and losers in the marketplace," said GFI executive director Bruce Friedrich. "We're confident that the Court will overturn this anti-competitive and unconstitutional law."
Not all meat producers are against faux-meats. Earlier this year, Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat companies in the U.S., announced it is ramping up its investment in lab-grown animal protein in response to growing demand for meat worldwide. The company's venture capital arm purchased a minority stake in Memphis Meats.
The meat industry is lobbying the federal government to make similar changes. In April, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association submitted official comments to the United States Department of Agriculture outlining key principles for the regulation of fake meat products.
"It is critical that the federal government step up to the plate and enforce fair and accurate labeling for fake meat," Kevin Kester, president of National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said in a press release.
On Aug. 30, the Missouri Department of Agriculture issued a clarification of how the new "Missouri Meat Advertising Law" will be implemented, as follows:
- Products must include a prominent statement on the front of the package, immediately before or immediately after the product name, that the product is "plant-based," "veggie," "lab-grown," "lab-created" or a comparable qualifier; and
- Products must include a prominent statement on the package that the product is "made from plants," "grown in a lab" or a comparable disclosure.
- No enforcement referrals will be made until Jan. 1, 2019.
The new guidelines will be phased in over the next four months to give companies time to update product labels and bring packages into compliance.
Beyond Meat issued a statement to EcoWatch on Aug. 31 saying the company was pleased the legislation does not disallow the descriptor "plant-based meat" and plans to continue operating under the newly released guidelines.
"We are satisfied we were able to reach an understanding with the state of Missouri that affirms our use of a 'plant-based' qualifier on our packaging is fair and accurate. We believe that we are building meat directly from plants, and that consumers are not only accepting of this innovation but enthusiastically embracing it," said Ethan Brown, CEO and founder of Beyond Meat, in the statement. "Free speech, commerce that is unstifled by unnecessary government interference, and consumer choice are foundations of our country. To this end, we are pleased that the legislation did not go so far as to disallow our use of the descriptor plant-based meat, and we plan to continue operating under the newly released guidelines, selling our delicious plant-based burgers, sausages and beyond."
Missouri state lawmakers passed an omnibus agriculture bill on Thursday that includes a provision prohibiting plant-based products from being labeled as "meat."
This measure would ban companies from using the term "plant-based meat" to describe their products. It would also prevent any future lab-grown products that hit the market from using the labeling.
The change was approved on a 125-22 vote and was backed by the state's pork producers, the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, the St. Louis Dispatch reported.
Critics see the act as an attempt from the beef lobby to clamp down on the $5 billion "fake" meat industry, which has boomed from the public's increasing appetite for healthier, more humane and environmentally sustainable food products.
A recent Nielsen poll found 23 percent of consumers want more plant-based proteins on the shelves. HealthFocus International also found that 60 percent of U.S. consumers said they are reducing their consumption of meat-based products.
Earlier this year, Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat companies in the U.S., announced it is ramping up its investment in lab-grown animal protein in response to growing demand for meat worldwide. The company's venture capital arm purchased a minority stake in Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based "clean" meat startup.
Still, Big Beef perceives meatless meats as a threat to the industry. Major national trade bodies such as the United States Cattlemen's Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Farmers Union have each petitioned the United States Agricultural Department over the labeling issue.
Missouri will be the first state in the country to enact such legislation if the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Brian Munzlinger, is signed into law. The state's House already passed their own version.
The act "prohibits misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry."
However, "misrepresentation is already prohibited by federal law; the intent of this bill is to censor labeling terms in plant-based products," Jessica Almy, director of policy at the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that promotes plant-based and clean meat, noted to Mother Jones.
She added that the term "plant-based meat" already makes it clear that a product is made from plants, and banning the term would "present a serious hurdle to manufacturers trying to describe their products."
The state's bill sends a signal to other states to introduce similar legislation, said Mike Deering, the executive vice president of the Missouri Cattleman's Association.
"This isn't a Missouri issue. This is about protecting the integrity of the products that farm and ranch families throughout the country work hard to raise each and every day," Deering said in a statement. "I never imagined we would be fighting over what is and isn't meat. It seems silly. However, this is very real and I cannot stress enough the importance of this issue. We are beyond pleased to see this priority legislation cross the finish line."
Missouri's bill is akin to a measure announced in France this month that bans food producers from labelling plant-based products as a meat item.
Deering added that he does not oppose plant-based or lab-grown products. Rather, he wants to reduce customer confusion over the labeling.
"This legislation does not stifle technology, but it does ensure the integrity of our meat supply and reduces consumer confusion. We must ensure that those products do not mislead consumers into thinking those products are actually meat produced by farm and ranch families," he said.
New Online Calculator Lets You See the Impact of Your Meat Intake https://t.co/zjGCpuX6xV @TheVeganSociety @YourDailyVegan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518656105.0
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.
The monarch butterfly has a new chance at recovery, thanks to an innovative program seeking to crowdsource funding and habitat for the beloved species at an unprecedented scale and pace.
"The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is a market-based solution for restoring and conserving high-quality monarch habitat on America's private working lands," said David Wolfe, director of conservation strategy and habitat markets at Environmental Defense Fund. "We like to call it an 'Airbnb for butterflies' because it's the only program of its kind that can open the vast untapped potential of large-scale farms and ranches to make habitat available for monarchs, fast."
Studies estimate that the monarch butterfly's population has declined by 95 percent since the 1980s.
"The monarch faces a June 2019 deadline for an Endangered Species Act listing decision," Wolfe said. "To change the monarch's trajectory and avoid the need for restrictive regulations that often accompany a listing, we need to restore millions of acres of native milkweed and wildflowers across the butterfly's vast migration route."
"Agricultural lands make up roughly half of the acreage required to recover the monarch," Wolfe added, "so recruiting farmers and ranchers who manage these large-scale landscapes will be a game changer."
Through the exchange, landowners are paid to create, maintain and improve habitat on their property through a variety of restoration activities.
"The exchange incorporates robust science, close monitoring and transparent reporting to ensure that each dollar achieves the most bang for the buck, and for the butterfly," Wolfe said.
Potential investors and donors include food, chemical and seed companies, state farm bureaus, wildlife agencies, philanthropic organizations and concerned citizens. All funds raised through the exchange are directed to Biodiversity Works, a Texas-based nonprofit responsible for administering the program.
"We anticipate a broad range of private and public funding sources from various companies, associations and individuals looking to achieve corporate sustainability goals, maximize conservation outcomes, and ensure that the monarch butterfly stays off the endangered species list," Wolfe said.
Smithfield Foods, a global food company that is also the world's largest hog producer and pork processor, is the first food company to participate in the program, contributing $300,000 to restore key prairie habitat for monarchs in Missouri. Smithfield invested in this project because of its multiple sustainability benefits, including providing habitat for pollinators, water quality benefits, carbon sequestration and biomass for biogas revenue.
"Participating in the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is a commitment to our employees, our producers, and our customers who care about wildlife and the multiple other environmental benefits that this program will achieve," said Kraig Westerbeek, senior director of Smithfield Renewables and Hog Production Division Environmental Affairs for Smithfield Foods. "We want to do our part to make sure that monarchs continue to thrive and play their significant role in our ecosystem."
The exchange is currently focused on developing projects in Missouri, Texas and California. Projects range from full prairie restoration to supplemental planting of milkweed within marginal agricultural fields. Milkweed is vital to monarch success, since butterflies lay their eggs and caterpillars feed exclusively on the milky sap-filled plant.
Amy Greer is a sixth-generation rancher in Brady, Texas. She and her husband, George, decided to participate in the exchange to help re-establish native milkweed and wildflowers on their ranch. Amy is also a trained wildlife biologist.
"George and I both understand how important ecological diversity is for all the plants, animals, insects and birds that live here on the ranch aside from us and our cattle," Amy said. "We also understand the importance of pollinators to the larger food system, so anything we can do to improve habitat for bees and butterflies is important to us."
Landowners, agribusiness leaders, philanthropic foundations and concerned citizens can help support projects on the ground by contacting the exchange or donating through the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange website.
EPA Considers Allowing Bee-Killing Pesticide to Be Sprayed on 165 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland… https://t.co/LuWNIFxIRx— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1513715573.0
Herbicide drift has been a major problem last year damaging millions of acres of crops in the U.S.
An organic farmer in Missouri has seen firsthand how destructive herbicide drift can be as it destroys his crops and threatens his livelihood and farm.
Mike Brabo and his wife Carol own Vesterbrook Farm in Clarksville, Missouri, about an hour north of St. Louis near the Mississippi River. The farm has been in Carol's family for nearly a century. The couple and their two children have worked the farm since 2008 after Mike survived thyroid cancer.
At that time Mike gained an appreciation for organic foods but found it difficult to afford them. "It's expensive to buy organic fruits and vegetables at Whole Foods," he said.
Mike and Carol decided to grow their own. It wasn't difficult to convert the farm to organic since no chemicals had been used on the land.
"There had been nothing grown on the farm but grass for 15 years," Mike said.
Mike Brabo and his wife Carol (center) and children Bethany (left) and Josh (right).Vesterbrook Farm
Sell Crops to 150-Member CSA
Over the years, the Brabos have grown their organic farm. A lot of vegetables can be grown on 24 acres, and the Brabos have planted more than 60 including lettuce, spinach, beets, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peppers, squash and tomatoes, among others. Some vegetables are grown in four high tunnel greenhouses. They also planted an orchard with apple, peach, plum and cherry trees and fruit bushes such as raspberries. They also grow herbs such as sage, parsley and cilantro.
They sell the fruits of their labor to 150 members of their community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Ironically, some of the CSA members are employees of a large, well-known multi-national agribusiness company in St. Louis.
Mike says his customers appreciate getting fresh organic produce. "Some people have a tough time finding organic food. There are not a lot of organic farms in our area."
Vesterbrook Farm uses organic practices but is not certified through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program. Instead, Mike chose Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) as their certifier.
"Their standards meet or exceed the USDA's," he said. "CNG has a much greater emphasis on sustainability with planting areas that bring in wildlife and beneficial insects."
The Brabos have seen growing success with their organic farm and CSA with sales increasing 10 percent per year.
Herbicides Damaged Crops, Loss of $300,000
That is until this year. In June, a conventional farmer neighbor sprayed his soybean field with herbicides. Wind blew the herbicides over the Brabos' land.
This happened despite Mike having signs that say "Organic Farm, No Spray" signs and registering his farm with DriftWatch, a communication tool that enables farmers and pesticide applicators to work together to protect specialty crops using mapping programs.
The damage from the herbicide drift was total. "We found damage across our farm, which is 500 yards wide, including on the far north side of the property," Mike said.
Crops damaged included peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, basil; fruit trees were also damaged. "Everything on the farm, even ornamental trees, was damaged," Mike said.
The herbicides also killed half of the farm's bees, an estimated loss of $12,000. Mike estimates the total loss at $300,000.
Tests revealed that the herbicides responsible for the damage were glufosinate, clethodim and metolachlor.
Their Certified Naturally Grown certification was suspended, and the Brabos must essentially start over to remove the herbicide contamination from their farm. It will take three years at an estimated cost of $1.6 million to remediate the damage and regain CNG certification. According to Mike, they will have to plant cover crops and replenish the soil with beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi.
"Worst Case Scenario is We Lose the Farm"
Mike could grow vegetables and sell them as conventional but he refuses for fear that a customer would become sick because of the herbicide contamination.
"As a cancer survivor I'm not going to be complicit in putting something in the food supply that could make someone sick," he said.
For now, the Brabos are out of business for three years. "We aren't sure what we are going to do," Mike said. "The worst case scenario is we lose the family farm."
The Brabos are working with attorneys to reach a settlement with their neighbor's insurance company.
"We just want to be rightly compensated to grow healthy food for ourselves and repairing the soil and ecosystem so we can grow food for the St. Louis community," Mike said.
"This whole drift issue is so huge. How many farmers and vegetable growers have chemically drifted vegetables?" Mike said.
To help Vesterbrook Farm recover from its devastating losses, go to YouCaring.
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You can now walk or cycle across most of the state of Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon has opened a 47.5-mile extension to the Katy Trail, effectively creating one continuous hike-and-bike path from the St. Louis area to the outskirts of Kansas City.
"You'll be able to go 287 miles on an incredible asset," Nixon told the Kansas City Star at the ribbon-cutting on Dec. 10 in Pleasant Hill, a suburb just south of Kansas City.
According to the governor's office, the new section of the trail follows the corridor of the old Rock Island Railroad for 47.5 miles from Pleasant Hill to Windsor, where a junction connects to the rest of the Katy Trail State Park.
We are only 8 days away from the big event in Pleasant Hill: linking #KC to #STL with extension of #KatyTrail. Get… https://t.co/0bF4dgdodD— Governor Jay Nixon (@Governor Jay Nixon)1480701054.0
At 287 miles, the Katy Trail is now officially the nation's longest rails-to-trails project, besting the 253-mile John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Washington state. Rail-trails are ideal because it converts unused or abandoned rail corridors into recreational areas for the public. The Katy Trail sits on the former Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad.
Tyler Month, vice-president of the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce, told radio station KCUR that the new stretch of the Katy Trail acts like a bridge to smaller communities.
"We're off the beaten path as far as highways go," Month said, "so this attracts a different group of organizations and individuals to our town that would not have otherwise come here."
The scenic and mostly flat trail follows Lewis and Clark's path along the Missouri River. The nearly 300-mile, uninterrupted trail features plenty of nature, Missouri River bluffs and picturesque communities along the way. Horseback riding is also allowed on a 35-mile section of the trail, from Sedalia to Clinton.
The extension took the Missouri Department of Natural Resources seven years to construct at a cost of $15.5 million, KCUR reported.
Plans are underway to extend the trail even further. Imagine someone biking from Jackson County on the state's western border all the way to the iconic Gateway Arch on the eastern border.
Nixon said the trail is "eerily close" to reaching that goal.
Nation's Longest Bike Path Will Connect Maine to Florida - EcoWatch https://t.co/7T7ci2D79e @BicyclingMag @BikeLeague— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1469311244.0
Missouri's largest peach grower is suing Monsanto over claims that dicamba drift caused widespread damage to the farm's peach trees. This is Monsanto's first lawsuit over the illegal spraying of the herbicide on its genetically modified (GMO) cotton and soy that's suspected of causing extensive damage to non-target crops across America's farm belt.
Peach tree damaged by dicamba drift Kade McBroom
The lawsuit, Bader Farms, Inc., et al v. Monsanto Company, Case No. 16DU-CC00111, was filed in Dunklin County, Missouri on Nov. 23. Bill Bader of Bader Farms in Campbell, Missouri claims that more than 7,000 peach trees were damaged by the drift-prone and extremely volatile herbicide in 2015, amounting to $1.5 million in losses. This year, the farm said it lost more than 30,000 trees, with financial losses estimated in the millions.
The complaint accuses Monsanto of knowingly selling dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds to farmers before securing federal approval for the herbicide designed to go along with it. Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton was introduced in 2015 and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans was introduced earlier this year. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only
approved the corresponding herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, last month.
Even though the biotech company warned growers against illegal dicamba use on the crops, many farmers allegedly sprayed older versions of dicamba on the crops anyway to stop weeds. However, while Monsanto's crops are genetically engineered to tolerate sprays of dicamba, other crops cannot. And since dicamba is extremely prone to drift, it can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring fields, crops and native plants. In the fall, 10 states reported horrific damage on thousands of acres of peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans.
[email protected] Approval of Monsanto's Dicamba Will 'Massively Increase Use of Toxic Pesticides' on GMO Crops https://t.co/AfYsMUFOyH @CenterForBioDiv— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478804159.0
Bader said in August that 400-500 farmers in his region have been affected: "If they don't get compensation 60 percent will be out of business in two years."
"We need to go after Monsanto. These farmers are being hung out to dry," Bader added.
Bader's lawsuit alleges that Monsanto chose to sell its Xtend cotton and soybean seeds knowing that such destructive spraying would be inevitable.
"Monsanto chose to sell these seeds before they could be safely cultivated," Bev Randles of Randles & Splittgerber, the Kansas City, Missouri law firm representing Bader Farms, said in a statement. "We believe it is against Monsanto's own practice, not to mention industry standards, to release a seed without a corresponding herbicide to protect the crop from destruction. But Monsanto chose greed over public safety and made farms in Southeast Missouri and Northeast Arkansas unwilling test labs for their defective seed system."
The law firm expects similar lawsuits to follow. "Our firm continues to be contacted to help farmers who have been harmed by Monsanto's actions," Randles said. "They are folks who have supported Monsanto by purchasing their products for years, only to have been betrayed in the end. We expect more farmers to file suit in the coming weeks."
In response, Monsanto said that the responsibility lies with the growers who illegally applied dicamba.
"Both prior to and throughout the 2016 season, Monsanto took many steps to remind growers, dealers and applicators that dicamba was not approved for in-crop use at the time, and we do not condone the illegal use of any pesticide," the company said in a statement to Brownfield. "While we sympathize with those who have been impacted by farmers who chose to apply dicamba illegally, this lawsuit attempts to shift responsibility away from individuals who knowingly and intentionally broke state and federal law and harmed their neighbors in the process. Responsibility for these actions belongs to those individuals alone. We will defend ourselves accordingly."
Monsanto developed its Xtend system to address "superweeds" that have grown resistant to glyphosate, the main ingredient in the company's former bread-and-butter, Roundup. The firm expects to see 15 million Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean acres and more than 3 million acres of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton in 2017. According to AgWeb, the technology is also licensed to more than 100 additional brands. The company has invested more than $1 billion in a dicamba production facility in Luling, Louisiana, to meet the demand it predicts.
Critics, however, are worried about the herbicide's potential threat to biodiversity, that it forces growers to switch to the Xtend system and that it only creates another round of superweeds. Dicamba-resistant weeds have already been found in Kansas and Nebraska.
"We can't spray our way out of this problem. We need to get off the pesticide treadmill," Dr. Nathan Donley with the Center for Biological Diversity said. "Pesticide resistant superweeds are a serious threat to our farmers, and piling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides. We can't fight evolution—it's a losing strategy."
In a region still scarred by the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Plains Southcap, LLC, is building a pipeline meant to carry conventional crude oil from Alabama to Mississippi, threatening waterways in both states.
Set to finish construction this year, Southcap’s underground pipeline would carry crude from the Ten Mile Terminal in Mobile, AL, to the Chevron refinery in Pascagoula, MS, tearing a path through Hamilton Creek, which feeds into Big Creek Lake, as well as Bangs Lake, only two miles from the refinery.
Pascagoula is among the many towns still in economic and ecological recovery since the BP spill. The Plains pipeline took many residents and activists by surprise. The “nationwide permit” issued by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) under the Clean Water Act of 1977, allows for the “expedited permitting and bypass[ing] of public notifications about wetlands,” according to the Associated Press.
In Mobile, county officials anxiously await a study by the Mobile Area Water and Sewer Service (MAWSS) of the potential impact the pipeline would have on the city’s drinking water. In the meantime, the city of Semmes, AL, has issued a stop-work permit on the pipeline.
“Hopefully, they can make the alternative routes to keep it away from key points in the watershed,” Mobile County Attorney Jay Ross told Alabama Media Group reporter John Sharp.
Despite concerns raised in Mississippi and Alabama, Plains Southcap vehemently defends the pipeline’s safety. The pipeline is slated to have round-the-clock monitoring as well as additional security features and failsafes. Sharp reported that the pipeline will be buried deeper than what is regulated, “which makes it less susceptible to third-party damage.”
Still, many conservationists and activists remain outraged over the potential damage a pipeline could create for the states’ wetlands. According to the Sun Herald in Mississippi, the USACE—which approved the pipeline's construction–said the project would require the pipeline to pass through 145 acres of wetlands and cross 33 streams.
While the pipeline is set to carry only medium-grade crude, Plains Southcap remained quiet as to whether the pipeline may switch to the more lucrative but hazardous tar sands in the future.
Visit EcoWatch’s PIPELINES page for more related news on this topic.
The same law that contributed to George Zimmerman walking free out of a Florida courtroom last weekend after taking the life of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was primarily written by the same super lobbying group behind legislation protecting natural gas companies from disclosing chemicals used in fracking.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is a unique kind of lobbying front group responsible for pushing legislation designed to enhance the bottom line of their corporate funders. Corporations like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Duke Energy, along with industry trade associations and large corporate foundations provide more than 98 percent of ALEC’s funding, whose members, which includes elected officials and corporations, write and pass laws that will benefit those corporations.
Via the laws ALEC pushes through state legislatures, the lobbying group impacts Americans nationwide from voting right laws to environmental regulations (or lack thereof) to guns like Stand Your Ground. We’ve collected the most significant ALEC laws that could be coming to a state legislature near you, if they aren’t there already.
This act prevents states from requiring their energy companies to increase electricity production from renewable energy sources, killing a key government incentives for clean energy projects. ALEC falsely claims that any renewable energy mandate sacrifices economic growth and American competitiveness, a dead horse they have continued to beat for decades.
Because of the economic benefits of renewable energy standards in states like North Carolina and Kansas and in spite of support from ALEC’s other Koch-funded friends in the State Policy Network, ALEC’s most heated attacks on Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) were shot down by Democrats and Republicans alike. Quieter ALEC-supported attempts to repeal or weaken RPS laws also failed in Ohio, Minnesota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine and Oregon—not a good start for ALEC’s top energy-related priority this year.
ALEC is trying to use state resolutions to add pressure to the federal government to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. In fact, ALEC took its member legislators on a Big Oil-funded trip to Alberta, Canada, to promote tar sands, courtesy of lobbyists from TransCanada, Shell, Devon Energy and other oil and gas interests. ALEC’s conferences have featured seminars on the controversial pipeline, featuring speakers from oil companies and the Canadian government alike. The Center for Media and Democracy, which runs ALECexposed.org, has filed an ethics complaint in Nebraska for a legislator’s failure to disclose the trip and its sponsors. Keep in mind that ALEC is a tax-exempt organization, and their lobbying doesn’t count as lobbying to the IRS.
While ALEC has its own model resolution, its state legislator members introduced resolutions straight out of a TransCanada press release, coordinating across state borders to get an apparent jump in support for Keystone XL in Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota and Mississippi all at once.
5. Voter ID Act
These laws prohibit about 11 percent of citizens from voting by requiring a government-issued ID to vote at the polls.
This 11 percent overwhelmingly consists of elderly people, low-income and minority voters and students. Thirty-three states now have voter id laws and four states now have strict photo id requirements in effect. With the Supreme Court’s recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act, we can expect this number to increase with ALEC's full support.
In short, this bill was ALEC’s way of making private prison companies rich by rounding up brown people without documentation and tossing them in jail. Although most of this law was struck down in Arizona, the “papers please” provision survives requiring law enforcement to check a person’s status if they are stopped, detained or arrested. State legislators and prison and bail industry lobbyists met at an ALEC meeting to write the law which originally stated that law enforcement had to check a person’s status only after “contact.” The Arizona legislature changed narrowed the law to the current language.
The title of this bill is a lie–ALEC’s flagship fracking bill prevents oil and gas companies from having to disclose the chemicals in frack fluids that qualify as “trade secrets.” Who took the idea to ALEC? ExxonMobil. Bloomberg reports that the ALEC bill has been introduced in at least eight states, although there appear to be more. Exxon’s bill became Ohio law with ALEC’s help, and a particularly controversial fracking law sponsorship by ALEC legislators passed in North Carolina last year without anyone reporting ALEC’s fingerprints. DeSmogBlog has documented attempts in Florida, Illinois and several other states.
ALEC previously drafted a state resolution that puts the regulating authority into the hands of state agencies, which are woefully understaffed, underfunded and ineffective at regulating the powerful gas and oil industry, creating a one-two punch that leaves fracked communities in the dark on chemical disclosure and at the mercy of insufficient and often captured regulatory agencies for protection from fracking pollution.
This act serves to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating the coal industry. Specifically, the act prevents the EPA from overruling state permits for coal mining and producing dirty coal products (like liquid coal for fuel) if all the coal operations are conducted within the borders of a single state. This act relies on the “Commerce Clause” claiming that the federal government can only regulate commerce that goes beyond state lines, flying in the face of settled Supreme Court interpretation of the “dormant” Commerce Clause. The first version of this bill was passed in West Virginia in 2011, a state with 273 operating coal mines as of 2011.
Considering the recent national tragedy of the Trayvon Martin ruling and the violence “Stand Your Ground” releases, this law should be repealed immediately in the states it’s active. In strong conjunction with the National Rifle Association (NRA), ALEC has managed to push versions of this law in over two dozen states. It allows any killer to claim immunity if they felt a reasonable fear of bodily harm. The Florida version of this law passed in 2005 and was written by a NRA lobbyist.
ALEC is behind loads of more dangerous laws or proposed resolutions that must be exposed, blocked or repealed if active. Please let us know other significant ones we missed in the comments below.
Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
By Will Fantle
From the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to foreign policy, Congress, state governments, elections and the courts, the feverish politics of genetically modified foods (GMOs) have infected decision making and dramatically tilted policies towards the desires of Monsanto and the biotech industry.
Candidate Barack Obama in 2008 promised change. However, when he came to Washington he appointed former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as USDA Secretary. The one-time award winning "Biotech Governor of the Year" has presided over a rapid roll out of new GMO crops and foods. Change he implemented included a series of agency adjustments designed to speed up the approval process for GMOs. Under Vilsack’s watch, the agency has never denied the approval of one GMO crop.
Yes, the USDA also brought more attention to the National Organic Program—professional, knowledgeable management, more staffing, more resources. But it’s small potatoes compared to the attention afforded biotech. And Vilsack’s team has pushed hard for the organic community to swallow a policy of co-existence, the strange view that pollen and DNA recognize fence rows, that rain, winds, birds, insects and other natural forces will refrain from carrying GMO contaminants to non-GMO plants and crops.
Millions of Americans are suspicious of GMO foods for assorted health and environmental reasons. Polling conducted last year by the Mellman Group indicated that nearly 90 percent of Americans would like GMO foods labeled so they can make a choice about what kinds of foods they purchase in the marketplace. Sixty other countries require such labeling.
But Vilsack says no, telling the Farm Bureau at their annual meeting in January, “I know of no health reason connected to GMOs that would require labeling under our current labeling philosophy.”
Monsanto and the biotech industry allies spent mightily to narrowly defeat last November’s state referendum calling for the labeling of GMO foods sold in California. While labeling advocates decried the misleading and deceptive advertising conducted against the referendum, they were unable to weather the deluge of dollars. Still, the seeds of discontent are spreading. Washington state’s voters will have a labeling referendum on the ballot later in 2013. Vermont has passed GMO labeling legislation; Connecticut’s Senate overwhelmingly did so as well, as has Maine. Nearly 20 other state legislatures have similar proposals in the works.
“To try to oppose this state by state, that is unsustainable,” says Cathy Enright, the executive vice president for food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), of which Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow Chemical are members.
Seeking to douse the prairie fire, Monsanto—which spends about $6 million annually on lobbying—and its allies are working the fields in Washington, D.C. Their target? The nation’s reauthorization of the Farm Bill. Currently winding its way through Congress (as of this writing), an amendment attached to the House Agriculture committee’s version, and authored by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), would strip the rights of states to enact labeling laws. The Farm Bill is an essential piece of national legislation that is reauthorized every five years. Once an item gets in the bill, it becomes very difficult to remove. The House and Senate will reconcile differences in their bills, but it is far from certain that either will consider the amputation of state’s GMO labeling rights a deal breaker. [Since this was written, the Farm Bill failed to pass the U.S. House.]
Monsanto and their allies also prevailed in a vote in the Senate on an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who wanted to make it clear that states “have the authority” to require the labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering. Sanders’ amendment failed 71-27.
While some of the no-votes in the Senate may have come from officials who believe that a national-level regulation is more appropriate, the effort to have the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do just that is mired axle deep in the muck. The FDA has already said that genetic modification does not materially change the food. But when the deadline passed last year for the agency to respond to a petition requiring GMO food labeling—a petition that contained the signatures of well over a million citizens—their response was that they needed more time to study the matter. Fourteen more months have since passed.
And just so no stone goes unturned, Monsanto is actively pushing state-level legislation in Oregon and elsewhere to override any labeling laws passed by county and municipal governments.
The suppression of dissent in the fertile ground of Washington, D.C., yielded another reward for Monsanto when they snuck a policy rider into an essential appropriations bill earlier this year. Dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act, it swatted down the ability of Monsanto’s pesky critics to use judicial review as a brake on questionable regulatory decisions. It allows full speed ahead on the unrestricted sale and planting of genetically modified seeds even when a court finds that they were not properly examined for their impact on farmers, the environment, and human health.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), from Monsanto’s home state of Missouri, authored the controversial rider and then blocked efforts by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to remove it from the critical governmental operations funding bill.
Tester later told a reporter, “Not only does this ignore the constitutional idea of separation of powers, but it also lets genetically modified crops take hold across this country, even when a judge finds it violates the law.” He added that giant multinational agribusiness corporations are treating farmers as “serfs.”
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Monsanto’s power at the federal level is so pervasive. As a recent Food & Water Watch report detailed, board members from the $12 billion company “have worked for the EPA, advised the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] and served on President Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.” Company staff and former employees enjoy a revolving door relationship with jobs and advisory positions in the federal government, at public universities and with trade groups. Even one sitting Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, once worked for Monsanto.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to a presentation on the "genetic improvement" of local crops hosted by the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute. Photo credit: USAID.
Their reach extends far beyond America’s shores. Again, according to Food & Water Watch, the State Department works with trade officials to promote GMO crop exports and to force unwilling nations to accept GMO crops and foods. The State Department has engaged in pro-GMO lobbying campaigns in foreign countries, promoted foreign cultivation of GMOs and targeted foreign opinion-makers and reporters with junkets and public events.
Yet signs of cracks in the GMO empire are visible. On May 25, two million people joined March Against Monsanto rallies that were held in more than 400 cities in 52 countries. The growing consumer awareness of GMO foods and crops in the U.S. has sprouted vigorous labeling campaigns across the country with widespread public support for labeling. Even though 90 percent of all corn and soy grown in the U.S. is GMO, with a variety of other crops in the ground or under development, much of the rest of the world has yet to fall under the influence. In fact, just five countries account for 90 percent of total GMO crop production—the U.S., India, Canada, Argentina and Brazil.
The USDA also recently reversed itself and decided to conduct a full environmental impact statement assessing the health and environmental impacts of the next generation of GMO crops. These include, as proposed by Dow and Monsanto, 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans and Dicamba-tolerant soy and cotton crops. Still, notes the Center for Food Safety’s Andrew Kimbrell, “it remains to be seen whether the agency will undertake the required hard-look analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of these crops.”
Reflecting on the importance of a true choice in the marketplace for consumers, the Cornucopia Institute's Codirector Mark Kastel says that “organic food and agriculture offers the only available and verifiable alternative with regulatory oversight from seed to table prohibiting genetically modified organisms in farming and food production.”
“Given the astounding influence of Monsanto and their GMO allies on all aspects of our government, it makes Cornucopia’s work protecting the integrity of the organic label even more imperative,” adds Kastel.
Visit EcoWatch’s GE FOODS page for more related news on this topic.
By Brian Sewell
In April, millions of Americans who oppose mountaintop removal celebrated two major court rulings that dealt “major blows” to the coal industry’s use of the destructive practice. But a grim reminder of the work ahead came a week ago, when residents of West Virginia’s Coal River Valley received a letter from Alex Energy, Inc., saying that they’re not done yet.
Shared on Facebook by Coal River Mountain Watch, the terse letter is a soulless script, and very matter-of-factly makes residents aware of the scheduled daily detonations that will likely rattle homes and coat buildings with coal dust. For the next year, residents of Naoma, WV, will be reminded of the true cost of our energy policy by air horn blasts and explosions, courtesy of Alex Energy.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month upheld a permit for Alpha Natural Resources’ Highland Reylas mountaintop removal mine in Logan County, WV, despite the fact that it will destroy two and a half miles of streams. In its ruling, the panel of judges wrote that “with the inability to demonstrate that the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] failed to take a ‘hard look,’ the [plaintiff’s] arguments are reduced to no more than a substantive disagreement with the Corps.”
While headlines in major news outlets claim “Coal is Dead,” residents of Appalachia rightfully have their doubts. With little recourse available, they are still being asked to accept the systematic destruction of their homeland and heritage as the cost of doing business. Despite recent victories over the coal industry’s use of mountaintop removal, coal is not dead and neither is the most destructive method used to mine it.
In Central Appalachia, proud, self-reliant people have been recast as dependent on the coal industry for shelter, food and meaning. Entire communities have been backed into the absolutely disheartening and hopeless position that, even as the coal production and demand declines, mining will forever be the one opportunity they have to make a living. But recently, it has become clear that even the coal industry cannot keep its promises to miners and their families.
Last week, a federal judge in St. Louis, MO, ruled in favor of the bankrupt Patriot Coal in the company’s attempt to gut health care and pension benefits of thousands of workers and retirees. In response, leaders of the United Mine Workers of America are organizing protests and rallies in St. Louis and throughout Central Appalachia. Union members and observers argue that Patriot was intentionally saddled with unsustainable pension and long-term health care obligations when Peabody Coal formed it as a separate company in 2007.
“The outcome will be less health care for the retirees, a poorer future for those retirees, who will likely die earlier than they would have otherwise died due to poor health care,” Kentucky State Rep. Brent Yonts told the Associated Press. Rep. Yonts described the ruling as “the day big business struck down the little guy.”
For decades, coal companies have destroyed forests, brought down more than 500 mountains, poisoned water and fragmented communities. They’ve extracted billions of dollars from the region but cannot meet their obligations to the workforce that allowed them to do so. And yet, the industry is still willing to portray itself as the savior of Appalachia.
After hard-won battles, mountaintop removal and the long list of environmental and health concerns that come with it continue. Somehow policymakers and citizens remain willing to accept the coal industry’s assurance that it will get better, that they’re just not done yet.