|In a very disturbing development Syngenta has patented a pepper strain developed through conventional means. By doing this, these big Ag companies are establishing a precedent for the privatization of our seeds and the foods that we eat.
I don’t know about you but I was fine with our agricultural system BEFORE these big Ag companies began patenting and introducing GMOs, a strategy that now extends to hybrid plants.
The Center for Food Safety reports:
“The history of seed development, distribution, and ownership reflects today’s dominant economic paradigm of the last several decades, which converts basic elements of life – such as seeds and genetic resources – into private, commercial assets.
Until the last few decades, seed development and distribution in the U.S. was largely under the purview of the public sector and augmented by hundreds of small, often family-run, seed breeder businesses, which acted mainly as distributors of publicly developed seed varieties. This contrasts sharply with the situation today in which the top ten companies control 65 percent of proprietary, or intellectual property (IP)-protected, seed.”
Do you really believe that any private company should control access to the seeds and plants that supply the foods we eat?
*By the way, our Daily Immune Support caplets, 100% organic medicinal mushroom blend, is on sale now for 15% off this weekend. These are safe and effective, take 1 or 2 a day and – Avoid sickness this winter, immunize!
This is just in…the opposition group to the passage of Proposition 37 in California may have crossed the line from lies to criminal behavior. They, Monsanto, Dupont et al, that sponsor the ‘No to Proposition 37’ coalition sent out a letter that utilizes the FDAs logo, a criminal offense according to the law. We will see if the authorities do anything about this. My bet is we will not. Big government and big business walk hand in hand!
I am absolutely for Proposition 37 as is Dr Oz, among other mainstream celebrities. I feel that that there are many dangers associated with GMOs (genetically modified ingredients). First, these abominations are created using unproven technology..the scientists are never really sure what has happened after the ‘blast’ in the ‘new’ genes into the existing genetic structure of the plant, or animal, they wish to ‘modify’. This procedure gives us an organism that may or may not be beneficial to the human condition nor the worlds food supply at large. There has been little long term research on these organisms except perhaps the latest University of Caens report of the effects of these things on mice and that should be enough to scare the pants off just about anyone. These organisms are not safe and could in fact be killers!
Second, once these things have been created in plants the ‘creating’ company, such as Monsanto, then OWNS the seeds. The ramifications of this is indeed dangerous. Having a multinational, or any corporation, own…literally own the very seed from which we get our nourishment is to me so very threatening. They could in fact control our food supply, even if you wanted to grown food in your garden at home!!!
Given the lack of humanity of these corporations I would bet that they want to maximize their profits and increase their power even if it causes great misery to the masses! This is a scenario of horror that I for one would not like to contemplate. What this means for you as an individual and our country must be contemplated!
Just released, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has said that the study done at the University of Caens in France on the effects of GMO corn on mice is ‘flawed’. However, they won’t release any details on their findings other than the type of mouse used is ‘prone to tumors’. A statement which I find hard to believe.
Many academics have expressed their ‘dismay’ at the findings and don’t agree with them. I am betting that many of these academics are somehow on the Monsanto payroll. This is tantamount to bribery of experts to support the corporate cause!
I find it curious that the EFSA came out with a ‘finding’ so quickly. We worked for almost 2 years to get a product approved in the EU jumping hurdle after hurdle, yet on this issue the verdict was delivered in less than a couple of weeks, just in time to hopefully counter the momentum that study has given to Proposition 37.
Stay tuned as the battle for our future and that of our children rages on! We must eradicate these abominations from our food chain.
Better Than You Could Ever Imagine!
As the Nov. 4th Elections role in we see that the
Television Networks, Newspapers and Magazines are
‘A Buzz’ with all of ‘the excitement!’ (Notice that i
did not capitalize the e?). Well, i just returned from a 9,000
mile car trip, and i saw at least 200,000 cars in that time;
i saw exactly three Romney and perhaps 250 Obama bumper
stickers —– there were far more Ron Paul signs than
both Romney and Obama put together!
Most of you know that all of the major networks, and
media are fully controlled by the Power Elite/Illuminati/Oligarchy/
Political Zionists/’Bad Guys’ – whatever you want to name these ‘dark rascals’
The Predominate Media does not want the American citizens to know
these simple facts concerning both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama:
1. They both support military spending at levels over
80% greater than Bush’s highest levels (which were at all time highs)
2. They both support a continued war in Afghanistan (what
exactly is the objective there besides protecting the Caspian Pipe
Line that sends oil to China and India??)
3. Their largest campaign contributors — guess what – it
is the very same group – Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan
4. They have both given total and blind support to the Israel
war machine, to The Mossad and to the over 400 nuclear weapons
that Israel has stored.
5. They both give 100% support The Federal Reserve System
and Fractional Reserve Banking even though this system is: Unconstitutional
and has siphoned off $Trillions to the Power Elite
6.They both support the ‘Black Budgets of the NSA and CIA’ (which
at this time is over $100 Billion per year) and they fully defend the fairy tale
story of 9/11
7. They both support the National Defense Authorization Act (Good Bye
8. They both support massive deficit spending – and i mean massive!
9. Neither one will speak about the Economic time Bomb that is
about to explode – The Toxic Derivatives!
10. Neither one will talk about: Chemtrails, Monsanto, Flouride
or most other real environmental concerns
11. Neither one has the ‘balls’ or desire to truly bring back jobs
to the United States
And on, and on and on. Look friends our government has been hi-jacked a long time ago
by a very slick and criminal element that give not a ‘rats ass’ for the people of this nation. The
‘Two Party System’ and ‘Democracy’ (a word not once used in the Constitution) are used as
propaganda terms for the majority of the ignorant people (a majority of them significantly over-weight
and on some type of big-pharma medication) who believe they live in a free country. In my opinion,
anyone who believes in the goodness of the Republican or Democratic party or the Government in
general is either deluded or is receiving support.
I realize my words seem harsh,,,,,but the above is what i experience. As you know i believe
strongly in the concepts of freedom as expressed in the original
Constitution and Bill of Rights – as i hope you do! Well those ‘concepts’ have been co-opted a
long time ago and in fact we are living in a high-tech fascist country (controlled by the Corporations,
Banking Centers and an all expanding government). Presently, our government has a ‘Velvet Glove’
on but it is just a matter of time before this glove is removed.
This trend will continue unless enough good, intelligent, honest and strong citizens have
enough courage to come together to make the changes for: 1. Significantly Limited Government, 2. Constitutional
Money and Balanced Budgets, 3. An end to the dominance of the Secret Societies, NSA and CIA,
4. An open and de-centralized Media, 5. An end to these insane foreign wars, 6. Real energy
conservation and renewable energy, 7. True respect for the earth and environment 8. Protection
of our boarders, 9. An end to the dominance of the Corporations and a creation of private-high
integrity business and trade.
And,,,,,,,most importantly, we need to: open our hearts, and and minds and to live with a
heck of a lot more gratitude and joy! Thanks for listening to my rant —– and if any of this rings
true for you,,,,,,,,,you know what needs to be done!!!!!!!!!
This post came from a very dear friend of mine and I am on board and agree with this commentary fully!
I can’t say that Monsanto losing a 2 billion dollar lawsuit in this case is good news. The Brazilian farmers claim was that they didn’t need to pay any royalties to Monsanto after the 1st generation crop but could use the tainted seed harvested from that crop to replant the following year.Unfortunately the soy crops in Brazil are now 85% GMO, just behind the 90% here in the U.S.
I just don’t agree with the FDA or Monsanto saying that GMO crops are no danger to humans. The scientific research points in a complete opposite direction. Not only does that research point to damage but the fact of the matter is that after 20 years of these deadly crops and the cross pollenization, we don’t have any heirloom or untainted seed left in the world.
Even Mexican corn, considered to be the original corn strains, show contamination from GMO! If I were a conscientious farmer and wanted only ‘original’ seed and pure corn but couldn’t due to the contamination that Monsanto has foisted upon the world I would be incensed, as we should all be. No longer can we eat pure, untainted foods due to the greed and avarice of literally one single company.
We live in a very strange world where bad food is called ‘good’ and ‘healthy’. World agencies that are supposed to protect the peace actually wage war and kill innocents….well that is an entirely different subject for another day….
While the FDA maintains that GMO ingredients are no more harmful than other ingredients CA residents have amassed enough signatures to get the ‘labeling’ law on their Nov. ballot…three cheers for them.
The FDA maintains that GMOs are innocent so to speak while there is a plethora of scientific evidence that condems them to the sewer, which in my opinion is where they figuratively belong. I simply can’t say enough, nor can anyone else, about the dangers these nasties impose on our health and environment.
When will we learn that you can’t have government agencies/politicians and the like funded by the very companies that need regulation in the worst kind of ways. One in particular comes to mind, Monsanto! Yes, I am one of the millions against Monsanto!
Let’s stay tuned to the vote in CA. The reasons being brought forth for not requiring labeling, beyond the stance that GMOs are safe, are the liklihood of frivolous lawsuits etc. I would ask you to define frivolous. While I am sure there could be some stupid lawsuits filed, I would also warrant that the majority would be bona fide!
These GMOs have been around far too long and have not only contaminated our ‘heirloom’ crops but have contaminated our entire political/judicial system! We can theoretically recover from the latter but no one can see a full recovery of the integrity of our crops!
Sad this is I say!
I wrote about this issue back in 2011 and it is a key one in the field of Organic Agriculture, basically the standards we must all abide by or not to consider food truly organic.Big players in the Organic World are playing Russian Roulette with Organic Standards and the opponents they are getting into bed with are the very dastardly people at Monsanto, who themselves have kept a very unhealthy bedmate, the USDA, as their concubine for many years.We consumers rely upon Organic pioneers to support the industry, not cower to those who would weaken it. Learn more below!
In this article below by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers’ Association, Ronnie responds to reader comments with a new article: Monsanto Nation: Exposing Monsanto’s Minions
“The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must.” — Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011
In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it’s time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.
In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and “seed purity,” gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the “conditional deregulation” of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of “conditional deregulation,” this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.
In exchange for allowing Monsanto’s premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants “compensation.” In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers’ and rural residents’ risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soil’s crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants the Biotech Bully of St. Louis to agree to pay “compensation” (i.e. hush money) to farmers “for any losses related to the contamination of his crop.”
In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for “public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry,” even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government “oversight” of Frankencrops such as Monsanto’s sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: “The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well True coexistence is a must.”
Why Is Organic Inc. Surrendering?
According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack’s previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as “Governor of the Year” in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.’s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it’s time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called “coexistence” between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto’s unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.
WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called “natural” foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI’s sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.
From their “business as usual” perspective, successful lawsuits against GMOs filed by public interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety; or noisy attacks on Monsanto by groups like the Organic Consumers Association, create bad publicity, rattle their big customers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Supervalu, Publix and Safeway; and remind consumers that organic crops and foods such as corn, soybeans, and canola are slowly but surely becoming contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs.
Whole Food’s Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called “Natural” Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs
The main reason, however, why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that 2/3 of WFM’s $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called “natural” processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs. We and our allies have tested their so-called “natural” products (no doubt WFM’s lab has too) containing non-organic corn and soy, and guess what: they’re all contaminated with GMOs, in contrast to their certified organic products, which are basically free of GMOs, or else contain barely detectable trace amounts.
Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as “natural.”
Unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much so-called “natural” food as certified organic food, coupled with the takeover of many organic companies by multinational food corporations such as Dean Foods, threatens the growth of the organic movement.
Covering Up GMO Contamination: Perpetrating “Natural” Fraud
Many well-meaning consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as “natural,” and those nutritionally/environmentally superior and climate-friendly products that are “certified organic.”
Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed “natural” foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a “natural” supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
A troubling trend in organics today is the calculated shift on the part of certain large formerly organic brands from certified organic ingredients and products to so-called “natural” ingredients. With the exception of the “grass-fed and grass-finished” meat sector, most “natural” meat, dairy, and eggs are coming from animals reared on GMO grains and drugs, and confined, entirely, or for a good portion of their lives, in CAFOs.
Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to “natural” imposters. It’s no wonder that less than 1% of American farmland is certified organic, while well-intentioned but misled consumers have boosted organic and “natural” purchases to $80 billion annually-approximately 12% of all grocery store sales.
The Solution: Truth-in-Labeling Will Enable Consumers to Drive So-Called “Natural” GMO and CAFO-Tainted Foods Off the Market
There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless industry that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers. There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union. Why? Because in the EU there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor GM consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Because under EU law, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GMOs; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are safety-tested and labeled. Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to purchase or consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by a Monsanto executive when GMOs first came on the market: “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”
The biotech industry and Organic Inc. are supremely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don’t want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont – the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress.
Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don’t hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called “Citizens United” case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent. Perfectly dramatizing the “Revolving Door” between Monsanto and the Federal Government, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto and other biotech bullies the right to buy the votes it needs in the U.S. Congress.
With big money controlling Congress and the media, we have little choice but to shift our focus and go local. We’ve got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products; while on the legislative front we must organize a broad coalition to pass mandatory GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.
The Organic Consumers Association, joined by our consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor allies, has just launched a nationwide Truth-in-Labeling campaign to stop Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans.
Utilizing scientific data, legal precedent, and consumer power the OCA and our local coalitions will educate and mobilize at the grassroots level to pressure giant supermarket chains (Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, Supervalu, and Publix) and natural food retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to voluntarily implement “truth-in-labeling” practices for GMOs and CAFO products; while simultaneously organizing a critical mass to pass mandatory local and state truth-in-labeling ordinances – similar to labeling laws already in effect for country of origin, irradiated food, allergens, and carcinogens. If local and state government bodies refuse to take action, wherever possible we must attempt to gather sufficient petition signatures and place these truth-in-labeling initiatives directly on the ballot in 2011 or 2012. If you’re interesting in helping organize or coordinate a Millions Against Monsanto and Factory Farms Truth-in-Labeling campaign in your local community, sign up here.
To pressure the nation’s largest supermarket chains to voluntarily adopt truth-in-labeling practices sign here, and circulate this petition widely.
To pressure Whole Foods Market to take the lead, sign here, and circulate this petition widely.
And please stay tuned to Organic Bytes for the latest developments in our campaigns.
Power to the People! Not the Corporations!
More and more people are waking up to understand just how insecure our food system is these days and how far we have moved from our relationship with our food. At the root of this crisis is the crisis over viable seed, a crisis precipitated by large agricultural interests that promote vegetable and fruit varieties that are easy to transport and have a longer shelf life , rather than varieties that are more nutritious.In this article below on seed saving by kay Baxter, learn what some are doing around the world to remedy this situation.
In our changing and unstable world, the question of food security is becoming increasingly relevant. Our ability to grow healthy food locally and sustainably is dependent in many ways on the quality of our seeds. It has been a focus of the Koanga Institute for many years to support home gardeners with the skills needed for self reliance, and understanding the process of saving high quality seed that is well adapted to local climates is fundamental to this. Almost all seed available commercially today is grown by large companies either in Europe or the USA. This leaves the home gardener extremely vulnerable to global instability if they are not saving their own seeds. Genetic diversity in our food crops has been lost on a drastic scale due to the industrialisation of our food production. The incredible diversity we once had, with thousands of genetically unique varieties, has been reduced to a tiny number of varieties that have been selected for their suitability to commercial applications (not the requirements of a home gardener).
The Koanga Institute holds a significant and valuable collection of NZ heritage seed (vegetables, herbs and flowers), and has international recognition for their unique work in the field of seed saving and seed production. The founder of the Institute — Kay Baxter — has been dedicated to saving these seeds and making them available in NZ. Over the past 30 years, Kay’s work for the Institute has ensured the survival of more than 800 NZ heritage seed lines, many of which are now available to members and home gardeners. A major focus of our research in the past few years has been finding ways for home gardeners to increase the nutritional density of their produce, adapting biological agricultural methods to suit home gardeners.
Very few soils have the complete balance of minerals required to grow produce to support optimum human health. This is not such an issue while we have food available to us from many parts of the world, but as we look towards self reliance (be it on a family scale or a local community scale) human health will suffer if these deficiencies aren’t addressed. Once the minerals have been balanced, then it becomes possible to manage the recycling and regeneration of these nutrients.
As community based organisations develop skills and networks that foster local sustainability and community self reliance, the question of seed saving becomes increasingly important. While seed saving is not difficult, there are many things to take into account if you are serious about ensuring food security, and the survival of specific varieties.
This 5-day workshop will give you the skills and understanding to grow and save your own seeds, and to ensure that the seeds you save will be high quality, for longevity and with the potential for optimal nutrition. Whether you are planning to set up a seed bank for a larger community, or would like to address food security for your immediate family, here you will find the skills and resources required. Processes taught are very low tech, and could be adapted to suit any situation, including rural villages without electricity or technology.
As the biotech industry continues to spread its insidious tentacles into our entire food production system, it becomes more and more apparent just how weak our government is becoming and just how unwilling, unable or downright paid off they are.
This article below by Mike Ludwig from Truthout goes into more detail on the subject.
For years, biotech agriculture opponents have accused regulators of working too closely with big biotech firms when deregulating genetically engineered (GE) crops. Now, their worst fears could be coming true: under a new two-year pilot program at the USDA, regulators are training the world’s biggest biotech firms, including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, to conduct environmental reviews of their own transgenic seed products as part of the government’s deregulation process.
This would eliminate a critical level of oversight for the production of GE crops. Regulators are also testing new cost-sharing agreements that allow biotech firms to help pay private contractors to prepare mandatory environmental statements on GE plants the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering deregulating.
The USDA launched the pilot project in April and, in November, the USDA announced vague plans to “streamline” the deregulation petition process for GE organisms. A USDA spokesperson said the streamlining effort is not part of the pilot project, but both efforts appear to address a backlog of pending GE crop deregulation petitions that has angered big biotech firms seeking to rollout new products.
Documents obtained by Truthout under a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request reveal that biotech companies, lawmakers and industry groups have put mounting pressure on the USDA in recent years to speed up the petition process, limit environmental impact assessments and approve more GE crops. One group went as far as sending USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a timeline of GE soybean development that reads like a deregulation wish list. [Click here to download and read some of the documents released to Truthout.]
The pilot program is named the NEPA Pilot Project, after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which mandates that agencies prepare statements on the potential environmental impacts of proposed actions by the federal government, such as deregulating transgenic plants. On July 14, USDA officials held a training workshop to help representatives from biotech firms (see a full list here) to understand the NEPA process and prepare Environmental Reports on biotech products they have petitioned the USDA to deregulate.
Regulators can now independently review the Environmental Reports and can use them to prepare their own legally mandated reviews, instead of simply reviewing the company’s petitions for deregulation. The pilot project aims to speed up the deregulation process by allowing petitioning companies to do some of the legwork and help pay contractors to prepare regulatory documents and, for its part, the USDA has kept the pilot fairly transparent. A list of 22 biotech seeds that could be reviewed under the pilot program includes Monsanto drought-tolerant corn, a “non-browning” apple, freeze tolerant eucalyptus trees and several crops engineered to tolerate the controversial herbicides glyphosate and 2,4 D.
Activists say biotech firms like Monsanto are concerned only with profit and routinely supply regulators with one-sided information on the risks their GE seeds – and the pesticides sprayed on and produced by them – pose to consumers, animals and the agricultural environment. (The Natural Society recently declared Monsanto the worst company of 2011.) Bill Freese, a policy expert with the Center for Food Safety (CFS), told Truthout that the NEPA pilot gives already powerful biotech companies too much influence over the review process.
“It’s the equivalent of letting BP do their own Environmental Assessment of a new rig,” Freese said.
Monsanto Goes to Court
Freese and the Center for Food Safety have been on the frontlines of the battle to reform the USDA’s regulatory approval process for GE crops. The group was a plaintiff in recent lawsuits challenging the deregulation – which basically means approval for planting without oversight – of Monsanto’s patented alfalfa and sugar beets that are genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide. Farmers can spray entire fields of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” crops with Roundup to kill unwanted weeds while sparing the GE crops, but in recent years, some weeds have developed a tolerance to glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient. The cases kept the crops out of America’s fields for years and prompted biotech companies to put heavy pressure on top USDA officials to streamline and speed up the deregulation process, practically setting the stage for the NEPA pilot underway today.
Under NEPA, agencies like the USDA must prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) to determine if the proposed action, such as deregulating a transgenic organism, would have an impact on the environment. If some type of significant impact is likely, the agency must then prepare a more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to explore potential impacts and alternative actions. NEPA requires an EIS for actions “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” Preparing a full impact statement for a biotech plant implies the government does not think GE crops are safe and the biotech industry has routinely butted heads with environmentalists while attempting to convince regulators and consumers otherwise. In the Monsanto beets and alfalfa cases, the CFS and other plaintiffs argued that the USDA should have prepared an EIS, not just a simple EA, before deregulating both Monsanto crops.
In the alfalfa case, the CFS and its co-plaintiffs claimed the crop could have significant impacts by crossbreeding and contaminating conventional and organic alfalfa with transgenes. They also argued the crop would increase the use of herbicides and promote the spread of herbicide-tolerant weeds known as “super weeds.” A federal district court agreed and vacated the USDA’s original approval, halting plantings across the country. Monsanto challenged the decision and the alfalfa case landed in the Supreme Court in 2010. The high court overturned an injunction preventing farmers from planting the alfalfa, but also ordered the USDA to prepare an EIS and issue another deregulation decision. The sugar beet case ended in similar fashion and the USDA recently released a draft EIS on the crop, which is expected to be deregulated in early 2012.
Monsanto won the right to sell its GE alfalfa seed in February 2011, but the lengthy and expensive legal battle captured the attention of food lovers and agriculturalists across the country. Americans debated the potential dangers of GE crops and the merits of the regulatory system that is supposed to protect farmers and consumers. As documents unearthed by a Truthout FOIA request reveal, the biotech industry did not sit idly by as activists challenged the regulatory status quo.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is a powerful group that represents dozens of biotech companies such as Monsanto, BASF and Bayer, and has spent more than $67 million lobbying Congress since 2000. In April 2010, BIO sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as the Monsanto alfalfa case made its way through the courts. BIO warned Vilsack that the American biotech agriculture industry could be crippled if the legal precedents required the USDA to prepare an EIS for every GE crop up for deregulation:
With 19 deregulation petitions pending with more on the way, requiring an EIS for each product would amount to a de facto moratorium on commercialization and would send an unprecedented message that USDA believes that these products do have an environmental impact, when in fact most do not. Any suggestion by USDA that biotechnology plants as a category are likely to cause significant adverse effects on the quality of the human environment (i.e., require an EIS) would make approvals by other trading partners virtually impossible …
BIO claimed that such a policy would be an “over-reaction to the current judicial decisions” and would threaten America’s economic dominance in the agricultural biotechnology market. Such a policy, BIO representatives stated, would send a message to European countries that American regulators believe GE crops impact the environment, making approvals of GE crops by the European Union “virtually impossible” and allowing “Brazil and China to surpass the United States as world leaders in biotechnology.” BIO also claimed that more rigorous assessments would “undercut” positions consistently take by the Obama and Bush administrations on the safety of biotech agriculture.
Vilsack received similar letters requesting the USDA continue relying on EAs instead of EISs to deregulate GE crops from the Americas Soybean Association and the American Seed Trade Association. Both groups worried that an increase in oversight – precipitated by the more in-depth impact evaluation – could back up approvals for years. The soybean association included in its letter a pipeline chart of 25 GE soybean varieties it “expected” to be approved for commercialization within a decade.
A policy requiring an EIS for every GE seed is exactly what critics of Monsanto and the rest of the industry have spent years fighting for. Unlike the industry, they believe the herbicides that blanket GE crops and the potential for transgenic contamination are potential threats to the agricultural environment and human health.
Vilsack wrote a steady-handed reply to each trade group, reassuring them that the NEPA policy would not change and the USDA would continue preparing an EA for new GE seeds and an EIS only when necessary. Vilsack also wrote that he was “pleased” to recently meet with biotech industry representatives and “discuss improving the efficiency of the biotechnology regulatory process.” Such improvements, he wrote, are “directly related” to the USDA’s “objective of ensuring the United State leads the world in sustainable crop production and biotech crop exports.” He took the opportunity to announce that the USDA would reorganize the Biotechnology Regulatory Services agency and create a new NEPA team “dedicated to creating high quality and defensible documents to better inform our regulatory decisions.” This new NEPA team would go on to develop the NEPA Pilot Project and begin streamlining the approval process.
To Freese, it appears that Vilsack used to the word “defensible” in reference to legal challenges like the ones his group made to Monsanto alfalfa and sugar beets. “Their whole focus is on ‘defensible’ Environmental Assessments,” Freese said after reading the letters. “From our perspective, that’s the wrong goal … it presumes the crop is going to be approved.”
Freese said the correspondence between Vilsack and the industry groups highlights the need for a culture change at the USDA. Regulators should be concerned about the safety of new GE products, not ensuring American exports compete with Brazil and China.
“It should be all about doing good assessments and making sure the crops that are approved are safe,” Freese said.
A USDA spokesperson declined to comment when asked if the agency would like to respond to criticisms of the NEPA Pilot Project and said updates on the project will be made available online.
Watchdogs like Freese know that regulators already work closely with the industry and the NEPA Pilot Project could simply make their work more efficient. Regulators already rely heavily on data provided by private contractors and by biotech companies to prepare EAs. During the Monsanto alfalfa case, internal emails between regulators and Monsanto officials surfaced and revealed the company worked closely with regulators to edit its original petition to deregulate the alfalfa. One regulator even accepted Monsanto’s help in conducting the USDA’s original EA of the GE alfalfa before it was initially approved in 2005.
Genetically engineered and modified crops continue to cause controversy across the globe, but in America they are a fact of life. The Obama and Bush administrations have actively promoted biotech agriculture both at home and abroad. Countries like China, Argentina and Brazil have also embraced biotech agriculture. Regulators in European countries – including crucial trade partners like France and Spain – have been much more cautious and, in some cases, even hostile toward the industry. GE crops are banned in Hungary and Peru, and earlier this year officials in Hungary destroyed 1,000 acres of corn containing Monsanto transgenes. The US, however, continues to allow big biotech companies to cultivate considerable power and influence and, as the letters uncovered by FOIA reveal, top regulators are ready to meet their demands.
“The USDA regards its own regulatory system as a rubber stamp,” Freese said after reading the letters. “At least at the upper levels, there’s always been this presumption that [GE crops] must be approved.”
Though we protest and complain we will have to do it harder. In this article below Mike Barrett reports on further skullduggery from Monsanto and their tactics that lead to the approval of another variety of GMO corn.
As previously reported, while people were de-stressing and enjoying their much needed time off during the holidays, the United States Department of Agriculture announced its approval of Monsanto’s ‘drought tolerant’ genetically engineered corn.
The decision to give the green light to Monsanto regarding their GE corn didn’t seem too difficult for the Obama Administration, despite receiving nearly 45,000 public comments voicing opposition and only 23 comments in favor since comments opened.
Prepare to see this new GE corn unleashed into the environment as well as the American food supply.
Monsanto Continues Expansion Despite Massive Public Opposition
The news comes after experiments with the seeds were conducted in five African nations, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Monsanto’s drought-resistant corn seeds were given to African farmers facing drought conditions, replacing traditional and sustainable farming with Monsanto’s GMO crops.
Bill Gates himself has purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto as of August 2010, and has heavy ties with Monsanto, as well as genetically modified mosquitoes which could be released in Florida early next year.
‘President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack just sent a clear message to the American public that they do not care about our concerns with genetically engineered food and their questionable safety, adverse environmental impacts, and detrimental effects on farmers, especially organic farmers,’ says Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst with The Cornucopia Institute.
How could Monsanto successfully obtain more power, and release new genetically modified seeds, when opposition so clearly rises above GE support?
Monsanto is not simply a company who sells genetically modified products to those seeking them. This massive corporation is actually very much involved with the passing and proposals of regulations concerning the very GM ingredients they are responsible for.
You may think those helping to pass the GMO bills truly believe that genetically engineering the food supply is beneficial to public health, but the scary truth is that many of said individuals couldn’t care less about humankind or the future of the planet. As far as many government regulators are concerned, Monsanto can expand to the high heavens as long as financial interests are being properly taken care of.