Thursday, October 30, 2014

64 NATIONS LABEL GMOs: WHY IS BIG USA AG-FOOD SPENDING $100 MILLION (AGAIN) - FIGHTING A SIMPLE LABEL?

Monsanto alone has poured roughly $14 million into local 2014 ballot fights opposing GMO legislation. (Photo: CT Senate Dem/cc/flickr)Published on
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Local GMO Fights Smash Records as Monsanto's Millions Bankroll Opposition

Citizen-led initiatives to regulate GMOs in Hawaii, Oregon and Colorado face deep pockets of outside industry groups
Monsanto alone has poured roughly $14 million into local 2014 ballot fights opposing GMO legislation. (Photo: CT Senate Dem/cc/flickr)
As voters in Oregon, California, Hawaii and Colorado prepare to weigh in on whether genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, should be banned or regulated in their states or communities, grassroots campaigns are being overwhelmed by millions that agrochemical and food industry titans are pouring in to defeat such measures.

Monsanto alone spent roughly $14 million in various local races this election year.
According to reports filed with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission on Monday, Monsanto has put over $5 million dollars into the campaign against a citizen-led Maui County ballot initiative to ban GMOs on the island. The measure, titled the Maui County Genetically Modified Organism Moratorium Initiative, stipulates that only until a comprehensive environmental and public health survey concludes that the cultivation of GMOs is safe and harmless can agrochemical companies continue to plant and test GMO seeds on the Hawaiian island.

Monsanto is the largest donor to the group Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban (CAMCFB), which opposes the moratorium. Despite billing themselves as a "citizens group," as of October 10, CAMCFB has raised nearly $8 million in donations, the vast majority of which was paid by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences—both of which own large operations on the island that will be affected by the legislation. In contrast, supporters of the ballot initiative have raised less than $90,000 in donations from residents, local businesses and a crowd-sourced online fundraising campaign.
Big Ag's fight to suppress GMO legislation has become a routine narrative in campaign seasons. In 2012, the world's six leading pesticide makers spent over $20 million to defeat Proposition 37 in California, with Monsanto leading the way with over $8 million in donations. And again in 2013, outside industry groups spent over $22 million to defeat Washington's proposed labeling initiative.

However, according to Honolulu Civil Beat, CAMCFB's war chest is unprecedented in Hawaiian politics. "This is historic," Tony Baldomero, associate director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, told Civil Beat. "This is the highest (amount raised) that I have ever seen since I have been here, by any candidate committee, ballot issue committee, non-candidate committee, even super PAC."

In Oregon, a 2014 ballot initiative to label food items produced with or containing GMOs has become the costliest ballot contest in state history. As of October 18, the No on 92 Coalition reported raising $11.1 million in donations from Monsanto and other industry donors, including Big Food multinationals such as Coca Cola, Kraft Foods and Pepsi Co..
In that race, campaign donations have resulted in a slew of television advertising against the measure which, according to recent polls, may be having a significant impact on voter opinions. A June poll by DHM Research along with Oregon Public Broadcasting found that 77 percent of residents supported the measure. That number dwindled to 49 percent in DHM's follow up poll in October.

A Colorado labeling initiative, Proposition 105, has faced similarly well-funded opposition. Democracy Now! reported on Tuesday that, by some counts, money raised by the No on 105 group "nearly tripled" that raised by the Colorado Right to Know campaign.  According to nonprofit farm policy research group the Cornucopia Institute, as of October 23, Monsanto alone has poured $8,836,650 into campaigns opposing Colorado's Proposition 105 and Measure 92 in Oregon.

As author and activist Michele Swenson notes in a Tuesday op-ed for Huffington Post, between 2012 and mid-2014, this "David (the people) vs. Goliath (giant corporations) struggle over GM food labeling" has unleashed a total of $100 million in spending by Monsanto and industry lobby group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), to block GMO labeling in campaigns across the country.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

THE SECRET UNREGULATED DESTRUCTION THAT IS "IPR" INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

rice-farmIPRs on Seed and Climate Change; Corporate Enclosures and the Recovery of the Commons through Seed Freedom

Seeds of Freedom 
Apr 23, 2014 The Asian Age by IFG Board Member Vandana Shiva

The jurisprudence of intellectual property rights related to life forms is, in fact, a jurisprudence of ‘Bio Nullius’ — life empty of intelligence. The Earth is defined as dead matter.
For thousands of years farmers, especially women, have evolved and bred seed freely with the help of nature to increase the diversity of what nature gave us and adopt it to the needs of different cultures. Biodiversity and cultural diversity have mutually shaped one another.
Every seed is an embodiment of millennia of nature’s evolution and centuries of farmers’ breeding. It is the distilled expression of the intelligence of the earth and intelligence of farming communities. Farmers have bred seeds for diversity, resilience, taste, nutrition, health and to adapt it for local agro-ecosystems.

In times of climate change we need the biodiversity of farmers’ varieties to adapt and evolve. Climate extremes are being experienced through more frequent and intense cyclones that bring salt water to the land. To develop resilience against cyclones, we need salt tolerant varieties of seeds, and we need them in the commons. Along coastal areas, farmers have evolved flood tolerant and salt tolerant varieties of rice such as Bhundi, Kalambank, Lunabakada, Sankarchin, Nalidhulia, Ravana, Seulapuni, Dhosarakhuda.

These seeds have been evolved by farmers and need to stay in the commons to gain resilience against climate change.

After the Orissa Supercyclone, Navdanya could distribute salt tolerant rice to farmers because we had conserved them as a commons in our community seed bank run by Kusum Mishra and Dr Ashok Panigrahi in Balasore, Orissa. Hence we were about to donate two truckloads of salt tolerant seeds to the farmers, who could not grow rice because of the sea salt deposited on their farms.

As I have written in my book Soil, Not Oil, 40 per cent of the greenhouse gases come from an industrialised and globalised model of agriculture. Having created the crisis, corporations, who made profits from industrial agriculture, now want to turn the climate crisis they have contributed to into an opportunity to control climate resilient seeds and climate data.
Corporations like Monsanto have taken 1,500 patents on climate resilient crops. With these very broad patents, Monsanto and other corporations can prevent access to climate resilient seeds after climate disasters since a patent is an exclusive right to produce, distribute and sell the patented product. This implies that the farmers’ right to save and share seed is now defined as “theft”, an “intellectual property crime”.

While nature and farmers have evolved the traits of climate resilience in seeds, corporations claim their role of creator; they declare that seeds are their “invention”, hence their patented property.

In times of climate change, such monopolies aggravate the disaster by blocking farmers’ rights to seeds they have evolved.

Hence, seed as a common good became a commodity of private seed companies, traded on the open market.

For example, on July 5, 2013, Justice Prabha Sridevi, chair of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board of India and D.P.S. Parmar, technical member, dismissed Monsanto’s appeal against the rejection of their patent application to the patent office for “Methods of enhancing stress tolerance in plants and methods thereof”. The title of the patent was later amended to “A method of producing a transgenic plant, with increasing heat tolerance, salt tolerance or drought tolerance”.

Industrial breeding and intellectual property rights including patents on seed fail to recognise nature’s contributions and farmers’ contribution in giving us climate resilient crops. Just as the jurisprudence of Terre Nullius defined the land as empty, and allowed the takeover of territories by the European colonies, the jurisprudence of intellectual property rights related to life forms is, in fact, a jurisprudence of “Bio Nullius” — life empty of intelligence. The Earth is defined as dead matter, so it cannot create. And the farmers have empty heads so they cannot breed seeds.

The door to patents on seed and patents on life was opened by genetic engineering. By adding one new gene to the cell of a plant, corporations claimed they had invented and created the seed, the plant, and all future seeds that were now their property. In other words GMO meant “God Move Over”.

Section 3(j) of the Patents Act, 1970, recognises that life forms are not an invention and hence biological processes cannot be treated as inventions.

Today, this freedom of nature and culture to evolve is under violent and direct threat. The threat to seed freedom impacts the very fabric of human life and the life of the planet.
Not only are corporations like Monsanto claiming patent monopolies on climate resilient seeds, they are also claiming monopoly on climate and weather data. Monsanto has bought the Climate Corporation, which controls vast data on climate for $1 billion.

Not only will Monsanto sell the chemicals and seeds adapted to their chemicals to farmers, they will also sell climate data. This is a strategy for total control of agriculture in times of climate change.
The National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005 was a legislative proposal forwarded in April 2005 by United States Senator Rick Santorum to bar the national weather service from issuing forecasts so that climate and weather services can be privatised. In effect, the knowledge of a cyclone or flood would only be provided to those who could pay.

The vision of the corporations and sadly the US government is to privatise every aspect of life — our seeds and biodiversity, the atmospheric commons, and the knowledge of the climate and weather as a public good.

At a time when the world needs to recognise that life forms, including seeds, are not an invention and the US should correct its laws to be more in alignment with the Rights of the Earth and with human rights, the US government is threatening India with trade retaliation to force us to change our patent laws yet again and introduce the unethical, unscientific and anti-human laws of patent monopolies on seed and medicine.

America’s National Association of Manufacturers — which represents about 50 US business groups — gave the suggestion to the US Trade Representatives’ office to designate India a “Priority Foreign Country”, a tag it gives to worst offenders of intellectual property rights.
This is not just a US-India dispute. It is a fight against corporate enclosures of the commons. If we have to survive as a species, we need to reclaim our commons — of seed, of climate, of knowledge and resist the privatisation of every aspect of life.

We need to create the commons of the seed and cultivate seed freedom through seed saving, seed exchange and participatory breeding.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Source:  http://ifg.org/2014/04/25/iprs-on-seed-and-climate-change-corporate-enclosures-and-the-recovery-of-the-commons-through-seed-freedom/

Friday, October 24, 2014

EPA SUED AFTER APPROVING 2,4-D "AGENT ORANGE" GMO CROPS IN USA

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'Stop the Toxic Treadmill': EPA Sued for Approving Controversial Herbicide

Green groups slam the agency for green-lighting Dow Chemical's Enlist Duo, whose key ingredient 2,4-D is also found in Agent Orange

A field of soybeans. (Photo:  Tom Erickson/flickr/cc)
Green groups on Wednesday sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its recent approval of Dow AgroSciences' herbicide Enlist Duo, which farmers and scientists warn threatens human and environmental health.

"The toxic treadmill has to stop," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. "EPA and USDA cannot continue to ignore the history, science, and public opinion surrounding these dangerous chemicals so that a failed and unnecessary system of chemically-dependent agriculture can continue to destroy our health and environment."
The EPA last week approved Enlist Duo for use on corn and soybean crops that are genetically engineered to survive exposure to the herbicide. Wednesday's suit charges the approval was unlawful because the agency failed to adequately consider the human impacts and did not consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Enlist Duo's key ingredient, known as 2,4-D, was also used in Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used as a weapon by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Studies find 2,4-D interferes with hormonal and reproductive function and is linked to cancer, liver disease, Parkinson's disease, and other health problems. Scientists warn that 2,4-D builds up in the environment and spreads from one field to another, posing a risk to animals as well as people.

"EPA’s unfortunate decision to approve Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered crops will more than triple the amount of 2,4-D sprayed in the U.S. by the end of this decade," said Environmental Working Group’s senior policy analyst Mary Ellen Kustin. "Such an increase of a known toxic defoliant linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive problems is unconscionable."

While the EPA moved to limit Enlist Duo to six Midwestern states, it is expected that the approval will spread to other states. "This case will determine to a large extent the direction of U.S. agriculture in the coming years," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety.

"Rural communities rely on EPA to take its job seriously—to fully consider potential health impacts before introducing new products or allowing a dramatic increase in use of a hazardous and volatile chemical like 2,4-D," said Pesticide Action Network North America’s senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD.

The lawsuit was levied by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A FEW IN THE GMO REALM 10-20-14

Chewing through Measure 92 — GMO labeling

Herald and News - ‎10 hours ago‎
Measure 92, sponsored by the group Oregon GMO Right to Know, if passed, would mandate the labeling of food items produced with or containing genetically modified organisms. The measure would require that retailers of genetically engineered raw food to ...

Concerns rise as GMO debate shifts from field to dinner table

Chinadaily USA - ‎1 hour ago‎
Zhou, the owner of a recycling business in the northeast coastal city of Weihai, said one source of her concern was an anonymous article shared online by her friends that alleges genetically modified crops cause infertility in Asians, part of a United ...

Ask the Mayor: GMO Ballot Question Interpretation

Maui Now - ‎16 hours ago‎
Q: I've been hearing so many different things about the GMO ballot initiative, but I'm more confused than ever. I'd like to be better educated on the facts before I head to the polls on election day.

 
 

NEW STUDY: WE LABEL PREVIOUSLY FROZEN FOODS- NOW LABEL GMOs

According to Consumer Reports, "virtually all of the samples we tested of products that made only a 'Natural' claim did have a substantial amount of GMOs." (Photo: Nicholas Eckhart/flickr/cc)Published on

GMOs are Everywhere and Should be Labeled, Study Finds

"Natural" label is virtually meaningless and should be banned, Consumer Reports declares
According to Consumer Reports, "virtually all of the samples we tested of products that made only a 'Natural' claim did have a substantial amount of GMOs." (Photo: Nicholas Eckhart/flickr/cc)
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are present in many common products including breakfast cereals, chips, and infant formula—including some that carry misleading labels like "natural," according to a study released Tuesday by the nonprofit Consumer Reports.
Based on its findings, combined with the results of a survey (pdf) by the Consumer Reports National Research Center showing nearly three-quarters of all Americans seek to avoid GMOs when they shop, Consumer Reports is calling for mandatory labeling of GMOs in food and a ban on the meaningless "natural" label.

"Federal law already requires labeling that lets consumers know whether foods have been previously frozen, made from concentrate, pasteurized, or irradiated, and we believe the label should also say if food is genetically engineered," said Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports.

The nonprofit, which is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization, tested more than 80 different processed foods containing corn or soy—the two most widely grown GMO crops in the U.S.—between April and July 2014. It found that nearly all of the samples of products that did not make any non-GMO-related claim on the package did, in fact, contain substantial amounts of genetically modified corn or soy.

The study also revealed that while the independently certified "Organic" and "Non-GMO Project Verified" labels are reliable, "no-GMO" or "non-GMO" claims made by a manufacturer have no standard definition, don’t require independent verification, and are therefore less trustworthy. In a letter (pdf) to the Federal Trade Commission on Monday, Consumer Reports asked the agency to investigate the non-GMO claims on packages of Xochitl Totopos de Maiz corn chips after finding several instances of genetically engineered corn in the product.
Most notably, although more than 60 percent of people in the Consumer Reports national survey said they believed that "natural" means that a product does not contain controversial ingredients, testing did not bear out that correlation. According to Consumer Reports, "virtually all of the samples we tested of products that made only a 'natural' claim did have a substantial amount of GMOs" (though some have since removed the claim or have become Non-GMO Project Verified).

"The confusing nature of this claim is just one reason we are asking the government to ban the use of 'natural' labels on food," says Urvashi Rangan, director of the safety and sustainability center at Consumer Reports. 

GMO food labeling requirements are on the ballot this fall in Oregon and Colorado; Consumer Reports is supporting both campaigns.

NEONICS DEADLY TO POLLINATORS - IN TURN - DEADLY TO HUMANS: BAN THEM

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EPA Analysis Evidence Notorious Neonics Should be Suspended, Watchdog Groups Say

Analysis 'has confirmed what farmers, beekeepers and scientists have been saying all along: neonicotinoids do more harm than good'
A field of soybeans.  (Photo:  Tom Erickson/flickr/cc)
A new U.S Environmental Protection Agency analysis of neonicotinoid pesticides on soybean production offers further proof that they should be suspended, environmental watchdog groups say.

This class of pesticides, often referred to as neonics, has been linked to the decline of bees and other environmental harm.

The agency's analysis, released Thursday, found that there was little to no benefit to using neonicotinoid seed treatments on soybean yields. Such neonic-treated seeds, first registered for use in soybeans in 2004, were applied on an average of 30% of soybean acres between 2008 and 2012, EPA states. The analysis notes that some growers report having difficulties in obtaining non-treated seed.

It also states that "much of the observed use is preventative and may not be currently providing any actual pest management benefits."

"In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale, U.S. soybean farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments,"a Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a media statement.

Environmental groups welcomed the analysis, and said it provided more proof that the agency should take the ecological-protective approach and suspend the use of neonics.
"Neonicotinoid pesticides are one of the leading drivers of global bee declines," stated Friends of the Earth food futures campaigner Tiffany Finck-Haynes. "By confirming that they offer no benefit to U.S. soybean production, the Environmental Protection Agency has no course of action except to suspend all agricultural uses—including seed treatments—to protect pollinators and the planet."

Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist for Pesticide Action Network, adds that the analysis "has confirmed what farmers, beekeepers and scientists have been saying all along: neonicotinoids do more harm than good."

"EPA’s findings are further evidence that the Agency should follow Europe’s lead by restricting and suspending the use of neonicotinoids," whose use poses "serious threats to bees and other pollinators that support the food system," Marquez stated.

The analysis, howerver, was no ringing endorsement of organic agriculture, as it compared neonic-treated seeds with other chemical-dependent methods, including the use of foliar spraying of neonics on soybean plants.

Larissa Walker, pollinator campaign director at Center for Food Safety, told Common Dreams that it's a shame that the analysis goes back to foliar sprays, and that the agency appears to be looking not at systemic contamination from neonics but at best management of them.

"That's not enough," she said, adding that her organization has long said that neonics should not be used at all in agricultural or ornamental applications, as their harm to pollinators and ecosystems is "beyond overwhelming."

In June, for example, an international team of scientists published an analysis based on 800 peer-reviewed reports that found that neonics pose a threat to global biodiversity, while a study by the U.S. Geological Survey published in July found widespread contamination in Midwest waterways from neonics.

As that global analysis and Walker point out, neonics' "mode of action is systemic. They're going to build up in soil and water." Whether it's through seed coating, foliar sprays or soil drenching, it's the same chemicals, she said.
"It's still persistent, still poses environmental problems, harm to pollinators, ecosystems, and potentally human health."
We know that there are better approaches, like using agro-ecological methods that don't rely on systemic pesticides, Walker said.
"The bottom line is we've been asking the EPA to suspend all use of neonics," Walker said. The new analysis is a small step, but there's much more to do, she said.

THE MILLIONS MONSANTO IS SPENDING TO SHUT UP LOCAL VOICES

A sign at a 2013 rally in Connecticut. (photo: CT Senate Democrats/flickr /cc)Published on
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Monsanto Spends Millions in Bid to Defeat Local GMO Labeling Initiative

This is not the first time the biotech giant has funneled millions into efforts to defeat labeling laws by   Sarah Lazare, staff writer
A sign at a 2013 rally in Connecticut. (photo: CT Senate Democrats/flickr /cc)
Monsanto, the largest genetically-modified seed corporation in the world, has so far spent over $4 million in a bid to crush an Oregon initiative, up for vote in November, to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered food.
Records from the Oregon Secretary of State's office show that the company, on October 8, made a contribution of $2.5 million to opponents of the bill, bringing the company's total contributions to $4,085,150.
The initiative—ballot measure 92—would require manufacturers and retailers to label "genetically engineered raw and packaged food." Backers of the provision say that Oregonians "have the right to know" what is in their food.
This is not the first time Monsanto has poured its funds into efforts to crush such measures. Earlier this month, it was revealed that the company has spent $4.7 million to defeat a similar initiative in Colorado, also up for vote in November.