Friday, April 23, 2010


Published on Friday, April 23, 2010 by The Hill
Genetically Modified Crops Are Not the Answer

by Hans Herren and Marcia Ishii-Eiteman

The Senate is considering a bill that would overhaul the way Americans deliver foreign aid. With more people going hungry than ever before, the bill's attention to global hunger could not come at a better time. The Global Food Security Act would streamline the aid process and focus on long-term agricultural development. But something has gone awry inside the bill. A closer look reveals that its otherwise commendable focus may be seriously undermined by a new clause lobbied for by one of America's largest seed and chemical companies.

This bill includes a mandate that we spend foreign aid dollars developing genetically modified (GM) crops. No other kind of agricultural technology is mentioned. Unsurprisingly, Monsanto has lobbied more frequently on this bill than any other entity.
The trouble with a mandate for GM crops is this: it won't work. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists demonstrates that GM crops don't increase crop yields. USAID has already spent millions of taxpayer dollars developing GM crops over the past two decades, without a single success story to show for it, and plenty of failures. A recent, highly touted partnership between USAID and Monsanto to develop a virus-resistant sweet potato in Kenya failed to deliver anything useful for farmers. After 14 years and $6 million, local varieties vastly outperformed their genetically modified cousins in field trials. Another 10-year USAID project for GM eggplant in India recently met with such outcry -- from scientists and Indian farmers alike -- that the government put a moratorium on its release. Growing insect resistance to genetically modified cotton and corn shows that the technology is already failing farmers and will continue to fail over the long term. Sadly, today's GM obsession shows every indication of duplicating the first ill-fated "Green Revolution" that trapped millions of farmers on a pesticide treadmill while devastating the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend.

Fortunately, we have alternatives. Improved farming practices, conventional breeding and agro-ecological techniques deliver far better results, without the risks and high input costs that accompany GM seeds. A 2008 study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development found that "organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and ... is more likely to be sustainable in the long term." Even the chief agricultural scientist of Punjab -- a home of the Green Revolution -- argues that Indian farmers should farm organically.

Meanwhile, the World Bank and UN agencies have completed the most comprehensive analysis of world agriculture to date: the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). This four-year study -- by more than 400 scientists and development experts from 80 countries and approved by 58 governments -- found that reliance on resource-extractive industrial agriculture is risky and unsustainable, particularly in the face of worsening climate, energy and water crises. It noted that expensive, quick fixes -- including GM crops -- fail to address the complex challenges that farmers face, and often exacerbate already bad conditions. Instead, the IAASTD highlighted the need to build more resilience into our food systems by increasing investments in agro-ecological sciences, small-scale biodiverse farming methods and farmer-led participatory breeding programs.

The success of ecological agriculture rests not only in its immediate outcomes of better and more reliable performance, but also in its ability to address the underlying cause of hunger: poverty. Congress could learn from the thousands of Kenyan farmers who have obtained bumper crops and higher household income through the ecological pest management system known as "push-pull." By planting a variety of grasses in and around their cornfields, these farmers have suppressed insect pest and weed populations, reduced input costs, doubled or tripled their corn harvest, increased forage for livestock, supplied their families and local markets, paid off debts and set aside money to pay for school, medicines and other needs. No amount of gene-splicing (or lobbying or advertising) by Monsanto has ever accomplished this much for an African family.

Ultimately, tackling global hunger and poverty requires more than a focus on production technologies. The bigger, more fundamental challenge today is about restoring fairness and democratic control over our food systems. This requires strengthening local food economies, increasing small-scale farmers' control of seed and land, and -- importantly -- breaking up corporate monopolies in agriculture and establishing fairer regional and global trade arrangements.
If Congress is serious about addressing world hunger, they should take their lead from the most comprehensive science and from farmers on the ground -- not from Monsanto lobbyists.
© 2010 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp.
Herren is co-chairman of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and president of the Millennium Institute and BioVision. Ishii-Eiteman is a lead author of the UN-sponsored IAASTD Global Report. She is senior scientist and director of the Sustainable Food Systems Program at Pesticide Action Network.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Published on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 by Associated Press
'Too Fat' for Empire? Military Generals Target School Lunches
School Lunches Blamed As More Americans Too Overweight To Join The Military

by Mary Clare Jalonick

WASHINGTON - School lunches have been called many things, but a group of retired military officers is giving them a new label: national security threat.

[A new report being released Tuesday says more than 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. (CBS)]A new report being released Tuesday says more than 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. (CBS)
That's not a reference to the mystery meat served up in the cafeteria line either. The retired officers are saying that school lunches have helped make the nation's young people so fat that fewer of them can meet the military's physical fitness standards, and recruitment is in jeopardy.

A new report being released Tuesday says more than 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. Now, the officers are advocating for passage of a wide-ranging nutrition bill that aims to make the nation's school lunches healthier.

The officers' group, Mission: Readiness, was appearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The military group acknowledges that other things keep young adults out of the armed services, such as a criminal record or the lack of a high school diploma. But weight problems that have worsened over the past 15 years are now the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected.

Although all branches of the military now meet or exceed recruitment goals, retired Navy Rear Adm. James Barnett Jr., a member of the officers group, says the obesity trend could affect that.

"When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice," Barnett said. He noted that national security in the year 2030 is "absolutely dependent" on reversing child obesity rates.

Recruitment isn't the only problem posed by obesity. According to the report, the government spends tens of millions of dollars every year to train replacements for service members discharged because of weight problems.

This isn't the first time the military has gotten involved in the debate over school lunches. During World War II, military leaders had the opposite problem, reporting that many recruits were rejected because of stunted growth and inadequate nutrition. After the war, military leaders pushed Congress to establish the national school lunch program so children would grow up healthier.

The program was established in 1946, "as a measure of national security," according to the original bill language.

Today, the group is urging Congress to eliminate junk food and high-calorie beverages from schools, put more money into the school lunch program and develop new strategies that help children develop healthier habits.

The school lunch bill, currently awaiting a Senate vote, would establish healthier options for all foods in schools, including vending machine items. The legislation would spend $4.5 billion more over 10 years for nutrition programs.

The Army is already doing its part to catch the problem earlier, working with high schoolers and interested recruits to lose weight before they are eligible for service, says U.S. Army Recruiting Command's Mark Howell. He added that he had to lose 10 pounds himself before he joined the military.

"This is the future of our Army we are looking at when we talk about these 17- to 24-year-olds," Howell said. "The sad thing is a lot of them want to join but can't."
On the Net:

* Mission:

© 2010 Associated Press


Obama admin wants to block GMO food labeling rule in UN committee.

If the U.S. government has its way, a powerful intergovernmental group you've probably never heard of may soon prevent anyone anywhere from labeling genetically modified (GMO) food.

Operated by the United Nations, the Codex Alimentarius is a collection of guidelines, codes and recommendations regarding food safety and labeling standards used by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to settle international disputes regarding food and agricultural export agreements.

According to draft language circulated by the FDA, the U.S. will oppose a proposal at an upcoming meeting of an important Codex committee that would allow the labeling of genetically engineered food. Consumers Union and more than 80 family farm, public health, environmental and organic food organizations have raised concerns that the U.S. position will create major problems for American producers who want to label their products as "GMO-free."

Unfortunately, rather than taking a proactive stance on GMO labeling and standing up for the rights of American citizens, the Obama administration has incorporated pre-existing Bush administration positions, stating that Codex should not "suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods."

Leading national food policy experts believe this position directly contradicts USDA Organic standards, which prohibit the use of genetically engineered products. If adopted, the Obama administration's proposal might not only weaken organic standards, but could also lead to further genetic contamination of U.S. organic crops, the fastest and most profitable segement of agriculture today.

Even worse, the current U.S. draft position paper declares that mandatory labeling laws such as they have in Europe are "false, misleading or deceptive." If the U.S. succeeds in writing the proposed Codex regulations, any attempts here in the U.S. to label foods as genetically engineered, whether voluntary or by law, would become far more difficult.

This extreme position on genetically engineered food is unacceptable.

Join CREDO Action in calling on the US delegation to the Codex Committee meeting, led by representatives of the FDA and USDA, to drop these positions and support proposals to allow countries to make their own decisions on the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19, 2010
12:30 PM

CONTACT: Farm Sanctuary

Meredith Turner, Farm Sanctuary, 646-369-6212,
Farm Sanctuary Urges Passage of the Healthy School Meals Act to Benefit Children and Animals
Citizens Across Country to Participate in National Call-In Day on April 21 in Support of This Federal Legislation

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - April 19 - On Wednesday, April 21, concerned citizens nationwide will join Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization, in a National Call-In Day to urge legislators to support H.R. 4870, the Healthy School Meals Act.

Introduced in March, this new legislation would offer financial incentives to school districts that offer their students plant-based food options and non-dairy beverages. "If passed, the Healthy School Meals Act would have a tremendous impact on children's health, farm animals, and the environment," said executive director of Farm Sanctuary, Dr. Allan Kornberg. Dr. Kornberg has practiced both primary care pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine, and recently served as Senior Vice President for the National Initiative for Children's Health Quality. "As a pediatrician with more than 25 years of clinical and executive leadership experience in medicine, I am keenly aware of the impact diet has on child development. American children are increasingly affected by obesity and other adverse health conditions related to a poor diet."

Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program receive cash subsidies and donated commodities and surplus foods from the USDA. School lunches must meet federal nutrition requirements, but specific food options are determined by local school food authorities. The Healthy School Meals Act would make plant-based proteins and non-dairy milk an affordable option for schools, increasing the accessibility of these healthy foods to students nationwide.

Dr. Kornberg, who once acted as CEO of Network Health, a Medicaid health plan serving the poor in Massachusetts, remarked, "Good health should not be an economic issue. The federally-assisted National School Lunch Program provides low-cost or free lunches to more than 30 million children each school day. These families rely on the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to deliver proper nutrition to their children. The act would help schools that cannot currently afford to do so provide healthy, cruelty-free options to their students."

The act would also address the nutritional needs of countless children who choose to abstain from consuming animal products for ethical, health, environmental, religious, or other reasons. Currently, students are granted access to dairy alternatives only after acquiring a doctor's note. The new legislation would do away with this requirement and thus further increase access to these compassionate options. Whereas in the past, schools may only have provided water or juice to students abstaining from milk, the new bill specifies that nutritionally-equivalent alternatives must be offered, guaranteeing that these students would receive a healthy, balanced diet.

On Tuesday, April 20, Dr. Kornberg will join Elizabeth Kucinich, Director of Public Affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), and student activist, Nina Gonzalez, for a conference call to inform citizens further on the Healthy School Meals Act and offer advice on becoming an effective citizen lobbyist.

"By adopting a plant-based diet, Americans may reap dramatic health benefits while they simultaneously act with kindness and decency toward farm animals," added Dr. Kornberg." The Healthy School Meals Act would both safeguard the health of America's youth and encourage students to make compassionate choices for animals at every meal."

If you would like to speak with Farm Sanctuary Executive Director Allan Kornberg, please contact Meredith Turner at 646-369-6212 or
Farm Sanctuary is the nation's leading farm animal protection organization. Since incorporating in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has worked to expose and stop cruel practices of the "food animal" industry through research and investigations, legal and institutional reforms, public awareness projects, youth education, and direct rescue and refuge efforts. Farm Sanctuary shelters in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Orland, Calif., provide lifelong care for hundreds of rescued animals, who have become ambassadors for farm animals everywhere by educating visitors about the realities of factory farming.