Saturday, June 23, 2012


moneybills 210x131 Monsanto Pays 93 Million to Victims In SettlementMonsanto Pays 93 Million to Victims In Settlement

Cassandra Anderson
February 27, 2012
Monsanto tentatively agreed to a $93 million settlement with some residents of Nitro, West Virginia. Nitro is a small town that got its name from manufacturing explosives during WWI.  It was also the site of a Monsanto chemical plant that manufactured 2,4,5-T herbicide that was half of the Agent Orange recipe. Herbicide 2,4,5-T was contaminated with the caustic by-product dioxin. This settlement may open the floodgates to successfully suing Monsanto for its poison.

Nitro Settlement

Herbicide 2,4,5-T was phased out in the late 1970′s. Dioxin is the most dangerous chemical known and has a 100 year half-life when leached into soil or embedded in water systems. The Veteran’s Administration recognizes and pays out on Agent Orange injury claims that include cancer, birth defects in children of exposed victims, leukemia, liver disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes and chloracne.
Despite an explosion in the Nitro plant in949, not a single penny has been paid to residents of Nitro for dioxin injuries, per an attorney that worked on a previous dioxin case. After 7 years of litigation, and on the heels of the EPA releasing part of its dioxin assessment report,  Monsanto has made a tentative agreement to settle a class action suit with some Nitro residents for a total of $93 million.  Here are the proposed settlement figures:
  • Medical Testing:  $21 Million
  • Additional Screening:  $63 Million
  • Cleanup of 4500 homes:  $9 Million
Bloomberg reports that this settlement will reduce Monsanto’s 2012 net income by 5 cents per share, but Monsanto may face additional lawsuits and fines. There are potentially 80,000 property damage claims alone that could cost Monsanto $3.9 billion in cleanup costs. Dioxin has contaminated soil and has been found in dust in residents’ homes at very high levels.

Nitro Residents vs. Monsanto

Several months ago, the judge in the Nitro case issued a gag order in this case, which was unusual, so details are a bit sketchy. It is unclear whether the following evidence was introduced:
1. Monsanto is alleged to have burned dioxin waste in open pits, spewing dioxin and its ash into the air and polluting land.
2. The EPA recommended that Monsanto be criminally investigated for fraud in covering-up dioxin contamination in its products, including 2,4,5-T herbicide. Monsanto failed to report contamination, substituted false information to show no contamination or sent in “doctored” samples of their products devoid of dioxin to government regulators.
3. The EPA recommended that Monsanto be criminally investigated for fraud in falsifying health studies. These flawed studies that concluded dioxin did not cause cancer and other negative health effects (except chloracne) were used to deny benefits to Viet Nam veterans.
4. Solutia, a Monsanto spin-off company that once owned its Nitro plant, was found by the EPA to have many deteriorating drums of dioxin buried near the Kanawha River. The Nitro plant produced dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T from 1949 to 1971.

Agent Orange Government Contractor Immunity

In the past, both Monsanto and Dow Chemical enjoyed government immunity as government contractors under numerous outrageous rulings by Judge Jack Weistein, according to journalist Laura Akgulian.
Dr. Gerson Smoger’s huge body of evidence in another case appears to point to intentional fraud by Agent Orange manufacturers, but the Supreme Court refused to hear Smoger’s case to allow veterans to sue producers.  And Agent Orange producers’ immunity continued. Here are a few examples of reasons why manufacturers should be denied immunity:
1. 2,4,5-T herbicide makers engaged in defective manufacturing of 2,4,5-T by cooking it at a high temperature when they knew that slow cooking would eliminate dioxin.
2. Dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T was not a new chemical, but had been produced since the 1940′s, so it was not created specifically for government purposes.
3. The US government appears to have had no knowledge dioxin contamination or its hazards in 2,4,5-T, but the manufacturers did.

Spaulding vs. Monsanto | Immunity Denied

In a separate case, the Spauldings, former residents of Nitro, filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court against Monsanto for allegedly burning toxic dioxin waste in open fire pits. In late 2011, Judge Paul Gardephe denied Monsanto’s request for summary judgement for its government contractor immunity defense because Monsanto failed to prove that the government was aware and sanctioned Monsanto’s open pit burning of dioxin waste in Nitro.
This case has some promise because the judge appears to be aware of limits to immunity. Stuart Calwell, the attorney in the Nitro case that was just settled is also representing the plaintiffs in this case.


Property damage from dioxin contamination may be less difficult to prove than dioxin-related medical injuries. For instance, cancer can incubate in the body for decades, so it would be hard to prove that dioxin exposure was the direct cause of the cancer.
However, the judges in the West Virginia court case deemed civil engineer Robert Carr’s testimony inadmissible and blocked it, using the excuse that the cost for cleanup was too speculative as it ranged between $945,000 to $3.9 billion. The wide range is due to factors like how much property would be remedied and the level of cleanup, that may include incinerating contaminated soil in a kiln. The judges should have allowed a jury to determine those facts. Dioxin is not safe at any level, so costs could skyrocket easily.
Additionally, the judges decertified the property damage cases, which means that each plaintiff must sue individually, instead of as a group in a class action suit. Lawsuits of this nature can cost upwards of $200,000, so individuals may be discouraged form suing. However, Monsanto just offered $9 million to clean some houses, so there appears to be merit to the property damage complaint.
People can sue individually under one lawyer (not a class action suit) to defray legal costs. An environmental attorney advised that these people may also sue for negligence, nuisance, trespass and battery. If punitive damages were awarded, 900% over the cost of the damage could be assessed against Monsanto.
The case settled without any finding of wrongdoing by Monsanto. This is appears to be the reason why they agreed to the settlement — to avoid accountability and punitive damage charges. The $93 million is chump change for Monsanto an will barely affect their share prices. Monsanto has now set a precedent for settling claims, and hopefully some good attorneys will seize the opportunity in order to hold Monsanto accountable.

Read more:


moneybill 235x147 Monsanto Faced with Paying 7.5 Billion Back to FarmersMonsanto Faced with Paying 7.5 Billion Back to Farmers

Anthony Gucciardi
June 20, 2012
Monsanto may soon be forced to pay as much as 7.5 billion dollars back to the farmers who say that the mega corporation took their rightfully earned income and taxed their small businesses to financial shambles. It all started with a monumental lawsuit launched by over 5 million farmers against Monsanto looking to recover financial losses from ridiculous seed taxes that bankrupted many families.
Back in April, a Brazilian court ruled that Monsanto absolutely was responsible for paying back the exorbitant amounts of cash back to the farmers, ordering the company to issue back all of the taxes collected since 2004 — a minimum of 2 billion dollars. Afterwards, Monsanto appealed the decision and the case is now suspended until a further hearing is initiated by the Justice Tribune of the local court stationed in Rio Grande do Sul.
Recently, however, the Brazilian Supreme Court declared that any decision reached in a local court case should apply nationally. The result? Monsanto now faces even larger charges, due to the larger legal application on a national level. Now, the charges total or exceed 7.5 billion dollars.
“The values involved could total 15 billion reais ($7.5bn),” said the Superior Tribunal of Justice on its website.
Lawsuits and criminal charges continue to hit Monsanto, scratching away at the financial foundation of the agricultural behemoth. Monsanto has been found guilty of chemical poisoning in France after their weedkiller product led to neurological problems, and the company has even dished out 93 million to victims of toxic dioxin. As Monsanto continues to be slammed with lawsuits, many of which are from multitudes of affected farmers and individuals, awareness spreads among the general public regarding the corporation’s true acts.
It was this same corporation that was caught running what has been labeled slave rings, in which workers were forced to work for 14 hours per day or more cultivating the fields and were not permitted to leave. Monsanto’s crimes are slowly coming to light, and the public is demanding action.
More related info:
  1. 5 Million Farmers Sue Monsanto for $7.7 Billion
  2. Judge Throws out Organic Farmers’ Recent Case Against Monsanto
  3. Farmers Issue Lawsuit Against Monsanto for Widespread Genetic Manipulation
  4. USDA Steps Back and Gives Monsanto More Power Over GMO Seeds
  5. Breaking: Monsanto Found Guilty of Chemical Poisoning in France
  6. Poland Announces Complete Ban on Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Maize


Friday, June 22, 2012


Senate Approves New Farm Bill

The Senate has passed a version of the Farm Bill that includes $1 trillion in spending over the next decade both for aid to U.S. farmers and for food stamps to low-income families. The Senate bill cuts about $4.5 billion from the food stamp program, and the House is expected to seek even deeper cuts. The bill ends direct subsidies to U.S. farmers but expands the crop insurance program, which would cost $9 billion annually. Environmentalists have hailed a requirement that farmers who receive insurance subsidies must have basic environmental protections in place. But the bill has also come under criticism for failing to tackle the control of large agribusiness. In a statement, the group Food & Water Watch criticized the measure, saying: "The Senate passed a farm bill that left the largest agribusiness and food processing companies firmly in control of America’s food system."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Walmart's Forced Labor: We Feel Like We Are Slaves

by Abby Zimet
How does Walmart keep its prices so low? The so-called guest workers from Mexico who peel crawfish at a Louisiana seafood supplier for Wal-Mart know: They are locked inside the plant, forced to work 24-hour shifts, cursed and threatened with beatings by shovel if they fail to make their quota, and endure  constant surveillance at their nearby trailers from a boss who warns them, "You don’t want to know me as an enemy." Having gone on strike from C.J.’s Seafood and filed federal complaints, they head to New York today to protest Wal-Mart, its subsidiaries and related boards - including Goldman Sachs - at their corporate headquarters and homes. Brought to you by the feisty National Guestworker Alliance.


CAFO-Pigs-Take ActionDear Clean Foodies,

In early April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a series of draft measures to limit the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in meat and poultry production. While this is big news and an important first step, the documents fall short in many areas. We need your help to ensure that the Obama Administration strengthens these policies and protects antibiotics from overuse on industrial farms.
Take action now: Urge the White House and FDA to strengthen its antibiotic policies.
Leading medical and public health groups warn that the routine use of antibiotics to produce meat and poultry creates new strains of dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria that threaten human health.  FDA’s recent actions are intended to preserve antibiotics so they continue to work to treat life-threatening infections today and in the future, and ensure long-term public health protections.

Please join us in asking the FDA and the White House to ensure that life-saving antibiotics are no longer misused on industrial farms.    
Thank you,

Laura Rogers
Project Director, The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming


In 49 countries around the world, including all of Europe, people have the opportunity of knowing whether or not they are eating food which contains genetically engineered ingredients. In the United States, we don't. That is why I have introduced, along with Sen. Barbara Boxer, an amendment to the agriculture bill which will give states the right to require labels on food products which are genetically engineered.
All over this country people are becoming more conscious about the foods they eat and serve their kids. When a mother goes to the store and purchases food for her child, she has the right to know what she is feeding her family.
Poll after poll during the past decade showed that nine out of 10 Americans agree that food with genetically engineered ingredients should say so on the label.
Almost 1 million Californians signed a petition to get labeling of genetically engineered food on this November's ballot. They want the right to know what is in their foods.
Vermont state legislators this year tried to pass a bill that would have required foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients to disclose that information on the label. There was a huge public response. The Vermont House Agriculture Committee heard from 111 witnesses in favor of the bill. Hundreds more showed up at the Statehouse to show their support.
Of course, there are those who disagree. Monsanto, one of the world's leading producers of genetically engineered foods, doesn't like the idea. It is also the world's largest producer of the herbicide Roundup as well as so-called "Roundup-ready" seeds that have been genetically engineered to resist the pesticide. So, once it seemed like the bill was headed for passage, Monsanto threatened to sue. The strong-arm tactic worked. Despite passing out of the House Agriculture Committee by a vote of 9 to 1, the bill went nowhere.
Poll after poll during the past decade showed that nine out of 10 Americans agree that food with genetically engineered ingredients should say so on the label.
This week in The United States Senate we have an opportunity to affirm the right of California and Vermont and all states to label food that contains genetically engineered ingredients. Simply put, this amendment gives people the right to know. It says that a state, if its Legislature so chooses, may require that any food or beverage containing a genetically engineered ingredient offered for sale in that state have a label that says so.   
The amendment also requires that the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture to report to Congress within two years on the percentage of food and beverages in the United States that contain genetically engineered ingredients.
There are strong precedents for labeling. The FDA already requires the labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, additives, and processes. If you want to know if your food contains gluten, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, trans-fats or MSG, you simply read the ingredients listed on the label. The FDA also requires labeling for major food allergens such as peanuts, wheat, shellfish and others.
Unlike people in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, China, Russia, New Zealand and other countries where labels are required, Americans don't know if the food they eat has been genetically altered.
There was concern among scientists at the FDA in the 1990s that genetically engineered foods could have new and different risks such as hidden allergens, increased plant-toxin levels and the potential to hasten the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease. Those concerns were largely brushed aside. Today, unanswered questions remain. In the United States, resolutions calling for labeling of genetically engineered foods were passed by the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association. In Canada, a landmark independent study by Canadian doctors published in the peer-reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology found that toxin from soil bacterium engineered into corn to kill pests was present in the bloodstream of 93 percent of pregnant women. There is a great need for additional research because there have never been mandatory human clinical trials of genetically engineered crops, no tests for carcinogenicity or harm to fetuses, no long-term testing for human health risks, no requirement for long-term testing on animals, and only limited allergy testing. What this means is that, for all intents and purposes, the long-term health study of genetically engineered food is being done on all of the American people.
The Consumers Right to Know about Genetically Engineered Food Amendment is about allowing states to honor the wishes of their residents and allowing consumers to know what they're eating. Americans want this information. It is time that Congress affirms the right of states to give it to them.
Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


About 85 percent of Brazil's massive soyabean crop output is produced from genetically engineered seeds. (photo: Loses $2 Billion Judgment to Brazilian Farmers

By Subodh Varma, The Times of India
12 June 12

About 85 percent of Brazil's massive soyabean crop output is produced from genetically engineered seeds. (photo:

ive million Brazilian farmers have taken on US based biotech company Monsanto through a lawsuit demanding return of about 6.2 billion euros taken as royalties from them. The farmers are claiming that the powerful company has unfairly extracted these royalties from poor farmers because they were using seeds produced from crops grown from Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds, reports Merco Press.
In April this year, a judge in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, ruled in favor of the farmers and ordered Monsanto to return royalties paid since 2004 or a minimum of $2 billion. The ruling said that the business practices of seed multinational Monsanto violate the rules of the Brazilian Cultivars Act (No. 9.456/97).
Monsanto has appealed against the order and a federal court ruling on the case is now expected by 2014.
About 85% of Brazil’s massive soyabean crop output is produced from genetically engineered seeds. Brazil exports about $24.1 billion worth of soyabeans annually, more than a quarter of its total agri-exports.
Farmers say that they are using seeds produced many generations after the initial crops from the genetically modified Monsanto seeds were grown. Farmers claim that Monsanto unfairly collects exorbitant profits every year worldwide on royalties from “renewal” seed harvests. Renewal crops are those that have been planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest. Monsanto disagrees, demanding royalties from any crop generation produced from its genetically-engineered seed. Because the engineered seed is patented, Monsanto not only charges an initial royalty on the sale of the crop produced, but a continuing two per cent royalty on every subsequent crop, even if the farmer is using a later generation of seed.
The first transgenic soy seeds were illegally smuggled into Brazil from neighboring Argentina in 1998 and their use was banned and subject to prosecution until the last decade, according to the state-owned Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research (EMBRAPA).The ban has since been lifted and now 85 percent of the country’s soybean crop (25 million hectares or 62 million acres) is genetically modified, Alexandre Cattelan, an EMBRAPA researcher told Merco Press. Brazil is the world’s second largest producer and exporter of soyabean. China is one of its biggest buyers.

“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production,” Jane Berwanger, lawyer for the farmers told the media agencies.


Description: CREDO Action | more than a network, a movement.
Dear Eaters,
Ready for what's next from Dow Chemicals? GE crops modified to be resistant to the herbicide that's a main ingredient in Agent Orange!
The herbicide, 2,4-D, is linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and Parkinson's and is banned entirely in parts of Canada and Europe. And yet the USDA seems ready to approve the new GMO Corn and Soybeans, unleashing a major increase in the use of 2,4-D.1
Now, the EPA is considering stepping in to stop or restrict the application of 2,4-D, which would be a major blow to Dow's Agent Orange veggies. Can you urge EPA to reject Dow's plans to spray this incredibly toxic herbicide?
If you care about food safety or the environment, you know about Roundup, developed by Monsanto, and so toxic to plants that Monsanto had to engineer "Roundup Ready" crops that wouldn't be killed when farmers applied Roundup to their fields.
From 1996, when Roundup Ready crops were introduced in the US, through 2008, there was a 383 million pound increase in the use of herbicides. Now, it turns out that weeds are becoming Roundup resistant, requiring the use of even stronger pesticides (like 2,4-D) and the engineering of crops that can withstand their use.
That's where Dow's "2,4-D resistant" corn comes in.  Because the corn will be resistant to 2,4-D, farmers will be able to blast their fields with the main ingredient in Agent Orange.  We can expect the increase in the use of 2,4-D to be enormous.2
Big Ag armed with 2,4-D is a scary scenario — 2,4-D has been shown to be contaminated with dioxins, is linked to numerous health problems, is highly likely to drift onto neighboring fields, is frequently found in groundwater, and is likely to already be negatively impacting several species of at-risk animals. But despite this, the USDA has not done any meaningful review of possible consequences to human health, the environment, or other farms that could result from approving "2,4-D resistant," genetically engineered corn.
With the USDA seemingly ready to approve the 2,4-D resistant corn, the EPA's involvement is crucial. If the EPA stands strong, and rejects 2,4-D, they can effectively kill Dow's 2,4-D resistant corn and soy. Please take action now:
Thanks for fighting to keep dangerous pesticides out of our food system,
Heidi Hess, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Monday, June 18, 2012


URGENT: Don’t Let the Biotech Industry Sneak This In!

June 18, 2012
Congress is considering a sneaky, pro-GMO rider to a funding bill, and it may become law without anyone realizing it—unless you take action NOW!
The biotech industry has managed to insert a dangerous rider in support of genetically engineered crops into the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. It is scheduled to be heard by the House Appropriations Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, June 19, so we need you all to contact the committee immediately and voice your opposition! This is why we are taking the extraordinary step of sending out this newsletter a day early, to give you time to send in your message right away.
The provision would strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of illegal, potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops while USDA is assessing those potential hazards. In other words, even if a court said to halt the sale and planting of the genetically engineered crop until a USDA environmental impact statement was completed, the crop planting could still go forward!
Further, the provision would compel USDA to allow continued planting of that same crop upon request, even if USDA finds that the crop poses previously unrecognized risks. That’s right—the provision specifically mandates that the Secretary of Agriculture shall, upon request by a farm operator or producer, immediately grant a temporary permit authorizing the crops to continue being planted or cultivated, even if a court has called a halt until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed. They’re calling it the Farmer Assurance Provision (Section 733), but far from safeguarding farmers, the only parties whose interests are “assured” by this rider are those of GE crop developers.
This rider is almost certainly a response to the recent federal court interventions we’ve been telling you about, preventing the sale, distribution, or cultivation of non-regulated GE sugarbeets and GE alfalfa while full environmental evaluations are being done.
Environmental Impact Statements take years to complete and are an important method to slow—and perhaps even prevent—the planting of these dangerous crops. The provision is terrible for many reasons:
  • This is an appropriations bill, and this rider has nothing to do with appropriations. This is an attempt to sneak an unrelated provision into a must-pass bill in the hope that it won’t be noticed. While we believe the entire provision is a dangerous one, at minimum it should have been presented in a bill of its own, to give it the full public exposure such a controversial subject deserves. We suspect the reason it wasn’t done this way is because it could never pass on its own—and they know that!
  • The provision circumvents the judicial process. In several recent lawsuits, federal courts have ruled for farmers, businesses, and public interest plaintiffs, finding that USDA had violated federal law by failing to adequately consider the potential harms of GE crops it had approved. This rider is specifically intended to prohibit courts from imposing such reasonable restrictions in the event of similar cases in the future, undermining judicial authority in the interests of maximizing biotech industry seed sales. This outlandish provision would prevent a court from putting in place court-ordered restrictions, even if the approval were fraudulent or involved bribery. Congress should be supportive of an independent judiciary that is able to evaluate issues that affect the public and put the legal brakes on fraud and abuse.
  • It could cause substantial harm to farmers—not to mention the agricultural economy. The provision would allow non-GE crops to be contaminated by neighboring GE crops, without proper environmental studies being performed. Seeds, crops, and foods that are contaminated with GE material cannot be sold in many international markets. Agricultural commodities contaminated by GE crops that have not been approved for commercial use in the US are particularly shunned.
The USDA already rubber stamps the approval and deregulation of GE crops. This rider, by law, provides USDA with even greater authority to continue to do so, no matter what the courts say.
The Ag Appropriations bill will be heard in the full committee tomorrow morning (Tuesday), and we hope that your messages will be enough to make them strike this dangerous provision from the bill. After the committee hearing tomorrow, the next step is for the bill to go to the floor, where we will have another opportunity to stop them, if necessary.
Please contact the members of the House Appropriations Committee and oppose the rider TODAY—there’s not a moment to lose!
Take Action!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Myths and Facts

About the CA Right to Know Initiative
Not everyone agrees with the idea that consumers have the right to know what’s in our food. Some big corporations reap huge profits from the lack of transparency in our food system. They have spent millions of dollars lobbying to keep Americans in the dark about genetically engineered food, even though this type of food is already labeled in more than 40 other countries.
Why don’t Americans also have the right to know if our food contains genetically engineered ingredients? Opponents claim that labeling would be scary, costly and confusing. This is simply not true. Here are the facts about the opposition’s false claims. 
Cost inventions:  Allegations that labeling genetically engineered food would raise the cost of groceries by “hundreds of dollars” a year are false. There is absolutely no evidence to back up these claims. If the California Right to Know initiative becomes law, there will be no increased cost to consumers. The initiative simply requires adding a little bit of ink to existing labels. Companies have 18 months to comply with the new labeling law, and they typically change their labels within this time period anyway.
Language lies: Claiming that “the language is confusing” is a standard approach of opponents. In this case, the opposition is working hard to convince people that the Right to Know initiative will prevent non-GMO foods, such as canned olives, from being marketed as “natural.” This is false. The initiative applies only to genetically engineered foods. The California Attorney General’s office has already rejected the opposition’s claims that the initiative could be applied to non-GMO foods. The AG’s summary of the ballot initiative clearly states that the initiative applies to genetically engineered foods, not other foods.
National Public Radio partially retracted a blog about this issue after a source retreated from her statements. See: NPR retreats from story about CA Right to Know initiative.
Lawsuit boogeymen: Whipping up fears about trial lawyers is a key strategy of the opposition. Their website claims the initiative will authorize “bounty hunter lawsuits.” This claim is false and makes no sense. The California Right to Know initiative does not allow bounty hunter fees, so there is no economic incentive for lawyers to sue. Furthermore, the labeling law is easy to comply with – it merely requires labeling food that contains genetically engineered ingredients. There is no reason to believe companies will violate the law. Just as they accurately label their food for calories and fat content, companies are likely to disclose genetically engineered ingredients.
Americans can’t handle it? The opposition website opens to a photo of a confused looking elderly gentleman staring at a grocery store shelf. This implication is that American consumers won’t be able to understand labels that include information about genetically engineered ingredients. This is insulting. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Americans want to know if their food is genetically engineered. Several polls indicate that 9 out of 10 voters want mandatory labeling of GMOs (See Mellman 2011, Reuters 2010, Zogby 2012). A recent poll of 500 California adults by San Francisco television station KCBS found that 91% backed labeling.
We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our children. It’s time for Californians to have the same rights as consumers in the rest of the world. For more information, see
For more about who is opposing the California Right to Know initaitive, see Meet the Corporate Front Groups Fighting to Make Sure You Can't Know What's in Your Food. Also see this story about the former tobacco lobbyist heading up the opposition effort.


Who opposes transparency in our food system?

Fri, Jun 6, 2012 11:07 AMNot everyone agrees that consumers have the right to know what’s in our food. Some large corporations have built a business strategy that relies on the lack of transparency in our food system. They have already spent millions of dollars lobbying to keep the words “genetically engineered” off our food labels, even though this type of labeling is standard in the rest of the industrialized world.
The California Right to Know initiative is a simple initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. This type of labeling is already required in more than 40 countries, including all of Europe, Japan and even China. Yet opposition groups are hard at work trying to convince Californians that labeling is weird, scary and expensive.
Who is opposing the California Right to Know initiative?
The main opposition front group appears to be “Stop Costly Food Labeling,” which is funded primarily by two trade groups based in Washington DC, thousands of miles from California. They are the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Grocery Manufacturers Association. These trade groups are funded by corporations such as Monsanto, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Kraft and other large food manufacturers that routinely market genetically engineered food as “natural.”
Donations to “Stop Costly Food Labeling” go to the offices of the law firm Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk. Tom Hiltachk -- a former tobacco industry lobbyist who was a lead proponent of Proposition 23, the oil-industry funded attempt to suspend California’s landmark global warming law -- is leading the effort to oppose the Right to Know initiative.
For more information about the opposition, see “Meet the Corporate Front Groups Fighting to Make Sure You Can’t Know What’s in Your Food.”
Tobacco lawyers like Hiltachk are infamous for spreading false information about the health effects of tobacco. So it is unsurprising that Hiltachk’s "Stop Costly Food Labeling" group has been spreading misinformation about the California Right to Know initiative. For the truth about their false claims, see Myths vs. Facts.


Historic Ballot Initiative On Food Labeling Could Influence Future Of Food

Posted on 15 June 2012
By Stacy Malkan
The California Secretary of State announced this week that the Right to Know initiative to label genetically engineered foods will be on the state’s November ballot. This will be one of the most closely watched ballot measures in the nation this fall. The outcome "could influence not just food packaging but the future of American agriculture," according to a recent front page story in New York Times.
The measure was placed on the California ballot through petitions signed by nearly one million voters who have been frustrated by the unwillingness of legislators to require labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO). GMOs are crops that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria. An example is Bt corn, which is genetically altered to express the bacterial Bt toxin, which is poisonous to insect pests.
Recent national polling data show that nine out of 10 voters in the United States want mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Currently, the US is one of few industrialized countries that requires no such labeling, even though there is overwhelming bipartisan support for it.
"Consumers have a fundamental right to know what is in their food and make choices, so I think everyone should be working toward this," Albert Straus, president of the Straus Family Creamery in Petaluma, told the Associated Press.
The California Right to Know initiative is backed by a broad array of consumer, health and environmental groups, businesses and farmers – including Sierra Club, United Farm Workers, California Certified Organic Farmers, Consumer Federation of America and the California State Grange – and it is widely regarded as the best chance to achieve GMO labeling in the United States.
As Mark Bittman wrote in yesterday’s New York Times blog, “Most Americans want GMOs to be labeled in their food, but it’s been up to consumers to take matters into their own hands. The best hope for progress is in California, where voters will decide on a ballot initiative to require labeling in November. It will be an uphill battle, as there are plenty of front groups and organizations working to prevent labeling.”
Bittman said the government’s refusal to label GMOs is “demeaning and undemocratic.”
In March, more than one million people submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a petition for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, more than any other petition in FDA history. Twenty states have tried to legislate GMO labeling, but none have succeeded due to intense opposition from corporate special interests that are opposed to transparency in our food system.
All eyes are now on California, where the state's voters will be given a historic opportunity this fall to determine whether they have the right to know what's in their food.
For more information:
Stacy Malkan is media director of the California Right to Know campaign and a longtime environmental health advocate. She co-founded the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of the new book, Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry (New Society Publishers, 2007). 


Nepal’s Female Farmers Fear Climate Change

DANG, Nepal, Jun 15 2012 (IPS) - When Arati Chaudhary’s husband left for India to find work as a migrant labourer, the job of managing farm and family fell on her slender shoulders.
Nepal is among the world's most climate vulnerable countries
“My family (of four children) will starve if I don’t work harder on the farms this year. I just hope that it rains well in the monsoon season (June-September),” Arati tells IPS in her village of Lamahi in the remote Dang district, 500 km west of Kathmandu.
Agricultural experts believe that failing agriculture in the western hills is exacerbating an existing trend of male migration to neighbouring India – a country that allows Nepali nationals free access and the right to work there.
“The quality of soil has gone down, there is extreme water shortage and frequent disasters like landslides, pests and crop diseases have reduced cultivable acreage,” Krishna Raj Aryal from Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), told IPS.
While Nepal has largely recovered from the severe 2008-2009 drought, the worst in 40 years, a World Food Programme (of the United Nations) bulletin released in February said 3.33 million people in the country were still suffering from acute food insecurity.
The same bulletin warned that the situation was likely to deteriorate in Karnali and the far-western hill and mountain districts over the first quarter of the year with food stocks depleting.
According to the state-run Nepal Agricultural Research Centre,  agricultural production only meets the country’s requirements for three to eight months per year.
As food insecurity grows, more Nepali families are becoming dependent on their male members finding alternate livelihoods in India rather than stick with uncertain farming. This is particularly true of the impoverished far western districts.
With over 80 percent of Nepal’s 27 million people dependent on farming, the export of male labour means that the burden of dealing with climate change falls squarely on the women.
Arati understands that rain has been erratic over Nepal over the last few years but, being illiterate, she is not quite sure what the constant talk of global climate change is all about.
“The weather has always been hard to predict, though the monsoon rains have become noticeably scantier and more erratic,” she said.
Arati’s situation of being left to her own devices to cope with the vagaries of the weather  is no different from that of thousands of female-headed farming households in the western region.
NGO leaders like Aryal worry that, in spite of the talk in the cities about climate change, little is being done to educate rural women on how to adapt to changing weather patterns or provide tangible support.
Government officials deny that the issue is being neglected and say things will improve gradually in a country that is still finding its feet after a debilitating ten-year civil war that ended with the  abolition of the monarchy in 2008.
Nepal is yet to give itself a new constitution that is acceptable to all parties and ethnic groups. On May 27, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai announced that parliament, elected in 2008 to write the constitution, would be disbanded and elections held in November.
“Adaptation programmes need careful planning and we are seriously working on minimising the impacts of climate change,” Deependra Bhadaur Kshetri, vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, told IPS.
The country’s National Adaptation Plan of Action is still under process. Separately, the environment ministry is preparing a gender strategy that is expected to address the problems faced by female-headed households dependent on agriculture.
Nepal is placed among the most climate vulnerable countries in the world due to its extreme geography (climbing from 60 m to over 8,800 m above sea level) and its impoverished, natural resource dependent population.
A 2007 study on the impact of climate change in Rasuwa district by Resource Identification and Management Society (RIMS), an environmental NGO, found steady increases in temperatures in the summer and monsoon seasons between 1978 and 2007.
Analysing data for that period, RIMS found that in addition to the temperature rise the average annual rainfall had dropped by about one mm a year, with implications for agriculture in the region.
Nepal’s agriculture sector is greatly dependent on timely rainfall (only 17 percent of land is irrigated), making farming highly vulnerable to variations in rainfall patterns.
Almost 80 percent of Nepal’s annual rainfall occurs within the monsoon months of June to September when Nepal is flooded with rain while facing scarcity or drought in the other eight months of the year.
“There is little knowledge on climate change in the rural areas and we need to educate people, especially women, on what is happening,” says Gehendra Gurung, head of the disaster risk reduction and climate change programme at Practical Action, an international NGO.
Gurung says women in the remote areas are seriously disadvantaged because of low literacy rates and lack of access to information. Compared to 75 percent literacy rate among Nepali males, the female literacy rate is only 54 percent.
The last labour force survey carried out by the government and released in 2008 showed a rise in female-headed households from 14 percent to 22 percent over a decade. Experts believe that even more women are now heading households.
“The impact on the livelihoods of women is direct since, apart from household work, they are more involved in farming and livestock keeping than ever before,” says climate change expert with Practical Action, Dinanath Bhandari.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (of the United Nations), countries such as Nepal, India and Bangladesh have about 60 percent of the female workforce engaged in agriculture.
In Nepal, the gender divide is pronounced with women involved in  agricultural, pastoral, wage labour and household work, according to the 2011 U.N. Environment Programme report, ‘Women at the frontline of climate change – gender risks and hopes.’
Women in Nepal’s mountain regions carry out over 6.6 times the agricultural work than men, according to the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. 
Women are also more dependent on natural resources since they are charged with the responsibility of securing water, food and fuel for cooking and heating in rural Nepal.
“Overall there has been little focus on the gender component and this needs to be recognised first of all,” says Bhandari.
Practical Action runs an adaptation programme where farmers have replaced their rice farms with banana plantations, which are less vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather.
“Ultimately it is the government that should take the call on running adaptation and mitigation programmes,” says Gurung. “The voluntary sector is limited to pilot and demonstration projects.”
Some NGOs are already implementing adaptation projects involving large numbers of women. For example, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) project is engaged in improving agricultural production in the mountainous district of Langtang.
Here some about 100 women are involved in promoting local seed varieties and discouraging farmers from taking to hybrids which are not viable in the long term due to the constant climate change.
“We have engaged these women to run the project and train local people in adapting to extreme climatic conditions,” said Anil Manandhar, country chief of WWF-Nepal.
The women collect and preserve local seed varieties and sell them to female farmers at subsidised rates. In addition, WWF-Nepal runs a Krishak Pathsala (Farmers’ School), where irrigation and water conservation methods are taught.
“It is important that women are directly engaged in climate change projects because they are now more involved than ever before in farming and are the real victims of climate change,” said Manandhar. 
* This article is one of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.


Charitha Wijeratne (right) at his organic rice farm in Anuradhapura

Back to the Future With Local Rice Seeds

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Charitha Wijeratne (right) at his organic rice farm in Anuradhapura
Jun 16 2012- By coaxing a bumper 3.2 tonnes of rice out of each acre on his organic farm in this district famed for its ancient Buddhist monasteries, Charitha Wijeratne has convincingly proved that using indigenous seeds does not affect productivity.
“After  three years of struggle, this harvest season, we reaped 120 bushels (3.2 tonnes) per acre against the average 80 bushels (2.1 tonnes) per acre yield,” Wijeratne, a sprightly octogenarian and diehard Marxist, tells IPS.
Teaming up with Alex Thanthriarachchi, 62, a reformed militant Marxist, Wijertane is on a mission to promote indigenous varieties of rice and other staples as the best way for Sri Lankan farmers to deal with changing climate.
Thanthriarachchi, currently secretary to senior minister S.B. Navinna, was jailed for his role in the failed 1971 Marxist uprising in Sri Lanka. He spent his two years in prison studying neighbouring India’s hybrid-based ‘green revolution’ that resulted in the extinction of thousands of local varieties.
Thanthriarachchi and Wijeratne scoured the countryside for years looking for traditional rice breeds known to be resistant to droughts and floods  and  requiring minimum farming inputs.   
“This is organic farming at its best,” says Wijeratne, pointing to his rice-growing land in the Eppawela and Thrippane villages where he and his associates debunked the myth that indigenous rice produces lower yields than hybrids.
Wijeratne’s 10-hectare farm at Thrippane is lush with organically-grown coconuts, fruits and vegetables and attracts other farmers in Anuradhapura as well as academics and green activists.
Indeed, Anuradhapura district, whose Buddhist monuments have earned it recognition as a UNESCO heritage site, is now also emerging as a centre for indigenous seed revival.
Ajantha Kumari Ratnamala, 34, is among a group of farmers dedicated to training others who wish to use indigenous seeds. She has converted her own 2.1- acre paddy field in Anuradhapura into a showpiece for traditional seed varieties. 
“Each acre gives me 80 bushels and although hybrids do give about 100 bushels, there are financial, health and environmental costs that are too often ignored in production reckonings,” she tells IPS.
“Pesticides and insecticides needed for cultivating hybrids are not only costly but also have persistent toxic compounds that seep into the earth and contaminate the water table,” Ratnamala says. “Organic farming uses  cowdungh, a natural fertiliser that also discourages  pests.”
As soil health improves after two to three years of regular organic farming, so do yields. Organic rice also fetches better price at Sri Lankan rupees 60 (45 cents) per kg against 22 – 30 cents per kg for hybrid rice,” Ratnamala said.
Farmers in Anuradhapura, she said, are increasingly seeing the advantages of returning to hardy traditional varieties that are weather-resilient.    
Nimal Wijeratne, 52, from Padaviya village, told IPS that of the 450-odd rice farmers in his area a third have switched to indigenous seeds, defying government efforts to encourage the use of hybrids.
In 2006, the government requested the Food and Agricultural Organisation (of the United Nations) for assistance in strengthening national capacity in hybrid rice development as a means to boost food security and alleviate poverty.
Rice, cultivated in Sri Lanka since 1,000 B.C., is the country’s single most important crop, taking up 34 percent of the total cultivated area.
Some 900,000 hectares are under rice, cultivated by about 1.8 million farming families. Sri Lanka currently produces 2.7 million tonnes of rough rice annually, satisfying around 95 percent of the domestic requirement, according to the department of agriculture.
Rice growers are heavily dependent on timely, optimum rainfall for good harvests, but established crop cycles have been disrupted by changes in rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, floods and droughts.
“The biggest problems for rice growers are floods, droughts and unpredictable weather conditions,” says Prof. Champa Nawaratna, senior scientist at the agriculture department of the University of Ruhunu.
Nawaratna said the weather has been getting more unpredictable over the past five years. “This year the rains came in February-March, but we are not sure about next year,” she said, recalling the floods two years ago which destroyed 50 percent of the crops.
“Based on existing research conducted at the University of Ruhunu we can say that 50 percent of crops over a five-year period are likely to get damaged by floods, though even this data is unreliable with weather patterns changing so rapidly,” she said.
Nawaratna said colleagues in her department have also tested indigenous paddy varieties and found them to be more resistant to the vagaries of the weather.   
Independent studies conducted by the Farmer Federation for the Conservation of Traditional Seeds and Agri-Resources, a major non-government organisation based in Homagama, outside Colombo, corroborate the university’s findings.   
Waruna Madawanarachchi, director of CIC Seeds Pvt. Ltd, the largest single local manufacturer of hybrids in Sri Lanka, testifies to the fact that there is demand for traditional rice breeds and that his company actually outsources popular varieties like ‘Suwadel’ and ‘Kaluheenati’.  
Kaluheenati, a dark red grain, is highly nutritious and traditionally recommended for nursing mothers while Suwadel is a white and fragrant variety.
“Farmers are producing their own hybrid seed which represents 80 percent of the demand while the balance 20 percent comes from the formal, organised sector,” Madawanarachchi said. “However, once in four years, farmers need to come back to us to buy new hybrid seeds from companies like ours.”  
According to Madawanarachchi, hybrid rice varieties are well established in Sri Lanka and account for 99 percent of the total market for rice seeds, estimated at 4.5 million bushels (122,468 tonnes) annually.
But the bumper crops of fine, organically-grown indigenous rice reaped by Wijeratne and Thanthriarachchi in Anuradhapura show which way the wind is now beginning to blow.  
Among those impressed by the achievement of the duo in producing climate-resilient organic rice is R.W.K. Punchihewa, a senior lecturer in agriculture biology at the University of Ruhunu, who also runs his own two-acre organic farm at Padukka in the western region.
“For 24 years I worked at the department of agriculture and felt we were going the wrong way in pushing a policy based on imported rice-farming inputs,” Punchihewa told IPS.
“Pesticides and chemical fertilisers have killed the fish in the hybrid-growing rice fields and ruined biodiversity in one the world’s best ecosystems,” Punchihewa said. “Worse, farmers (growing hybrids) are eternally in debt because of the high cost of inputs
“We need to revive traditional practices if agriculture is to be sustainable in Sri Lanka.”