Thursday, October 25, 2012


October 24, 2012
3:48 PM
Phone: (202) 546-9707     
New Report: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods
Food Recalls Rack Up $227 Million in Economic Costs in 2011 and 2012
WASHINGTON - October 24 - Despite government commitments to address the problem, food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG. Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year and costs over $77 billion in aggregated economic costs. In the USA over the last 21 months, 1753 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses linked directly to food recalls and the cost was over $227 million.
“Every year we see hundreds of food products recalled, because they have caused sickness and in some cases death. 2012 has already seen nearly twice as many illnesses due to recalls as 2011, with high-profile recalls of cantaloupes and hundreds of thousands of jars of peanut butter,” said Nasima Hossain, Public Health Advocate for U.S. PIRG. “More needs to be done to identify the contaminants that are making us sick and to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food.”
The report, “Total Food Recall: Unsafe Foods Putting American Lives at Risk,” analyzed nationwide recall information issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) from January 2011 to September 2012. During that period, there were:
  • 1,753 foodborne Illnesses directly linked to recalls of food products from known pathogens such as Listeria and Salmonella;
  • 37 deaths directly linked to recalls of food products; and
  • $227 million in economic and health related costs linked to recalls of food products.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, with strong support from U.S.PIRG, consumer groups and public health groups. The law was designed to give the FDA new tools and new powers to protect consumers. However, the Act is still not being fully implemented and our foods remain unsafe.
“We need a food safety system that is fully funded and fully staffed so it can stop unsafe food from reaching our dinner tables,” said Nasima Hossain. “We must move away from the current reactive approach, where recalls happen after dangerous products have already made it into families’ kitchens, and focus on prevention. The Food Safety Modernization Act should be fully implemented and the Administration should not waste any more time in strengthening our food safety systems.”
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.


Judge Halts GE Crops on Southeastern Wildlife Refuges
Separate Ruling Leaves Door Ajar for GE Crops on Midwestern Refuges for Now  
WASHINGTON - October 24 - A federal court ruled in favor of the public interest groups Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Beyond Pesticides yesterday, halting cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in all national wildlife refuges in the Southeastern U.S. The ruling is the third in a series of victories against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) resulting in the removal of GE cultivation from federal wildlife preserves. In March 2009, the same groups won a similar lawsuit against GE plantings on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. In 2011, the groups forced a legal settlement ending GE planting on refuges throughout the 12-state northeast region.
This latest ruling bars FWS from entering into cooperative farming agreements for GE crops on the 128 refuges across eight states, including the 25 refuges currently growing GE crops, without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act and refuge management laws. The requirement of environmental reviews will likely prevent the planting of crops in 2013 and 2014, and may result in a permanent end to the practice, as native successional grasses reclaim fallow refuge tracts.
Federal district court in the District of Columbia will hear arguments on November 5th on additional remedies that may be required to mitigate environmental damage on the Southeast refuges from GE crops already planted, including such measures as a ban on pesticide spraying, enlarged buffers, and steps to prevent trans-genetic contamination. FWS had unsuccessfully tried to argue the suit was moot because the planting season was over and the agency foresaw no new illegal plantings.
“While we are happy with the result we are disappointed that the government needlessly prolonged this litigation,” stated PEER Counsel Kathryn Douglass, noting that the government had tacitly conceded the merits of the suit in its court filing last spring. “The simple point we are making in case after case is that genetically modified crops have no legitimate role on a national wildlife refuge.”
In a ruling on October 15 this year, the same federal district judge, James Boasberg, ruled that the FWS Environmental Assessment (EA) for GE planting in the Midwest region was adequate. The ultimate meaning of that ruling is less clear due to facts that:
·         FWS proposed GE planting be phased out after five years;
·         GE planting is limited to the narrow purpose of transitioning former cropland purchased for refuge additions into successions of natural grasses; and
·         The programmatic nature of the Midwest EA may require a new environmental review for each refuge contemplating any GE agriculture.
“How GE crops can be judged to carry significant environmental impacts in the Southeast and not in the Midwest is difficult to understand and accept,” said Paige Tomaselli, staff attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “However, short of a much-needed nationwide settlement, this is good news in our fight to end the growing of GE crops on our nation’s wildlife refuges.”
While national wildlife refuges have allowed farming for decades, the practice is losing support among refuge managers, especially since some crops, such as soybeans and corn, are available mainly in GE strains. Refuge policy states that GE crops should not be used except when essential to accomplish a refuge purpose – a test that is extremely difficult to honestly meet. The lawsuits stress that the GE crops actually conflict with the protection of wildlife, the main purpose of the refuges. GE crops also require more frequent and increased applications of toxic herbicides, which has fostered an epidemic of “super weeds” as weeds have mutated. In addition, GE farming has led to uncontrolled spread of the engineered DNA to conventional, organic crops and wild relatives, in effect contaminating the wild from federal wildlife preserves.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.
October 24, 2012
3:38 PM
Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Monsanto's Lies and the GMO Labeling Battle

You may have never heard of Henry I. Miller, but right now he is attempting to determine the future of food in this country. And he has enormous financial backing.
Mr. Miller is the primary face and voice of the “No on Prop 37” campaign in California. At this very moment, Monsanto and other pesticide companies are spending more than $1 million a day to convince California voters that it’s not in their best interest to know whether the food they eat is genetically engineered. And Henry I. Miller is their guy.

If you live in California today, he’s hard to miss. You see him in TV ads, hear him in radio spots, and his face is all over the expensive fliers that keep showing up uninvited in your mail box. Initially, the ads presented Miller as a Stanford doctor. But he isn’t. He’s a research fellow at a conservative think tank (the Hoover Institute) that has offices on the Stanford campus. When this deceptive tactic came to light, the ads were pulled and then redone. But they still feature Miller trying to convince the public that Prop 37 “makes no sense,” and that it’s a “food-labeling scheme written by trial lawyers who hope for a windfall if it becomes law.”
Actually, Prop 37 makes all the sense in the world if you want to know what’s in the food you eat. It was written by public health advocates, and provides no economic incentives for filing lawsuits.
Who, then, is Henry I. Miller, and why should we believe him when he tells us that genetically engineered foods are perfectly safe?

Does it matter that this same Henry Miller is an ardent proponent of DDT and other toxic pesticides? Does it matter that the “No on Prop 37” ads are primarily funded by pesticide companies, the very same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe?

I find it hard to avoid the impression that Henry Miller is a premier corporate flack. He was a founding member of the Philip Morris backed front group that tried to discredit the links between tobacco products and cancer. After the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, he argued that exposure to radiation from the disaster could actually provide health benefits. He argues that drug companies, not the FDA, should be responsible for testing new drugs. And he is a board member of the George C. Marshall Institute which, funded by oil and gas companies, is notorious for its denial of climate change.

Now he’s telling us that we should vote No on 37 because, he says, the labeling law contains exemptions included “for special interests.” As if the corporations he fronts for weren’t the biggest “special interests” of all. And by the way, the exemptions in Prop 37 conform to those found in GMO labeling laws in the 61 other nations around the world, including the European Union, that already require labeling for foods that are genetically engineered.

Miller and the No on 37 campaign say that labeling would increase family food bills by hundreds of dollars per year. Interestingly, the study they cite to justify this claim was paid for by the No on 37 campaign itself. It was the work of a Maine public relations firm, Northbridge Consulting, that has no economic expertise, but has worked on behalf of Coke and Pepsi against laws that would require the recycling of soda pop bottles.

Would the passing of Prop 37 actually raise the price consumers pay for food? Henry Miller adamantly proclaims that it would. But according to the only fully independent economic analysis of Prop 37, prepared by researchers at Emory University School of Law, “Consumers will likely see no increase in prices as a result of the relabeling” required by the bill.
Somehow I keep getting the feeling that Henry Miller may not be the man you want to listen to when your health is at stake. But Monsanto and its allies are seeing to it that this man’s face and beliefs are everywhere in California today. One television viewer in San Francisco reported seeing ads featuring Miller no less than 12 times in a single day.

Other “No on 37” ads feature a physician, Ronald Kleinman, dressed of course in the obligatory white coat. Though the ads don’t mention it, Dr. Kleinman’s ethical principles don’t seem to hamper him from being a highly paid voice for the interests of the junk food companies. While working for Coca-Cola, he advocated for “the safety…of sugar, artificial colors and nonnutritive sweeteners in children’s diets.”

Not content with misrepresenting Stanford University (three times), the pesticide and junk food companies behind No on 37 have also:

  1. Misled voters in the state voter guide by claiming falsely that the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, believes GMO foods are safe.
  2. Illegally affixed the official US FDA seal to their campaign propaganda, and attributed a fabricated quote to the FDA, falsely implying that the FDA has taken a position against Prop 37.
Regrettably, this deluge of deception seems to be having an impact. Although polls originally showed that more than 80% of the California public want genetically modified food to be labeled, more recent polls are showing a virtual dead heat on Prop 37, with the advertising deluge only increasing in intensity.

Some daily newspapers in California are contributing to this unhappy trend by coming out against Prop 37, with editorials that use entire paragraphs directly from the “No on 37” press releases. Might this have anything to do with the fact that processed foods companies are the primary source of advertising revenue for newspapers today? And that the lobby for the processed food companies, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, has called the defeat of Prop 37 its single highest priority for the year?

The famed food author Michael Pollan wrote recently that Proposition 37 is the litmus test for whether or not there is actually a food movement in this country. Public health activist Stacy Malkan adds that it also may be the litmus test for whether there is democracy left in this country.
These are good points. There is no food movement if Monsanto has its way with us. And there is no democracy without an informed citizenry.
The question now is whether we are going to allow special interests to dictate what we are allowed to know about the food they sell us.
In this case, ignorance is not bliss. It’s subservience to the agenda of Monsanto and the other pesticide companies. Without labeling, we are eating in the dark, with potentially disastrous consequences.
What remains to be seen is whether Californians will, come November 6th, allow Monsanto and its allies to control what you are allowed to know about the food you eat.


Public Research, Private Gain: Corporate Influence Over University Agricultural Research

New report outlines how corporate influence compromises the mission of land-grant universities

April 26th, 2012. Washington, D.C.— From domestication of the blueberry to tools to combat soil erosion, land-grant universities have revolutionized American agriculture for general public benefit almost entirely through public investments from state and federal governments. However, a report released by Food & Water Watch today finds that by 2010, nearly a quarter of funding for agricultural research at land-grant universities came from private and corporate donations.
“The original intent that public research should benefit the public has been completely lost and this conflict of interest between public good and private profits remains largely unchallenged by both academia and policymakers,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Sound agricultural policy requires impartial and unbiased scientific inquiry, but like nearly every aspect of our modern food system, land-grant school funding has been overrun by narrow private interests.”
Created by the federal government in 1862, land-grant universities have pioneered vitally important research on plant varieties, soil conservation, advancing rural livelihoods and improving the safety and abundance of food for consumers. The land-grant university system has 109 locations and a presence in every state and territory. It includes some of the largest state universities such as the University of California system, Pennsylvania State University and Texas A&M University.
The report, Public Research, Private Gain: Corporate Influence Over University Agricultural Research, provides a history of the land-grant university system including how, as public funding has stalled in recent decades, these universities have turned to agribusiness to fill the void, compromising the public mission of the institutions.
“Private-sector funding not only corrupts the public research mission of land-grant universities, but also distorts the science that is supposed to help farmers improve their practices and livelihoods,” said Hauter. “Industry-funded academic research routinely produces favorable results for industry sponsors. And since policymakers and regulators frequently cite these university studies to back up their decision-making, industry-funded academic research increasingly influences the rules that govern their business operations.”
The report outlines the millions of dollars that land-grant universities and professors have received from corporate funders and gives examples of the unencumbered access and influence corporations such as Walmart, Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have received in return. To conclude, the report make several recommendations for ways public agricultural research should be reoriented to serve the common good, including a call for more transparency and using the Farm Bill to direct research funding toward more practical solutions to the day-to-day problems facing farmers.
“If an entire wing of a university department’s building is named after Monsanto, as it is at Iowa State University, can we really expect that school to produce objective, potentially critical, research on genetically engineered foods or the environmental impact of commodity crops?” asked Hauter. “Just as Congress created this beneficial system 150 years ago, Congress must reprioritize public funding so that land-grant universities can pursue their intended goal of researching some of the most troubling problems that plague our food system, economy and public health.”
Public Research, Private Gain: Corporate Influence Over University Agricultural Research can be downloaded here:
Contact: Anna Ghosh, 415-293-9905, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.


Of Course Monsanto Says It’s Safe

If you’ve been paying attention to the news about food lately, you’ve probably read about the now infamous “Seralini study,” in which University of Caen (France) molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini demonstrated major health issues associated with eating Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) corn and the herbicide used in conjunction with it, RoundUp.
Widely covered by the media, most reports have tried to portray Seralini as a strident, ideologically driven researcher who willfully designed a study to produce a result showing that GE food is bad. Many science journalists criticized Seralini for having an anti-GE bias, for taking research money from a foundation that is anti-GE, and for not disclosing every piece of data to the public.
But this attack coverage seems grossly disproportionate given the realities around funding and bias in agricultural research. Science journalists seldom, if ever, cover the opposite angle: that industry has funded much of the scientific literature we have about the safety of GE foods. These industry-funded studies aren’t science as much as they are public relations, always concluding that GE is safe and good. And in our broken regulatory system for these controversial new foods, these industry studies are also what regulators use to approve new genetically engineered crops for our food supply.
Indeed, the strain of corn that Seralini studied, NK603, has been shown in the scientific literature to be safe—in studies done by Monsanto. The company has produced at least seven studies about NK603 – all of them positive – in four peer-reviewed journals. More shocking, at least three of these peer-reviewed journals openly advertise their corporate sponsors from the food industry, like Archer Daniel Midlands and Pioneer. One of these, the Journal of Animal Science is run by the American Society of Animal Science, which counts biotech companies BASF and Monsanto, as gold and silver sponsors. Most of the Monsanto studies include co-authors from public universities, whose names add credibility.
Does anyone honestly think that Monsanto is going to fund research about its products that casts them in an unfavorable light, then publish these findings in a journal over which it has financial influence for all to see?
Troublingly, industry is now paying hundreds of millions of dollars to fund research at public universities. Food & Water Watch explored the distorting and corrupting effect that corporate money, finding that some departments take upwards of 40 percent of the research grant money while some individual professors take 75 percent or more. This funding – along with the promise of future funding or the threat of losing it – reliably produces academic research that is favorable to industry sponsors. It also produces a widespread perception that because the scientific literature on GE is overwhelmingly positive, that the science is comprehensive and the consensus on GE safety is clear.
The reality is, there is little funding for independent research that challenges the industrial model of agriculture, including issues like the safety of GE. This is why Seralini’s study is both extremely rare and extremely important. Even government agencies, when they make regulatory decisions about GE foods, do little more than rubber stamp industry-funded science.
Seralini’s research funding came from the apt-named Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering, which has been vilified as anti-GE.
Whether this group is or isn’t anti-GE, the truth is they are filling a vital gap in research funding around the safety of GE foods, and we should take their results at least as seriously as Monsanto’s. Two groups of scientists have come out in defense of Seralini’s research, fighting off industry-lead criticism. And the findings from Seralini’s study show that there is much more work to be done to investigate all of the potential health effects of eating GE food.
The status quo of industry influence over agricultural science means that NK603 remains a pervasive ingredient in our food system – apparently unchallengeable by scientists, unexamined by journalists and unavoidable by consumers because GE foods are unlabeled.
At the same time that Monsanto and friends are trying desperately to discredit the small amount of research being done to see if GE foods are safe to eat, they are also fighting to prevent U.S. consumers from knowing if we are eating them. Learn more about the fight to require labeling of GE foods across the country and the heated battle raging in California over Prop 37, the ballot initiative to label GE foods.


Food Thought Leaders Share Their Visions on Food Day

WASHINGTON - October 22, 2012 - The Future of Food: 2050 is the marquee national conference for Food Day, the nationwide celebration and movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. The conference will convene top food movement thought leaders to share their predictions on the future of the American food system. Hosted by Representative Chellie Pingree and with welcoming remarks by Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and founder of Food Day, the conference will include a panel on diet and food moderated by April Fulton of NPR and a panel on agriculture led by food writer Jane Black.
Who: Speakers include Eric Meade of the Institute for Alternative Futures; Andrea Thomas, Senior VP for Sustainability at Walmart; Dr. David Katz of Yale University Prevention Research Center; Catherine Badgley, professor of sustainable agriculture at University of Michigan; A.G. Kawamura, farmer and former California Secretary of Agriculture; and Danielle Nierenberg, Director of the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project
What: Panel discussions on diet and food, and agriculture
Wednesday, October 24, 2012    
5:00 pm Reception at the Caucus Room, Cannon House Office Building
6:15 to 8:30 pm Conference Program, Capitol Visitor Center

Where: United States Capitol Visitor Center, Washington, DC
Why: Food should be healthy, affordable, and produced with care for farm animals, the environment, and the men and women who grow, harvest and serve it. The Future of Food: 2050 will connect the Food Day priorities of today with the improved food environment of the future.

RSVP: Space is limited. Please RSVP to Clare Politano by October 23.
Coordinated by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day is led by a diverse advisory board of nutrition experts, policymakers, public health advocates, and agricultural innovators. Food Day is a great opportunity for the news media to cover food-related issues such as health, sustainable agriculture, farmworker justice, and animal welfare.

Find Food Day events at
Follow The Future of Food: 2050 on Twitter at #FOF2050


Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.
October 22, 2012
5:16 PM