Monday, December 30, 2013


From the Sky to the Land, Pollution's Toxic Toll on China

Roughly 8 million acres of the country's farmland is too polluted to grow crops, government official says

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer
The thick smog that has blanketed major cities is not the only menace pollution has unleashed on China.
Roughly 8 million acres of the country's farmland is too polluted with heavy metals and pesticides to grow food, a government official said Monday.
Speaking at a news conference, Wang Shiyuan, a deputy minister of the Ministry of Land and Resources, stated that "moderate to severe pollution" affecting 8.3 million acres meant that those "areas cannot continue farming."  That acreage represents roughly two percent of the country's acres of arable land.
According to the Associated Press, some scientists have speculated that the affected area may be closer to 60 million acres.
In February, China refused to publicly disclose the results of a national soil pollution study, saying it was a "state secret." The findings outlined Monday represent the first publicly disclosed report on land conditions since 996.
In May, public outcry followed the discovery of cadmium in rice samples above the national limits. The New York Times reported at the time:
Chinese citizens have become increasingly irate about food and beverages tainted with pesticides, illegal preservatives and additives, as well as industrial waste and heavy metals from polluted land and air. The news that this mainstay of the kitchen may also be toxic drew a vehement outcry.
“Now before every meal must we all first wonder: Does this rice have too much cadmium? Are the vegetables laced with pesticide?” one Chinese Internet user wrote on the popular Tencent microblog service. Another wondered whether he was expected to quit rice the same way he quit smoking.
As China deals with food security for its expanding population, some say that the possibility of feeding the country through organic growing methods is not only possible but can be more productive than conventional, pesticide-reliant farming.
"There is no problem to feed the Chinese through organic farming," said Xiangming Wu, General Manager of Zhikun Agricultural Development Company.
Last week China announced revised production standards in an effort to curb pollution, as Reutersreported:
China will raise standards for the production of cement, batteries, leather and heavy metals as part of its efforts to cut air, water and soil pollution, the environment ministry said on Friday. [...]
According to a notice issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (, China produced 2.21 billion tons of cement in 2012, 56 percent of the global total. Beijing aims to close around 370 million tons of outdated capacity by 2015.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


For Immediate Release:                 
Tuesday, December 24, 2013       
        Urgent Action 

Genetically Modified (GMO) Food Labeling: California seeks State Senate and Assemblymember Authors Press Conference & Rally!

Dear Californians,

Please join our call to action from California State Grange and our new statewide coalition, Californians For GE Labeling, seeking both CA State Senate and Assemblymember authors for a 2014 CALIFORNIA State GE (Genetically Engineered, aka GMO)                                          Food Labeling Bill.

Suit back up, California, GAME ON!

CALIFORNIANS For GE Labeling and CALIFORNIA STATE GRANGE To introduce a new 2014 CA State GE Labeling Bill

Date:  Monday January 6, 2014
Time:  9:30 am – Noon
Place:  CA State Capitol, Sacramento – West Steps

 TAKE ACTION: SEEKING - CA State Assembly and Senate Authors!
On the first day of the 2014 legislature, Californians for GE Labeling ask EVERY one of our fellow CALIFORNIANS who eats food, to call and/or email your CA Assemblymember and CA Senator BEFORE December 31, 2013, to ask for their true leadership to author and co-author, and pass a new GE Food labeling bill, which will mandate the labeling of GE (genetically engineered, aka: GMO genetically modified organism) foods and seed offered for retail sale in the State of California. Contact us for text of the proposed bill.
For all of us who have helped move California so close to a GE labeling law,  and have already contacted our elected officials urging enactment of a GE labeling law, we must now let our elected officials know WE’RE BACK to urge support for introduction of a GE labeling law by the end of January 2014! 
Our mission is to compel our State Assemblymembers and Senators to author or co-author a bill that will label GE Foods throughout California.  We have a bill, we need authors to support it and vote YES!
Inspired by the massive national momentum the State of California championed in our 2012 Prop 37 action, Connecticut and Maine have passed GE Labeling Bills, and there are now some 95 GE Labeling bills being worked on throughout the USA in 25 states, including active bills in NY, MA, NJ, and others.
Opponents of Labeling GE Foods spent nearly $100 million dollars in 2012-2013, to prevent Americans from knowing, by a simple clear label, which of the foods in our grocery stores are genetically engineered. In 2014, they can plan to spend a few hundred million more, because 93% of Americans in poll after poll demand labeling in GE food, and we ain’t goin’ nowhere.
Now is the time for California to finish what we started! Let's work together to make California the first state to pass a clean, strong GE labeling law!
A.      Find out who your CA Assemblymember is by clicking here.
When you call or email (BOTH actions would be fabulous!):
  1. State your name, address, and that you are a constituent of the Assemblymember/Senator.
  2. Ask them, “Will the Assemblymember/Senator step up and be a true leader for the state of California and author or co-author, and support a GE Foods Labeling bill during the 2014 Legislative Session?”
  3. Tell them we have the bill language for them to review, and are happy to provide it.
  4. If the answer is, “yes” thank them and report back to us.
  5. If there is no “yes” or “no” answer, let them know you will be calling back for an answer. 
  6. Tell them that the rest of the nation is watching, we consider Prop 37 a huge victory, and we want to join NY as one of the largest states in the union, leading to way to pass a strong GE labeling bill in 2014.
  7. Ask them to sign on as a cosponsor and support the bill when it comes up for a vote in 2014.
  1. Follow steps above - adapt for Senators - above
·       -  1996: GE (aka: GMO, genetically modified organisms) foods were introduced into the U.S. food supply by  the biotech industry without adequate testing for human health or environmental risks and we've been eating them without labels ever since.
·        - 64 countries around the world -- including the EU (since 1998), China (since 2001), Russia, and Japan -- label GE Foods. What do they know that Americans don’t know?
·         American children under the age of 19 have been on a steady diet of GE Foods since birth.
·         - The FDA says foods that have been genetically engineered are as safe as conventional foods and don't require any special labeling. If biotech tech industry and big food believe their GE Foods are safe, we Americans say, “Label them now.”
·         - FDA’s own scientists, many scientists, and doctors around the world, urge GE Labeling.
·          Independent GE feeding studies on rats, pigs, and human breast cancer cells show causation for health  risks.
·         -  GE crop farming techniques require ever-increasing use of pesticide, herbicide and chemical  environmental poisons.
·         - Bt” corn, soy, canola and cotton crops, a GE variety, are classified by the EPA as “insecticides” because  every cell of the plant produces the poison Bt pesticide. So, why are they approved for human consumption  in food products?
·        -  RoundUp, the herbicide most commonly sprayed on GE crops -- has been shown to have toxic effects on  human health.   But, without labels there is no traceability, no accountability, and no liability. Labels will give  Californians the    information we need to choose for ourselves what we want to eat and feed our families.
·        - The FDA won't label GMOs, so it's been left up to our state governments to give us the right to know what's  in our food.
       Please forward this email to every Californian you know who votes and eats food. Thank you for taking action to write, call and get back into the game of our lives, and for your support! We need all hands on deck to make this happen.
·         Hey, we’ve all gotta eat!

Californians for GE Food Labeling Campaign
Jessica Denning  916 715-2731 c
Rick Keel, Public Relations (916) 454-5805
California State Grange




For Immediate Release
Jim Gerritsen

(207) 429-9765
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association

Farmers vs. Monsanto:

Organic Seed Growers, Family Farmers File Brief in Final Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Their Crops from Contamination and to Invalidate Monsanto's GMO Patents.

New York - December 23, 2013- Last week, the Public Patent Foundation filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, in the hopes that the highest court in the land would hear and reinstate the case of 73 American organic and conventional family farmers, seed businesses and public advocacy groups that seek protection for America's farmers from Monsanto's frivolous patent infringement lawsuits, and their promiscuous genetically engineered pollen, while also seeking to invalidate the patents on 23 of Monsanto's GMO crops.

Earlier this month, Monsanto filed an opposition brief with the Supreme Court in a last ditch effort to deny a group of American family farmers and seed growers justice in their efforts to protect their farms and the integrity of their crops.

"In opposing our request that the Supreme Court take, and then reinstate, our case, Monsanto makes the same lame and untrue assertions that it made before," said Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs inOSGATA et al v. Monsanto. "In our reply brief filed with the Supreme Court we point out precisely why Monsanto is wrong and that the case should be allowed to proceed," said Ravicher.

In a June 10th ruling earlier this year, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., issued a bizarre ruling that plaintiffs are not entitled to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from Monsanto's transgenic seed patents "because Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes" as stated anonymously on the company's website.

Farmers find this ruling inconclusive and insufficient to protect their future economic interests since the Appeals court readily admitted that contamination from Monsanto's genetically engineered crops is "inevitable."

This Appellate Court ruling importantly validated that farmers do have a legitimate fear of contamination, something that the court and Monsanto's own attorney, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, admitted in court during oral arguments.

Despite dismissing the farmers' and seed growers' case, the Court of Appeals ruling found the likelihood of contamination significant enough to order by estoppel that Monsanto make good on its promise not to sue farmers that are "inadvertently contaminated with up to one percent of seeds carrying Monsanto's patented traits."

"As a seed grower, who has spent the past 37 years of my life protecting and maintaining the integrity of my seed stock to provide clean, wholesome food to my customers, I find it unconscionable that Monsanto can contaminate mine or my neighbors' crops and not only get away with it, but potentially sue us for patent infringement," said Jim Gerritsen, an organic seed farmer in Maine and President of lead Plaintiff OSGATA. "The appeals court ruling fails to protect my family and our farm and has only complicated matters," said Gerritsen.

Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA President

Because of the insidious nature of GMO contamination and the fact that pollen naturally blows or migrates to neighboring fields, contamination of farmers' fields above one percent is both predictable and unavoidable.

Already, reports of contamination across North America exceeding one percent have led an increasing number of farmers to incur considerable costs in testing their crops and seed supply for transgenic contamination or actually forgo planting of certain crops in order to maintain seed purity.

Significant contamination events happened in the U.S. this year alone, with an unapproved experimental variety of Monsanto's GMO wheat discovered in a farmer's field in Oregon this past May. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the illegal GMO wheat had been field-tested between 1998 through 2005, but never approved by the USDA. Its discovery sent shockwaves through international markets and caused Japan and South Korea to halt shipments of U.S. wheat for more than a month.

A similar event occurred in September when a Washington state farmer reported that his hay was rejected for export because it tested positive for contamination from Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa.

"For farmers, recent events in Washington and Oregon make clear that the damages of contamination are far-reaching in their impacts on farmer's economic survival, can be permanent and irreversible in their harm to our food supply and only can be properly redressed by a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court," said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director ofFood Democracy Now!, a grassroots advocacy group based in Iowa and a plaintiff in the case.

"It's time to end Monsanto's campaign of fear against America's farmers and stand up for farmers' right to grow our food without legal threats and intimidation. America must no longer allow Monsanto to contaminate our food supply and destroy the livelihoods of farmers. Farmers deserve protection from these abuses," said Murphy.

Farmers expect to hear whether or not the U.S Supreme Court will hear their case next year and eagerly await their day in court.

Complete background on the OSGATA et al v. Monsanto lawsuit is available here.

About OSGATA: The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is a not-for-profit agricultural organization comprised of organic farmers, seed growers, seed businesses and supporters. OSGATA is committed to developing, promoting, and protecting organic seed and its growers in order to ensure the organic community has access to excellent quality organic seed free of contaminants and adapted to the diverse needs of local organic agriculture.
# # #

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Published on Sunday, December 22, 2013 by Foreign Policy in Focus

NAFTA at 20: State of the North American Farmer
In the United States and throughout North America, NAFTA has accelerated the industrial consolidation of agriculture and pushed out smaller, more sustainable food producers

by Karen Hansen-Kuhn

NAFTA opened the doors for a flood of subsidized agricultural products and large-scale consolidation, eviscerating small farmers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. (Photo: Bread for the World / Flickr)One of the clearest stories to emerge in the two decades since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented is the devastation wreaked on the Mexican countryside by dramatic increases in imports of cheap U.S. corn.

But while Mexican farmers, especially small-scale farmers, undoubtedly lost from the deal, that doesn’t mean that U.S. farmers have won. Prices for agricultural goods have been on a roller coaster of extreme price volatility — caused by unfair agriculture policies and recklessly unregulated speculation on commodity markets, as well as by increasing droughts and other climate chaos. Each time prices take their terrifying ride back down, more small- and medium-scale farmers are forced into bankruptcy, concentrating land ownership and agricultural production into ever fewer hands.

Corporate Consolidation

It’s hard to separate the impacts of NAFTA from another big change in U.S. farm policy: the 1996 Farm Bill. That legislation set in place a shift from supply management and regulated markets to a policy of “get big or get out.” Farmers were encouraged to increase production with the promise of expanded export markets — including to Mexico. But almost immediately, commodity prices dropped like a stone, and Congress turned to “emergency” payments — later codified as farm subsidies — to clean up the mess and keep rural economies afloat.

Then, as new demand for biofuels increased the demand for corn, and as investors turned away from failing mortgage markets to speculate on grains, energy, and other commodities, prices soared. It wasn’t only the prices of farm goods that rose, however. Prices also increased for land, fuel, fertilizers, and other petrochemical-based agrochemicals. As a result, net farm incomes became much more erratic.

In many ways, the family farmers who had been the backbone of U.S. rural economies really did either get big or get out, leaving a sector marked by inequality and corporate concentration. Over the last 20 years, there has been a marked shift in the size of U.S. farms, with the numbers of very small farms and very large farms increasing dramatically. The increase in the number of small farms is due to several factors, including urban dwellers returning to the land (almost all of whom rely on off-farm jobs to support themselves), and the growth in specialty crops for local farmers’ markets. According to USDA researchers Robert Hoppe, James MacDonald, and Penni Korb, the number of farms in the middle — small operations that are commercially viable on their own — dropped by 40 percent, from half of total farms in 1982 to less than a third in 2007.

During this process of farm consolidation, corporations involved in agriculture and food production also consolidated. Mary Hendrickson at the University of Missouri has calculated the share of production held by just four firms in different sectors. In total beef production, for example, the share of the top four firms (Cargill, Tyson, JGF, and National Beef) increased from 69 percent in 1990 to 82 percent in 2012. The story is the same in poultry, pork, flour milling, and other sectors. Fewer firms control bigger and bigger shares of total production, making it harder for other farmers to get fair prices or earn a living from their production.

Trade Agreements

Enter the free trade agreements. As corporations consolidated in the United States, they grew even larger by taking advantage of provisions in NAFTA that let them operate across borders. For example, U.S.-based corporations can grow cattle in Canada and pork in Mexico, and then bring their products back to the United States for slaughter and sale. Efforts to label these meats under Country of Origin Labeling laws have been vigorously opposed by the Mexican and Canadian governments. As a result of these advantages to large-scale growers, independent hog and poultry producers in the United States have virtually disappeared. Meanwhile the factory farms contribute to growing environmental devastation in all three countries.

Over time, the U.S. public has gained a growing appreciation of the need to change food and farm policies to ensure healthier foods and more stable rural economies. But policymakers in Congress and the Obama administration continue to support the same failed policies. They advocate for more free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These are largely cut and pasted from NAFTA, but with a twist: they add dangerous new provisions that would limit any remaining restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), permit questionable food additives, and pave the way for even more questionable emerging technologies. A “new” U.S. Farm Bill currently being negotiated shifts the emphasis from commodity support to crop insurance, while locking in place advantages for even bigger farms and corporations. And it perpetuates the same willful ignorance of the devastating impacts of droughts and flooding caused by climate change.

The wild ride of prices under the NAFTA roller coaster has left us a food system that is dominated by fewer and bigger corporations. In many communities across the country, people are opting out of the existing Big Food system to rebuild smaller, healthier options that are rooted in local economies and nurture connections between farmers and consumers. Whether those experiences can scale up from local experiences to national agriculture, and whether they can change policy, is a big question — one made harder by the overwhelming dominance of corporate interests. But rebuilding the system from the ground up, and considering how to make fairer links to farmers in Mexico and elsewhere, is really the only path forward.
Copyright 2013 Foreign Policy in Focus

Karen Hansen-Kuhn is International Program Director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Her work has focused on bringing developing countries' perspectives into public debates on trade, food security and economic policy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Hawaii Protest Declares Anti-GMO 'Tsunami' is Here

Following legislative successes, North Shore protest calls on land trust to 'evict Monsanto'

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer
(Photo: Mana Photo Hawaii)Braving heavy rains, roughly one thousand Hawaiians traveled to the town of Hale‘iwa on the North Shore of Oahu Sunday to take part in a march against Monsanto, adding their support to the growing "tsunami" against genetically modified (GM) crops.
The Aloha Aina (or "Love of the Land") March, organized by a number of environmental and community groups, was called to celebrate some regional successes against the biotech industry and to raise awareness of the fight, calling on Hawaiian landowners to join the movement and "evict Monsanto."
"For over 20 years, Hawaii has been the global center for the open-field testing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)," writes the group Hawaii GMO Justice.
Oahu's North Shore, more commonly recognized for its international surfing competitions, is also where biotech companies farm thousands of acres of crop land. World-renowned surfers Kelly Slater and John John Florence joined the Sunday protest along with notable actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah.
"A huge wave has been built up about GMOs statewide," said Molokai activist Walter Ritte. "You can hear it, you can hear the enthusiasm going on. We want this message that's coming from the people to get to the Legislature this year."
"The potential for a tsunami of change is real and at our door step. Business as usual is over, done, pau."
—Gary Hooser, anti-GMO activist and former State Senate Majority Leader

The Earth Island Journal reports:
The goal of the event was to march a mile down the Kamehamehea Highway to the Hale’iwa Beach Park for a rally and non-GMO potluck party with some live music and dancing thrown in. [...]
After a round of prayers and a resounding blow of the conch, off they set down the wet highway, chanting, “A’ole, a‘lole, a‘ole GMO! Monsanto has got to go!” (“A‘ole” means “no” in Hawaiian)
The march specifically called out Hawaii's largest landowner, Kamehameha Schools, a private college-preparatory school and land trust that owns roughly half of Hawaii's farmland, which currently leases thousands of acres of land to biotech firms. GMO Justice continues:
Despite Kamehameha's public statements about sustainability and conservation, they lease substantial amounts of land to multi-national biotech firms, including Monsanto, Dow, Dupont/Pioneer and Syngenta for GMO open field tests and seed corn production.
Kamehameha is the only institution with the land, capital and resources to reduce our food imports, that are now over 90%, and ensure that Hawai'i does not run out of food in case of natural disasters or rising oil prices.
A video of the march can be seen here.
The protest follows minor legislative victories against GMOs including the recent passage on the Big Island of Bill 113, which prohibits any new GM crops from being grown, and Bill 2491 on Kauai, which requires the disclosure of GM crops and pesticide use.
Calling these new rules "a floor [for] new regulations, not a ceiling," Gary Hooser, former State Senate Majority Leader who has championed anti-GMO legislation and took part in the protest Sunday, writes:
On Kauai we have learned to speak truth to power, with aloha – and we won. We as a community challenged the power of the largest chemical companies in the world, and we won. Our request was minimal: Disclose to us what chemicals you are spraying in our community and don’t use them next to schools, hospitals and homes, yet they fought us every step of the way.
In Hawaii County, the same companies were challenged and again the people won. On Maui the tide also is beginning to turn.
On Oahu the battle in the coming months will no doubt be waged at the state legislature.
Legislators in support of putting the protection of people and the environment first will attempt to implement statewide regulation of pesticides and genetically modified organisms’ while preserving the rights of local communities to pass even more stringent standards – creating a floor of new regulations and not a ceiling.
"The potential for a tsunami of change is real and at our door step," he concludes. "Business as usual is over, done, pau [finished]."

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Brazil national congressUnease among Brazil's farmers as Congress votes on GM terminator seeds
Environmentalists warn approval could shatter global agreement not to use technology, with devastating repercussions. Brazil's national Congress is under pressure from landowning groups to green light GM 'terminator' seeds.

Photograph: Ruy Barbosa Pinto/Getty Images/Flickr RF

Brazil is set to break a global moratorium on genetically-modified "terminator" seeds, which are said to threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.

The sterile or "suicide" seeds are produced by means of genetic use restriction technology, which makes crops die off after one harvest without producing offspring. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds for each planting, which reduces their self-sufficiency and makes them dependent on major seed and chemical companies.

Environmentalists fear that any such move by Brazil – one of the biggest agricultural producers on the planet – could produce a domino effect that would result in the worldwide adoption of the controversial technology.

Major seed and chemical companies, which together own more than 60% of the global seed market, all have patents on terminator seed technologies. However, in the 1990s they agreed not to employ the technique after a global outcry by small farmers, indigenous groups and civil society groups.

In 2000, 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which recommended a de facto moratorium on this technology.

The moratorium is under growing pressure in Brazil, where powerful landowning groups have been pushing Congress to allow the technology to be used for the controlled propogation of certain plants used for medicines and eucalyptus trees, which provide pulp for paper mills.

The landowning groups want to plant large areas with fast growing GMtrees and other non-food GM crops that could theoretically spread seeds over wide areas. The technology, they argue, would be a safeguard, ensuring that no second generation pollution of GM traits takes place. They insist that terminator seeds would only be used for non-food crops.

Their efforts to force a bill to this effect through Congress, ongoing since 2007, have been slowed due to resistance from environmentalists.

The proposed measure has been approved by the legislature's agricultural commission, rejected by the environmental commission, and now sits in the justice and citizenship commission. It is likely to go to a full Congressional vote, where it could be passed as early as next Tuesday, or soon after the Christmas recess.

Environment groups say there would be global consequences. "Brazil is the frontline. If the agro-industry breaks the moratorium here, they'll break it everywhere," said Maria José Guazzelli, of Centro Ecológico, which represents a coalition of Brazilian NGOs.

This week they presented a protest letter signed by 34,000 people to thwart the latest effort to move the proposed legislation forward. "If this bill goes through, it would be a disaster. Farmers would no longer be able to produce their own seeds. That's the ultimate aim of the agro-industry," she said.

The international technology watchdog ETC, which was among the earliest proponents of a ban on terminator technology in the 1990s, fears this is part of a strategy to crack the international consensus.

"If the bill is passed, [we expect] the Brazilian government to take a series of steps that will orchestrate the collapse of the 193-country consensus moratorium when the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meets for its biennial conference in Korea in October 2014," said executive director Pat Mooney.

But Eduardo Sciarra, Social Democratic party leader in the Brazilian Congress, said the proposed measure did not threaten farmers because it was intended only to set controlled guidelines for the research and development of "bioreactor" plants for medicine.

"Gene use restriction technology has its benefits. This bill allows the use of this technology only where it is good for humanity," he said.

The technology was developed by the US Department of Agriculture and the world's largest seed and agrochemical firms. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont together control more than 60% of the global commercial seed market and 76% of the agrochemical market. All are believed to hold patents on the technology, but none are thought to have developed the seeds for commercial use.

Massive protests in the 1990s by Indian, Latin American and south-east Asian peasant farmers, indigenous groups and their supporters put the companies on the back foot, and they were reluctantly forced to shelve the technology after the UN called for a de-facto moratorium in 2000.

Now, while denying that they intend to use terminator seeds, the companies argue that the urgent need to combat climate change makes it imperative to use the technology. In addition, they say that the technology could protect conventional and organic farmers by stopping GM plants spreading their genes to wild relatives – an increasing problem in the US, Argentina and other countries where GM crops are grown on a large scale.

A Monsanto spokesman in Brazil said the company was unaware of the developments and stood by a commitment made in 1999 not to pursue terminator technology. "I'm not aware of so-called terminator seeds having been developed by any organisation, and Monsanto stands firmly by our commitment and has no plans or research relating to this," said Tom Helscher.

On its website, however, the company's commitment only appears to relate to "food crops", which does not encompass the tree and medicinal products under consideration in Brazil.

• Additional research by Anna Kaiser
Background to a controversy

Ever since GM companies were found to be patenting "gene-use restriction" or "terminator" technologies in the 1990s, they have been accused of threatening biodiversity and seeking to make farmers dependent on big industry for their livelihoods.

In many developing countries, where up to 80% of farmers each year choose their best plants and save their own seed, terminator technology is a byword for all genetic modification, raising fears that sterile GM strains could contaminate wild plants and regular crops – with devastating consequences.

The GM companies, which claimed in the 1990s that they wanted to introduce the seeds only to stop farmers stealing their products, were forced to shelve the technology in the face of massive protests in India, Latin Amercia and south-east Asia.

In the face of growing international alarm, the 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity unanimously agreed in 2000 that there should be a de facto international moratorium. This was strengthened at the Conference of the Parties in 2006, under the presidency of Brazil.

Since then, the moratorium has held firm. But the GM companies have shifted their arguments, saying that gene-use restriction technologies now allow seeds to reproduce, but could "switch off" the GM traits. This, they argue, would reduce the possibility of the seeds spreading sterility. In addition, they say the technology could protect organic and conventional farmers from the spread of transgenes to wild relatives and weeds, which plagues GM farmers in the US and elsewhere.

The fear now is that the global moratorium could quickly unravel if Brazil, one of the most important agricultural countries in the world, overturns its national law to ban terminator technology. Other countries, pressed strongly by the powerful GM lobby, would probably follow, leading inevitably to more protests.



Published on Friday, December 13, 2013 by Common Dreams

Hopes for 'Critical Mass in the Marketplace' Grow as Second State Joins GMO Labeling Push
Connecticut governor signs GMO labeling bill
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)A growing movement calling for the labeling of GMOs on grocery store shelves took one step forward this week when Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut signed a bill mandating just that.

There was, however, one major caveat.

In order for the law to be enacted, at least four other Northeastern states, together totaling a population of over 20 million people, must enact similar GMO laws. This clause, according to theDanbury Daily Voice, was included to help local farmers "by ensuring regional adoption of the new labeling system before requiring local farms to analyze and label genetically engineered products."

Those states could include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

However, on the other side of New England, Maine has already passed its own GMO labeling law, but this law also includes the same regional clause—meaning two New England states now require the labeling of GMOs, but only if the other nearby states join along.

However, while the rubik's cube of New England GMO labeling laws may seem difficult to line up, Malloy still remained confident that the move is a step in the right direction.

"This is a beginning, and I want to be clear what it is a beginning of," Malloy said at the public signing outside an organic restaurant in the city of Fairfield. "It is a national movement that will requiring (food) labeling."

“We are hopeful that legislators throughout the Northeast will follow the lead of Governor Malloy and all our legislative champions by passing laws that give consumers transparency in labeling,"said Tara Cook-Littman, director of GMO Free CT and one of the advocates for the law.

Similarly, when Connecticut's law passed the state legislature this summer before heading to Malloy's desk this month, Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, said that such the law's caveat may not hurt the label-GMO fight in the long run.

“The hurdles in the Connecticut bill, if surmounted, would mean a critical mass in the marketplace that would emulate the impacts that would have materialized if California had passed its ballot initiative,” said Kastel.

While other attempts at singular state initiatives to require labeling in states such as California and Washington have recently failed, in 2013 nearly half of all U.S. states have introduced bills that either require labeling or prohibit genetically engineered foods, according to the Center for Food Safety.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0


So Much Risk. So Little Benefit.   

It was only a matter of time.

The Arctic Apple®, genetically engineered to prevent oxidation, or browning, has been sitting in the pipeline, awaiting approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), since May of 2012. An initial comment period ended in September 2012. Plans initially called for a second and final comment period to open in the spring of 2013.

But with the GMO labeling battle going strong in Washington State—where more apples are grown than anywhere else in the U.S.—all has been silent on the Arctic Apple front for more than a year.

Until now.

No sooner had voters defeated I-522, Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative, than lo and behold, the USDA announced it had opened its second and final comment period before deciding whether or not to deregulate the first GMO apple.

DEADLINE DECEMBER 16 -TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA You Don’t Want a GMO Apple!

Why the USDA?

Apples are food, right? So you’d think the U.S. Food & Drug Administration would be charged with approving a GMO apple for human consumption. Instead, deregulation of the Arctic Apple is up to the USDA, which is responsible for protecting U.S. agriculture from pests and diseases. How does the agency decide? By performing an assessment of whether or not the Arctic Apple poses a plant risk.

Neal Carter, who developed the Arctic Apple for Okanagan Specialty Fruits, alleges the frankenapple is harmless. "These are the most tested and scrutinized apples in the world, and probably the safest apples in the world,” he said in an interview.

Scientists, environmentalists and just about every organization representing apple growers, in the U.S. and Canada,say otherwise. They predict that the GMO apple will likely contaminate conventional apple crops, in addition to introducing a whole new set of health concerns.

No health risk?

The Arctic Apple doesn’t require FDA approval, though the company says it is “voluntarily consulting with that agency to demonstrate that Arctic apples are as allergen-free and toxin-free as are all other apples.”

Right. We all know how often the FDA rejects genetically engineered food and crops.

But scientists have already sounded the alarm on health concerns, citing the relatively new and so-far untested dsRNA technology used to silence the gene that causes the apple to brown.

Professor Jack Heinemann (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Sarah Agapito-Tenfen (from Santa Catarina University in Brazil) and Judy Carman (Flinders University in South Australia), say that dsRNA manipulation is untested, and therefore inherently risky. They argue that the dsRNA from our food, and presumably the Frankenapple, will enter the bloodstream and cells of consumers. They recommend research be done on the safety of the GMO apple before it’s approved for human consumption.

The Arctic Apple provides no health benefit to consumers. No benefit to growers. It’s only “benefit” is that it won’t turn brown when you slice it or bite into it.

The USDA is set to approve the GMO apple before Christmas. Unless the agency heeds the tens of thousands of consumers, environmentalists and apple growers who are asking for more safety testing. Or at the least, a label?

DEADLINE DECEMBER 16 -TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA You Don’t Want a GMO Apple!

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Tell Home Depot and Lowe's: Stop selling bee-killing pesticides.  
As a beekeeper, I know the important role bees play in pollinating much of the food we all consume and enjoy. Keeping bees in an urban area, I and fellow beekeepers have experienced dramatic bee die-offs in the past two years.

These deaths are increasingly being linked to a class of neurotoxic pesticides called neonicotinoids. At the same time we have seen a large increase in the sales of neonicotinoids to home gardeners by stores like Home Depot and Lowe's -- which have thousands of locations across the country.

That's why I started my own campaign on, which allows activists to start their own petitions. My petition, which is to Home Depot and Lowe's, says the following:

Immediately remove neonicotinoid pesticides from your shelves and stop selling them at all of your stores. I also urgently request that you cease purchasing plants from nurseries that use neonicotinoid pesticides in the potting soil.
Sign the petition: Tell Home Depot and Lowe's to stop selling bee-killing pesticides.

Bees are essential to our food system and they've been dying off recently at alarming rates. Last winter, over a third of all honey bee colonies in the United States died, and domestic honey production for 2013 is projected to be the lowest ever recorded.

With the widespread and growing use of neonicotinoids in agriculture for commercial purposes and in home gardens, bees are exposed to residues on plants or in nectar and pollen. A growing body of research shows that there are devastating consequences for bees from the use of these pesticides, the most dangerous of which is an increased susceptibility to deadly parasites and viruses.

The sad fact is that I cannot sustain my beekeeping business at the current loss rate. Many beekeeping businesses have collapsed across the nation, with many more on the verge.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency is taking its time in dealing with the issue, but with bee die-offs increasing, we can't afford to wait. That's why I'm calling on Home Depot and Lowe's -- two of the largest retailers of neonicotinoid pesticides nationwide -- to take responsibility for the harm caused by the products they market to customers and immediately stop selling neonicotinoid pesticides.

With strong grassroots pressure we can put a spotlight on these companies' role in killing bees and persuade them to take neonicotinoid pesticides off the shelves of their stores nationwide.
Will you join me and add your name to my petition to Home Depot and Lowe's demanding that they stop selling bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides?

Thank you for your support.

Philip Smith



Frozen chicken breastChicken tumbling to add water – a widespread industrial practice

Tumbling chicken fillets in large cement-mixer-like machines to take in water is legal – as long as it is correctly labeled
Felicity Lawrence          The Guardian,                 
Chicken fillets are 'tumbled' in cement mixer-like machines to bulk them up with water. Photograph: Alamy
The industrial practice of tumbling chicken fillets in large cement-mixer-like machines so that they take up water is widespread. In some cases chicken meat undergoes a further process in which more water is injected into it.
A Guardian investigation 10 years ago exposed Dutch manufacturers using the technology to adulterate chicken meat with heavily disguised beef waste.
Companies in Germany and Spain were extracting proteins by hydrolysis from beef and pig hides and even from cattle bones and selling them in powder form to be mixed with water – the added proteins lock water into the flesh so that it does not flood out when the chicken is cooked.
The companies making the protein powders had found ways of extracting the protein so the DNA was hard to detect. The FSA had to work with laboratories to develop new methods of testing to establish which species were being used. It was this work that led to tests able to detect horse DNA in beef.
Efforts to police and stop the adulteration of chicken – which spanned a global chain from Britain, to Holland, Germany and Spain – broke down between the different jurisdictions. The UK authorities called for an EU limit on how much water could be added to chicken, but no action was agreed in Brussels. It remains legal to add water and additives to bind it in, even protein of other species, so long are they are declared on the label.
There is no evidence that supermarket frozen chicken makes use of added animal proteins, but the technology of adding water and other additives has spread to the high street.
Industry sources say the recession has given new impetus to adulteration of chicken. The price of grain to feed livestock has been at record highs, partly as a result of increased global demand and partly because extreme weather associated with climate change has affected crops. As a result, inflation in meat has been running at rates significantly higher than headline inflation. While the cost of the raw material and the fuel needed to keep the global meat supply chains operating has risen, wages have been stagnating and consumers have less money to spend.
Supermarkets have responded by promoting discount ranges, though paying for water may not be such a bargain.
SOURCE:  guardianUK