Thursday, May 2, 2013


Let me decide, make GE food labeling the lawNew Review Points to Glyphosate’s Dangerous Health Effects

By Genna Reed
A new review of hundreds of scientific studies surrounding glyphosate—the major component of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide— sheds light on its effects within the human body. The paper describes how all of these effects could work together, and with other variables, trigger health problems in humans, including debilitating diseases like gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
Glyphosate impairs the cytochrome P450 (CYP) gene pathway, which creates enzymes that help to form and also break down molecules in cells. There are myriad important CYP enzymes, including aromatase (the enzyme that converts androgen into estrogen) and 21-Hydroxylase, which creates cortisol (stress hormone) and aldosterone (regulates blood pressure). One function of these CYP enzymes is also to detoxify xenobiotics, which are foreign chemicals like drugs, carcinogens or pesticides. Glyphosate inhibits these CYP enzymes, which has rippling effects throughout our body.
Because the CYP pathway is essential for normal functioning of various systems in our bodies, any small change in its expression can lead to disruptions. For example, humans exposed to glyphosate have decreased levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is necessary for active signaling of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Suppressed serotonin levels have been associated with weight gain, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
This paper does not claim to yield new scientific discoveries. Instead, it looks at older studies in a new light. Critics will say the links between glyphosate and health problems made in this paper are purely correlational, but this work is important because it brings all of the possible health effects of glyphosate together and discusses what could happen: something the USDA, EPA and FDA have failed to do.
Just as Monsanto attempted to discredit Seralini’s study on rats fed GE corn, the company called this peer-reviewed journal article “another bogus study” due to its “bad science.” In a classic pot-calling-the-kettle-black scenario, what Monsanto doesn’t mention is that the majority of research showing glyphosate’s safety has been done by Monsanto itself, which could be called bad science as well due to its limited and biased nature.
The authors of the new review call for more independent research to validate their findings, stating that “glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and, contrary to being essentially nontoxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.” If the body of independent research on GE foods and the herbicides used with them shows one thing, it is that there are unanswered questions begging for unbiased research. And while these questions remain unanswered, Americans have the right to know how their food was produced – take action to tell your members of Congress to support mandatory GE labeling.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Weeding Corporate Power Out of Agricultural Policies: Communities Mobilize for Food and Farm Justice

The National Young Farmers’ Coalition, marching here with Occupy Wall Street, connects new farmers to share skills and fight for national policies that will “keep them farming for a lifetime.” Support for beginning farmers has largely been cut out of the current Farm Bill extension. (Photo: Edward Crimmins)From the school cafeteria to rural tomato farms, and all the way to pickets at the White House, people are challenging the ways in which government programs benefit big agribusiness to the detriment of small- and mid-sized farmers. Urban gardeners, PTA parents, ranchers, food coops, and a host of others are organizing to make the policies that govern our food and agricultural systems more just, accountable, and transparent. They are spearheading alternative policies on the local, state, national, and international levels. Some advances include the following:
  • The National Family Farm Coalition is educating and lobbying to restructure the subsidy system so that it benefits small farmers instead of agribusiness. Together with other groups like Food and Water Watch, Food First, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, they are engaging in research, education, and strategies to help turn us all into effective policy-change advocates.
  • People from all walks are becoming more involved in the US Farm Bill. Up for renewal every five to seven years, this hugely influential legislation lays out the framework for national food and farming policy. It regulates agricultural subsidies, food stamps, school lunch programs, rural conservation, and much more. Given the heavy impact this set of laws has on our daily lives, more and more people are asserting the need for public participation in crafting the legislation.
In preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill, for example, the Community Food Security Coalition, a group of nearly 300 organizations, helped the public learn about and lobby for the issues, and drafted a platform of top priorities. This built on coalition’s history of successful grassroots lobbying for Community Food Projects in the 1996 Farm Bill, wherein government grants go to food projects supporting lower-income communities. During the lead-up to the Farm Bill vote in 2008, community food, family farm, and farm-to-school organizations helped secure vital policy changes. These included placing a moratorium on land foreclosures under certain conditions, prioritizing socially disadvantaged farmers for federal loans and grants, and promoting locally grown produce in food stamp and school-lunch programs.
Despite the activism on the most recent Farm Bill, it was allowed to expire at the end of 2012 due to a stalemate in Congress around payments to farmers and broader budget issues. Congress implemented a nine-month extension, but several important programs were de-funded, including support for new farmers and farmers of color, conservation efforts, research into organic farming, and other progressive initiatives. Organizations of farmers and activists are now pushing for these to be reinstated in the next Farm Bill, which is slated for action in summer 2013. Groups such as the Rural Coalition and National Family Farm Coalition have been developing citizen-driven advocacy to ensure that priority programs addressing equity and access issues are not left behind.
  • People are becoming wise to the ways of industrial meat, dairy, and egg production, and demanding an end to abuse of animals by industry. In 2008, California residents organized a ballot initiative mandating better conditions for livestock and poultry. More Californians voted for it than for any other citizen initiative in state history. Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Maine have passed similar laws.
  • The 2009 “Country of Origin Labeling” (COOL) federal law mandates that retailers label certain meats, produce, and nuts with their country of origin. In 2011, the WTO ruled against COOL labeling for meat products, claiming that it interfered with international trade law. However, due to pressure from the grassroots and groups like Food and Water Watch, the USDA is working to amend the COOL regulations in a way that upholds the labeling while complying with the WTO ruling. Some states such as Vermont, Minnesota, Montana and Maine have their own state-labeling policies and programs to help residents choose foods produced closer to home.
  • For nearly 60 years, US law has required that all food aid distributed globally be grown in the US and shipped abroad. This system is inefficient, involving tremendous costs and time. More significantly, imported food aid undercuts farmers in recipient countries, who are often unable to sell their own food when competing with cheap US products. While short-term needs for emergency food may be met, aid imports undermine the local food production that can address hunger in the long-term. Instead, US food processors and transporters benefit. In April 2013, the Obama Administration proposed a policy change that would allow the US government to purchase food aid from within recipient countries, as most other donor countries already do. Organizations like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Oxfam America, Partners in Health, American Jewish World Service, and others have been organizing petitions and press releases to gain support for the new legislation.
  • Groups at the town, city, and state level are putting together food policy councils to create food systems that better serve their communities. The councils work on projects such as increasing the amount of local food purchased by public institutions like schools, hospitals, and prisons; preserving farmland; and drafting sweeping charters to guide future food policy. These councils aim to democratize food systems by encouraging broad public participation in policy-making. Some 200 such councils now exist in the US, with new ones forming all the time.
To become an active and effective citizen-advocate:
Support a shift in US aid policy to source food aid locally from within recipient countries. Take action to support Obama’s current proposal, and learn more about food aid policies, here.
Plug into advocacy on the Farm Bill. The next few months will be crucial as policymakers determine which aspects of the legislation will be extended. Stay tuned through the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Rural Coalition and the Farm Bill Primer.
• Consider joining a food policy council, or starting one if there is none in your area. Learn more here.
• Join up with organizations listed in the last article in the Harvesting Justice series to get involved in their campaigns and movement-building.
Read more from Other Worlds here and their Harvesting Justice series here.
Beverly Bell
Beverly Bell is the founder of Other Worlds and more than a dozen international organizations and networks, Beverly is also an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Beverly has worked for more than three decades as an organizer, advocate, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S.   She is the author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance.
Tory Field
Tory Field is Research and Education Coordinator for Other Worlds. Tory is an organizer living in Massachusetts. She worked for many years as a community organizer with Arise for Social Justice, a multi-issue community justice organization in Springfield, MA. where she now serves on the Board of Directors.


Del Monte's GMO Pineapple Approved in the U.S.

  • Monday, 29 April 2013

Del Monte, one of the world's largest growers and distributors of the popular tropical pineapple fruit, has developed a genetically modified pineapple that's currently being grown in Costa Rica, one of the top pineapple-producing countries. It has just received approval by the USDA for eventual sale in the U.S. Called "Rosé", representatives for Del Monte say the GMO fruit is still in a testing phase: "The USDA’s decision does not mean that Rosé is in commercial distribution; it is in a testing phase. Del Monte intends to continue to test Rosé and will communicate more details when appropriate,” Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing in North America for Del Monte said in a statement, adding that, “Del Monte Fresh Produce has a very active research and development program designed to explore new varieties and new agricultural techniques. The results of these research projects may or may not lead to commercialization depending on many factors including regulatory approvals by the relevant governmental authorities where and when applicable.”
According to the website, The Packer, Del Monte submitted its requests for approval from the USDA's APHIS division (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) in July of 2012, and the agency quietly gave its approval of Rosé in January of this year, but a formal public response was only made in late April.
Del Monte's request for approval describes the GMO Rosé variety as having "rose-colored flesh", which the company says comes from the addition of genes from "edible plant species, pineapple and tangerine" genetically modified to change the color of the pineapple.
A "food safety consultation" must be completed with the FDA before the pineapples can be imported to the U.S. The Packer reports that as of April 26th, the agency's list of approved consultations did not show any results connected with Del Monte's Rosé.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


The Huffington Post
Karl GrossmanGET UPDATES FROM Karl Grossman
Posted: 04/30/2013 2:33 pm

Will New York Be First State to Require Labeling of GMO Food?
Posted: 04/30/2013 2:33 pm

Will New York State be the first state in the nation to require the labeling of food containing what has become known as GMO -- genetically modified organisms?
More than 60 countries have enacted laws banning the use of GMO in producing food or requiring the labeling of food with ingredients that have utilized genetic modification or genetic engineering. But because of heavy pressure by the biotechnology industry, there are no such laws or regulations in the United States.
There was an attempt in California in November to pass a referendum -- Proposition 37 -- requiring labeling of GMO food. But despite initial strong public support, it failed after an advertising blitz led by biotech giant Monsanto.
"There was a very well-funded misinformation campaign," said Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute. "Forty-six million" -- the amount of dollars industry poured into the campaign against the proposition, five times as much as labeling supporters -- "buys an awful lot of confusion and misunderstanding," he commented.

Now political action on a state level for labeling genetically modified food has come to New York with a bill before the State Legislature.

"Consumers have a right to know what's in their food, especially concerning products for which health and environmental concerns have been raised," says the sponsor of the measure in the State Senate, Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson, a long-time educator and an attorney. He says: "My bill was introduced to give consumers the freedom to choose between GMOs and conventional products. Essentially, if a foodstuff is produced using genetic engineering, this must be indicated on its label."
Kathleen Furey, education and media director of GMO Free NY, has been busy criss-crossing Long Island, New York City and elsewhere in the state challenging GMOs and pressing for passage of the proposed law.
Crops using GMOs were introduced commercially in the United States in 1996. But "Americans are still dining in the dark," said Ms. Furey in a recent presentation in Sag Harbor, New York. Ms. Furey, a graduate of Stony Brook University's Sustainability Studies Department with a degree in environmental humanities, said that now in the U.S., 88 percent of corn, 90 percent of sugar beets and 93 percent of soybeans are grown using GMO. Some 80 percent of "bottled, boxed or canned foods in the U.S." contain GMO ingredients. And livestock feed "is comprised mostly of GMO corn and soybeans." GMOs "dominate the agricultural landscape" of America today, she said.

People have "the right to make informed choices about what we eat," she emphasized. "We have the right to be protected from food health risks and the right to stop being used as guinea pigs."
GMO technology is used to create "transgenic species" of plants and animals. Through it, genes from one often unrelated species are introduced into another.
The biotechnology industry insists GMO technology doesn't harm people and is useful. It points to how, with genetic modification, plants resistant to some pests have been developed.
But GMO opponents deem this harmful and indeed, various uses have backfired. Moreover, they charge that the U.S. government -- including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency empowered to protect Americans from contaminants in their food -- has been acting as a rubber stamp for the biotechnology industry, doing its bidding. And it's not the case that inside of government there isn't an awareness of the dangers of GMOs, noted Ms. Furey. She pointed to "internal memos from FDA scientists citing the risks of GMO safety and toxicity that were disregarded by their superiors."
On pest resistance through GMOs, Ms. Furey spoke of how "superbugs resistant to pest-resistanct GMO crops have evolved and are destroying those crops." Also, "superweeds resistant to herbicides sprayed on GMO crops have evolved and caused farmers to spray more herbicide per acre and resort to the use of even more-toxic herbicides."
Ms. Furey and GMO Free NY are supported by national organizations.
The Institute for Responsible Technology -- based in Iowa, describes genetically modified foods as "not safe." Its literature stresses a report by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine citing studies finding "serious health risks associated" with GMO food including "infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging...and changes to major organs and the gastrointestinal system."
Food & Water Watch, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is warning on its website about the Food and Drug Administration now "paving the way for genetically engineered salmon," which it calls "frankenfish." This, furthermore, "would open the floodgates" for genetically modified "cows and pigs which biotech companies are waiting in the wings to finally commercialize after years of research and development."
Just last month, the U.S. Congress passed and President Barack Obama approved what GMO foes call the "Monsanto Protection Act" -- a measure to last initially six months, stripping federal courts of the authority to halt the planting and sale of genetically modified crops if litigation is brought alleging health risks. Ms. Furey calls it "incredibly unconstitutional."
The reach of the biotechnology industry extends into the U.S. Supreme Court. The court had before it in February a case involving Monsanto and genetically engineered seeds, yet Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly a Monsanto attorney, refused to recuse himself. He refused to recuse himself, too, in 2010 in another case involving Monsanto and GMO seeds and joined in the decision favoring Monsanto's position. "It's outrageous," says Ms. Furey.
Overall, the biotechnology industry's drive for GMOs has been incredibly undemocratic and the process is quite likely unhealthy. Labeling is a minimum -- so people can at least know what food is genetically modified and choose what's still GMO-free.