Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Monsanto and Other GM Firms are Winning in the US – and Globally

The US State Department has sadly joined the push to distribute GM crops around the world, whether people want them or not

If you have a feeling that genetically modified (GM) foods are being forced upon the population by a handful of business interests and vociferously defended by the scientists that work in the agriculture industry or at the research institutions it funds, you might be onto something.
(Photo: Firskey/ Flickr)The zeal with which GM proponents evangelize transgenic seeds (and now, transgenic food animals) is so extreme that they are even pouring vast sums of money to defeat popular efforts to simply label GE foods – like the nearly $50m spent to defeat the popular 2012 ballot measure to label GE foods in California, Proposition 37. What's more, it's not just happening in the United States. I am the head of Food & Water Watch, and we have spent months looking at the extent to which the US State Department is working on behalf of the GM seed industry to make sure that biotech crops are served up abroad whether the world wants them or not.
Our report analyzes over 900 State Department diplomatic cables from 2005 to 2009 and reveals how far the US government will go to help serve the seed industry's agenda abroad, knowing that resistance to GMOs worldwide is high.
Here are some of the tidbits gleaned from our comprehensive look at the cables:

  • Between 2007 and 2009, annual cables were distributed to "encourage the use of agricultural biotechnology", directing US embassies to "pursue an active biotech agenda".
  • There was a comprehensive communications campaign aimed to "promote understanding and acceptance of the technology" and "develop support for US government trade and development policy positions on biotech" in light of the worldwide backlash against GM crops.
  • Where backlash was high, some embassies downplayed efforts. In Uruguay, the embassy has been "extremely cautious to keep [its] fingerprints off conferences" promoting biotechnology. In Peru and Romania, the US government helped create new pro-biotech nongovernmental organizations.
  • The State Department urged embassies to generate positive media coverage about GE crops. Diplomatic posts also bypassed the media and took the message directly to the public; for example, the Hong Kong consulate sent DVDs of a pro-biotech presentation to every high school.
  • The State Department worked to diminish trade barriers to the benefit of seed companies, and encouraged the embassies to "publicize the benefits of agbiotech as a development tool".
Monsanto was a great beneficiary of the State Department's taxpayer-funded diplomacy, helping pave the way for the cultivation of its seeds abroad: the company appeared in 6.1% of the biotech cables analyzed between 2005 and 2009 from 21 countries. The embassy in South Africa even informed Monsanto and Pioneer about two recently vacated positions in the agency that provided biotech oversight, suggesting that the companies advance "qualified applicants" to fill the position. Some embassies even attempted to facilitate favorable outcomes for intellectual property law and patent issues that would benefit the company.
The cables also show extensive lobbying against in-country efforts to require labeling of GM foods. In 2008, the Hong Kong consulate "played a key role" in convincing regulators to abandon a proposed mandatory labeling requirement. One in eight cables from 42 nations between 2005 and 2009 addressed biotech-labeling requirements.
What's more, the US government is now quietly negotiating major trade deals with Europe and the countries of the Pacific Rim that would force countries to accept biotech imports, commercialize biotech crops and prevent the labeling of GM foods.
The vast influence that Monsanto and the biotech seed industry have on our foreign affairs is just one tentacle of a beast comprised by a handful of huge corporations who wield enormous power over most food policy in the United States.
It's no accident that we're here: a farm policy of "get big or get out" that has been going on for decades has only benefited big companies that are becoming more and more consolidated. They wield unprecedented power over the market, at times putting small and midsized farmers out of business and favoring factory farms and the cultivation of GM commodities that fuel them – GM corn and soy, which are also the cornerstone of junk foods produced and sold worldwide.
Thanks, Monsanto. And thanks, State Department. Not only are you selling seeds, you're selling out democracy.

Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans.


The US-EU trade deal could take Monsanto's GM crops off the table

Genetically modified protest: Masked protestors shout slogans against the U.S.-based Monsanto company outside its offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The protest was held against copyrighted seeds, the use of soy as a mono-culture and the dominant presence of Monsanto in Argentina.A debate over food standards with the largest US trading partner could affect what Americans are eating for dinner,
Protestors against genetically modified crops have had more success against Monsanto and BASF outside the US than in it. Photograph: Victor R. Caivano/AP
As President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron stood smiling for the cameras at a press conference on free trade this week, a secret lurked behind them: the average American couldn't care less about whether the US has a good trade deal with Europe, or whether Europeans buy our products or we buy theirs. With over 12 million unemployed people at home, no one's worried about whether we have enough ripe cheese from France or beer from Germany.
Yet a confluence of events over the past week shows that Cameron's visit is important to Americans. One of the things he and other leaders will be negotiating are what kinds of American food they want brought into their countries cheaply.
Here's why what Europe wants matters: the EU, which loathes American food safety practices, could, by exerting pressure on the negotiations, actually end up improving the quality or variety of food available to Americans.
Right now, the American food supply is an issue of perpetual controversy. Hormones in meat and milk have many families – at least those who can afford organic options – rushing to pay more for a sense of safety.
The US food supply lacks variety: only a few crops dominate and major companies determine the extent and quality of the food supply – and they often prefer genetically modified seeds, bred to withstand herbicides but not fully tested in their long-term effect on human health. As the Guardian reported: "three big companies now control more than half of the global seed market.. … the average cost of planting an acre of soybeans had risen 325% between 1995 and 2011."
Not surprisingly, this corporate pressure has induced American agriculture to favor the kind of crops that corporations can best control: genetically modified crops. About 93% of the soybean seeds in the United States are genetically modified, along with 88% of corn, 94% of cotton and 90% of sugarbeets, which provide about 54% of the sugar sold in America, as the HuffPo's blog has pointed out. McDonald's, one of the biggest buyers of potatoes, has an outsize influence on the shape of the US potato supply. This week, one of its major potato processors, JR Simplot, raised the possibility of growing genetically modified potatoes again.
A lot is at stake: the EU is a powerful economic force and the US's most important trading partner, and this potential trade deal is an important one. It is worth at least $97bn to the United States and as much as $132bn to the rest of the world.
The sheer dollar value of a trade agreement – think of all those lovely dollars that we could use to boost our anemic GDP – means that the EU has financial clout in the US.
In fact, the EU has enough clout to finally convince the US government to clean up America's food supply, long given over to factory farming and the economic demands of agribusiness. If America wants to export more beef, chicken and crops to the European Union, it will have to make better products. The EU won't stand for the ones we're peddling now.
The EU looks down on American food safety and production practices, and with good reason. American meat production is heavily reliant on chemicals, from hormones to chlorine-bleach baths, and European officials and consumers largely reject these treatments and standards.
American farmers and food industry officials find this European exactitude on food practices bewildering, as captured in the comment of Ron Frye, the marketing manager for a Montana ranch, when talking with the Financial Times: "If it's good enough for us it ought to be good enough for them."
The US government is friendly to agribusiness interests; from the supreme court to the State Department, it's hard to find a government department hostile to corporate interests like those of, say, Monsanto. Yesterday, Monsanto won a supreme court case that allowed it to claim a patent on its genetically modified seeds no matter how farmers came by them. The justices ruled that whether farmers come across Monsanto seeds in grain silos, as useless among feed, or from third parties, the company must be paid for its patented seeds.
Monsanto also spurred a legislative provision preventing the government from taking action to stop genetically modified seeds, even if they were found to be harmful to the health of consumers. The GM giant's influence also seems to reach into the State Department, where officials travel the world singing the praises of genetically modified crops.
As Wenonah Hauter, the head of Food and Water Watch, wrote for the Guardian this week:
"We have spent months looking at the extent to which the US State Department is working on behalf of the GM seed industry to make sure that biotech crops are served up abroad whether the world wants them or not."
Her organization, scanning 900 diplomatic cables, found the State Department encouraging US embassies across the world to "pursue an active biotech agenda" and "encourage the use of agricultural biotechnology."
With the support of the government, Monsanto is a key force in American agriculture. Its sells a popular and powerful herbicide, Roundup, alongside the only seeds that are really resistant to it: soybeans named Roundup Ready, for which it charges twice the price of normal seeds. Strong herbicide has led, predictably, to stronger superweeds; now Monsanto is creating seeds that are resistant to even more powerful weedkillers.
The US Department of Agriculture dealt Monsanto a rare blow merely by insisting that its new seeds – the ones resistant to powerful herbicides – require at least another year of examination for safety. The delay was met with surprise.
In the US, Big Agriculture calls the shots; the European Union argues that it shouldn't. A trade deal would be the testing ground for a battle over food standards to play out.
The EU has little love for Monsanto or other chemical companies with a stake in agribusiness, like Germany's BASF. The EU has approved only two genetically modified crops – corn from Monsanto and potatoes from BASF. Even those modest approvals have met cultural roadblocks. Around eight EU, including France, Italy and Poland, have taken steps to ban Monsanto's GM corn. BASF, after seeking approvals for three of its potato varieties in Europe, gave up trying after a regulatory quest that took nearly four years.
All of which tells us that if the US wants to export more agricultural products through its trade agreement with the EU, things are probably going to have to change here, as well.


States Brace for Monsanto's 'Big Stick' in GMO Labeling Fight

As New England states back new legislation, labeling supporters prepare for Big Biotech's legal assault

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer
(Photo: Vermont Right to Know)Grassroots groups across the United States are mobilizing against the nation's powerful biotech firms as a new round of labeling laws for foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) make their way through state legislatures. 
The front lines in this battle have shifted to two New England states where legislators are preparing to vote on GMO labeling laws while backers prepare for a legal assault by large industry firms like Monsanto.
"The biotech [industry] is seeing growing mass support across the US and they have fewer useful resources to combat truthfulness and popular support," said Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), in an interview with Common Dreams. "Their 'big stick' now is litigation." 
Biotech firms, including Monsanto and other 'Big Ag' industry groups, were behind the defeat of an earlier labeling initiative, California's Proposition 37, after bankrolling a widespread misinformation campaign.
Gerritsen's statement came on the heels of a small victory in Maine Tuesday night when the Legislature's Agriculture Committee voted 8-5 to approve Bill L.D. 718 which would prohibit retailers from labeling a product “natural” if it contains GMOs.
“Somebody once said that Monsanto isn’t a seed company, it’s a law firm that makes seeds.” - Maine Rep. Lance Harvell
The vote followed the Friday passage of Bill H.112 by the Vermont House of Representatives which requires foods containing GMOs to be labeled, marking the "furthest any such legislation has made it through the legislative process in the United States," according to PR Watch.
The New England states are just two of a coalition of thirty-seven states currently mobilizing for GMO labeling. Of these, twenty now have legislation slated for introduction this year.
A local paper reports that one third of Vermont’s legislators were co-sponsors, "signaling the bill’s broad public support." Similarly, according to Gerritsen, an astounding 91 percent of Mainers favor the labeling of genetically modified foods.
"Both Vermont and Maine are not going to be bullied by out-of-state biotech firms," added Gerritsen. "It's an outrageous abuse of the democratic process. For out-of-state trade groups to threaten a state acting in the best interest of its people, that is abuse."
According to the Kennebec Journal, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills—who supports the measure—told lawmakers that the legislation is “almost certain” to face a legal challenge from the industry.  “These entities are very litigious,” Mills told the committee.
Maine Representative Lance Harvell (R-Farmington), who sponsored the bill, added, “You’re challenging a biotech industry that’s operated on the basis of throwing their weight around,” he said. “Somebody once said that Monsanto isn’t a seed company, it’s a law firm that makes seeds.”
Monsanto has already threatened to sue Vermont if the legislation passes.
Gerritsen believes the state is in "excellent position" to combat any legal challenges. What they are promoting is "factual, uncontroversial information which is valid for state interest."
He quotes a recent statistic that 50 percent of American consumers would not purchase foods made with GMOs if they knew about their presence. Not sharing that information, he says, indicates a "level of deceit" on the part of food companies. 
As the Maine bill progresses, supporters are "very hopeful" they will receive passage in both the House—where a record 123 legislators (out of 186) are cosponsoring the bill—and Senate.
In Vermont, the Senate vote won't occur until the legislature convenes next January.


EXTRACT: In the current legislative session, there are about a dozen proposed bills pushing GMO regulation, labeling and a ban on all imported GMO produce. These fights over mandating GMO labeling and regulation in Hawaii may seem like a remote issue, but what happens on these isolated islands is pivotal for land sovereignty movements across the globe.
Exposed: Monsanto's Chemical War Against Indigenous Hawaiians AlterNet, April 12 2013

*Hawaiians are fighting back against the GMO giant.

At 9 am on an overcast morning in paradise, hundreds of protesters gathered in traditional Hawaiian chant and prayer. Upon hearing the sound of the conch shell, known here as Pū, the protesters followed a group of women towards Monsanto’s grounds.

“A’ole GMO,” cried the mothers as they marched alongside Monsanto’s cornfields, located only feet from their homes on Molokai, one of the smallest of Hawaii’s main islands. In a tiny, tropical corner of the Pacific that has warded off tourism and development, Monsanto’s fields are one of only a few corporate entities that separates the bare terrain of the mountains and oceans.

This spirited march was the last of a series of protests on the five Hawaiian islands that Monsanto and other biotech companies have turned into the world’s ground zero for chemical testing and food engineering. Hawaii is currently at the epicenter of the debate over genetically modified organisms, generally shortened to GMOs. Because Hawaii is geographically isolated from the broader public, it is an ideal location for conducting chemical experiments. The island chain’s climate and abundant natural resources have lured five of the world’s largest biotech chemical corporations: Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and BASF.  In the past 20 years, these chemical companies have performed over 5,000 open-field-test experiments of pesticide-resistant crops on an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 acres of Hawaiian land without any disclosure, making the place and its people a guinea pig for biotech engineering.

The presence of these corporations has propelled one of the largest movement mobilizations in Hawaii in decades. Similar to the environmental and land sovereignty protests in Canada and the continental United States, the movement is influenced by indigenous culture.

“All of the resources that our kapuna [elders] gave to us, we need to take care of now for the next generation,” said Walter Ritte, a Hawaii activist, speaking in part in the Hawaiian indigenous language.

“That is our kuleana [responsibility]. That is everybody’s kuleana.”

In Hawaiian indigenous culture, the very idea of GMOs is effectively sacrilegious.

“For Hawaii’s indigenous peoples, the concepts underlying genetic manipulation of life forms are offensive and contrary to the cultural values of aloha ‘ʻāina [love for the land],” wrote Mililani B. Strask, a native Hawaiian attorney.

Deadly practices

Monsanto has a long history of making chemicals that bring about devastation. The company participated in the Manhattan Project to help produce the atomic bomb during World War II. It developed the herbicide “Agent Orange” used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War, which caused an estimated half-million birth deformities. Most recently, Monsanto has driven thousands of farmers in India to take their own lives, often by drinking chemical insecticide, after the high cost of the company’s seeds forced them into unpayable debt.
(WNV/Imani Altemus-Williams)

A Molokai resident expresses joy as the march passes by her home, which is located across the street from Monsanto’s fields. (WNV/Imani Altemus-Williams)

The impacts of chemical testing and GMOs are immediate — and, in the long-term, could prove deadly. In Hawaii, Monsanto and other biotech corporations have sprayed over 70 different chemicals during field tests of genetically engineered crops, more chemical testing than in any other place in the world. Human studies have not been conducted on GMO foods, but animal experiments show that genetically modified foods lead to pre-cancerous cell growth, infertility, and severe damage to the kidneys, liver and large intestines. Additionally, the health risks of chemical herbicides sprayed onto GMO crops cause hormone disruption, cancer, neurological disorders and birth defects. In Hawaii, some open-field testing sites are near homes and schools. Prematurity, adult on-set diabetes and cancer rates have significantly increased in Hawaii in the last ten years. Many residents fear chemical drift is poisoning them.

Monsanto’s agricultural procedures also enable the practice of monocropping, which contributes to environmental degradation, especially on an island like Hawaii. Monocropping is an agricultural practice where one crop is repeatedly planted in the same spot, a system that strips the soil of its nutrients and drives farmers to use a herbicide called Roundup, which is linked to infertility. Farmers are also forced to use pesticides and fertilizers that cause climate change and reef damage, and that decrease the biodiversity of Hawaii.

Food sovereignty as resistance

At the first of the series of marches against GMOs, organizers planted coconut trees in Haleiwa, a community on the north shore of Oahu Island. In the movement, protesting and acting as caretakers of the land are no longer viewed as separate actions, particularly in a region where Monsanto is leasing more than 1,000 acres of prime agricultural soil.

During the march, people chanted and held signs declaring, “Aloha ‘āina: De-occupy Hawaii.”

The phrase aloha ‘āina is regularly seen and heard at anti-GMO protests. Today the words are defined as “love of the land,” but the phrase has also signified “love for the country.” Historically, it was commonly used by individuals and groups fighting for the restoration of the independent Hawaiian nation, and it is now frequently deployed at anti-GMO protests when people speak of Hawaiian sovereignty and independence.

After the protest, marchers gathered in Haleiwa Beach Park, where they performed speeches, music, spoken-word poetry and dance while sharing free locally grown food. The strategy of connecting with the land was also a feature of the subsequent protest on the Big Island, where people planted taro before the march, and also at the state capitol rally, where hundreds participated in the traditional process of pounding taro to make poi, a Polynesian staple food.

The import economy is a new reality for Hawaii, one directly tied to the imposition of modern food practices on the island. Ancient Hawaii operated within the Ahupua’a system, a communal model of distributing land and work, which allowed the islands to be entirely self-sufficient.

“Private land ownership was unknown, and public, common use of the ahupua’a resources demanded that boundaries be drawn to include sufficient land for residence and cultivation, freshwater sources, shoreline and open ocean access,” explained Carol Silva, an historian and Hawaiian language professor.

Inspired by the Ahupua’a model, the food sovereignty movement is building an organic local system that fosters the connections between communities and their food — a way of resisting GMOs while simultaneously creating alternatives.

Colonial history

The decline of the Ahupua’a system didn’t only set Hawaii on the path away from food sovereignty; it also destroyed the political independence of the now-U.S. state. And indeed, when protesters chant “aloha ‘āina” at anti-GMO marches, they are alluding to the fact that this fight isn’t only over competing visions of land use and food creation. It’s also a battle for the islands’ political sovereignty.

Historically, foreign corporate interests have repeatedly taken control of Hawaii — and have exploited and mistreated the land and its people in the process.

“It’s a systemic problem and the GMO issue just happens to be at the forefront of public debate at the moment,” said Keoni Lee of ʻŌiwi TV. “ʻĀina [land] equals that which provides. Provides for who?”

The presence of Monsanto and the other chemical corporations is eerily reminiscent of the business interests that led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Throughout the 19th century, the Hawaiian Kingdom was recognized as an independent nation. That reality changed in 1893, when a group of American businessmen and sugar planters orchestrated a U.S. Marine’s armed coup d’etat of the Hawaiian Kingdom government.

Five years later, the U.S. apprehended the islands for strategic military use during the Spanish-American War despite local resistance. Even then-President Grover Cleveland called the overthrow a “substantial wrong” and vowed to restore the Hawaiian kingdom. But the economic interests overpowered the political will, and Hawaii remained a U.S. colony for the following 60 years.

The annexation of Hawaii profited five sugarcane-manufacturing companies commonly referred to as the Big Five: Alexander & Baldwin, Amfac (American Factors), Castle & Cooke, C. Brewer, and Theo H. Davies. Most of the founders of these companies were missionaries who were actively involved in lobbying for the annexation of the Hawaiian islands in 1898. After the takeover, the Big Five manipulated great political power and influence in what was then considered the “Territory of Hawaii,” gaining unparalleled control of banking, shipping and importing on the island chain. The companies only sponsored white republicans in government, creating an oligarchy that threatened the labor force if it voted against their interests. The companies’ environmental practices, meanwhile, caused air and water pollution and altered the biodiversity of the land.

The current presence of the five-biotech chemical corporations in Hawaii mirrors the political and economic colonialism of the Big Five in the early 20th century — particularly because Monsanto has become the largest employer on Molokai.

“There is no difference between the “Big Five” that actually ruled Hawaii in the past,” said Walter Ritte. “Now it’s another “Big Five,” and they’re all chemical companies. So it’s almost like this is the same thing. It’s like déjàvu.”

Rising up

At the opening of this year’s legislative session on January 16, hundreds of farmers, students and residents marched to the state capitol for a rally titled “Idle No More: We the People.” There, agricultural specialist and food sovereignty activist Vandana Shiva, who traveled from India to Hawaii for the event, addressed the crowd.

“I see Hawaii not as a place where I come and people say, ‘Monsanto is the biggest employer,’ but people say, ‘this land, its biodiversity, our cultural heritage is our biggest employer,’” she said.

As she alluded to, a major obstacle facing the anti-GMO movement is the perception that the chemical corporations provide jobs that otherwise might not exist — an economic specter that the sugarcane companies also wielded to their advantage. Anti-GMO organizers are aware of how entrenched this power is.
(WNV/Imani Altemus-Williams)

Women lead the anti-GMO protest on Molokai in a traditional Hawaiian chant. (WNV/Imani Altemus-Williams)

“The things that we’re standing up against are really at the core of capitalism,” proclaimed Hawaiian rights activist Andre Perez at the rally.

Given the enormity of the enemy, anti-GMO activists are attacking the issue from a variety of fronts, including organizing mass education, advocating for non-GMO food sovereignty and pushing for legislative protections. Organizers see education, in particular, as the critical element to win this battle.

“Hawaii has the cheapest form of democracy,” said Daniel Anthony, a young local activist and founder of a traditional poi business. “Here we can educate a million people, and Monsanto is out.”

Others are using art to educate the public, such as Hawaiian rapper Hood Prince, who rails against Monsanto in his song “Say No to GMO.” This movement is also educating the community through teach-ins and the free distribution of the newly released book Facing Hawaii’s Future: Essential Information about GMOs.

Hawaii has already succeeded in protecting its traditional food from genetic engineering. Similar to the way the Big Five controlled varying sectors of society, the biotech engineering companies are financially linked to the local government, schools and university. Monsanto partially funds the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii. The university and the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center began the process of genetically engineering taro in 2003 after the university patented three of its varieties. Once this information became widely known, it incited uproar of objection from the Hawaiian community. Taro holds spiritual significance in the islands’ indigenous culture, in which it is honored as the first Hawaiian ancestor in the creation story.

“It felt like we were being violated by the scientific community,” wrote Ritte inFacing Hawaii’s Future. “For the Hawaiian community, taro is not just a plant. It’s a family member. It’s our common ancestor ‘Haloa …. They weren’t satisfied with just taking our land; now they wanted to take our mana, our spirit too.”

The public outcry eventually drove the university to drop its patents.

Anti-GMO activists are hoping for further successes in stopping genetic food engineering. In the current legislative session, there are about a dozen proposed bills pushing GMO regulation, labeling and a ban on all imported GMO produce. These fights over mandating GMO labeling and regulation in Hawaii may seem like a remote issue, but what happens on these isolated islands is pivotal for land sovereignty movements across the globe.

“These five major chemical companies chose us to be their center,” said Ritte. “So whatever we do is going to impact everybody in the world.”


DEADLINE TODAY: Stop the King Amendment!

Another Monsanto Protection Act?

Today, Wednesday, May 15, the House Agriculture Committee will vote on a proposed Farm Bill amendment that if passed, will take away states’ rights to pass laws governing the production or manufacture of any agricultural product, including food and animals raised for food, that is intended for sale in interstate commerce. The language in the King Amendment, proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), is ambiguous. But some analysts believe that Monsanto will use the amendment as legal ammunition to challenge any future state laws mandating labels on GMO-tainted food.
If your Member of Congress is on the House Agriculture Committee, please use the form below to urge your representative to vote against the King Amendment. Your message will have even more impact if you follow it up with a call to the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Rep. King says his amendment is merely an effort to "reinforce the Commerce Clause," by asserting "that a state cannot deny the trade of an agricultural product from another state based on its means of production." But, who is he kidding? King's amendment isn't about protecting the Commerce Clause, it's about protecting industrial agriculture.

Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States warns that the King Amendment is sweeping and far-reaching: "It seeks to nullify every state, county or local law that creates any standard or condition relating to an agricultural production activity – so we’d have no state laws for agricultural facilities relating to worker rights, animal welfare, environmental protection or public health.”

Could this amendment be used to wipe out states’ efforts, including citizen ballot initiatives, to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) thought so last year, when Rep. King tried to attach the amendment to the failed 2012 Farm Bill. Heather White, Executive Director for EWG said at the time that the bill would “. . . apply to genetically engineered food labeling, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulation, antibiotics use in meat and other local and state food and farm regulations."

As more and more states threaten to pass GMO labeling laws, it would come as no surprise if Monsanto were looking for ways to stomp on states’ rights.

It also comes as no surprise that among the many contributors to Rep. King's election campaigns are companies involved in every production level in the GMO supply chain: seed and chemical companies (Monsanto, Syngenta), growers (Iowa Corn Growers' Association, American Farm Bureau), processors (American Crystal Sugar, Ag Processors), the factory farms that convert GMO grains to animal products (Beef Products Inc., the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, International Dairy Foods Association), and the junk food companies pushing GMO ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and trans fats (Cargill, Coca-Cola, ConAgra).

Whether the King Amendment would hit one state food bill or a hundred, it's clear who Rep. King is working for: Food Inc., not consumers. If the King amendment passes, we will fight any company that attempts to use the amendment to overturn state GMO labeling laws. But let's make sure it doesn't pass!

Please send the letter below to voice your opposition to the King Amendment.


Monday, May 13, 2013


so you can get the ACTION info HOT Off the Presses!!! WE HAVE a MONTH to go!!!!! LET'S GET BUSY, NEW YORK!!! Please pass this on to anyone you know who eats food!!

Fellow GMO Labeling Supporters,

It's time for New Yorkers to take action! Call one, call all! Write one, write all!
These 11 Senators are the current gatekeepers of bill S3835--NY's bill for
GMO Labeling. If they don't soon push it out of the Consumer Protection
Committee the bill will die without making it to the Senate floor for a vote.
So it is REALLY important that WE push THEM now to let them know:
It's Time to Label GMOs! This is our chance to make our voices heard, NY!
All the contact info you need to reach them is below, beneath the head shots.
Whether you write or call, remember to say the bill number -- S3835!

Go to to see a sample letter and writing tips.
Like us on Facebook, too.

Next up: contacting the 15 Assemblymembers of the Committee on
Consumer Affairs and Protection.

--The GMO Free NY Team


Senate Committee Member Contact Info:

Phil Boyle
518-455-3411 | 631-669-9200
Legislative Office Building, 814
Albany, NY 12247
Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.
518-455-3341 | 516-882-0630
Legislative Office Building, 609
Albany, NY 12247
Terry Gipson
518-455-2303 | 845-463-0840
Legislative Office Building, 617
Albany, NY 12247
Brad Hoylman
518-455-2451 | 212-633-8052
Legislative Office Building, 413
Albany, NY 12247


George Latimer
518-455-2031 | 914-934-5250
Legislative Office Building, 615
Albany, NY 12247

Betty Little
518-455-2811 | 518-743-0968
Legislative Office Building, 310
Albany, NY 12247

Kathleen A. Marchione
Legislative Office Building, 306
Albany, NY 12247

George D. Maziarz
518-455-2024 | 716-434-0680
Legislative Office Building, 708
Albany, NY 12247


Diane J. Savino
518-455-2437 | 718-727-9406
Legislative Office Building, 315
Albany, NY 12247

José M. Serrano
518-455-2795 | 212-828-5829
Legislative Office Building, 406
Albany, NY 12247

Lee M. Zeldin (Chair)
518-455-3570 | 631-585-0608
Legislative Office Building, 802
Albany, NY 12247

For more info: | | © 2013 GMO Free NY | Like us on Facebook

Are ya in a GMO Labeling state of mind, New York??????


Senator Liz Krueger
Dear Mr. Castellano,
Thank you for writing to express your concern regarding foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  I share your concerns regarding this issue and that is why I co-sponsor Senate bill S3835-A, which would require manufacturers and retailers to properly label foods and seeds containing GMOs.
Genetic engineering is a process which allows for the altering of the genetic material contained in an organism to change the characteristics the organism will display as it develops. This bill defines what is constituted as genetically engineered or modified material and requires manufactures and retailers to clearly label and display such foods.  This bill also establishes penalties for entities that misbrand or falsely label such foods.
GMOs have been linked to various health issues, from allergies to more serious ailments, such as heart disease and cancer.  Currently 60 countries around the world have laws in place requiring the labeling of foods containing GMOs, and yet there is no federal law in place here in the United States.  Given the potential health risks associated with GMOs, I believe consumers should be aware of whether or not GMOs are contained in the foods they eat. This bill will be an important step in protecting New Yorkers from the hazardous health effects of GMOs.

Thank you again for taking the time to express your concerns. Please be assured that I will continue to work towards properly addressing this issue.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future should you have any further questions regarding this or any other issue.
Liz Krueger
State Senator

District Office:
211 East 43rd Street, Suite 401
New York, New York 10017

Albany Office:
905 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247


From a posting to the Sierra Club Biotech Forum today.
Unfortunately, a unanimous ruling.
Monsanto wins landmark patent case in Supreme Court
May 13 2013

The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of biotech giant Monsanto, closing the door on a patent case that has pitted a small time farmer from Indiana
against a titan of the agriculture industry.

The high court said early Monday that 75-year-old farmer Vernon Bowman of Indiana
violated Monsanto's patent rights when he purchased a mix of seeds from a grain elevator 

that he later planted on his Midwest farm. That mix include patented Roundup Ready soybean seeds manufactured by Monsanto that are sold under license because they can hold up against their namesake, a nasty pesticide regularly used on farms.
Bowman argued that he could do whatever he wanted with the Roundup Ready seeds since he obtained them rightfully from a grain elevator and the terms of Monsanto's licensing agreement under the patent did not apply to him. Under Monsanto's terms, Roundup Ready seeds can only be harvested once and must not be saved or reused.

"If they don't want me to go to the elevator and buy that grain, then Congress should pass a law
saying you can't do it," Bowman told RT in February. "If they then claim that I can't use
that, they're forcing their patent on me," Bowman he said to Huffington Post earlier this year. "No law was ever passed that said no farmers can't go to the elevator and buy grain and use it, so to me they either forced their patent on me or they abandoned their patent by allowing it to be dumped it with non-Roundup grain."

On Monday, the Supreme Court decided unanimously that Bowman indeed violated the licensing terms.
"By planting and harvesting Monsanto's patented seeds, Bowman made additional copies of
Monsanto's patented invention, and his conduct thus falls outside the protections of patent
exhaustion," the court ruled. "Were this otherwise, Monsanto's patent would provide scant
benefit. After Monsanto sold its first seed, other seed companies could produce the patented
seed to compete with Monsanto, and farmers would need to buy seed only once."

"Under the doctrine of patent exhaustion, the authorized sale of a patented article gives the
purchaser, or any sub°©sequent owner, a right to use or resell that article. Such a sale, however, does not allow the purchaser to make new copies of the patented invention," Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court. "The question in this case is whether a farmer who buys patented seeds may repro°©duce them through planting and harvesting
without thepatent holder's permission. We hold that he may not."

Sunday, May 12, 2013


thiery_formergmoFormer Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food

I retired 10 years ago after a long career as a research scientist for Agriculture Canada. When I was on the payroll, I was the designated scientist of my institute to address public groups and reassure them that genetically engineered crops and foods were safe. There is, however, a growing body of scientific research – done mostly in Europe, Russia, and other countries – showing that diets containing engineered corn or soya cause serious health problems in laboratory mice and rats.
I don’t know if I was passionate about it but I was knowledgeable. I defended the side of technological advance, of science and progress.

In the last 10 years I have changed my position. I started paying attention to the flow of published studies coming from Europe, some from prestigious labs and published in prestigious scientific journals, that questioned the impact and safety of engineered food.
I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.
There are a number of scientific studies that have been done for Monsanto by universities in the U.S., Canada, and abroad. Most of these studies are concerned with the field performance of the engineered crops, and of course they find GMOs safe for the environment and therefore safe to eat.
Individuals should be encouraged to make their decisions on food safety based on scientific evidence and personal choice, not on emotion or the personal opinions of others.
We should all take these studies seriously and demand that government agencies replicate them rather than rely on studies paid for by the biotech companies.
The Bt corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides. But are these insecticidal plants regulated and have their proteins been tested for safety? Not by the federal departments in charge of food safety, not in Canada and not in the U.S.
There are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries to demonstrate the claims that engineered corn and soya are safe. All we have are scientific studies out of Europe and Russia, showing that rats fed engineered food die prematurely.
These studies show that proteins produced by engineered plants are different than what they should be. Inserting a gene in a genome using this technology can and does result in damaged proteins. The scientific literature is full of studies showing that engineered corn and soya contain toxic or allergenic proteins.
Genetic engineering is 40 years old. It is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the One Gene – one protein hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong.
The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding. Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.
I have drafted a reply to Paul Horgen’s letter to the Comox Valley Environmental Council. It is my wish that it goes viral as to educate as many people as possible rapidly. Any and all social media is fine by me. This can also be used as a briefing note for the councilors of AVICC or anywhere else. Thank you for your help. [Click here for original source with replies from Dr. Paul Horgen]
— Thierry Vrain, Innisfree Farm

I am turning you towards a recent compilation (June 2012) of over 500 government reports and scientific articles published in peer reviewed Journals, some of them with the highest recognition in the world. Like The Lancet in the medical field, or Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, or Biotechnology, or Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, European Journal of Histochemistry, Journal of Proteome Research, etc … This compilation was made by a genetic engineer in London, and an investigative journalist who summarized the gist of the publications for the lay public.
GMO Myths and Truths – an evidence based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops. A report of 120 pages, it can be downloaded for free from Earth Open Source. “GMO Myths and Truths” disputes the claims of the Biotech industry that GM crops yield better and more nutritious food, that they save on the use of pesticides, have no environmental impact whatsoever and are perfectly safe to eat. Genetic pollution is so prevalent in North and South America where GM crops are grown that the fields of conventional and organic grower are regularly contaminated with engineered pollen and losing certification. The canola and flax export market from Canada to Europe (a few hundreds of millions of dollars) were recently lost because of genetic pollution. Did I mention superweeds, when RoundUp crops pass their genes on to RoundUp Resistant weeds. Apparently over 50% of fields in the USA are now infested and the growers have to go back to use other toxic herbicides such as 2-4 D. Many areas of Ontario and Alberta are also infested. The transgenes are also transferred to soil bacteria. A chinese study published last year shows that an ampicillin resistance transgene was transferred from local engineered crops to soil bacteria, that eventually found their way into the rivers. The transgenes are also transferred to humans. Volunteers who ate engineered soybeans had undigested DNA in their intestine and their bacterial flora was expressing the soybean transgenes in the form of antibiotic resistance. This is genetic pollution to the extreme, particularly when antibiotic resistance is fast becoming a serious global health risk. I can only assume the American Medical Association will soon recognize its poorly informed judgement.
In 2009 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium of GM foods, safety testing and labeling. Their review of the available literature at the time noted that animals show serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. Monsanto writes “There is no need to test the safety of GM foods”. So long as the engineered protein is safe, foods from GM crops are substantially equivalent and they cannot pose any health risks.” The US Food and Drug Administration waived all levels of safety testing in 1996 before approving the commercialization of these crops. Nothing more than voluntary research is necessary, and the FDA does not even want to see the results. And there is certainly no need to publish any of it. If you remember 1996, the year that the first crops were commercialized, the research scientists of the US FDA all predicted that transgenic crops would have unpredictable hard to detect side effects, allergens, toxins, nutritional effects, new diseases. That was published in 2004 in Biotechnology if you recall seeing it.
I know well that Canada does not perform long term feeding studies as they do in Europe. The only study I am aware of from Canada is from the Sherbrooke Hospital in 2011, when doctors found that 93% of pregnant women and 82% of the fetuses tested had the protein pesticide in their blood. This is a protein recognized in its many forms as mildly to severely allergenic. There is no information on the role played by rogue proteins created by the process of inserting transgenes in the middle of a genome. But there is a lot of long term feeding studies reporting serious health problems in mice and rats. The results of the first long term feeding studies of lab rats reported last year in Food and Chemical Toxicology show that they developed breast cancer in mid life and showed kidney and liver damage. The current statistic I read is that North Americans are eating 193 lbs of GMO food on average annually. That includes the children I assume, not that I would use that as a scare tactic. But obviously I wrote at length because I think there is cause for alarm and it is my duty to educate the public.
One argument I hear repeatedly is that nobody has been sick or died after a meal (or a trillion meals since 1996) of GM food. Nobody gets ill from smoking a pack of cigarette either. But it sure adds up, and we did not know that in the 1950s before we started our wave of epidemics of cancer. Except this time it is not about a bit of smoke, it’s the whole food system that is of concern. The corporate interest must be subordinated to the public interest, and the policy of substantial equivalence must be scrapped as it is clearly untrue.
Thierry Vrain is a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada. He now promotes awareness of the dangers of genetically modified foods.
Originally published in: Prevent Disease.