Thursday, July 4, 2013


trophy prize 263x164 World Leaders Denounce Monsanto Exec Winning World Food PrizeWorld Leaders Denounce Monsanto Exec Winning World Food Prize

Elizabeth Renter
July 3rd, 2013
Updated 07/03/2013 at 1:40 pm

Last month, Monsanto executive Robert Fraley received the World Food Prize. This highly esteemed prize, considered among many to be the “Nobel Prize” of food, was given to the chief technology officer of the chemical company who is ironically working to diabolically destroy agriculture as we know it. As Anthony Gucciardi puts it, the “blatant act of transgression” isn’t only obvious to those of us in the natural health world, but to scientists, and food and agricultural advocates around the world as well.
In response to the award (and two other highly questionable World Food Prize awards), 81 Councillors of the World Future Council penned a statement blasting the World Food Prize. These dignitaries are described as “a network of global luminaries who ‘form a voice for the rights of future generations’.” The statement also included names of Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, or the “Alternative Nobel”. In other words, the statement was written by some esteemed and globally recognized folks—people you don’t necessarily want on your bad side.
In their statement, published in its entirety on Huffington Post, the Council says this year’s World Food Prize recipient “betrays the award’s own mandate to emphasize ‘the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people’.” They call out Monsanto Exec Fraley and say he and the other two award recipients played crucial parts in the development of genetically modified organisms which threaten the global food system.
“Almost twenty years after commercialization of the first GMO seeds, by far the most widely used are not engineered to enhance nutrient content, but to produce a specific pesticide or to resist a proprietary herbicide, or a combination of these traits. Even in reducing weeds, the technology is failing, for it has led to herbicide-resistant “super weeds” now appearing on nearly half of American farms,” the Huffington Post reports.
The statement goes on to blast GMOs for perpetuating an unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels and minerals as well as water waste. They point out that although the award is designed to commend those behind nutritious and sustainable food practices, Monsanto’s GMOs actually do the opposite, taxing the environment far more than organically grown crops.
The claims by Monsanto and others who support GMOs are that these franken-seeds can help solve world hunger. But, as the Council points out, these seeds are largely used to produce crops for livestock feed, processed foods, and fuel, not to feed the hungry.
In addition, they write that the practices by these companies in getting farmers to subscribe to their devastating philosophy is making it even more difficult for such farmers to make a living. In India, for example, 270,000 farmers committed suicide between 1995 and 2012 to get out from under debt accumulated by purchasing these high-dollar seeds and chemicals.
In closing, they write:
The choice of the 2013 World Food Prize is an affront to the growing international consensus on safe, ecological farming practices that have been scientifically proven to promote nutrition and sustainability. Many governments have rejected GMOs, and as many as two million citizens in 52 countries recently marched in opposition to GMOs and Monsanto. In living democracies, discounting this knowledge and these many voices is not acceptable.

Read more:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Food Industry Giants Mobilizing to Attack Growing Label GMOs Movement

As Grassroots GMO labeling movement gains steam, Big Ag makes plans behind closed doors

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
(Photo via Flickr / myboogers / Creative Commons License)Food giants such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Kraft Foods, Coca Cola and General Mills are mobilizing to counter the power of the growing grassroots movement across the U.S. to have GMO foods labeled, and are getting ready to battle what they see as an “unprecedented period of turmoil” for GMO corporations.
In a letter seen by The Hill, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), who will be holding the summit of food industry corporate giants next Wednesday in D.C., told their 300 prospective attendees that they have "reached a pivotal point" in the GMO effort and "believe now is the time" to act in unison against the movement to label GMOs.
However, exactly what steps the food industry will plot is yet to be told, The Hill notes:
Though organizers of the GMA summit were tight-lipped, advocates and industry officials said the options could ultimately range from a coordinated attack against labels to acceptance of a national standard.
There are currently proposals to label GMOs pending in 25 state legislatures and a ballot initiative in the works in Washington, but the food industry has shown it is willing to fight dirty in order to keep mandatory labels off.
"Last year, major chemical and food companies spent more than $40 million in California to defeat a ballot measure that called for mandatory labels of all scientifically engineered foods sold in the state," The Hill reports.
In that battle, the GMA poured over $2 million to defeat the measure, and said the fight was "the single-highest priority for GMA" that year.
“As the policy debate surrounding this issue moves forward, GMA will continue to work with its supply chain partners to inform lawmakers and consumers about the significant negative impacts such labeling requirements will have on both businesses and consumers,” the group said in a written statement to The Hill.
As the food giants prepare to gather at the GMA summit in Washington next Wednesday, the battle appears to be heating up.



Maggie Sergio

GMO & Pesticide Experiments in Hawaii: The Poisoning of Paradise
The tropical paradise of Hawaii is on the bucket list of many. Peaceful images of white sandy beaches, warm tropical waters and the welcoming spirit of Aloha is what draws tourists from around the globe. In 2012, Hawaiian tourism hit an all-time high. Visitors spent a record of $14.3 billion dollars and more tourists than ever before (close to 8 million people) visited the Hawaiian Islands last year.
Simultaneously, the vibrant ecosystems and biodiversity of the Hawaiian Islands are under serious attack by the unrestrained growth of the biotech industry. The average tourist coming to Hawaii to enjoy a vacation, get married or possibly invest in a time share isn't aware of the chemical contamination taking place due to unregulated GMO experiments and heavy pesticide use on the islands.
My intention with this article is to raise awareness and help shine a light on the environmental crisis that is happening right now, under our noses, in Hawaii. If action isn't taken quickly and soon, I am fearful of what the long term, unrestrained use of pesticides will do to the ecology of Hawaii. What the general public needs to know, is that GMO research in Hawaii requires the use of powerful restricted use pesticides.
A little over a month ago I was shocked to learn from a friend that Kauai and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands have become Ground Zero for open air testing of experimental pesticides and GMOs. After hearing this information I made my first visit to Kauai and researched what was happening on the island, and learned about the grassroots movement fighting back to stop the chemical trespass and assault on the environment.
This video, Molokai Mom, tells the story of one mother taking on Monsanto after her young son got sick from breathing in pesticide drift allegedly from Monsanto's fields near her home.
How did this happen? How the GMO industry snuck onto Kauai... and the rest of Hawaii
In the mid-1990s, the sugarcane industry collapsed and vacated much of the agricultural land on Kauai. That agricultural land is now either owned by the State of Hawaii or several private landholders. All of which lease the land out to the biotech industry. Specifically, the Big Six; Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, BASF, Pioneer and Bayer.
What is taking place generally in GMO testing activities is research that involves the transferring of DNA from one species to another. This may include human genes introduced to crops such as corn, soy, rice and sugarcane and genetically engineered crops for use in the pharmaceutical industry. The end result is an organism (plant or animal) that would never occur in nature. For the farmers on Kauai that practice organic and sustainable agricultural practices, their crops are at risk for contamination. For the ecosystem(s) of the Hawaiian Islands, biodiversity is being threatened. For the people that live and work in the communities close to the GMO fields; their health and the health of their children is at risk from long term pesticide exposure.
The Garden Island of Kauai
On the west side of Kauai, in the town of Waimea, GMO test fields border on several communities and a school. In this small town, Atrazine has been detected in the water. Astonishingly, pesticide spraying is done without any buffer zones to public areas, schools or waterways. The spraying of undisclosed pesticides, often in combination with each other, can be done early in the morning, late afternoon or sometimes in the middle of the night. This practice of combining toxic pesticides, a process known as "Stacking," carries an enormous risk since the impact on the environment and human health is completely untested and unknown. Individually, some of the confirmed pesticides used; Atrazine, 2,4-D (a derivative of Agent Orange) Lorsban and Chlorpyrifos have proven to have serious impacts on health and the environment. One can only imagine the toxic pesticide cocktail that is created by this practice of "pesticide stacking" and other experiments.
Records obtained from the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture indicate that 22 different restricted use pesticides, totaling 3.5 tons, have been imported onto Kauai by five commercial agriculture entities and constitute approximately 99% of the restricted use pesticides utilized by agricultural operations on Kauai. The chemical companies on the Island of Kauai have refused to disclose this information to the public or to the co-sponsor of the pesticide ordinance mentioned later in this article, Kauai County Councilmember, Gary Hooser.
In my four years of serving on Marin County's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Commission, I have become familiar with reviewing lists of pesticides for approval and participating in open, public discussions about potential risks to people and the environment. I have grown accustomed to transparency with respect to pesticide use by my local government. It has been an honor to be part of a county wide citizen committee that passed an IPM Ordinance that incorporated pesticide buffer zones around schools and playgrounds, and listened to the demands of the public with respect to public disclosure about what pesticides are allowed to be used by the county. All in the interest of protecting public health, wildlife and the environment. (I do need to state that my comments in this blog post reflect my own as a private citizen, and are not meant to represent Marin County's IPM Commission in any way.)
After researching and learning about the GMO issue on Kauai, I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that these companies can get away with nondisclosure and clandestine use of pesticides.
How on earth is this possible?
One day I took a drive to what I was told is one of most beautiful beaches in the state, Polihale State Park, on the western tip of Kauai. As I drove a little over 4 miles down a remote dirt road, past the Pacific Missile Range Facility, I came upon several GMO test fields. All of the fields had "No Trespassing Notices" like the one below. I never ventured onto private property, and took my photos from the road. The smaller signs (well out of my reach) within the fields contain information for the workers about recent spraying

Driving slowly down the bumpy, red dirt road I couldn't help but notice the polarities around me. I stopped my car to get out and stand in awe of an ancient mountain range on the oldest island in Hawaii. I took in the majestic, sovereign hills that provided the backdrop to a valley that contains field after field of experimental GMO crops.


I thought about the surrounding land, air, and the ocean just a short distance away. I then thought about these fields being saturated with experimental pesticides, and my heart broke wide open.

Lawsuits filed
On the west side of Kauai, people are getting sick, and two separate lawsuits have been filed by residents of the town of Waimea. One lawsuit that represents 150 people alleges that Pioneer, in its cultivation practices, has allowed pesticides and pesticide laden dust to escape and infiltrate into people's homes for the last 10 years.
Kids taken ill at School
The spraying of pesticides by Syngenta near Waimea Canyon Middle school has been suspected in causing children and teachers to become sick on several occasions between 2006 and 2008. In one incident at least 10 children collapsed and were sent to the hospital. An investigation was launched to find out why. Syngenta has denied that their spraying of pesticides was the culprit. Instead they claim that the plant "Stinkweed" was to blame for people becoming sick, not their GMO fields or use of pesticides that borders right up to the school. In speaking with some of the locals in Waimea, no one recalls stinkweed ever being an issue in the community.
Mystery of the Dead Heart Sea Urchins
In February 2012, between Waimea and Hanapepe on Kauai, a local dive company discovered a massive, sudden die off of heart sea urchins. It was estimated that approximately 52,000 sea urchins were dead on the ocean floor along the south side of island. Considering that the GMO fields are in abundance along the west and southwestern shores of Kauai, it is reasonable to look at GMO and pesticide run off as one possibility for the sudden die-off. An investigation was conducted by the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and USGS. However, testing the sea urchins for exposure to pesticides or GMOs was never done, and the results of the investigation were inconclusive for the sudden die-off.
An Ordinance is Introduced
On June 26 of this year, Kauai County Council Members Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum introduced Draft Bill 2491 If passed, this bill would give the County of Kauai the authority to regulate the commercial use of pesticides and GMOs. At the first public reading of this pesticide ordinance, it was estimated that 1000 people were in attendance. As I watched some of the public comments on a live streaming feed, I was aghast to listen to some of the testimony from Syngenta and Pioneer, when pressed by members of Kauai County Council to disclose what pesticides are being used, or for copies of experimental pesticide use permits issued by the EPA. To say these companies were dancing around the issue would be an understatement.
After reading the proposed ordinance it feels like an attempt at sanity. This ordinance requires that each of the GMO companies discloses what pesticides are being applied, and asks for public notifications from the companies. It requires that when spraying pesticides, buffer zones around schools, hospitals and other public places be put in place. It also calls for a temporary moratorium on the experimental use and commercial production of GMOs until the county has conducted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the health and environmental impact of the GMO industry. This is a necessary step in the right direction, and public comments are being accepted now by Kauai County Council.
What You Can Do for Kauai

If you are concerned about the alleged poisoning of paradise please share this article on social media sites, with the tourism industry and anyone you know that loves Hawaii and the spirit of Aloha. The world needs to know that Hawaii is ground zero for open air pesticide and GMO experiments.
On July 31, 2013 there will be a second public hearing on this issue, and possibly a vote. The Pesticide Action Network has been following this issue closely and has created the following website, Stop Poisoning Paradise.
You can also learn more by visiting Hawaii Seed.



"Extinction Crisis": 21,000 of World's Species at Risk of Disappearing

Latest update to Red List of threatened species provides "further evidence of our impact on the world's threatened biodiversity"

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer
An "extinction crisis" is at hand. Roughly 21,000 species, ranging from shrimp to pine trees, are at risk of complete extinction according to an update released Tuesday to an ongoing risk assessment of the world's 1.82 million species.
A species of cedar, among the world's oldest and largest organisms, is now considered 'critically endangered' according to the IUCN's updated Red List of Threatened Species. (Photo: billandkent/ Flickr) According to the Red List of Threatened Species, 20,934 of the roughly 70,000 species assessed thus far are threatened with extinction. This year saw an additional 4,807 species to the list.
Calling the news "alarming," Jane Smart, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which is behind the list, said, "We must use this knowledge to its fullest – making our conservation efforts well targeted and efficient - if we are serious about stopping the extinction crisis that continues to threaten all life on Earth."
This update "is further evidence of our impact on the world's threatened biodiversity, further evidence that extinction is real, and that we must all act, and act now, if we are to prevent this most tragic reality for many more of the world's species," added Richard Edwards, Chief Executive of Wildscreen, a partner of IUCN.
Among this year's addition are the results of the first-ever global assessment of freshwater shrimps—animals vital to freshwater ecosystems—of which 28% are threatened with extinction. According to the list, one such species, the Macrobrachium leptodactylus, was declared extinct after it fell "victim of habitat degradation and urban development."
Tuesday's release also includes the first global reassessment of conifers—the oldest and largest species on the planet—which found that "34% of the world’s cedars, cypresses, firs and other cone-bearing plants are now threatened with extinction – an increase by 4% since the last complete assessment in 1998."
"We are sending a warning," IUCN's Red List Manager Craig Hilton-Taylor told AFP, stressing the huge importance of conifers for their role in the sequestering of carbon.
"The more we have deforestation in the northern hemisphere, the greater the impact will be in terms of climate change," he said.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Food Justice: Connecting Farm to Community

Sunday, 30 June 2013 13:06 By Tory Field and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds | Harvesting Justice Series Kevin Perry of Grow Dat Youth Farm displays the strawberry harvest for a farmer’s market in New Orleans.Kevin Perry of Grow Dat Youth Farm displays the strawberry harvest for a farmer’s market in New Orleans. (Photo: Erica Stavis)Just Food in New York City is nimbly doing just what its name suggests: building food justice. It does this, first, by making community supported agriculture (CSAs), farmers’ markets, and gardens, accessible and affordable in the city. Second, it helps small farmers survive, and even thrive, in the process.
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Co-founder Ruth Katz says the group grew out of a contradiction. “In New York City, we had these growing soup kitchen lines of people who couldn’t get food and, at the same time, nearby farmers going out of business because they couldn’t sell their food anywhere. It seemed strange that you couldn’t match farmers selling food with people needing food.”
Just Food connects urban communities interested in bringing CSAs to their neighborhoods with nearby farmers who can truck their goods into the city. They have developed different payment systems to make this food affordable, including helping CSAs and farmers’ markets accept food stamps. They also work with CSAs to set up financial-aid programs. For example, higher-income members can contribute extra to subsidize other members within their own CSA, or two CSAs from different neighborhoods can be paired so that the members in the higher-income neighborhood pay higher costs and members in the lower-income neighborhood pay lower costs. “We always fear that everyone will want a lower-priced share, but in fact it’s often the reverse. People are really willing to help out,” says one Just Food staffer.
So far, the organization has helped launch 100 CSA programs throughout New York City’s five boroughs, bringing fresh food to an estimated 30,000 people. To stock the CSAs, Just Food partners with about 100 farms outside the city, which bring in vegetables, eggs, fruit, grain, meat, and other products.
Some formerly struggling rural farmers now have a viable outlet for their goods and make close to a 100% profit, as opposed to the 20% or so they would otherwise make through standard wholesale markets. As a result, a number of farmers have even been able to leave the second jobs they held to supplement their farm incomes, or to secure land on which they had a tenuous financial grip.
Ruth Katz says, “It can be frustrating because the scale of what we’re doing is so small. People say, ‘You have to scale up to make a bigger impact.’ Well, in this particular case, scaling up would defeat the purpose: farmer-to-consumer relationships that are creative and nimble enough to meet the unique needs of each neighborhood. Their smallness is part of their strength. That being said, we can scale up through replication, rather than super-sizing.
“Imagine that every tall building in NYC had a CSA! If one tall building or building complex has 500 families, then only 10% would need to become CSA members to support a small farm. And that 10% would be a lucky, well-fed group.”
Just Food also supports city dwellers as they grow their own food. The group offers a range of workshops including seed starting, raised-bed building, food preservation, season extension, and pest management. Their City Chicken Project trains community garden groups to build chicken coops. Each group agrees to use its newfound skills to help another group build a coop the following year.
Just Food also helps community gardens start farmers’ markets, and currently provides ongoing support to 18 markets in the city. While each market functions independently, Just Food assists with logistics like record-keeping, accessing supplemental food from rural farmers, and tapping into helpful state and federal programs.
Just Food also aims to empower people to change city-, state-, and federal-level food policy. They have created an NYC Food Justice Action Guide, which covers a host of issues such as the city’s climate footprint and local food policies, as well as information on how to organize community campaigns and pressure lawmakers. In 2009, Just Foods convened the NYC Food & Climate Summit, bringing together community members and government leaders for workshops and policy sessions. In 2010, they won their two-year campaign to legalize beekeeping in the city.
“It’s Like Dealing with Family”
One of the farmers helped by Just Foods is Jay Dines, who runs Dines Farms in Oak Hill, New York. Jay and his family struggled to keep the farm afloat, but now the operation has a new lease on life as part of the Just Food-assisted network of farmers’ markets and CSAs who are bringing fresh food to the city.
“We’re selling primarily retail. We do two CSA’s and a farmers’ market. On Saturday we have two markets in Brooklyn, then drop to a CSA in Queens. This keeps the electric on during the week. It’s madness.” That’s a rugged schedule for a little money. But Jay says he can charge people less than a store would, and “I still take home more because I’ve eliminated three or four people in the process. I can give people what they want, and I’m able to keep it fresh. Nothing I have has preservatives. There’s very little waste.
“I got poultry, beef, and pork. The lamb’s not cut up yet. It’s all natural. We’re about to start glatt kosher poultry. At Thanksgiving we sold 600 turkeys; that was great! We do our own processing, and manufacture our own chicken sausages. Our red meat goes to a USDA plant, but we’re going to be buying our own USDA-approved processing plant.”
Jay speaks to us from a Just Food-affiliated CSA in Queens, as he showed people his meats, said hello, and shook hands. “I don’t have to wait 90 days for my money, and I don’t have a billing department. Here people are happy to pay me. But if they come and they don’t have the money, I tell them to pay me next week. It’s part of the connection of dealing with people on a daily basis. The whole concept is totally different. You’re obligated to the people because they’re obligated to you. They come out to support you rain, shine, whatever. I watch their kids grow up. It’s like dealing with family. You can’t put a price on that.”
Download the Harvesting Justice pdf here, and find action items, resources, and a popular education curriculum on the Harvesting Justice website. Harvesting Justice was created for the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, check out their work here.

Monday, July 1, 2013


US Corporations, GMOs Thrive Under Obama's African Partnership

As president pledges 'end to famine,' critics question push for Big Ag

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer


America's Favorite Weed Killer Linked to Cancer

by Jamie Reno BREAKING NEWS:

Monday, July 1, 2013

It's shameful how few American media outlets have written about the latest scientific studies linking Roundup, the world's most popular and profitable weed killer, and cancer. Might it be because Monsanto, makers of Roundup and as we all know a generally bad corporate citizen with a litany of alleged crimes against humanity, spends billions in advertising and marketing and dedicates a good portion of that budget to print and television ads?  

Monsanto spent $1.28 billion on its various marketing programs in fiscal 2012, according to the company’s annual report. All that money seems to have had an impact. I am only speculating, of course. But why else would the American media ignore the mounting evidence of links between Roundup and cancer? 
The latest is a groundbreaking study showing that the active ingredient in the hugely popular herbicide fuels breast cancer by increasing the number of breast cancer cells through cell growth and cell division. This should be front-page news.

The study, which is to be published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, focused on glyphosate, Roundup's primary chemical ingredient. After comparing how hormone-dependent and hormone-independent breast cancer cell lines were affected by glyphosate, researchers found that glyphosate fuels cancer cell lines that are hormone dependent.

There are in fact several recent studies that show glyphosate’s potential to be an endocrine disruptor, which are chemicals that can interfere with the hormone system in mammals. These disruptors can cause cancer tumors.

A new peer-reviewed report in the journal Entropy, co-authored by Dr. Stephanie Seneff at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), argues that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.”

None of this comes as a surprise to me. Roundup has already been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A study published back in 1999 in the Journal of American Cancer Society by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Mikael Eriksson revealed that exposure to glyphosate "yielded increased risks for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma." This alarming study was curiously not widely publicized.

Monsanto has tried to downplay the links between its products and diseases by putting big money into contract research companies like Exponent, which spews its scientific research findings on behalf of corporate clients, many of which are facing product liability concerns. 

A study published in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology titled "Epidemiologic studies on glyphosate and cancer: A review," which suggests there is no link, was apparently directly supported by Monsanto. The study's author has reportedly served as a paid consultant to Monsanto.

In 2009, a French court reportedly found Monsanto guilty of lying, falsely declaring that Roundup is "biodegradable," "environmentally friendly" and leaves the soil "clean."

Monsanto clearly does not want the world to know the truth about Roundup, one of its fattest cash cows. But what would you expect from a company that in the past brought us DDT, PCBs, and Agent Orange? 
Bottom line: You may not read about it in your local newspaper or hear about it on your favorite TV news show, but Roundup has been repeatedly linked in scientific studies to cancer, as well as many other diseases including Autism. Is there any reason why anyone should believe at this point that Monsanto can be trusted?

Sunday, June 30, 2013


Senate Sub-committee Hears Testimony on GMO LabelingSenate Sub-committee Hears Testimony on GMO Labeling

By TOM KOCAL | Prairie Advocate News  6-28-13 

NORMAL, IL – A full house of over 250 people heard the first of three Illinois Senate subcommittee hearings on the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Normal, Illinois, on June 20th, 2013 at the Bone Student Center on the campus of Illinois State University.
The hearing was conducted by the Senate Sub-committee on Food Labeling, chaired by Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). Joining him on the sub-committee were Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), and Sen. Sam McCann (R-Jacksonville).
For the first time, Illinois Senate bill SB1666, sponsored by Senators Koehler, Martinez, Cunningham, Sandoval, and Cullerton, is currently under consideration. The bill would require that GMO ingredients contained in food offered for retail sale in Illinois be labeled as “genetically engineered (GE).” In considering the labeling of GMOs, Illinois joins 26 other states that have recently introduced bills to either label or ban such ingredients in food.
By the flip of a coin, Sen. Koehler announced that the supporters of labeling would be the first to testify. The supporters included Brian Endress, Associate Professor of Agricultural Law at the University of Illinois, and Director of the European Union Center, Illinois State University Professor Emeritus, geneticist, and farmer Herman Brockman, Hailey Golds, advocate with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, and Wes King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA), an organization that represents both farmers and consumers.
The panel of opponents to GMO labeling included Dr. Miller, a professor of Microbiology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Ron Moore, a farmer from Western Illinois, and Mark Denson, president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association.
Several grassroots environmental organizations including Food and Water Watch, Right to Know Illinois, Weston A. Price Foundation, and Organic Consumers Association organized to bring concerned citizens to the hearing, nearly filling the room.

Pro-labeling testimony

The first to present testimony was Endress, who was attending the hearing via Skype. Endress pointed out that his comments were based on his personal study of the various legal issues related to genetic engineering, and do nor represent the U of I or any other organization.
“The courts have characterized the difference between the manufacturing process of a food item, as opposed to the characteristics of the end product that is consumed by the public,” Endress stated. “SB1666 does not mandate process labels, but rather indications of compositional differences in the final food product. The DNA of a GMO peach, or any other genetically engineered whole food subject to the labeling regime proposed in SB1666 is compositionally different from a non-GM, conventionally bred peach . . .Scientists can distinguish the two products.”
He cited the recent example of GMO wheat contamination that has impacted U.S. export markets. “The contamination was identified through DNA testing of the end product, not some process-based traceability regime . . .SB1666 is not a mere process-based labeling regime, but imposes the obligation to label based on a difference in the DNA of the final product.”
Prof. Brockman highlighted that labeling would give consumers the freedom to choose whether or not to buy foods with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
“Freedom of choice of what I eat and drink is a bedrock and precious freedom. But I cannot fully exercise that freedom without transparency in labeling,” Brockman said. He said the US government took a “giant and progressive step” when it required “considerable transparency” with the labeling of the ingredients on processed food.
Brockman also asserted that the safety of GMO crops has not been confirmed scientifically and that GMO foods are not equivalent to non-GMO foods, because they have been altered by the introduction of genes from other organisms. Brockman claimed that despite the lack of evidence, the agricultural industry has engaged in a campaign of misinformation about the purported safety of GMOs.
When Sen. McCann asked, “How would you grade the federal food safety system?”, Brockman answered he would give it an “F,” since, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require that companies test new GMOs for food safety, and that the EPA only checks for affects on GMOs’ altering other species. Brockman likes the European Union system better, and will submit more information for review at the next hearings. Brockman added that ag industry claims that GMO crops produce higher yields is false, citing scientific evidence suggesting that yields are comparable between GMO and non-GMO crops.
In her testimony, Golds indicated that under World Trade Organization rules, US exports containing or contaminated by GMO products can be blocked by foreign countries such as Japan and the European Union which already have bans in place against GMOs in their food. She also argued that labeling would be useful for tracking any possible health effects that GMOs could have on the population.
King added that labeling GMOs would be a positive move for many of the farmers that the ISA represents who want to continue farming using conventional (non-organic) methods, but who desire to use non-GMO seeds and to be able to sell non-GMO foods. As a state, King added, Illinois is missing out on economic opportunity world-wide by not requiring GE labeling.
“ISA is an agriculture organization,” King stressed. “Our objective in the work we do is to support farmers and create new opportunities for farmers in rural Illinois, and to thrive. We support all farmers: conventional, organic, and everything in between. The reason I am here to support GE labeling, is because is is what our members, both farmers and consumers, want.”

Anti-labeling testimony

The three anti-labeling speakers argued that labeling GMOs would be costly for manufacturers, would stifle innovation in the biotech industry, and would give the impression that GMO foods are “franken-foods” and unsafe to consume.
Professor Miller also clarified that his views were his own, and not the views of UIUC. Miller stated that the scientific evidence pointed to there being no difference at the cellular level between GMO and non-GMO foods. Miller, also a farmer, spoke of his experience planting genetically engineered BT corn, saying that it allowed him to use fewer pesticides on his crops, since the GMO corn has a gene inserted into it by scientists that is toxic to insect pests.
Sen. Holmes wanted clarification from Miller that BT is naturally-occuring in the soil, including her own garden. He stated, “Yes.”
Sen. McCann asked Miller about allergies and nutrition, wondering if there were any studies that definitively answer whether or not there is a negative affect on consumers of GE food. Miller stated that the “preponderance of the evidence suggests that is not the case,” causing an uproar from the audience, who called for investigating independent research, rather than industry research.
Ron Moore, a farmer from Roseville, farms about 2000 acres of corn and soybeans with his brother. They also have a feeder cattle operation with 200 acres of pasture.
“Farmers like me feel they have a moral obligation to provide food for our community, our state, our country, and the world,” Moore said. “Farmers are in the food business by producing raw materials that make up the food supply. We will need to be able to use all of the available tools to produce food for all the souls that will be living on Planet Earth by 2050.
“Biotechnology helps to combat disease, increases annual yields, keeps food prices in check, and improves freshness and taste. Many foods that are common in our diet are obtained from plant varieties that were developed using conventional genetic techniques of breeding and selection. 86% of all the corn grown in the US, 93% of soybeans and cotton, are grown using biotechnology. A record 15.4 million farmers, in 29 countries, are using agricultural biotechnology.”
“To me, GE labeling is unnecessary and sends a message that GE foods are unsafe, or unhealthy. This will only serve to increase the retail cost of food and discourage new advances in biotechnology, that historically have been the hallmark of agricultural research in Illinois, and has contributed to our unparalleled success in providing food, fiber and fuel for a growing world population.”
Mark Denson, president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, believes that the federal government (FDA) is the proper place for oversight and regulation of the industry, under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act.
“No other state at this time has implemented a food labeling requirement. I believe Connecticut passed it, but it only takes affect if four other states with a total population of 20 million people in the northeast also passes labeling requirements,” Denson stated.

Format problems

The hearing in Normal was not a debate format, but several times, members of the audience that were pro-labeling countered claims put forth by the anti-labeling speakers. Clearly, the vast majority of the approximately 250 people in the crowd supported labeling GMOs. Many of the people felt that important issues were not brought up, and were left out of the debate because of the 2-panel format.
One gentleman told Sen. McCann after the hearing that because the drug companies own the FDA, GE labeling will never get done at the federal level. He said that was evident by this hearing. He had driven 146 miles to be there, but never had the chance to speak. Food safety is more important than the cost issue, but it was not discussed.
McCann said because of the passion of both pro- and con-labeling, it will be difficult to sort out. “What we’re looking for is objectivity. I came here being honest in the fact that I am not an expert, and don’t claim to be. But I am looking for facts, the best resources. I want to make an informed, knowledgeable and wise decision, because I understand that the way I vote will impact all of us - I get that.
“I was a little disappointed that the conversation seemed to lean towards the economic direction as opposed to an over-arching direction that included food safety and environmental concerns. We didn’t even touch on those. Maybe at the next hearings we can get into some of that. I am looking forward to the next sub-committee.”
Jessica Fujan, organizer with Food and Water Watch, echoed McCann’s sentiments. “The idea from the manufacturers that labeling would create a lot of costs associated with infrastructure is ridiculous. It’s not surprising to me that the opposition panel wanted to create another kind of labeling. We think it’s appalling that farmers who are creating food without additives, such as genetic modification, are forced to go through the kinds of certification to indicate that their products are natural, while people who are essentially conducting science experiments in a laboratory that have not been tested by independent researchers, are not required to label their products.
“We’re already segregating GE and non-GE crops for labeling and distribution in other countries,” Fujan added. “At Food & Water Watch, we feel there are health concerns about the use of GE food. However, there is not sufficient research for us to be making any widespread claims about GE food and human health risks, aside from those affiliated with pesticides. It is widely accepted that both pesticides and agri-chemicals are both bad for humans and the environment, however, GE foods are hotly debated issue because the companies that wish to sell us their products are the only ones who are currently conducting any large scale testing of their products. They obviously have a vested interest in selling us those products, but their trials are also woefully inadequate to reach conclusive evidence about the safety of their products. Until the government and independent studies are conducted, we won’t have that evidence.”
Kathyrn Pirtle, musician and author, representing the Weston A. Price Foundation, corrected her fragile health condition 25 years ago by altering her diet, eating food from farms with animals on pasture, “Animals eating their natural diets,” Pirtle said. “Those happen to be non-GMO foods. “I returned to the foods of our ancestors, who lived on farms and who had animals raised naturally. These principles completely healed my chronic pain and my digestive system. What I did, without realizing it, was remove all GMO foods from my diet.”
Pirtle believes that GMO foods are destroying the human digestive system, making the gut permeable, attributing to the development of life-long illnesses - autism, cancer, digestive disorders, asthma, and allergies. Pirtle feels that the passage of SB1666 is a step in the right direction, but was not pleased with the results of this first hearing.
“I feel the hearing was misguided. It was not taking into account the numbers of people that were in this audience that represent the millions of people throughout this country that are demanding to know where their food is coming from, and what kind of system it was grown in. They’re demanding the right to know.
“All of this ‘skirting the issue’ is very troubling,” Pirtle continued. “I honestly felt railroaded in this hearing, because they were not addressing the fact that the public is speaking very loud by coming to this hearing, making it a point to travel here, hundreds of miles for some. This is a big deal for the majority of the people in this state and throughout the country. It is our duty to comment. If we come here, yet don’t have a voice, we must continue to be vocal about our right to know.”
Koehler invited the audience to sign a witness slip online, since they “unfortunately ran out of paper slips,” and let the sub-committee know whether you support the initiative or are against GMO labeling. Go to the Illinois General Assembly web page at, click on the dashboard located on the front page; that takes you to a page with House and Senate. Click on Senate, go to Committees, click on Food Labeling Committee, and submit your witness slip and comments. If you do not have internet access, your comments may be submitted by letter directly to The Honorable Sen. Dave Koehler, State Capitol, Springfield, IL 62706.
Two more hearings are scheduled next month, one in Carbondale at SIU on Aug. 7 from 10 am to noon, and another in Chicago on Sept. 17, 10 am to noon at the Thompson Center.