Tuesday, December 24, 2013


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

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

Dear Californians,

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

Suit back up, California, GAME ON!

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

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

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

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




For Immediate Release
Jim Gerritsen

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

Farmers vs. Monsanto:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About OSGATA: The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is a not-for-profit agricultural organization comprised of organic farmers, seed growers, seed businesses and supporters. OSGATA is committed to developing, promoting, and protecting organic seed and its growers in order to ensure the organic community has access to excellent quality organic seed free of contaminants and adapted to the diverse needs of local organic agriculture. www.osgata.org
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Sunday, December 22, 2013


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

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

by Karen Hansen-Kuhn

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

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

Corporate Consolidation

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

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

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

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

Trade Agreements

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

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

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

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