Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Controversial Insecticides Could Have Bigger Impact on Biodiversity 'Than We've Ever Seen Before'  
New research on "neonics" shows lasting impact on wetlands with "domino effect"  Published on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 by Common Dreams
- Andrea Germanos, staff writer
A field of canola in Saskatchewan. (Photo: Adam Kahtava/cc/flickr)The "impact on biodiversity" from a controversial class of insecticides called neonicotinoids "could be probably bigger than we've ever seen before if we keep going at this rate," a biologist has warned.
Speaking to Canada's CBC News about findings from her four-year study in progress, Christy Morrissey, a biologist with the University of Saskatchewan, warned that the widespread use of "neonics," as they are also called, across Canada's Prairies has contaminated wetlands, thereby risking a "domino effect" on the insects and birds that demand upon them.  
Neonicotinoids have been linked to harm to bees and other pollinators, as well as the developing human nervous system, and a report on bee mortalities released by Canada's pesticide regulatory body, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, "concluded that current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable."
CBC News reports that "in Western Canada, neonics are most commonly found on canola," and adds that all of the 8.5 million hectares of canola planted in the three Prairie provinces—Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba—have been treated with neonics.
"We all want to have food that we consume and enjoy. But at what cost? Is that at the cost of having no more birds around? Of having no more butterflies? Having no bees?"
—Christy Morrissey, University of Saskatchewan 
In addition to finding concentrations of neonics far above levels thought to be safe for insects, Morrissey's research found that the insecticides persisted in the water in some cases for years, meaning that "the bugs... basically are being hit continuously with the chemical."
Given that at least 44 percent of cropland across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba has been doused with neonics, Morrissey told the news agency that the area of potential harm was vast, and said that "upwards of 80 to 90 per cent of the wetlands [her research team sampled] are contaminated."
Her research so far points to a decline in mosquitoes and midges—and "insects are basically the food supply for a lot of wildlife," Morrissey said.
"We all want to have food that we consume and enjoy. But at what cost?" Morrissey asked. "Is that at the cost of having no more birds around? Of having no more butterflies? Having no bees? People are thinking about that now."
Guardian columnist George Monbiot wrote that neonicotinoids are "ripping the natural world apart," referring to them as "the new DDT," and warning they are "another demonstration of the old truth that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it."

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


Published on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 by Common Dreams

'Running Scared': Industry's Strategy Wants 'Voluntary' GMO Labeling Strategy documents reveal food and biotech giants think "soft" federal rules could end battle, but GMO opponents welcome the national conversation, vow fight
- Jon Queally, staff writer

(Photo by Millions Against Monsanto)
Seemingly tired of fighting the GMO labeling battle against concerned consumers on a state by state basis, the largest food industry lobbying groups, according to documents obtained by Politico, are now preparing to push for a corporate-friendly set of laws and regulations at the federal level.

With recent and ongoing campaigns by food safety advocates in California, Hawaii, Washington, Connecticut, and other states pushing for clear labeling of food products that contain genetically-modified organisms (called GMOs or GE food), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is leading the industry with a new federal strategy designed to override the push by states calling for labeling laws.

At the heart of the strategy would be a push to make GMO labeling a "voluntary" and industry-driven effort, which would throw off attempts to mandate the practice.

"Industry is running scared because consumers, armed with the truth about the health and safety risks of GMOs, want laws that are at least as strict as those passed in 60 other countries." –Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association

According to Politico:

"[T]he Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents such food and beverage leaders as ConAgra, PepsiCo and Kraft... [is] advocating for an industry-friendly, law with a voluntary federal standard — a move that food activists see as a power grab by an industry that has tried to kill GMO labeling initiatives every step of the way.

The most powerful players in the food industry say they are simply trying to find a national solution for GMO labeling, rather than having to navigate a patchwork of dozens of state laws for every packaged food item on the grocery shelf. According to a discussion draft of GMA’s proposed bill obtained by POLITICO, labeling standards would not be mandatory and the industry would submit to more FDA oversight.

The draft provides the first concrete look of what the food industry is asking for from Congress.

The push for a softer national standard on GMO labeling comes as consumer interest in biotech foods has blown up into an intense national conversation, and the food industry is clearly trying to get out ahead of a strong, vocal movement pushing strict labeling requirements in multiple states around the country.

Proponents of GMO labeling say the GMA's strategy is predictable, however, and are readying their own response to the move.

"Since spending millions, some of it illegally, to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California and Washington State, the GMA has been hard at work on plans to preempt state and federal mandatory GMO labeling laws," said Katherine Paul, communications director for the Organic Consumers Association, in an email to Common Dreams. "This latest revelation comes as no surprise. Industry is running scared because consumers, armed with the truth about the health and safety risks of GMOs, want laws that are at least as strict as those passed in 60 other countries."

Vowing to counteract the strategy, Paul said her group and their state-level allies "will fight any plans by industry, Congress or the FDA to subvert the democratic process by preempting state GMO labeling laws."

Earlier this year, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), introduced legislation that would make GMO labels mandatory nationwide, but receiving little traction so far in a deeply divided Congress, the bills have gone nowhere. In the absence of a federal policy, labeling activists in the states have been leading the charge, though industry pushback has so far kept the most promising laws (in California and Washington for example) from being adopted.

Speaking with Politico, DeFazio said the GMA and other food industry lobbysists might regret bringing this debate to the national public. Polling on the issue has consistently showed the public favors disclosure about the presence of GMO ingredients in food items.

“This may be actually a misstep by the GMA — to try and proactively prohibit meaningful labeling that may in fact really kindle a much more proactive grass-roots movement on the other side,” DeFazio warned. Referring to the large sums of money industry has spent on state campaigns to beat back public opinion, he added: “If [food industry lobbyists] are going to kindle a national debate, given the polling on this issue, they better be thinking billions [of dollars] instead of tens of millions.”

“If they start to move a bill that does the opposite [of labeling that has been called for by consumers], they may not like the results,” he said.

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Industry Proposal Would Bar GE Food Labels

Washington, D.C. – A new legislative proposal drafted by the food industry that would make it impossible for any state to require labeling of genetically engineered food reveals how far some big companies will go to hide basic information from their own customers, EWG President Ken Cook said today.

POLITICO published a draft of the bill today. It shows that the food industry wants to bar states from requiring GE labels on food and to limit the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to compel food companies to use GE labeling.

“Clearly, this is an industry that will stop at nothing to hide from its customers basic information on what’s in their food,” said Cook. “If this proposal were to become law, it would make it impossible for any state to require labeling of GE foods, even if an overwhelming majority of its residents demand it.”

The industry proposal would also block any attempt by states to make it illegal for food companies to put a “natural” label on products that contain GE ingredients or to claim that all GE ingredients currently on the market are “safe.”

Maine and Connecticut have already passed laws that require GE labeling, and Connecticut has prohibited GE ingredients in foods labeled “natural.” More than 20 other states will consider GE labeling laws in 2014.

It would also change federal law to limit when FDA can compel companies to disclose the presence of GE ingredients.

“We want the right to know what’s in our food, and states are moving to give us that right,” said Cook. “Food companies should be giving us more information about their food, not denying us the right to make the best choices for our families.”

Consumers in more than 60 countries already have the right to know whether their food contains GE ingredients.

For more information on GE labeling, visit:

Monday, January 6, 2014


The Sacramento Bee CapitolAlert ®AM Alert: Genetically modified food fight returns to California

January 6, 2014 ~ In the months since California voters rejected a November 2012 ballot measure on the subject, proponents of labeling genetically modified food have pushed their fight nationwide with mixed results.

Last summer, the Connecticut and Maine legislatures handily passed labeling bills within days of each other — albeit with major caveats that require, among other things, at least four more states in the region to pass similar bills for the laws to take effect. In November, a GMO-labeling measure in Washington failed by a large margin.

Now the effort returns to California with a rally on the west steps of the Capitol from 10 a.m. to noon. The event — organized by the California State Grange, an agricultural service organization, and the group Label GMOs — has the goal of getting a lawmaker to carry a labeling bill for the 2014 session.

VIDEO: Two internal elections this year could be just as significant for the Legislature's future as the November races,Dan Walters says.

AND SO IT BEGINS: After a four-month recess, the Legislature is back in Sacramento. The 2014 session kicks off today with floor sessions for the Assembly at noon and the Senate at 2 p.m.

Big stories to watch for in the early part of the year include potential budget battles with Gov. Jerry Brown over a large surplus and efforts to tighten political spending rules in the wake of corruption allegations against Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello.

Jeremy B. White has more in his video preview of California politics for 2014.

FRACK ATTACK: New rules for hydraulic fracturing in the state are set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and theCalifornia Department of Conservation is in the midst of a 60-day public comment period on the proposed regulations. A public hearing will be held today from 3-7 p.m. at the California Environmental Protection Agency building at 10th and I streets.

NEW JOB: Lobbyist Crystal Jack is leaving the firm Kahn, Soares & Conway for a new position at health insurance company Cigna. She begins on Jan, 21 and will oversee lobbying efforts for 11 states in the western region.

CORRECTION: Friday's AM Alert incorrectly stated the ages of California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton. Jones and Galgiani turned 52 and 50, respectively, on Saturday, not 51 and 49. We apologize for the error.

PHOTO: Some packaged foods are labeled as being free of GMO at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op on September 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton