Saturday, June 14, 2014


Tell New Yorkers what’s in their food 

GMO or not?Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio urges the state to embrace GMO labeling

Friday, June 13, 2014, 6:36 PM
Natalie Behring/Bloomberg GMO or not?
A consumer goes to the produce aisle in the supermarket and sees five displays of strawberries. The first is labeled “USDA Organic,” the second “GMO-free,” the third “All Natural,” the fourth “Locally Grown,” and the fifth has no label. Which of the strawberries is genetically modified?
Answer: None. There are no GMO strawberries being commercially grown or sold in the U.S. (or anywhere else) — but most people don’t know this. Nor do they know that USDA organic standards prohibit the use of GMO seeds. Or that in some cases, “GMO-free” is being used as a marketing ploy on products that never contained GMOs under any circumstances.
Or that “All Natural” is the most meaningless term on a package today — appearing on foods with ingredients that only a biochemist can pronounce. Or that “Locally Grown” says nothing about the merits of a food other than that it was grown nearby.
All this explains the crippling confusion that now confronts too many food consumers every time they enter the grocery store. We can do better — and when it comes to the powerful technology behind genetically modified foods, we must.
Advances in agricultural biotechnology have led to a dramatic and rapid expansion in the development and cultivation of genetically modified crops on American farmland. Approximately 90% of the corn, soybean, alfalfa, sugar beets and cotton being grown on U.S. farm acres are now GMO varieties.
Virtually all GMO crops on the market today have been engineered to be pest-resistant (by inserting bacteria DNA that turns the plant into a pesticide factory), herbicide-tolerant (by inserting bacteria DNA that makes them able to survive repeated sprayings with toxic weed-killers such as Roundup) or both.
This rapid adoption of GMO agriculture has outpaced the scientific community’s understanding of its impacts on human health and the environment, and has left the public in the dark. We’re in the dark because the chemical companies that make the seeds and the food companies that use GMOs have fought hard against any labeling regulations.
You can debate the ethics of tinkering with the DNA of the plants and animals we eat — but it’s beyond debate that consumers have the right to know what they’re buying for the family table.
And please, ignore those industry arguments that GMOs are needed to feed the hungry and improve nutritional content. Those crops generally do not yet exist. Instead, the GMO crops on the market today have been developed to lock farmers into a annual cycle of buying these patented seeds and the chemicals needed to grow them — a very profitable business model indeed.
So, who’s afraid of disclosure? We live in a free market economy, don’t we? Consumers are supposed to make informed choices. But when they are denied access to relevant information, such as whether their food contains GMOs, that free market economy is at best theoretical, and at worst a joke.
More than half the world’s population lives in countries that already have GMO food-labeling laws, including the EU, Japan, China, Russia and Japan. A 2013 New York Times poll showed 93% of Americans want GMO foods labeled.
Time and experience has shown us we can’t wait for the FDA or Congress to address this at the federal level. It’s up to state governments to give people this right. Vermont recently passed a labeling law set to go into effect in July 2016. Connecticut and Maine each passed laws last year that will go into effect if certain conditions are met. Oregon and Colorado will have GMO labeling on the ballot in the upcoming election.
New York’s legislation has been steadily moving through committees in the Assembly this year. It could soon come up for a floor vote if Speaker Sheldon Silver and fellow Democrats decide to take a stand against undue corporate influence and do what’s right for New Yorkers. We all have the right to know what’s in our food. Let’s put that in writing.
Colicchio, head judge of “Top Chef” on Bravo, is a founding board member of the national nonprofit advocacy organization, Food Policy Action.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014


"Big 6" pesticide and GMO companiesPesticide and GMO Companies Spend Big in Hawai'i

Posted by Rebekah Wilce on June 11, 2014
Hawai'i has become "ground zero" in the controversy over genetically modified (GMO) crops and pesticides. With the seed crop industry (including conventional as well as GMO crops) reaping $146.3 million a year in sales resulting from its activities in Hawai'i, the out-of-state pesticide and GMO firms Syngenta, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow Chemical, BASF, and Bayer CropScience have brought substantial sums of corporate cash into the state's relatively small political arena.

Chemical Conglomerates Retaliate Against Local Democratic Control

These "Big 6" pesticide and GMO firms are active on the islands in a big way, making use of the three to four annual growing seasons to develop new GMO seeds more quickly. The development of new GMOs by these pesticide and seed conglomerates goes hand-in-hand with heavy pesticide use in some of the islands' experimental crop fields, new data show.
Kaua'i County -- consisting primarily of the island of Kaua'i, known as Hawai'i's "Garden Isle" and home to Waimea Canyon State Park -- passed a law in November 2013 that requires disclosure of pesticide use and GMO crops sewn by growers and created buffer zones around schools, parks, medical facilities, and private residences. The law is set to go into effect in August 2014.
Hawai'i County banned GMOs altogether in November 2013, and a Maui County initiative to ban GMOs recently obtained enough citizen signatures to be placed on the November 2014 ballot.
Since experiencing these setbacks, the big agricultural firms have retaliated in a big way.
Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Agrigenetics (doing business as Dow AgroSciences), and BASF have sued Kaua'i to block its law.
Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, and several associated trade groups spent over $50,000 lobbying the state legislature from January through April 2014, as legislators considered bills to override the county laws, according to data from the Hawaii State Ethics Commission (as reported through June 6, 2014) analyzed by the Center for Media and Democracy/Progressive Inc. (CMD).
Of these, the Hawai'i Crop Improvement Association (whose members include Dow AgroScience, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Syngenta, and BASF) had the highest expenditures at $10,800; the powerful national trade association the American Chemistry Council (whose members include BASF, Bayer, Dow, and DuPont) and Syngenta each spent $10,000; and Monsanto spent $8,982.

Big Ag Money Moves to the Ballot

Islanders will vote in a primary election for state legislators, governor, and U.S. Congressmembers August 9. Voters will also make initial choices between candidates for mayor and county council seats on Kaua'i and Maui as well as county council seats on Hawai'i.
The big agricultural corporations Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, and Bayer, associated trade groups, and their lobbyists and employees contributed over $700,000 to state and county candidates from November 2006 through December 2013, according to a new CMD analysis of Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission data. Initial campaign finance reports for what is shaping up to be an expensive political battle this year are not yet released.
Monsanto was the top donor, with its PAC contributing $115,500.
Lobbyists -- several of whom have multiple clients besides big ag. interests -- and their spouses contributed over $550,000.
Top recipients of this special interest largesse include:
  • Governor Neil Abercrombie, a well-known and popular liberal Democrat, who received over $60,000;
  • Sen. Clayton Hee (D-23), who passed GMO labeling out of committee as chair, but who also sponsored SB 3058 -- one of the bills referred to as Hawai'i's "Monsanto Protection Act" -- and who received $20,850;
  • former Honolulu Mayor and Independent gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann, who received over $60,000;
  • Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who received over $19,000; Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D-6), who received over $18,000;
  • Honolulu City Councilman J. Ikaika Anderson, who received over $17,000;
  • Rep. Kyle Yamashita (D-12), who received over $17,000;
  • Sen. Clarence Nishihara (D-17), who received $16,893;
  • Sen. Josh Green (D-3), who received $16,892; and
  • Sen. Sen. Michelle Kidani (D-18), who received over $15,000.
Contributing lobbyists include:
  • John H. Radcliffe of Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, a "super lobbyist" for the American Chemistry Council and Monsanto, among other clients, who with his wife and his other lobbying firm Radcliffe and Associates contributed $243,718;
  • George A. "Red" Morris of Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, who lobbies for the American Chemistry Council, Grocery Manufacturers Association, and Monsanto, among other clients, and with his wife contributed $237,492;
  • Richard Brian Tsujimura of Imanaka Kudo & Fujimoto, who lobbies for the national trade association Biotechnology Industry Organization, among other clients, and contributed $15,350;
  • Alicia Maluafiti of Lo'ihi Communications, who lobbies for the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, Biotechnology Industry Organization, and CropLife America, among other clients, and with her late husband contributed $18,300; and
  • Frederick Perlak, who lobbies for Monsanto and with his wife contributed $18,300.

Big Ag Political Funders Have Ties to ALEC

Of the "Big 6" chemical and seed companies and their trade associations lobbying and/or contributing to political candidates in Hawai'i, Bayer, Dow, CropLife America (a pesticide and agricultural chemical trade association), and the American Chemistry Council have ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
ALEC approved a "model" bill in 2013 for states to override the ability of counties and cities to democratically determine how they will regulate GMOs at the local and regional level, as CMD has reported.
Bayer was listed as the ALEC corporate co-chair of the states of Massachusetts, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas as of 2011; has sponsored several ALEC meetings; has been listed as a member of the Civil Justice and Health and Human Services task forces; and was a member of ALEC's Private Enterprise Board through 2012.
Dow Chemical has been listed as a member of ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force and has sponsored at least one ALEC meeting.
CropLife America has been listed as a member of ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force and co-chaired its "Agriculture Subcommittee." This subcommittee adopted Oregon's bill overriding local control over GMO regulation as an official "model" bill in 2013 while CropLife's Jeff Case was its co-chair, as CMD has reported.
The American Chemistry Council has also been listed as a member of ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force and has sponsored at least one ALEC meeting.

Chemical Company Tactics Inspire More "Democracy in Action"

Barbara Polk, Chair of Common Cause Hawaii -- a state branch of the non-partisan, grassroots organization that strives for open, honest, and accountable government -- told CMD, "The influx of big money and threat of unlimited 'independent expenditures' have resulted in politicians statewide increasingly placing the interests of corporations over the interests of citizens. Politicians are forced to consider the likelihood of facing well-funded opposition and attack ads in the next election if they don't toe the corporate line."
Ashley Lukens, Program Director of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety -- a state office of the environmental advocacy organization that opposes the use of GMOs and harmful pesticides -- adds, "The impact of this corporate cash on local politics is not just that representatives are pressured to vote based on donations to their campaigns. Rather this cash has been strategically spent to create a mirage of confusion and disagreement around very mainstream issues like pesticide disclosure and GMO labeling."
According to a national poll by Consumer Reports released this week, 92 percent of U.S. consumers think that GMO food should be labeled before it is sold and meet long-term safety standards set by the government.
"Standing up for something as conservative as transparency around chemical use in Hawa'ii is treated as though it is radical," Lukens continued. "This radicalizing of dissent simply serves to silence the majority of the public and keep them from participating publicly in the civic process."
But despite this anti-democratic pressure, Kaua'i County Councilmember and former state legislator Gary Hooser (D), who co-authored the county's 2013 ordinance requiring disclosure of GMOs planted and pesticides used as well as buffer zones, calls Kaua'i "ground zero" not just for the testing of GMO crops, but also for "democracy in action."
Hooser, who is up for reelection himself this year, told CMD, "A lot of people never involved in politics, activism, or advocacy are getting involved because the big money interests are so in your face. There are candidates running on our side who never thought they’d be running, inspired by the companies' poisoning of our community and control of our government."

This article is part of "What The Fork!?! Corporations and Democracy," a collaborative media effort investigating corporate control of our democracy and our dinner plates. The articles and radio segments are the combined work of Making Contact, The Progressive, the Center for Media and Democracy (publisher of, and Food Democracy Now, along with reporting from Earth Island Journal, Grist, and Cascadia Times. Reporting has been made possible in part by a generous grant from the Voqal Fund. Read stories and more at, and follow #wtfcorps and #BigAg on Twitter and Facebook.
The Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice have intervened in the federal case on behalf of the county. Free Speech For People filed an amicus brief in support of the county, and Progressive Inc. President Lisa Graves is on the group's legal advisory committee.
Candidate committees and non-candidate committees (PACs) aggregate contributions on different reporting cycles, and there are additional discrepancies between what contributions candidate committees report and what contributions non-candidate committees report. CMD has made every effort to control for these issues. In the case of Monsanto, some contributions are reported as being made by the non-candidate committee, and some by "other entity" -- these contributions are combined in the above total.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014


MAUI WOWEE!!! It's official like a referee with a whistle! The people of Maui gathered over 8,500 signatures to achieve Hawaii's first successful citizen initiative ever.  Come November, the issue of a GMO moratorium will be on the ballot.

You, the people of Hawaii have demonstrated that the force is strong here.

In 2013, the Hawaii's House of Representatives became the first legislative chamber in the nation to pass GMO labeling.  Then earlier this year, we stopped a bill that would have stripped each county's ability to regulate GMOs. Now, the grassroots community has made history in the Shaka Movement.  You should be very proud.

But the battle has only begun.  Like various west coast states have already seen in their labeling initiatives, chemical/biotech companies will likely throw huge money to defeat our citizen initative. This is why it will be important to continue to talk to your friends, family, and neighbors  to make this iniative successful.

You made this happen, but I'm here to helpHelp me continue fighting big biotech special interests by chipping in $10-$25 or whatever you can today.  Together, we will shape a cleaner, brighter, more sustainable future for Hawaii.

Mahalo again,

Rep. Kaniela Ing


Overwhelming Majority of Americans Say: 'Just Label It!'

New Consumers Report poll finds that 92 percent of respondents want the government to require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Ninety-two percent of Americans want the government to require GE foods to be labeled, according to the results of a new survey. (Photo: Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center/ Creative Commons)An overwhelming majority of Americans think that genetically engineered (GE) foods should be labeled before they are sold, according to a new Consumer Reports poll released on Monday. 
The nationally-representative phone survey found that 92 percent of respondents think that GE foods, or those made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), should be labeled accordingly. Further, 92 percent also think that the government should legally require the labeling of GE salmon—which may soon be approved and sold in stores—despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently requires neither labeling nor pre-market safety assessments of GE food.
The survey, taken in April 2014, assessed the importance of various factors that consumers weigh when purchasing food. According to the results, 72 percent said it was important or very important to avoid genetically engineered ingredients when making purchases.
“This poll underscores that, across the country, consumers want labeling of GE food, including GE salmon, and consider safety standards set by the government of such food imperative," said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union.
Growing public opposition to GE foods comes as numerous states have begun to surpass the FDA by passing their own labeling legislation.
Last month, Vermont became the first state to require the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients. Similar legislation, which included "trigger clauses" that require a certain number of other states to also enact similar laws, passed in both Connecticut and Maine. Lawmakers in Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, and New York are also weighing labeling proposals.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Sample call script for New Yorkers whose Assemblymember IS on the Ways and Means Committee:

"Hi. My name is _____ and I'm a constituent of Assemblymember _____. I demand the right to know by a simple label if my food has been produced with genetically modified organisms. I think it's outrageous I've been kept in the dark about this for almost 20 years. Please support GMO labeling bill A3525 by cosponsoring the bill AND by asking committee chair Herman Farrell to put the bill on the next committee agenda. Thank you very much."

Sample script for New Yorkers whose Assemblymember is NOT on the list below:

"Hi. My name is _____ and I'm a constituent of Assemblymember _____. I demand the right to know by a simple label if my food has been produced with genetically modified organisms. I think it's outrageous I've been kept in the dark about this for almost 20 years. Please support GMO labeling bill A3525 by cosponsoring the bill AND by asking Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to bring it to a floor vote in the Assembly as soon as possible. Thank you very much."

[NOTES: 1. If your Assemblymember is already a cosponsor of the bill, thank him/her and then ask them to ask the committee chair to put it on the Ways & Means agenda and ask them to speak to Speaker Silver about bringing it to a floor vote. The full cosponsor list is here:
2. If your Assemblymember is Linda Rosenthal, please DO NOT CALL her -- she is the sponsor of the bill and is ON IT!]


Ways and Means Committee Members

Thomas Abinanti (D)
– cosponsor -- YES


James Brennan (D)
 – cosponsor -- YES

518-455-5377, 718-788-7221

Vivian Cook (D)
– cosponsor -- YES


Steven Cymbrowitz (D)
– cosponsor -- NO


Joe Giglio (R) -- NO
518-455-5241, 716-373-7103

Al Graf (D) – cosponsor -- NO
518-455-5937, 631-585-0230
Charles Lavine (D)
 – cosponsor -- YES


Joseph Lentol (D; committee chair) - cosponsor -- YES

Tom McKevitt (R; also voted against in
Consumer Affairs & Protection committee) -- NO

518-455-5341, 516-228-4960

Michael Montesano (R)
– cosponsor -- YES


Walter Mosley (D)
 – cosponsor -- YES


Daniel O'Donnell (D)


Nick Perry (D)
– cosponsor -- YES


Gary Pretlow (D) -- YES

Edward Ra (R)
– cosponsor -- YES

518-455-4627, 516-535-4095

Robin Schimminger (D) -- NO
Claudia Tenney (R) -- NO

Michele Titus (D) -- YES

Helene Weinstein (D) -- YES

David Weprin (D)
 - cosponsor -- YES

518-455-5806, 718-454-3027

Keith Wright (D) -- YES

Kenneth Zebrowski (D) -- YES