Thursday, March 5, 2015


Plate to Politics: Changing the Food System | VoteRunLead WebinarPlate to Politics: Changing the Food System

Online Webinar

3/11/15, 2:00pm - 3:00pm EST
Sustainability in our food system is an issue at the local, national and international level. Meet three women who are making the food system more sustainable, and find out what they would do differently if they had it to do all over again!

faithwinterFaith Winter

Colorado State Representative

Faith Winter is a Colorado State Representative for House District 35, taking office just this year.  In 2012 Winter was named one of the up and coming women leaders to watch by the Denver Post.  Winter loves organizing because she believes the best way to create change is by building power through people.  She has fun doing it, because a job isn’t worth doing unless you laugh once in a while.

Irit TamirIrit Tamir

Oxfam America

Irit Tamir is the Senior Campaigns and Advocacy Advisor for Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department. In her role, she is focused on working with companies to ensure that their business practices result in positive social and environmental impacts for vulnerable communities throughout the world. Most recently, her work has been focused on the food and beverage industry and advocating for better policies and practices

Stefani Millie GrantStefani Millie Grant


Stefani Millie Grant is the Manager, External Affairs for Unilever, a food and personal care products manufacturing company. Ms. Grant works with elected officials and NGO’s on Unilever’s sustainability efforts and promoting the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, with a focus on agricultural commodities.



 Jane Goodall condemns “deluded” GM food supporters as  “anti-science”

Senior academic condemns ‘deluded’ supporters of GM food as being ‘anti-science’ and ignoring evidence of dangers

You can buy Steve Druker's brilliant new book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth on Amazon UK or We highly recommend it –  it's a real page-turner.

EXCERPT: Dame Jane warns it would be an enormous risk to accept the [GM] technology and describes Mr Druker as a hero worthy of a Nobel prize for lifting the lid on the truth about GM.
By Sean Poulter
Daily Mail, 4 March 2015

* Dr Jane Goodall argues supporters of GM food ignored evidence of harm
* Endorsed US book which says GM producers have twisted evidence
* Publication comes as backlash against GM food is growing in US
* Primate expert warns Britain and Europe not to drop GM safeguards
* Accuses supporters of 'fraud' and says they are 'anti science'

Dame Jane Goodall, the renowned primate expert, has condemned ‘deluded’ politicians for pushing ‘Frankenstein Food’.

The highly respected academic has endorsed a new book, which argues the companies responsible for developing genetically modified farming and food have twisted the evidence to minimise the dangers.

Historically, critics of GM food have been lambasted by the GM companies, scientists who rely on their funding, and politicians, including the UK Government, as being ‘anti-science’.

However, Dame Jane argues that the advocates of GM food have ignored evidence of harm with the result it is they who are guilty of being ‘anti-science’.

The intervention is a powerful condemnation of the way biotech companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer, have forced GM crops and food on to dinner plates in the US without proper safety tests.

And she is joining a growing campaign warning that Britain and Europe must not drop safeguards that have kept GM crops out.

Dame Jane’s concerns have been raised in the foreword to a new book, ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’, which is written by the American public interest lawyer, Steve Druker.

Its publication comes as the US is seeing a growing backlash against GM. Just last week it emerged that the country’s favourite chocolate manufacturer, Hershey, is to drop GM from its products.

Dame Jane said she has become appalled as what she calls a ‘shocking corruption of the life forms of the planet’.

She said the GM process, which involves adding foreign genes to plants to create toxins to fend off insects or give them immunity to being sprayed with chemical pesticides has fundamentally changed them.

However, she complains that supporters of the technology have committed a ‘fraud’ by trying to give the false impression that these new plants are essentially the same as those created by conventional plant breeding.

She said: ‘This very real difference between GM plants and their conventional counterparts is one of the basic truths that biotech proponents have endeavoured to obscure. As part of the process, they portrayed the various concerns as merely the ignorant opinions of misinformed individuals – and derided them as not only unscientific, but anti-science.

‘They then set to work to convince the public and government officials, through the dissemination of false information, that there was an overwhelming expert consensus, based on solid evidence, that the new foods were safe. Yet this, as Druker points out, was clearly not true.’

Importantly, she claims, the companies have spread disinformation to try and win public support.

‘Druker describes how amazingly successful the biotech lobby has been – and the extent to which the general public and government decision makers have been hoodwinked by the clever and methodical twisting of the facts and the propagation of many myths. Moreover, it appears that a number of respected scientific institutions, as well as many eminent scientists, were complicit in this relentless spreading of disinformation.’

Dame Jane is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. She is best known for her 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania.

She was made a Dame in 2004 and holds many other awards for her environmental and humanitarian work, including the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, the French Legion of Honour, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, Japan’ s Kyoto Prize and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.

The British government has signalled that it plans to use a new GM crop approval process to push ahead with growing the crops in this country. Separately, a new trade agreement between the EU and the USA, which is called TTIP, could make it much easier for GM foods from North America to appear on shelves here.

However, Dame Jane warns it would be an enormous risk to accept the technology and describes Mr Druker as a hero worthy of a Nobel prize for lifting the lid on the truth about GM.

She describes his work as one of the most important books of the last 50 years, and adds: ‘It will go a long way toward dispelling the confusion and delusion that has been created regarding the genetic engineering process and the foods it creates.

‘Although this book tells a story that’s in many ways distressing, it’s important that it has finally been told because so much confusion has been spread and so many important decision-makers have apparently been deluded.’

Mr Druker, who gave a press conference in London yesterday(wed), has challenged Britain’s Royal Society to apologies for its pro-GM stance and its part in rubbishing scientists who have safety doubts over the crops and food.

His work points to research which has found tumours, liver and kidney harm in animals given GM feed in trials. And he complains, that researchers who dare to raise these problems have been pilloried.

He said: ‘Contrary to the assertions of its proponents, the massive enterprise to reconfigure the genetic core of the world’s food supply is not based on sound science but on the systematic subversion of science – and it would collapse if subjected to an open airing of the facts.’

Pat Thomas, director of the campaigning group Beyond GM, warned the TTIP trade talks mean Britain and Europe could see a flood of biotech crops and food arriving here.

She said: ‘Steven Druker’s investigation into the history of fraud and deceit that ushered in the era of GM deserves serious consideration before we take actions that will irreversibly alter the European food supply’.

Dr Julian Little a spokesman for Bayer CropScience was not aware of Drunker's book.

He said: 'We are now up to the three trillion meals and counting, that is meals containing GM ingredients, without a single substantial health issue since the beginning of the technology.

'There has been much dirt thrown but none of it has stuck.'

On its website Monsanto say they place the 'highest priority' on the safety of their products and conduct 'rigorous and comprehensive testing on each.'

They state: 'In fact, seeds with GM traits have been tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture – with no evidence of harm to humans or animals.

'In addition, governmental regulatory agencies, scientific organizations and leading health associations worldwide agree on the safety of GM crops.'

A spokesman for the company added: 'The denial of the safety of GM seeds and food ingredients is as baseless as the denial of clearly documented climate change.

'Countless peer-reviewed scientific studies performed with biotech crops — including more than 100 feeding studies — have confirmed their safety, as reflected in the respective safety assessments by regulatory authorities around the world.'

Senior academic endorses US book which says GM producers have twisted evidence


Europe urged to halt GM maize production immediately

Study shows it is nearly impossible to grow GM maize without damage to nature and contamination of farms producing clean conventional and organic foods

The study referred to in the article below, which found that maize pollen travels several kilometres, is here:
GMWatch reported on it late last year:

Europe urged to halt GM maize production immediately

Friends of the Earth Europe, 5 March 2015 

The European Food Safety Authority has started an investigation into the safety of growing genetically modified (GM) maize in Europe following the publication of the biggest study on maize pollen published to date. Friends of the Earth Europe and Testbiotech have called on the EU to immediately suspend the growing of GM maize and to stop all future approvals.

The European Commission, under pressure from the biotech industry, is understood to be imminently considering a second GM maize crop permitted for cultivation. Friends of the Earth Europe and Testbiotech have written to the new EU food safety Commissioner Andriukaitis calling for him to halt all cultivation of GM maize.

The European Food Safety Authority, in a letter dated 16 December 2014, announced a new investigation into the safety of all GM maize types currently being grown in Europe, or in the pipeline to be grown. They claim these new safety tests will be complete by 31 May 2015.

The researchers, from Germany, collected data and monitored over a 10-year period how far maize pollen can travel. Currently, European Food Safety Authority suggests buffer distances of 20 to 30 metres between GM maize and protected nature sites. The new research finds that maize pollen in fact travels up to several kilometres. To protect sensitive species, such as butterflies and moths, from the insecticide-containing GM pollen, the buffer distances need to be in the "kilometre range", according to the study. It concludes that, "previous risk assessments and conclusions regarding distances, potential exposure, and effects on non-target organisms should be revised in the light of these findings".

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "This new research raises serious questions about our scientific understanding of the safety of GM maize and the harm it can do to nature and conventional farming. These findings show we need a root-and-branch reform of the safety checks in place for GM maize.

"It is clear from this new research that it is nearly impossible to grow GM maize without widespread damage to nature, as well as the contamination of farms producing clean conventional and organic foods. The only logical and scientific conclusion is to halt the cultivation of all GM maize in Europe."

Christoph Then, director of Testbiotech said: "This research again shows major gaps in risk assessment of EFSA. Crucial data are missing and replaced by unreasoned assumptions. Based on the risk assessment of EFSA, genetically engineered maize such the so-called '1507' cannot be regarded as safe for the environment. The Commission should stop the authorisation process."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


March 2nd, 2015

The War on Genetically-Modified-Food Critics: Et tu, National Geographic

By Timothy Wise
Timothy A. Wise is at the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University. This piece originally appeared at Food Tank.
Since when is the safety of genetically modified food considered “settled science” on a par with the reality of evolution? That was the question that jumped to mind when I saw the cover of the March 2015 National Geographic and the lead article, “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?”
The cover title: “The War on Science.” The image: a movie set of a fake moon landing. Superimposed: a list of irrational battles being waged by “science doubters” against an implied scientific consensus:
“Climate change does not exist.”
“Evolution never happened.”
“The moon landing was faked.”
“Vaccinations can lead to autism.”
“Genetically modified food is evil.” WHAT?
Genetically modified food is evil? First of all, what business does “evil” have in an article about scientific consensus? Sure, some people think GMOs are evil. But isn’t the controversy about whether genetically modified food is safe?
More important, what was such an item doing on a list of issues on which the vast majority of scientists would indeed have consensus? How in the world does author Joel Achenbach define “scientific consensus?” How about 95 percent of the peer-reviewed literature, as in the case of climate change? Near 100 percent, as in the case of the lack of any link between autism and vaccines, or on evolution, or the reality of the moon landing?
There is no such consensus on the safety of GM food. A peer-reviewed study of the research, from peer-reviewed journals, found that about half of the animal-feeding studies conducted in recent years found cause for concern. The other half didn’t, and as the researchers noted, “most of these studies have been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible of commercializing these GM plants.”
In other words, those studies are tainted by the same conflict of interest that the article itself denounced in the case of anti-climate-change research commissioned by oil companies. The only consensus that GM food is safe is among industry-funded researchers.
So why would the respected National Geographic make such a scientific error? And why would respected Washington Post science writer Joel Achenbach include GM safety on his list of “settled” science?

Product placement for GMOs

Call it product placement. You know, the nearly subliminal advertising technique in which Coca Cola pays a movie producer to have the characters all drink Coke. Biotechnology companies and their powerful advocates, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are succeeding in a well-planned campaign to get GM safety declared “settled science.”
The article itself hardly touches the GM controversy or the science. It focuses on the interesting and important question of how people, including scientists, interpret scientific evidence in a way tainted by “confirmation bias,” the tendency to more readily believe evidence that confirms one’s existing beliefs. Achenbach could have added science writers to the list. And magazine editors.
Achenbach focuses on climate change and evolution and vaccines, mainly. GMOs? In what amounts to a throw-away paragraph, after he’s made justifiable fun of anti-fluoride scare-mongering, he writes:
“We’re asked to accept, for example, that it’s safe to eat food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because, the experts point out, there’s no evidence that it isn’t and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding. But to some people the very idea of transferring genes between species conjures up mad scientists running amok—and so, two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, they talk about Frankenfood.”
What? “The experts point out?” Some do, some don’t. “There’s no evidence that it isn’t” safe to eat GMOs? What kind of science is that? Many experts would disagree, and they would certainly object to a safety standard for a new technology that is content with the epidemiologically shabby construct that if there’s no evidence something isn’t safe, it must be safe.
Thalidomide, anyone, with a pinch of DDT? What’s going on here?
Are we “depolarized” yet?
What we’re seeing is a concerted campaign to do exactly what National Geographic has knowingly or unknowingly done: paint GMO critics as anti-science while offering no serious discussion of the scientific controversy that still rages.
An indicator was a quiet announcement in the press last summer that the Gates Foundation had awarded a US$5.6 million grant to Cornell University to “depolarize” the debate over GM foods. That’s their word. The grant founded a new institute, the Cornell Alliance for Science.
“Our goal is to depolarize the GMO debate and engage with potential partners who may share common values around poverty reduction and sustainable agriculture, but may not be well informed about the potential biotechnology has for solving major agricultural challenges,” said project leader Sarah Evanega, senior associate director of International Programs in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).
Got it? The Gates Foundation is paying biotech scientists and advocates at Cornell to help them convince the ignorant and brainwashed public, who “may not be well informed,” that they are ignorant and brainwashed.
“Improving agricultural biotechnology communications is a challenge that must be met if innovations developed in public sector institutions like Cornell are ever to reach farmers in their fields,” added Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS.
It’s kind of like depolarizing an armed conflict by giving one side more weapons.
So what you’re seeing in National Geographic is the product of improved “agricultural biotechnology communications.”
And not just there. In the last year we’ve seen the New Yorker’s slimy takedown of anti-GMO campaigner Vandana Shiva, and prominent opinion pieces by scientists, researchers, and journalists painting GMO critics as anti-science, the food policy equivalents of climate deniers and creationists.
I saw the PR machine in action in Des Moines in 2013 at the World Food Prize awards, which went that year to three biotech scientists, one from Monsanto. (It was of course pure coincidence that Monsanto had underwritten the renovation of the beautiful old building that houses the World Food Prize empire.)
At a panel discussion there the audience got heavily depolarized. Ann Glover, a European Science Advisor and designated GM bulldog, actually called anyone who still questioned the safety of GM crops “brainwashed.” Journalist Mark Lynas, who has made a career of such demonization, added his own insults.
I was sitting next to former World Food Prize winner Hans Herren, who won the prize in the 1990s for his innovative, cost-effective biological pest-control campaign that saved the African cassava crop. Brainwashed?

The consensus: There is no consensus

The consensus on the safety of GM food is perfectly clear: there is no consensus. That’s what the independent peer-reviewed literature says. And that’s what the National Geographic’s beautiful exhibit on its food series, in its Washington headquarters, says: the “long-term health and ecological consequences are unknown.“ And that is an accurate statement of the consensus, or the lack of it.
The paid shills for the petroleum industry undermined a growing consensus on climate change that was inconvenient for industry, backed by a well-funded PR campaign sowing doubt about that scientific consensus. In this case, the biotechnology industry and its allies are declaring a consensus where there is none in order to silence their critics.
The debate is over what level of precaution we should apply before allowing the large-scale commercialization of this new technology. And anyone stating that there is a scientific consensus on GM safety is coming down squarely against precaution. Reasonable people disagree, and that does not make them “science doubters.”
Are you feeling depolarized yet?


Sunday, March 1, 2015


USDA ignores farmer opposition, approves Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant seed
Mon 16 January 2015.
The USDA has approved Monsanto’s soybean and cotton varieties genetically engineered to withstand applications — and drive up sales of – the company’s drift-prone herbicide, dicamba

EXCERPT: Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture for Red Gold, one of the nation’s largest full-line tomato processing companies, testified before Congress in 2010: "I am convinced that in all of my years serving the agriculture industry, the widespread use of dicamba herbicide [poses] the single most serious threat to the future of the specialty crop industry in the Midwest."
USDA ignores farmer opposition, approves Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant seed
Despite receiving thousands of comments in opposition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today approved Monsanto’s newest seed products — soybean and cotton varieties genetically engineered to withstand applications — and drive up sales of the company’s drift-prone herbicide, dicamba.
With USDA’s approval, growers can expect use of dicamba to increase dramatically in both crops. According to USDA data and Monsanto projections, dicamba use in cotton is expected to increase by 14 times current levels, while use in soybeans is expected to surge by up to 500 times current levels.* Farmers predict that such a dramatic increase in use of dicamba — a highly drift-prone chemical known to be extremely toxic to most plants — will result in more frequent and devastating damage to vulnerable crops and increased pesticide exposure for rural families.
Most at risk are fruit, nut, and vegetable growers in the Midwest. As Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture for Red Gold, one of the nation’s largest full-line tomato processing companies, testified before Congress in 2010:
"I am convinced that in all of my years serving the agriculture industry, the widespread use of dicamba herbicide [poses] the single most serious threat to the future of the specialty crop industry in the Midwest."
Meanwhile, Monsanto’s response to farmers’ concerns about crop damage has been to develop exceedingly complex and demanding protocols for applying and disposing of the herbicide cocktail, including a ten-step triple rinse of sprayers that is likely to take more than an hour and then entails proper disposal of the contaminated rinse water. This ‘solution’ puts all responsibility on farmers, and sets up the company to escape liability for crop damage.
As PAN’s Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman says,
“Monsanto’s newest product is the latest in a slew of bad ideas — bad for farmers, bad for rural communities, bad for American agriculture. USDA’s approval today signals their continued contempt of farmers’ concerns, and their allegiance to the largest pesticide corporations. We stand with farm families in opposing this decision and call instead for public policy that protects rural communities and promotes agroecology.”

* Projected increases of dicamba use in soybeans are based on current use levels (USDA-NASS 2013 published data, referenced in EIS Appendix Table 4-1, p. 4-4) and  Monsanto’s anticipated use patterns (EIS Appendix Table 4-9, page 4-17).