Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a threat to organic agriculture? Are they dangerous, especially to newborns, when consumed? Do they lead to higher use of chemical herbicides and pesticides? And why aren’t they labeled so we know which foods are made with them? We find and discuss the latest news on the critical issue of GMOs.
Not quite under the radar, but not visible enough to gain attention from national media, was a bill introduced in Congress that would require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Introduced in April, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act was brought to the Senate by California Democrat Barbara Boxer and to the House by Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio. Here’s Senator Boxer’s announcement of the national gmo labeling bill complete with cosponsors and approving organizations, a group that includes the Consumer’s Union, the Center For Food Safety, and the Center for Environmental Health as well as several food marketers, a group that ranges from Lundberg Family Farms to Ben & Jerry’s.
While not completely ignored — the gmo labeling bill has nine cosponsors in the Senate and 22 in the House — its chances of even being given a hearing are slim considering the state of our dead-in-the-water congress. Only one cosponsor from both houses is a Republican and both of those are from Alaska. (Alaska state legislators have passed a law requiring the labeling of all genetically modified fish and shell fish and the state recently turned down a petition from AquaBounty Technologies to produce GMO salmon in state waters. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other grocery marketers have announced they will not carry AquaBounty salmon when it reaches the market.) (more…)
On Monday, Connecticut became the first state to pass a GMO labeling bill. But before breaking out in cheers, listen to this: the bill comes with a few, at least temporarily knotty strings attached.
Due to heavy lobbying, several conditions were attached to the bill. One would require at least four other states to join Connecticut in passing GMO labeling laws. Those states must have a total population of 20 million. And one of them must border Connecticut.
Many labeling supporters see the conditions as a way to permanently cripple the bill. Others have saluted the bill as progress. One report called the compromises a “condition of virtual impotence. ” This report also identified the largest and most active opponents to the measure, a group that includes lobbying organizations supporting the Connecticut bio-tech industry, giant grocery retailers and — you guessed it — Monsanto. (more…)
– Here’s a study that reaffirms what organic farmers and gardeners already know: the use of inorganic fertilizer may help plants one season but does nothing to improve soil conditions. How important is soil to the survival of our planet? Read this article about soil depletion. Estimates say we’ve already lost 40% of the world’s topsoil, much of it because of non-organic farming practice.
– In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, here’s a British study that claims organic farming isn’t really all that better than conventional farming. Notice that the focus is on production. Also notice that it doesn’t say anything about improving soils. Careful readers will see all kinds of omissions in the comparisons the study makes.
– Here’s a great chart that shows how heirloom and wild fruits and vegetables are higher (much higher) in phytonutrients than conventionally cultivated cousins. If you find this interesting, follow the link to the accompanying article. (more…)
Today, as this is written, is the big day: the world-wide protests against Monsanto and GMO food. While your usually politically active Planet Natural Blogger will be traveling to visit his dear mother on the plains of Nebraska, a place where more than a few bushels of genetically engineered soy is grown, and won’t be participating in any rally (yes, there’s one right here at home, and, too, in our beloved, former home as well, we can’t help but be there in spirit. Here’s hoping our organic community, no matter where they may be, will report back on what happened Saturday in their location. Here’s a partial list of all the May 25th events that were scheduled to be held. Scroll way, way down to find the United States.
In the meantime, here’s an article detailing the history of Monsanto (notice that this article claims to have been monitored by U.S. Counter Terrorism apparatus) beginning with the company’s founding in 1901. Notice that Monsanto has been involved in a lot since then, including the manufacture of aspirin and the production of the first atomic bomb. The piece also gives a good accounting of Monsanto’s role in genetically modified crop production and the various tactics it’s used against farmers. (more…)
Now in the hectic middle of planting season, it’s good to step back and take stock. After decades of limited availability and dismissal as a counter-culture industry, heirloom and organic seeds are the center of interest as never before. This phenomenon has been going on for a few years, but its continued growth and the promise of an even bigger future can make even the most cynical of us more optimistic.
Look around. Organic seeds are available in an ever-widening array of outlets. Nurseries, even hardware stores now stock organic seeds. Even my local grocery store stocks them as do our local food co-ops. Not only are they more widely available, they’re available in wider selection. Seed companies that weren’t even on the radar a few years ago now put out big glossy catalogs offering heirloom and “pure seeds.” Large activist organizations, like the Seed Savers Exchange, have dedicated themselves to preserving our garden seed heritage. Smaller, local organizations and exchanges are also popping up. (more…)
Not an online discussion about the dangers of genetically modified foods goes by without someone claiming, “What’s the big deal? They’re no different than any other hybrid. Hybrids and cross-breeding are genetic manipulations, just like GMOs. The only difference is that they’re done in the laboratory.”
Okay, maybe that last bit is true. And there are similarities. It’s true that both hybrids and GMOs are genetic manipulations. Hybrids can occur naturally or they might be facilitated by humans. GMOs are always created in laboratories. GMOs and many F1 hybrids may both be realized in controlled conditions, but one is simply doing nature’s work: pollinating. GMOs involve gene splicing. Both are patented by the business/corporate owners (full disclosure: not all F1 hybrids are patented). What does the GMO patent mean? That you better be careful.
But there are differences. The negative effects of GMOs on diversity and organic crops are markedly more serious than corporate- controlled hybrids. You can grow the “Heritage Hybrid Tomato” or the “Brandy Boy Hybrid” organically (marketing alert: notice how these relatively recent hybrids carry names that suggest heirlooms). (more…)
Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against 75-year-old farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman who had been sued by the Monsanto Corporation for patent infringement when Bowman planted soy seed he bought at a local grain elevator. The Court ruled that it was illegal for Bowman to plant seed harvested by fellow farmers. Monsanto’s patent controls prohibit replanting of seed from crops they’ve raised, requiring farmers to buy seed each year, thus assuring the corporation’s profit while destroying generations of traditional farming practice.
Some 93% of the soy grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered.
Bowman’s lawyer, Mark Walters, told Bloomberg News in an e-mail that the ruling “makes infringers out of 95 percent of America’s soybean farmers, dependent on the grace of a single company to avoid liability. ”A pro Monsanto patent attorney said simply, “this is fantastic for their business model.” (more…)
Those of us involved in the struggle to protect our families and the environment from genetically modified crops know one thing: the deck is stacked, the dice are loaded when it comes to enlisting political powers to our side. Even those in oversight or government organizations can face intimidation from the corporate powers that be. Here’s the latest example as reported by The New York Times, involving the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
A dietitian working on a panel charged with setting policy on genetically modified foods for the academy contends she was removed for pointing out that two of its members had ties to Monsanto, one of the biggest makers of genetically modified seeds.
Why is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (A.N.D.) important? Because it’s influential with politicians and frequently cited when establishing policy. It’s considered, and claims to be, objective. But that might just be a mirage. (more…)
Enough Fault To Go Around: It’s been pointed out that the “Farmers Assurance Provision,” popularly known as the Monsanto Protection Act, was signed by President Obama into law last Tuesday. This hasn’t earned the President any fans among those resisting the use of GMOs in our foods.
As some have pointed out, the bill was mostly about the continuing budget resolution to keep the government afloat and included the Violence Against Women Act and State Nutritional Assistance Program (though neither of those was kept secret and anonymously offered as was the Monsanto Protection Act). Your politically frustrated Planet Natural Blogger — I’m sure I have a lot of company here — thinks that riders of this type should stand alone, that attaching them to budget bills is a hoodwink and/or form of blackmail. Protect Monsanto or the whole country goes down! Shame on us all. (more…)
When Congress passed HR 933, the short-term resolution to avert a government shut-down earlier this month, it also snuck through an attachment that puts Monsanto ahead of the American judicial system.
The attachment, dubbed the “Farmer Assurance Act,” but known by opponents as “The Monsanto Protection Act,” limits the ability of judges to stop Monsanto or the farmers who grow its genetically modified seeds from growing or harvesting those crops even if courts find evidence of potential health risks. In essence, it precludes any court order that might be issued in the interest of protecting human well-being. Shame…
While the attachment will only be in effect for the time of the short-term resolution — until September from what your legislatively challenged Planet Natural Blogger can figure — it sets a dangerous precedent. It’s language is particularly bossy, arrogant and absolute: the secretary “shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law… immediately grant” temporary permits to continue using the seed. When? Even after it’s found to be dangerous to humans. (more…)