What Does The World Know That America Doesn’t Know When It Comes to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in our Food Supply?

BY NICK LASKY (Ellwood Thompson’s Food Advocate, Jr.)

What Does The World Know That America Doesn’t Know When It Comes to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in our Food Supply?

Since President Obama signed legislation dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or the “DARK Act” (U.S. Senate Bill 764), our right as Americans to know what is in our food — especially when it comes to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) — has become a lot less secure.  On the other hand, this misguided law has brought an increased awareness of how dire a situation we, as Americans, are in when it comes to knowing what’s in our food. To put things into perspective, the DARK Act provides for:

  • No Penalties For Food Manufacturers Who Break the Law.
  • No Recall of Mislabeled Food.
  • Exemptions for refined sugars, oils, starches, refined oil and milled corn (all big sources of GMO).
  • Exemptions for genetic engineering by synthetic biology, CRISPR/cas9, gene editing and gene cassettes.
  • Loopholes that could exclude herbicide tolerant crops and many Bt toxin insecticide producing crops.
  • Allows QR codes, toll free phone numbers or an undetermined symbol to replace simple words on the package.
  • An Undefined Tolerance Threshold for allowable level of GMO contamination.
  • Immediately prevents states from implementing their own state GMO labeling laws.

For those who are unsure of the scientific basis for legitimate public concern about GMO in our food supply, GMO Free USA has a good and well-cited summary of the evidence for such concerns. However, just to be clear,  the Food Advocates at Ellwood Thompson’s believe this issue is also about American’s Right To Know what they are eating and that Americans should be able to make conscious food choices for themselves.

As a result of federal preemption, the DARK Act now prevents states like Vermont, Maine, Alaska, and Connecticut from implementing their own GMO food labeling laws.  As  such, the right of American citizens to know what they are eating has taken several steps backward. That is not the case in other countries.

According to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), currently 64 countries around the world require labeling of genetically modified foods. The CFS has an interactive map indicating those countries.  As such, more countries in the world ban the growth of GMOs than actually allow GMOs to be cultivated in their country.

As you can see from the interactive map, in Europe, many countries have take strong action regarding GMO in the food supply over the past few years.  

labeling_around_the_world

Just last year Greece and Latvia jumped on the bandwagon and joined many other European countries by banning the growing of GMO crops.  Now 19 out of the 28 nations in the European Union have officially opted out of allowing the cultivation of genetically modified maize, or MON810, which is the only GMO variety grown in Europe. 

The current list of countries that ban the cultivation of GMOs includes: Algeria, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Wales, Wallonian Region (Belgium)

Even Russia has also recently banned the cultivation and breeding of GMO crops.  Ironically, the Russian government also banned all GMO corn and soy imports from the USA in February of this year.

So as many other countries move forward, why do we appear to be going in the opposite direction?

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association’s (OSGATA) recently withdrew its membership in the Organic Trade Association (OTA) citing the OTA’s “betrayal over Monsanto-backed GMO labeling bill.”  The “betrayal” refers to a  few members of the OTA board decided to act unilaterally, endorsed the bill, and pushed for it to be passed in the Senate.

“It’s important for the world to understand that it was the Organic Trade Association that killed our state GMO labeling laws by backing Monsanto’s Stabenow-Roberts bill” (aka the DARK ACT), said Maine organic seed farmer and longtime OSGATA President, Jim Gerritsen.  “It’s clear that Organic Trade Association has come under the control of a small group of lobbyists controlled by giant-food corporations that also own organic brands.  In an effort to protect their own bottom lines and those of their parent companies, the reckless actions of these large parent-owned organic companies threaten the survival of organic farmers and the organic community we have all worked so hard for decades to build.  The Organic Trade Association can no longer be trusted and it’s clear that organic farmers can no longer condone this dubious trade association’s troubling behavior.” 

As such, the OTA and several other groups and companies backing the bill have left many of the other organic organization and coalitions confused about the integrity of their supposed allies.

This is a small glimpse into the lobbying and industry-based power that Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, and others have at controlling the outcome of these bills, which ultimately become our reality. It appears that they have infiltrated into the OTA and other organic organizations.  Here is a list of the major financial supporters of the DARK Act.

If we do not have the unity of those supposedly working together to promote GMO labeling and organic foods, how can we as a nation defeat those who are compromising our food supply?

I hope this blog can help create a conversation and ultimately lead to greater awareness of the reality and the importance of what we as a collective in this country decide to allow moving forward. Our decisions, actions, and non-actions will affect not only us, but our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and on down the line…

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED: To Stop the U.S. Senate from Destroying GMO Labeling

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED: To Stop the U.S. Senate from Destroying GMO Labeling

 By Nick Lasky

Last year, the so-called DARK Act that would destroy GMO labeling was voted down in the United States Senate.

Now, the same U.S. Senator who introduced the DARK Act, along with some Senatorial help, has introduced the Roberts-Stabenow Bill or Senate Bill 764. 

Instead of explaining all of the technical aspects, Senate Bill 764 is best summarized by the following quote from the Center for Food Safety :

“This is not a labeling bill; it is a non-labeling bill. We are appalled that our elected officials would support keeping Americans in the dark about what is in our food and even more appalled that they would do it on behalf of Big Chemical and food corporations.”

(The Center For Food Safety link above has a great copy and past sample email or letter to send on this issue)

Label-It

Or as Cary Gilliam writes in the Huffington Post,

“For GMO Labeling Advocates, It Doesn’t Get Much Darker Than This”

The ROBERTS-STABENOW BILL OR SENATE BILL 764 requires labeling products with genetically engineered ingredients, but would give companies several options of how to do this:

  • Text on food packaging
  • Provide a QR Code (which must be scanned with a smartphone)
  • List a website or a phone number to call for the information
  • Use a symbol created by the USDA

It gets worse. Here is what happens if  the ROBERTS-STABENOW BILL OR SENATE BILL 764 is passed:

  • It would permanently outlaw states from passing their own GMO labeling laws
  • It lets companies NOT LABEL for up to two years until the USDA decides on labeling requirements
  • It does NOT require labeling for meat or dairy products from animals raised on GM feed
  • It imposes NO PENALTIES AT ALL for violating the labeling requirements
  • It allows the USDA to decide the percentage of GMO ingredients in a food product that require it to be labeled. (There is no set limit)
  • New genetically engineered technologies are excluded (such as RNAi and CRISPR 

CAN YOU HELP BY TAKING ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS?

  • CALL YOUR UNITED STATES SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO KILL ROBERTS-STABENOW BILL OR SENATE BILL 764:

Here is a CONTACT LIST OF  United States Senators and how to contact them.

If you can’t speak to your Senator, then ask to speak to the Agriculture Liaison or the Senator’s Chief of Staff.  Even if you call, PLEASE send an email to the applicable email address on the U.S. Senate contact list link above.

IN VIRGINIA: here are our 2 U.S. Senators Contacts:

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine – 202-224-4024. Chief of Staff: Mike Henry, Agriculture Liaison: Nick Barbash.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner – 202-224-2023. Chief of Staff: David Hallock, Agriculture Liaison: Caitlin Runyan.

  • Sign this Food Democracy Now! Petition and pass it along to your friends:

Ellwood Thompson’s supports transparent printed labeling of GMO foods on all packaging. Everyone should have the right to know what is in the food that they purchase.

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT AND ACT NOW. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP.

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CAMPBELL TO BECOME THE FIRST MAJOR FOOD COMPANY TO DISCLOSE G.M.O. INGREDIENTS

Last week, in a surprise business move to differentiate itself from its industry rivals, the Campbell Soup Company announced plans to begin disclosing the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in its food products.  Campbell is the maker of foods like Pepperidge Farm, Prego, V8 and Bolthouse Farms.  For a business profile on Campbell see http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/campbell_soup_company/index.html?inline=nyt-org

In a statement by Denise Morrison, Campbell’s chief executive, Campbell is now supporting efforts to establish a federal law mandating so-called “GMO labeling” of food products. This stance is contrary to the vast majority of Campbell’s food rivals who have spent enormous sums of money, through its trade industry association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), to defeat GMO labeling referendums in various states. Vermont, Maine and Connecticut have passed GMO-labeling laws and the GMA has been a major player in lobbying Congress to prevent those states from putting those referendums into practice.

Stating its philosophy that “consumers have the right to know what’s in their food”, Campbell is not disavowing the presence of GMO ingredients in its products. Morrison stated:

I want to stress that we’re in no way disputing the science behind GMOs or their safety. The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that GMOs are safe and that foods derived from crops using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods.

Thus, Campbell will openly disclose — through its new labeling policy — the presence of GMO ingredients in its products.  More than 90% of canola, corn, soybeans and sugar beet crops in the United States are currently grown using GMO seeds according to Campbell.  Campbell has already created the “What’s In My Food” website  http://www.whatsinmyfood.com/ to disclose all ingredients in their products including identifying specific GMO ingredients.

It is too early to tell what impact Campbell’s move will have on its sales and the effect on its competitors who adamantly opposed GMO labeling. “It’s a big deal because it’s breaking ranks with everyone else,” said John Stanton,  a Saint Joseph’s University food marketing professor, who has worked with many big food companies, “I think it can make a big difference.”

Denise Morrison’s statement on behalf of Campbell can be read at: http://www.marketplace.org/2016/01/08/world/big-food-hates-gmo-labels-one-giant-company-disagrees

Professor John Stanton’s statement can be read at:

http://www.marketplace.org/2016/01/08/world/big-food-hates-gmo-labels-one-giant-company-disagrees