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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Citing GMO-Herbicide Link, Renowned Children’s Health Expert Calls For GMO Labeling

By Libby Foley, Policy Analyst





THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2015

An article published today in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine by two of the nation’s most respected experts on pesticides and children’s environmental health calls for the Food and Drug Administration to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) food.

This comes after the House of Representatives passed a bill last month that would block states from enacting their own labeling laws and make it nearly impossible for the FDA ever to implement national mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Titled “GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health,” the paper by Philip J. Landrigan, M.D. and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. focuses on the widespread adoption of GMO crops across the U.S. and the resulting explosion in the use of toxic herbicides – some of them, like Monsanto’s glyphosate, linked to cancer – and argues that labeling these foods is a matter of protecting public health.

Landrigan and Benbrook write that since being introduced in the mid-1990s, 90 percent of U.S.-grown corn and soy has been engineered to tolerate being doused with weed-killing herbicides, resultinin an enormous increase in the use of herbicides:

Widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops has led to overreliance on herbicides and, in particular, on glyphosate. In the United States, glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 – from 0.4 million kg [kilograms] in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014.

Widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops has led to overreliance on herbicides and, in particular, on glyphosate. In the United States, glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 – from 0.4 million kg [kilograms] in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014.

As a result of the overreliance on glyphosate, weeds have increasingly become resistant to the weed killer, forcing growers to add other herbicides, including 2,4-D, to control them. The Environmental Protection Agency recently approved the sale of Enlist Duo, a new weed-killer made by Dow AgroSciences that combines glyphosate and 2,4-D. Landrigan and Benbrook argue that the agency’s risk assessment of the product relied on flawed science:

The science consisted solely of toxicologic studies commissioned by the herbicide manufacturers in the 1980s and 1990s and never published, not an uncommon practice in U.S. pesticide regulation. These studies predated current knowledge of low-dose, endocrine-mediated, and epigenetic effects and were not designed to detect them. The risk assessment gave little consideration to potential health effects in infants and children, thus contravening federal pesticide law.

Worse still, they note, is that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and 2,4-D a “possible human carcinogen.”

Alone, both herbicides pose serious risks to human health. It’s hard to believe that in combination they’d somehow present less of a threat.

Landrigan and Benbrook note that even though most studies have found that consuming GMO foods poses little threat to human health, labeling them is a vital public health measure:

The National Academy of Sciences has twice reviewed the safety of GM crops — in 2000 and 2004… They noted that genetic transformation has the potential to produce unanticipated allergens or toxins and might alter the nutritional quality of food. Both reports recommended development of new risk-assessment tools and postmarketing surveillance. Those recommendations have largely gone unheeded.

The researchers make two recommendations: that the EPA suspend its decision to approve Enlist Duo until a proper risk assessment is conducted, and that the FDA require the labeling of genetically engineered food:

Labeling will deliver multiple benefits. It is essential for tracking emergence of novel food allergies and assessing effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops. It would respect the wishes of a growing number of consumers who insist they have a right to know what foods they are buying and how they were produced.

The recent House-passed legislation -- dubbed the DARK Act by opponents -- that would block states and the federal government from enacting mandatory labeling laws now heads to the Senate. Mandatory GMO labeling has become a political hot-button issue when really it is just about creating more transparency in our food system. Hopefully senators will follow the science and the considerable opinion of one of the nation’s foremost experts in children’s and environmental health and oppose legislation that would prohibit this vital public health tool.

Dr. Landrigan, a pediatrician and epidemiologist, is chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. He was the principal author of a groundbreaking 1993 National Academy of Sciences report, “Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children,” which led to the eventual passage of the landmark 1996 Food Quality Protection Act. The law set health-based limits on pesticide residues on food to better protect infants and children. Dr. Landrigan is widely considered one of the leading experts on safeguarding children’s health against environmental threats.

Dr. Benbrook is a former professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University and one of the nation’s leading experts on pesticide use and genetically engineered crops. He also played a central role in the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act. Opponents of GMO labeling often argue that those who favor it are anti-science. Do these guys sound anti-science to you?

Monday, August 24, 2015

The GMO Labeling Law to End All Labeling Laws

17 August 2015

Timothy Wise of Tufts University gives an update on the GMO debate.

As the vitriol intensifies in what passes for debate over the safety of genetically modified foods, scientific inquiry, thankfully, continues. A Tufts researcher, Sheldon Krimsky, recently published his assessment of the last seven years of peer-reviewed evidence, finding 26 studies that "reported adverse effects or uncertainties of GMOs fed to animals."

If recent history is any indication, Sheldon Krimsky should expect to be slammed as a “science denier.”

The current vehemence is the product of a well-funded campaign to “depolarize” the GMO debate through “improved agricultural biotechnology communication,” in the words of the Gates Foundation-funded Cornell Alliance for Science. And it is reaching a crescendo because of the march of the Orwellian “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015” (code-named “SAFE” for easy and confusing reference) through the U.S. House of Representatives on July 23 on its way to a Senate showdown in the fall.

In an April New York Times op-ed, Alliance for Science affiliate Mark Lynas follows the party line, accusing environmentalists of “undermining public understanding of science,” even more than climate deniers and vaccine opponents. Slate’s William Saletan goes further in his July feature, calling those who want GM labeling “an army of quacks and pseudo-environmentalists waging a leftist war on science.”

Who would have known that depolarization could feel so polarizing—and so stifling of scientific inquiry.

Precaution and the Public’s Right to Know What We Eat

The SAFE law sounds like it promises what polls suggest 99 percent of Americans want, accurate labeling of foods with GM ingredients. It likely guarantees that no such thing will ever happen.

Backed by biotech and food industry associations, SAFE would make it illegal for states to enact mandatory GM labeling laws. It would instead establish a “voluntary” GM labeling program that pretty well eviscerates the demand for the right to know what’s in our food. It would undercut the many state level efforts.

Vermont now has a labeling law that survived industry opposition, threats, and a court challenge, which may explain why the industry got busy in Congress. If you can’t beat democracy, change it. The Senate is expected to take up the bill after its August recess.

As written, SAFE is truly the labeling law to end all labeling laws.

The biotech industry is acting desperate for a reason. It’s seen Europe and most of the world close its regulatory doors to GM crops, for now, insisting on the same “precautionary principle” enshrined in the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. That principle calls for a relatively high level of precaution before the introduction of a new technology, to avoid the kinds of unintended consequences that have caused such harm in the past: tobacco, thalidomide, DDT, PCBs, and other cases of industry-backed claims of safety that, in retrospect, proved deadly.

Not SAFE for Science

In a sane world that respects scientific inquiry, we would be engaged in a debate about the appropriate levels of precaution that we as a society want for a technology as novel as genetic engineering. That would be constructive, not to mention depolarizing.

Instead, we get pundits like Lynas and Saletan tarring anyone who dares call for precaution with the stain of being another science-denying zealot who ignores the scientific evidence that no one has been harmed by all the GM foods consumed in the United States.

To reinforce how duped or dumb the American public is, they point to a Pew Institute poll indicating that 88 percent of scientists think GM foods are safe, while just 37 percent of the public thinks so. The gap is repeatedly cited as a measure of how science-deniers are winning the public relations battle, and how ignorant the U.S. people are on the issue.

Maybe not. Is it really a surprise that nearly nine in ten scientists think a new invention is good for society? Not really. As Joel Achenbach explained in his otherwise good piece on science denial in National Geographic, we all suffer from “confirmation bias,” the tendency to interpret information in ways that confirm our existing beliefs. True enough, and guess what group scores high for confirmation bias in favor of new technology? Scientists. Honestly, I’m shocked that 12 percent of scientists think GM food isn’t safe.

What about that skeptical public? Are they really just ignorant and brainwashed? Or is their confirmation bias perhaps informed by their repeated experiences with big corporations telling them something is safe or good for them and finding out it’s deadly. Who in the United States has not lost a family member or friend to smoking-related disease? Given the negligence of U.S. regulatory authorities in accepting industry claims of safety, is the public really so foolish to be skeptical, of both industry and government?

Washington University’s Glenn Stone drove the scientific point home nicely about how long the process of scientific discovery of hazards can be. He documents how DDT was suspected as a cause of breast cancer but studies kept failing to find a link. This is, until 2007, when an intrepid researcher thought to ask if girls exposed to DDT during puberty had a higher risk of breast cancer. More than half a century after they were exposed, she found what no one else had: a five times greater risk in such girls, and a significant additional risk in their female children.



On GMOs and labeling, Stone asks if all the evidence is really in just 20 years into this experiment. Are there comparable studies of GM effects on pregnant or lactating women and developing infants and children? No, there are not.

No Consensus on Food Safety

For those still willing to look past the campaign slogans and slurs, science is still happening. My colleague at Tufts University, Sheldon Krimsky, examined peer-reviewed journal articles from 2008-2014. Contrary to the claims of consensus, he found 26 studies that showed significant cause for concern in animal studies, among many studies that showed no harm.

He identified clear evidence that proteins transferred into the genome of another plant species can generate allergic reactions even when the original transgene did not, a scientific finding that undermines industry claims that the transgenic process creates no instability in the genome. (Scientists even have a name for such a gene: an “intrinsically disordered protein.”)

Krimsky found eight reviews of the literature and they showed anything but consensus. Three cited cause for concern from existing animal studies. Two found inadequate evidence of harm that could affect humans, justifying the U.S. government’s principle that if GM crops are "substantially equivalent" to their non-GM counterparts, this is adequate to guarantee safety. Three reviews suggested that the evidence base is limited, the types of studies that have been done are inadequate to guarantee safety even if they show no harm, and further study and improved testing is warranted.

What about the much-cited consensus among medical and scientific associations? Krimsky found no such agreement, just the same kind of wide variation in opinion, which he usefully ascribes to differing standards, methods, and goals, not ignorance or brainwashing.

Krimsky goes out of his way, however, to document the industry-backed campaigns to discredit two scientific studies that found cause for concern, and he warns of the anti-science impact such campaigns can have. "When there is a controversy about the risk of a consumer product, instead of denying the existence of certain studies, the negative results should be replicated to see if they hold up to rigorous testing.”

That would have been a refreshing, and depolarizing, industry response to the recent World Health Organization finding that Roundup Ready herbicides are a “probable human carcinogen.” Instead of calling for further study to determine safe exposure levels, the industry called out its attack dogs to discredit the study.

Who here is really anti-science?

Timothy A. Wise is Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.

Friday, August 21, 2015

HOW MONSANTO TOOK OVER OUR FOOD – INFOGRAPHIC

corn

HOW MONSANTO TOOK OVER OUR FOOD – INFOGRAPHIC

The information starts with a history of Monsanto company, which was started in 1901 by John Francis Queeny and gave the company his wife’s maiden name. The company was started to manufacture saccharin then moved to vanilla and caffeine. By 1915 the company had made its first million and it kept on growing. Most people associate Monsanto with disease and bug resistant crops and rBGH for increased milk production, but the company is also linked to the production of the U.S. atomic bomb, agent orange, and Roundup weed killer which could be resulting in the decline of honeybees.
Infographic and written content courtesy of Top masters In Health.
Today Monsanto reports a revenue of nearly $16 billion. 93% of the U.S. soybeans and 80% of U. S. corn grown today are patented products of Monsanto. Also, there are a total of 282 million acres of farmland worldwide that are growing Monsanto crops and 404 facilities worldwide. In the United States, 40% of all crop acreage is using Monsanto products.
What price does someone pay to use Monsanto seed? There is a license agreement printed on every bag which some may find to be overstepping boundaries in the fact that it allows Monsanto to sue farmers for not following Monsanto procedures, or investigate the farmer’s fields anytime it chooses. Monsanto also has a hotline set up for neighbors to call if they suspect Monsanto seed is being used without a license.
How Monsanto Took Over Our Food
Further Reading:
Source:

UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World

September 25, 2014

Transformative changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems in order to increase diversity on farms, reduce our use of fertilizer and other inputs, support small-scale farmers and create strong local food systems. That’s the conclusion of a remarkable new publication from the U.N. Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The report, Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before it is Too Late, included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world (including a commentary from IATP). The report includes in-depth sections on the shift toward more sustainable, resilient agriculture; livestock production and climate change; the importance of research and extension; the role of land use; and the role of reforming global trade rules.

The report links global security and escalating conflicts with the urgent need to transform agriculture toward what it calls “ecological intensification.” The report concludes, “This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.”

The UNCTAD report identified key indicators for the transformation needed in agriculture:

organic farming


  • Increasing soil carbon content and better integration between crop and livestock production, and increased incorporation of agroforestry and wild vegetation
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of livestock production
  • Reduction of GHGs through sustainable peatland, forest and grassland management
  • Optimization of organic and inorganic fertilizer use, including through closed nutrient cycles in agriculture
  • Reduction of waste throughout the food chains
  • Changing dietary patterns toward climate-friendly food consumption
  • Reform of the international trade regime for food and agriculture
IATP’s contribution focused on the effects of trade liberalization on agriculture systems. We argued that trade liberalization both at the WTO and in regional deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had increased volatility and corporate concentration in agriculture markets, while undermining the development of locally-based, agroecological systems that better support farmers.

The report’s findings are in stark contrast to the accelerated push for new free trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which expand a long discredited model of economic development designed primarily to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy. Neither global climate talks nor other global food security forums reflect the urgency expressed in the UNCTAD report to transform agriculture.

In 2007, another important report out of the multilateral system, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), with contributions from experts from over 100 countries (and endorsed by nearly 60 countries), came to very similar conclusions. The IAASTD report concluded that “Business as Usual is Not an Option,” and the shift toward agroecological approaches was urgent and necessary for food security and climate resilience. Unfortunately, business as usual has largely continued. Maybe this new UNCTAD report will provide the tipping point for the policy transformation that must take place “before it’s too late.”

GMO Industry Set To Flood U.S. Food Supply With Toxic Chemicals

Published August 21, 2015, filed under ENVIRONMENTHEALTH
GMOsMIX-460

 by: David Gutierrez

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent approval of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) resistant to new herbicides will soon unleash a flood of new toxic chemicals across the nation’s agricultural heartland, observers have warned.
Previously, nearly all GMO crops approved for planting were engineered for resistance to a single herbicide: Monsanto’s blockbuster product Roundup (glyphosate). The widespread adoption of these crops led to an explosion in Roundup use, which in turn spurred the evolution of Roundup resistance in agricultural weeds.
In response to the proliferation of Roundup-resistant “superweeds,” GMO companies have turned to engineering multi-herbicide resistance into their crops. Specifically, GMO crops are now available resistant to both Roundup and the Dow herbicide 2,4-D, or Roundup and another herbicide, Dicamba.
But as critics of biotechnology have repeatedly noted, the adoption of these new GMOs will merely exacerbate the problem – encouraging still more herbicide use and the evolution of ever-tougher superweeds. In a recent article, Dr. Jonathan Latham of the Bioscience Resource Project referred to the process as “a vicious cycle that threatens both our environment and our food supply.”

Poisonous to plants and people

The adoption of herbicide-resistant GMOs always leads to an increase in herbicide use, because farmers feel free to spray poison in higher concentrations to kill off more weeds, no longer worried about harming their crop. As weeds start to develop resistance (within a few generations), the herbicide doses needed to kill them begin to increase. Inevitably, residue from these herbicides makes its way into the food supply.
Unsurprisingly, chemicals designed to poison plants are not benign for animals, either. Roundup has been linked with endocrine disruption, birth defects and organ failure. An ingredient in the infamous Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange – 2,4-D – has been linked with hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, reproductive problems and suppressed immune function. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared both chemicals “probable carcinogens.”
According to government documents, Dicamba can cause neurological damage in mammals and is also classified as a “developmental toxin.” This latter effect is particularly troubling given that a recent Environmental Working Group report counted more than 5,600 schools within 200 feet of agricultural fields likely to be planted with the newGMO crops.
Both Dicamba and 2,4-D are considered at high risk for environmental contamination, the former in the soil and the latter by drifting through the air.

Government protects industry, not health

People hoping that government regulatory agencies will step in and protect the public from this chemical violence are likely to be disappointed. Rather than taking measures to prevent the predicted explosion of 2,4-D use near schools throughout the Midwest, Congress is currently working hard to pass the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, which would ban GMO labeling initiatives and potentially even prevent state or local governments from regulating herbicide use on GMO crops.
And while the White House recently ordered a multi-agency update of the rules governing GMOs in the United States, the priorities of that review are made clear by a single sentence from the memorandum: “The objectives are to ensure public confidence in the regulatory system and to prevent unnecessary barriers to future innovation and competitiveness by improving the transparency, coordination, predictability, and efficiency of the regulation of biotechnology products while continuing to protect health and the environment.”
That is, the first priority is to make sure that people trust the government, specifically its GMO regulations (or lack thereof). The second priority is to protect the profits of the biotech industry by preventing “barriers to future innovation and competitiveness.”
Only at the end is there a mention of protecting health or the environment – with a presumption that these are already being protected.
Given the already astonishing rates of Roundup use nationwide, that presumption is certainly open to question.
Sources:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Texas Introduces Bill to Mandate GMO Labeling


Tuesday, August 04, 2015 by: Julie Wilson staff writer


(NaturalNews) Despite a major setback last month when the U.S. House of Representatives voted 275-150 to pass legislation that would prohibit states from enacting the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Right to Know movement continues to gain traction as it lays its eyes upon the Lone Star State.

(If you missed our coverage exposing the state representatives who voted to keep you and your family in the dark about GMOs, click here).

Introduced in late March by Texas State Representative Carol Alvarado of Houston (D-Texas), HB 3499 requires foods containing GMOs to be accurately labeled in Texas, as such ingredients have been linked to a multitude of health problems including cancer, infertility, autism, attention deficit disorder, food allergies and many more.

"Don't Mess with Texas' Food"

As the old saying goes: "Everything is bigger in Texas," and the GMO-labeling movement is no exception.

Passing GMO-labeling in Texas, a sizable state known for its stable economy, would surely have a strong and lasting impact on Big Food and chemical companies like Monsanto and DuPont.

There is a tremendous amount of support for GMO-labeling in Texas, particularly in trendy cities like Austin, Texas where you can hardly travel a mile before encountering a farm-to-table restaurant, organic farmer's market, natural foods grocery store or all-natural cafe.

Austin is likely the second largest hotspot of organic food next to California, making it a little surprising that GMO-labeling legislation is just now surfacing in the area.

Leading with the slogan "Don't Mess with Texas' Food," the bill aims to give consumers exactly what they want: clear and accurate labeling of foods genetically engineered to withstand high doses of Monsanto's toxic herbicide Roundup.

Roundup's primary ingredient glyphosate was recently declared "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the World Health Organization, validating concerns that have been raised by so many activists over the years, including Natural News's own Health Ranger, Mike Adams.

Take Action in Texas

Farm and Ranch Freedom has provided instructions on how to support GMO-labeling in Texas:

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630 or go to www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us to find out who your State Representative is.

When you call, identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak to the staffer who handles food issues. Be brief and polite. You can pull some talking points from our fact sheet, but don't try to cover all of it – focus on why this issue is important to you.

How you can get involved now: Spread the word by sharing this article and other information related to HB3499 and by "liking" Right To Know Texas and Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance on Facebook.

Make sure to use the hashtag #TexasRightToKnow and #FarmAndRanchFreedom.

The Right to Know about GMOs


Several states have tried to pass similar legislation, and while some states have been successful, others have been near misses, as was the case in California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

Paving the way in 2014, Vermont was the first state to pass GMO-labeling, aiming to implement the legislation by July 1, 2016 pending the outcome of a lawsuit in which the state is being sued by Grocery Manufactures Association of America, the processed food industry's largest supporter.

Maine and Connecticut also passed a similar measure that will go into effect once surrounding states do the same. Here you can view a map of 2015 GMO labeling bills.

More than 70 bills seeking to mandate the labeling of GMOs have been proposed in at least 30 states, with some of the most recent being in Florida, Montana, Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

While it's unfortunate the House passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, also termed the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know) by consumer activists, which prohibits states from enacting their own GMO-labeling laws, the bill would still need to be approved by the Senate.

According to govtrack.us, the bill only has a 30 percent chance of being enacted. We can reduce the chance of this bill being passed by spreading awareness about the dangers of GMOs and the importance of getting them labeled so consumers can make their own choice about these controversial foods.

Sources:

http://farmandranchfreedom.org

https://www.facebook.com

https://www.congress.gov

https://www.govtrack.us

http://salsa3.salsalabs.com

http://tv.naturalnews.com

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/050650_GMO_labeling_Texas_bill_HB3499.html#ixzz3hthMDV00

Saturday, August 1, 2015

What Now? After the DARK Act (H.R. 1599)


by Jeffrey Smith, The Institute for  
Responsible Technology
www.ResponsibleTechnology.org