In California, the battle over Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products, is heating up. In late July, pro-labeling groups obtained a flier sent out by a group opposed to the proposition containing the endorsements of three Democratic California Assemblymembers, even though the Democratic Party of California (and 90 percent of consumers) support GMO labelling.
After a series of court defeats over the past few years, Monsanto and friends are trying to use Congress to make an end-run around the courts and current law. Lawsuits brought by opponents of genetically engineered (GE) crops resulted in the temporary removal of two products — Roundup Ready Alfalfa and Roundup Ready Sugarbeets — from the market. If the biotechnology industry and the legislators they support have their way, future GE crops will not suffer the same fate. (more…)
A judge in New York sided with Monsanto and against organic farmers in the first case of its kind seeking to protect famers from being accused of patent infringement upon unintentional contamination by Monsanto’s GMO seed.
Organic farmers sought a judgment against Monsanto to protect themselves from being sued for patent infringement when their crops are unintentionally contaminated with the company’s genetically modified (GMO) seed, was dismissed in federal district court in New York by Judge Naomi Buchwald called the plaintiffs’ concern an “intangible worry, unanchored in time.”
In fact, Monsanto has already filed “over a hundred lawsuits involving hundreds of farmers for illegally using GMO patented seeds, and there have been judgments as high as a million dollars, with the average judgment being about $170,000,” according to Paige Tomaselli, Staff Attorney for the Center for Food Safety (CFS). CFS was a plaintiff in the case and spoke on the subject of GMO contamination at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) annual conference in Madison on February 25.
That’s a pretty tangible worry for farmers that don’t intend to grow genetically engineered crops. The plaintiffs collectively represent over 300,000 farmers and eaters. (more…)
“Dishonest Fox Chart: Food Stamps Edition”: According toMedia Matters for America (1/30), a Fox News show run on Monday, January 30, “features mismatched data that does not answer the question of whether ‘more people have gotten on food stamps’ under Obama than any under other president (spoiler alert: they haven’t).”
Climate Change Affects Agriculture, and Vice Versa (Who Knew?!): According toGreenwire (1/30 – subscribers only), “The World Bank’s proposed agriculture-based carbon market got preliminary approval today [Monday 1/30] from a third-party carbon credit accreditation system based on the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. . . . The approval brought the bank’s efforts to remunerate smallholder farmers for practicing agricultural techniques that sequester carbon in soil — such as no-till farming, crop-residue management and agroforestry — closer to reality. With the approval, carbon credits can be sold on voluntary carbon markets globally.” However, as Carbon Trade Watch‘s Kevin Smith has said, “Effective action on climate change involves demanding, adopting and supporting policies that reduce emissions at the source as opposed to offsetting or trading. Carbon trading isn’t an effective response; emissions have to be reduced across the board without elaborate get-out clauses for the biggest polluters.” The Food Rights Network supports no-till farming, using crop residues to boost soil fertility, and agroforestry without the use of toxic herbicides and other unsustainable practices, particularly for small farmers, but believes that corporations shouldn’t be allowed to buy carbon credits from small farmers instead of reducing their own emissions. Meanwhile, Public Radio Internationalreports (1/29) that “farmers in Mozambique [are] trying to adapt farming to climate change” by diversifying the crops grown and installing irrigation, with help from the organization Save the Children. And in the United States, climate change may be threatening cranberry production in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Spotlight (1/26). Some scientists propose “geoengineering,” or “fill[ing] the upper atmosphere with tiny particles that could scatter sunlight before it reaches, and warms, the Earth’s surface,” as a solution to the effect of climate change on agriculture and to boost crop yields, according toNPR (1/23). Scientists working on the proposal caution, however, “Even if the global average remained the same, some regions might get hotter while others get colder. That could cause drastic local or regional changes in climate and weather patterns.” And the New York Times Green blog also published an article about agriculture and climate change, on January 19. (more…)
“Largest Corporate Dairy, Biotech Firm and USDA Accused of Conspiring to Corrupt Rulemaking and Pollute Organics”: According to a press release (1/23), the Cornucopia Institute “has formally requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate corruption at its National Organic Program (NOP) resulting in the use of illegal synthetics in organic food and then allowing powerful corporations to ‘game the system’ for approval ‘after the fact.’ The controversy surrounds products developed by Martek Biosciences Corporation. Martek, part of a $12 billion Dutch-based conglomerate, recently petitioned for approval of its genetically modified soil fungus and algae as nutritional supplements in organic food.” In a January 9 press release, the NOP announced a proposed rule “addressing the use of vitamins and minerals in organic foods and infant formula” to “increase consumer confidence that organic foods are consistent both with FDA rules and the principles of organic production.”
Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) Asks EPA to Finalize Dioxin Study: CHEJ Executive Director Lois Gibbs sent a letter (1/20) to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson ”strongly urging EPA to finalize the Dioxin Reassessment once and for all” (CHEJ, 1/21). This reassessment of the risks of dioxin exposure has been delayed for over 25 years. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters also sent a letter, as it represents many of the workers likely to be exposed to dioxins on the job. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, also sent a letter urging EPA to finalize. The Washington Post recently reported that air releases of dioxins, rose 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 (1/5). Stay tuned for more on this from CMD’s Food Rights Network. (more…)
Wisconsin Farmer Jim Goodman Urges the “99 Percent” to “Occupy the Food System“ (Common Dreams, 12/12). See also the Bangor Daily News article (12/8) the Maine organic farmer leading the “fight against Monsanto“: “Jim Gerritsen of Bridgewater made his first trip to New York City to address the December 4 “Farmers’ March” to Zuccotti Park organized by the Food Justice Committee of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” Grist also published an excellent article about the Farmers’ March (12/6).
Wisconsin Dairy Farmer and Food Sovereignty Activist Speaks to Occupy Wall Street (12/4):
“How the Food Industry Eats Your Kid’s Lunch”: According to the New York Times‘ Lucy Komisar (12/3), “an increasingly cozy alliance between companies that manufacture processed foods and companies that serve the meals is making students — a captive market — fat and sick while pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.” For more, read the excellent investigative report from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund here.
“5 Lessons from the Secret Farm Bill Fight”: The Environmental Working Group shares “five lessons to keep in mind for the 2012 farm bill debate” (12/1).
“Monsanto Defeated by Roundup Resistant Weeds”: According to the Institute for Science in Society (12/1), “Monsanto is surrendering to glyphosate resistant weeds, according to a new briefing by UK based GM freeze. They are spreading at ‘exponential’ rates in US farms and are increasingly documented in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Europe and South Africa” (the full article is available in the members-only area of the ISIS website and re-posted without footnotes on the website of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia). (more…)
“Why the Most Important Fish We Need to Save Is One You’ve Never Heard Of”: “Menhaden might be the most important fish you’ve never heard of. As far back as the 1860s, the U.S. caught more tons of menhaden than any other fish — and in many years, more menhaden than the combined commercial catch of all other finned fish put together. You don’t hear about them because they don’t show up in fish markets or on dinner menus. Rather, they go into animal feed, cosmetics, health food supplements, linoleum, lubricants, margarine, soap, insecticide, and paint. . . . Just as Michael Pollan makes the case that Americans eat mostly corn, eating it indirectly in processed foods and corn-fed animal products, more than a century ago, ichthyologist G. Brown Goode said that people who dine on Atlantic saltwater fish eat ‘nothing but menhaden.’” (AlterNet, 11/6)
Agriculture that Looks Like War: A transcript of a speech by Vandana Shiva published in The Age (11/4) reads: “The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars. The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war.” (more…)
Pests Evolve Resistance to Monsanto’s Bt Corn: First confirmed in Iowa in July of this year, corn pests have now evolved resistance to Monsanto’s genetically engineered Bt Corn. The resistance appears to have spread to Illinois. This is not just bad news for Monsanto, it’s also bad news for organic farming and gardening, which uses the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as an organic insecticide. Bt produces a crystal protein that is toxic to many pest insects. Monsanto’s Bt crops are engineered to produce the same protein in every cell of the plant. Once pests evolve resistance to Bt, all farmers will lose Bt as a tool.
Food Emergency: How the World Bank and IMF Have Made African Famine Inevitable: An excellent piece on Alternet shows how the World Bank & IMF lending policies contributed to the current devastating famine in the Horn of Africa.
California Might Ban The Sale of Shark Fins: Fish expert Clare Leschin-Hoar tells how the shark fin ban that just passed the California State Senate will impact sharks – and fisherfolk – should the Governor sign it.
Back to School and Back to School Lunch: If you are one of the many parents who are horrified at what the school serves your kids for lunch, Marion Nestle serves up an array of resources to help you take action.
Strawberries Con Cancer, A California Specialty: California, the state that produces the vast majority of strawberries sold in the US, is still under fire for its controversial decision to legalize methyl iodide, a potent carcinogen, for use on strawberries. As it turns out, California ignored its own scientists when making this decision.
USDA Warns Industry of Another Fake Organic Certificate from China: French certifier Ecocert alerted the National Organic Program to the circulation of the second fraudulent organic certificate produced by an uncertified operation in China this year. The USDA said that the certificate “falsely represents three food ingredient products– organic hibiscus, jasmine and beet root powder– as certified organic under National Organic Program (NOP) regulations.”