Sustainable Ag News
Dr. Phil Howard updates his popular infographic on the organic food industry
The latest version of Who Owns Organics has been released by Dr. Phil Howard, an Assistant Professor at Michigan State. Dr. Howard teaches in the University’s Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies program. The latest update now includes the top 100 food processors in North America.
According to Dr. Howard, acquisitions and changes in the organic industry have been picking up this year. Hain Celestial has acquired Ella’s Kitchen, and Danone acquiring Happy Family just this month. And Hain Celestial’s CEO stated earlier this year that they intend to acquire several more firms in the range of $25 to $30 million.
Furthermore, notes Dr. Howard, Boulder Brands (which is not a top 100 firm, but is publicly traded, and owns the brands Earth Balance and Udi’s), announced this year that they plan to invest in more natural and organic food companies.
You can view a full-size version of the latest chart by clicking here.
Food Safety News
By Michele Simon
Last month, the International Food Information Council Foundation released the third edition of its report: Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding. What sounds like a reasonable and helpful document is in fact the product of a well-oiled PR machine whose board of trustees includes executives from such food giants such as Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, and Mars.
In response to such tactics, I have authored a new report for Center for Food Safety that exposes the well-funded organizations and highly-sophisticated public relations strategies increasingly deployed to defend the food industry.
Best Public Relations Money Can Buy: A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups describes how Big Food and Big Ag hide behind friendly-sounding organizations such as: the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, the Center for Consumer Freedom, and the Alliance to Feed the Future. The idea is to fool the media, policymakers, and general public into trusting these sources, despite their corporate-funded PR agenda.
With growing concern over the negative impacts of our highly industrialized and overly processed food system, the food industry has a serious public relations problem on its hands. Instead of cleaning up its act, corporate lobbyists are trying to control the public discourse. As a result, industry spin is becoming more prevalent and aggressive.
For example, the same group cited above – the International Food Information Council – in addition to publishing industry friendly reports, also infiltrates professional conferences such as the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation’s trade association for registered dieticians.
In 2011, IFIC moderated a panel at this event called, “How Risky is Our Food? Clarifying the Controversies of Chemical Risks,” in which the take-away message was not to worry about pesticides, and anybody who tells you otherwise is scaremongering and non-scientifically valid. At the 2012 conference last fall, IFIC was back again, with representatives on four separate panels, including dispelling any concerns about food additives.
In addition to IFIC, other front groups that have been around for some time include the notorious industry attack dog, Center for Consumer Freedom, which began in the 1990s with funding from tobacco giant Philip Morris.
In the recent controversy in New York City over limiting the size of sugary beverages, CCF took out full-page ads in major newspapers showing Mayor Michael Bloomberg dressed as a woman with the tagline, “New Yorkers need a Mayor, not a Nanny.” Name-calling and scaremongering are very effective tactics for distracting away from the issue at hand: a serious public health problem.
Big Soda also invented an entirely new front group to do its bidding called “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices,” which pretended to represent individuals, but in fact was funded by the American Beverage Association, the Washington DC-based lobbying arm of the soft drink industry. It’s a brilliant strategy when you realize that creating a group named “Coke and Pepsi Opposing Public Health in New York” just wouldn’t fly.
By relying on a front group such as the Center for Consumer Freedom to do its dirty work, well-known companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are able to keep their noses clean, and their valuable brand reputations intact.
This report is extremely timely because now more than ever new front groups are forming so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. And with deliberately confusing names such as Alliance to Feed the Future, Center for Food Integrity, and Global Harvest, it can be challenging to tell the good guys from the bad. I often have to remind people not to confuse the industry front group Center for Food Integrity with either the Center for Food Safety or the Food Integrity Campaign. Front groups position themselves cleverly to try and confuse media outlets, which too often just assume the information is coming from a reliable source.
The new report answers such questions as, “What is the Different Between Trade Groups and Front Groups?” (mostly that trade groups lobby, while front groups rely more on PR), “What are Common Front Group Tactics?” (scaremongering and buying science, for example) and “How Can We Fight Front Groups?” Most importantly, the report contains numerous examples of front groups, including recently formed groups created in response to heightened criticism and awareness, along with scientific “institutes” invented by such food giants such as Coca-Coca, Nestlé, and General Mills.
Junk food companies, the biotech industry, and big agribusiness are all on the defense because the nation is waking up to the myriad problems our industrialized food system has created, from public health epidemics to environmental disasters to horrific exploitation of humans and animals alike. It’s a testament to the food movement’s success that industry is responding with such sophisticated and well-funded public relations efforts.
But we can’t allow these disingenuous and deceptive tactics to undermine our good work. It’s imperative that reporters, policymakers, and the general public do their homework to learn exactly who is behind these industry front groups and not fall for their biased propaganda and public relations stunts. You can start by reading and sharing this report, which you can download HERE.
This article was originally published by the Center for Food Safety Blog March 14, 2013.
The post Best Public Relations Money Can Buy – A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.
Independent Science News
By Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, PhD
Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, has jested that instead of scientific peer review, its rival The Lancet had a system of throwing a pile of papers down the stairs and publishing those that reached the bottom. On another occasion, Smith was challenged to publish an issue of the BMJ exclusively comprising papers that had failed peer review and see if anybody noticed. He replied, “How do you know I haven’t already done it?”
As Smith’s stories show, journal editors have a lot of power in science – power that provides opportunities for abuse. The life science industry knows this, and has increasingly moved to influence and control science publishing.
The strategy, often with the willing cooperation of publishers, is effective and sometimes blatant. In 2009, the scientific publishing giant Elsevier was found to have invented an entire medical journal, complete with editorial board, in order to publish papers promoting the products of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck. Merck provided the papers, Elsevier published them, and doctors read them, unaware that the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine was simply a stuffed dummy.
Fast forward to September 2012, when the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) published a study that caused an international storm (Séralini, et al. 2012). The study, led by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen, France, suggested a Monsanto genetically modified (GM) maize, and the Roundup herbicide it is grown with, pose serious health risks. The two-year feeding study found that rats fed both suffered severe organ damage and increased rates of tumors and premature death. Both the herbicide (Roundup) and the GM maize are Monsanto products. Corinne Lepage, France’s former environment minister, called the study “a bomb”.
Subsequently, an orchestrated campaign was launched to discredit the study in the media and persuade the journal to retract it. Many of those who wrote letters to FCT (which is published by Elsevier) had conflicts of interest with the GM industry and its lobby groups, though these were not publicly disclosed.
The journal did not retract the study. But just a few months later, in early 2013 the FCT editorial board acquired a new “Associate Editor for biotechnology”, Richard E. Goodman. This was a new position, seemingly established especially for Goodman in the wake of the “Séralini affair”.
Richard E. Goodman is professor at the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska. But he is also a former Monsanto employee, who worked for the company between 1997 and 2004. While at Monsanto he assessed the allergenicity of the company’s GM crops and published papers on its behalf on allergenicity and safety issues relating to GM food (Goodman and Leach 2004).
Goodman had no documented connection to the journal until February 2013. His fast-tracked appointment, directly onto the upper editorial board raises urgent questions. Does Monsanto now effectively decide which papers on biotechnology are published in FCT? And is this part of an attempt by Monsanto and the life science industry to seize control of science?
To equate one journal with “science” may seem like an exaggeration. But peer-reviewed publication, in the minds of most scientists, is science. Once a paper is published in an academic journal it enters the canon and stands with the discovery of plate tectonics or the structure of DNA. All other research, no matter how groundbreaking or true, is irrelevant. As a scientist once scathingly said of the “commercially confidential” industry safety data that underpin approvals of chemicals and GM foods, “If it isn’t published, it doesn’t exist.”
Goodman’s ILSI links
The industry affiliations of FCT’s new gatekeeper for biotechnology are not restricted to having worked directly for Monsanto. Goodman has an active and ongoing involvement with the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). ILSI is funded by the multinational GM and agrochemical companies, including Monsanto. It develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GM foods and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations.
ILSI describes itself as a public interest non-profit but its infiltration of regulatory agencies and influence on risk assessment policy has become highly controversial in North America and Europe. In 2005 US-based non-profits and trade unions wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO) protesting against ILSI’s influence on international health standards protecting food and water supplies. As a result, the WHO barred ILSI from taking part in WHO activities setting safety standards, because of its funding sources. And in Europe in 2012, Diana Banati, then head of the management board at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), had to resign over her undisclosed long-standing involvement with ILSI (Robinson et al. 2013).
Goodman’s appointment to FCT is surprising also for the fact that the journal already has expertise in GM food safety. Of the four senior editors, José L. Domingo is a professor of toxicology and environmental health and author of two comprehensive reviews of GM food safety studies (Domingo 2007; Domingo and Bordonaba 2011). Both reviews expressed skepticism of the thesis that GMOs are safe. Consequently, it is far from clear why FCT needs an “associate editor for biotechnology”, but it is clear why Monsanto would have an interest in ensuring that the “Séralini affair” is never repeated.
Editing the scientific record: The case of Paul Christou
FCT is not the only academic journal that appears to have been captured by commercial interests. After the initial campaign failed to get FCT to retract the Séralini study, the journal Transgenic Research published a heavy-handed critique of the study and of the researchers themselves (Arjo et al., 2013). The lead author of that critique was Paul Christou.
Christou and co-authors castigated the editor of FCT for publishing the study, calling it “a clear and egregious breach of the standards of scientific publishing”. They insisted that the journal editor retract the study “based on its clearly flawed data, its breaches of ethical standards, and the strong evidence for scientific misconduct and abuse of the peer-review process”. “Even a full retraction of the Séralini article” wrote Christou, “will not cleanse the Internet of the inflammatory images of tumorous rats.”
The same writers further implied that the Séralini study was “fraudulent”, that the researchers failed to analyse the data objectively, and that the treatment of the experimental animals was inhumane.
This is not the first time Christou has attacked scientific findings that have raised doubts about GM crops. In 2001 Ignacio Chapela and David Quist of the University of California, Berkeley, reported in the journal Nature that indigenous Mexican maize varieties had become contaminated with GM genes (Quist and Chapela, 2001). This issue was, and remains, highly controversial since Mexico is the genetic centre of origin for maize. In an exact parallel with the Séralini study, an internet campaign was waged against Chapela and Quist demanding that the journal retract the study. Then Christou, just as he was later to do with the Séralini study, attacked Chapela and Quist’s paper in an article in Transgenic Research. The title said it all: “No credible scientific evidence is presented to support claims that transgenic DNA was introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico” (Christou, 2002).
Responding to the campaign, Nature editor Philip Campbell asked Chapela and Quist for more data, which they provided, and arranged another round of peer review. Only one reviewer in the final group of three supported retraction, and no one had presented any data or analysis that contradicted Chapela and Quist’s main finding. Nevertheless, Nature asserted, “The evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper”. Some subsequent investigations, testing different samples, reported finding GM genes in native landraces of Mexican corn (Pineyro-Nelson et al. 2009), while others did not (Ortiz-Garcia et al. 2005).
Paul Christou, in contrast, probably did not have much trouble getting either of his critiques published in Transgenic Research. He is the journal’s editor-in-chief. And, like Goodman, Christou is connected to Monsanto. Monsanto bought the GM seed company Agracetus (Christou’s former employer) and Monsanto now holds patents for the production of GM crops on which Christou is named as the inventor. It is normal practice to declare inventor status on patents as a competing interest in scientific articles, but Christou did not disclose either conflict of interest – his editorship of the journal or his patent inventor status – in his critique of the Séralini study.
The Ermakova affair: Preemptive editing of the scientific record
Not only can journal editors prevent the publication of research showing problems with GM crops in their own journals – they can effectively prevent publication elsewhere. In 2007, the leading academic journal Nature Biotechnology featured an extraordinary attack on the work of Russian scientist, Irina Ermakova (Marshall, 2007). Her laboratory research had found decreased weight gain, increased mortality, and decreased fertility in rats fed GM Roundup-tolerant soy over several generations (Ermakova, 2006; Ermakova, 2009).
The editor of Nature Biotechnology, Andrew Marshall, contacted Ermakova, inviting her to answer questions about her findings, which she had only presented at conferences. He told her it was “an opportunity to present your own findings and conclusions in your own words, rather than a critique from one side”. Ermakova agreed.
The process that followed was as deceptive as it was irregular. The editor sent Ermakova a set of questions about her research, which she answered. In due course she was sent a proof of what she thought was to be ‘her’ article, with her byline as author.
However, the article that was finally published was very different. Ermakova’s byline had been removed and Marshall’s substituted. Each of Ermakova’s answers to the questions was followed by a lengthy critique by four pro-GM scientists (Marshall, 2007). The proof sent to Ermakova, now revealed as a ‘dummy proof’, had not included these critical comments. Consequently, she was denied the chance to address them in the same issue of the journal. And in the final article the editor had preserved the critics’ references but removed many of Ermakova’s, with the effect that her statements appeared unsubstantiated.
Nature Biotechnology’s treatment of Ermakova attracted condemnation from many scientists. It was also strongly criticized in some media outlets. Harvey Marcovitch, former editor of a scientific journal and now director of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), which sets ethical standards for academic journals, commented, “This is a type of publication which I have never encountered.” He said that while reading it he was struck by “some surprising things”. He was unwilling to speculate as to what exactly happened: “Either the editor was trying out a new form of experimentation, in which not everything went according to plan, or there was indeed a conspiracy or whatever one wants to call it.”
Dr Brian John of the Wales-based campaign group GM-Free Cymru was more blunt, calling the process “tabloid academic publishing involving deception, lies, duplicity and editorial malpractice”.
Amid the uproar, editor Marshall released his email correspondence with Ermakova on the internet. It showed that far from his having “solicited” the comments from the critics, as he had originally claimed, the four pro-GM scientists had themselves approached the journal proposing their “critique”, and even though none of them are toxicologists, Marshall had agreed. The self-selected critics judged Ermakova’s research – which they had never even seen in its complete form – “demonstrably flawed”.
Nature Biotechnology also failed to fully disclose the conflicts of interest of Ermakova’s critics. Bruce Chassy was lead author on two influential ILSI publications, which defined weak risk assessment methodologies for GM crops that were later inserted into the guidelines of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Vivian Moses was chairman of CropGen, a GM industry lobby group with Monsanto among its funders. L. Val Giddings, an industry consultant, was described in the article as formerly of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Nature Biotechnology omitted to say that Giddings occupied a senior position at BIO – vice president for food and agriculture – and that BIO’s funders include the GM crop companies, Monsanto, Dow and DuPont. The last of the four critics, Alan McHughen, developed a GM flax called Triffid that in 2009 was found to have contaminated flax supplies coming into Europe from Canada. If these interests had been disclosed, readers might have judged the criticism of Ermakova differently.
Open source scientific publishing?
These examples show that the threat to scientific publishing from industry influence is real. The avenues for researchers to publish critical views in science are already few. This is especially true for the high-impact journals that the media notices and that therefore influence public discourse. Equally problematic is that few scientific institutions will support researchers whose findings contradict industry viewpoints, as Chapela found out when UC Berkeley tried to deny him tenure following the controversial maize study. Even fewer funding sources will give to such researchers. Consequently almost all funding of biosafety research finds its way into the hands of researchers with industry ties.
This directly affects the quality of the science produced. A recent literature review found that most studies concluding that GM foods are as safe as non-GM counterparts were performed by the developer companies or their associates (Domingo and Bordonaba, 2011). . It is no coincidence that Norway, a country without an agricultural industry lobby, hosts the only publicly funded institute in the world with a mission to conduct research on the environmental, health and social consequences of genetic engineering.
There are in principle ways within the existing system to mitigate or neutralize the influence of industry on the ability of scientists to publish independent and critical research. The first is transparency in publishing. Journal editors should adopt the COPE guidelines and publish all conflicts of interest among staff and editors.
Also in line with COPE’s stipulation, peer reviewers should be selected to avoid conflicts of interest. If this proves impossible due to the spread of patents and industry research funding, then care must be taken to select a balanced panel representing a plurality of views. FCT is a member of COPE, but does not publish information on editors’ conflicts of interest, and its appointment of Goodman over Domingo shows that it does not seek to avoid them.
There may in fact be a need to critically examine the entire concept of peer review. The limitations of all types of expert opinion – whether that of an individual expert or of an expert panel – are recognized in the field of evidence-based medicine. To address this problem, bodies such as the non-profit Cochrane Collaboration have developed systematic and transparent methodologies to review and evaluate data on the effectiveness of different medical interventions. The aim is to enable healthcare practitioners to make well-informed clinical decisions. The reviewing criteria are transparently set out in advance, so there is less scope for bias in evaluations of studies. When disagreements do occur, it is easy to pinpoint the reason and resolve the problem. Cochrane also implements rules to prevent conflicts of interest among its reviewers and editorial board.
The Cochrane approach is widely respected and the lessons learned in evidence-based medicine about conflicts of interest and resisting industry pressure are being applied to other fields, such as hazardous environmental exposures (Woodruff et al., 2011). There is no reason why scientific journals, including those publishing GMO research, cannot use similar methods to evaluate papers, so that less discretion is given to experts with conflicts of interest.
Implementing such policies presumes strong support among the scientific community for independent science. But this support may not exist outside of medical research.
FCT took on Goodman, a former Monsanto employee and well-known supporter of industry viewpoints, immediately following the publication of a controversial paper that was critical of Monsanto’s principal products. In doing so, FCT senior management bypassed the normal scientific editorial culture of gradual promotion from within.
Meanwhile, two other prominent academic journals have served as platforms for their editors to generate unsubstantiated and unscientific abuse without any repercussions for their editorial positions. Marshall remains editor of Nature Biotechnology. The fact that journal editors get away with such behavior suggests that support for independent research among scientists is generally lacking and that accountability within the scientific publishing world barely exists.
It seems unlikely that scientific journals will address unaided the defects in scientific publishing at FCT and elsewhere. To do so would require confronting the fundamental problem that academic science now largely makes its money from exploiting conflicts of interest. This has become the underlying business model of science. Universities offer ‘independent’ advice to governments while taking corporate money for ‘research’. Corporations offer that money to universities, not for the knowledge it generates, but primarily for the influence it buys.
These same incentives are reinforced at the personal level as well. Individual scientists occupy taxpayer-funded academic positions while benefitting from patents, stocks and industry consultancies. If journals and government agencies took action to eliminate conflicts of interest, the corporate money for science would dry up, because industry-funded scientists would lose influence.
But if scientific journals do not find a way to level the playing field for critical studies, the few scientists who are still able to carry out independent public interest research may need to find an alternative publishing model: public peer review, or ‘open-source science’. Such online collaborative approaches could even revitalize scientific publishing.
Unless radical reform is achieved, peer-reviewed publication, which many hold to be the defining characteristic of science, will have undergone a remarkable inversion. From its origin as a safeguard of quality and independence, it will have become a tool through which one vision, that of corporate science, came to assert ultimate control. Richard Goodman, FCT’s new Associate Editor for biotechnology, now has the opportunity to throw down the stairs only those papers marked “industry approved”.
Arjo G, et al. (2013). Plurality of opinion, scientific discourse and pseudoscience: an in depth analysis of the Séralini et al. study claiming that Roundup Ready corn or the herbicide Roundup cause cancer in rats. Transgenic Research 22: 2 255-267
Christou P (2002). No credible scientific evidence is presented to support claims that transgenic DNA was introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Transgenic Research 11: iii–v
Domingo JL (2007). Toxicity studies of genetically modified plants: a review of the published literature. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 47(8): 721-733
Domingo JL and JG Bordonaba (2011). A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants. Environ Int 37: 734–742.
Ermakova I (2006). Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies. Ecosinform. 2006;1:4–9.
Ermakova I (2009). [Influence of soy with gene EPSPS CP4 on the physiological state and reproductive function of rats in the first two generations] [Russian text]. Contemporary Problems in Science and Education 5:15–20.
Marshall A (2007). GM soybeans and health safety – a controversy reexamined. Nat Biotechnol 25: 981–987.
Ortiz-Garcia S, et al. (2005). Absence of detectable transgenes in local landraces of maize in Oaxaca, Mexico. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102: 18242.
Pineyro-Nelson A, et al. (2009). Transgenes in Mexican maize: molecular evidence and methodological considerations for GMO detection in landrace populations. Mol Ecol 18(4): 750-761.
Quist D and IH Chapela (2001). Transgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Nature 414(6863): 541-543.
Robinson, C, et al. (2013). Conflicts of interest at the European Food Safety Authority erode public confidence. J Epidemiol Community Health.doi:10.1136/jech-2012-202185.
Séralini GE, et al. (2012). Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology 50(11): 4221-4231.
Woodruff TJ, et al. (2011). An evidence-based medicine methodology to bridge the gap between clinical and environmental health sciences. Health Aff (Millwood) 30(5): 931-937.
The post The Goodman Affair: Monsanto Targets the Heart of Science appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.
International Business Times
By Connor Adams Sheets
An amendment inserted into the 2013 Farm Bill passed by the House of Representatives’ Agriculture Committee Wednesday would revoke the ability of individual states’ lawmakers to pass GMO-labeling laws, food advocates warn.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, is the newest salvo in an ongoing battle between food advocates and companies like Monsanto that create and sell genetically modified and genetically engineered seeds, which grow into GMO crops and find their way into an estimated 70 percent of processed foods in American grocery stores.
The figurative jury is still out on whether or not genetically modified and genetically engineered foods have negative health impacts on humans, but supporters of GMO-labeling point to studies showing a range of potential risks, from kidney and liver damage to reproductive system issues.
But even if GMO foods are proven to be entirely healthy for human consumption, food advocates contend that the public has a right to know what is on their plates, and that in order for that to be possible, foods containing crops that were genetically engineered need to be labeled, just as the Food and Drug Administration requires that labels tell consumers how much caffeine is contained in a given food or beverage.
But King’s amendment, dubbed the Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA), may put an end to efforts by state lawmakers in states like Vermont and Connecticut to enact state-level GMO-labeling laws. Here’s how King described the amendment in a Wednesday statement:
“The first King amendment prohibits states from enacting laws that place conditions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within its own borders, but are produced in other states,” he wrote.
On its face, the language may sound fairly innocuous, and aimed squarely at protecting states’ rights. But critics are raising a red flag, suggesting that it is a veiled attempt to block state-level GMO labeling.
“The biotech industry knows that it’s only a matter of time before Washington State, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and other states pass GMO labeling laws,” the group wrote. “Rather than fight this battle in every state, Monsanto is trying to manipulate Congress to pass a Farm Bill that will wipe out citizens’ rights to state laws intended to protect their health and safety.”
And this isn’t the first time this battle has been waged. When King first introduced the amendment last year in an attempt to attach it to the failed 2012 Farm Bill, Heather White, executive director of the Environmental Working Group, wrote that it would likely be interpreted as a way to preempt states’ efforts to pass laws to require GMO labeling on consumer products.
“This impenetrable language simply means that states would be prevented from regulating just about any agricultural product in commerce,” White wrote, adding that, “This sweeping provision would severely undermine all states’ authority to set standards for environmental protection, food safety or animal welfare. It would apply to genetically engineered food labeling, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulation, antibiotics use in meat and other local and state food and farm regulations.”
And now food advocacy groups are motivating to oppose the amendment’s inclusion in the 2013 Farm Bill. More than 14,000 people have signed a MoveOn.org petition protesting the so-called King Amendment, and social media campaigns are gearing up much as they did when the original “Monsanto Protection Act” — which provided legal protections for companies engaged in the production of genetically engineered seeds — came into the public consciousness back in March.
Get ready for a major controversy over “Monsanto Protection Act 2.0,” as concerned citizens across the U.S. become aware of the King Amendment.
The post ‘Monsanto Protection Act 2.0′ Would Ban GMO-Labeling Laws At State Level appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.
[NOTE: The Cornucopia Institute is one of the plaintiffs in the Monsanto seed patent lawsuit.]
Local, organic food may be the top choice for some people, but others are fearing for its future.
“They have focused on creating transgenic seeds, which take the DNA from an unrelated species, generally it’s been a bacteria, and they bring that into the plant,” said Patterson.
Monsanto is the largest producer of genetically modified crops.
Patterson has organized a massive lawsuit against the company. The 83 plaintiffs in The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) v. Monsanto are made up of farmers, companies and agricultural organizations from across the United States and Canada. Two central Virginia-based companies, “Southern Exposure Seed Exchange” and “Countryside Organics” are also on the list.
Patterson and OSGATA say the patent on Monsanto’s seeds is a potential problem for organic farmers.
“We believe that they never should have been issued. That they have no utility. They’re destructive. They’re damaging,” said Patterson.
Patterson and others are concerned about what they call “transgenic trespassing,” when a neighboring farmer’s transgenic crops spread to an organic farmer’s field. He also says the patent protection leaves limited public research about the long-term health effects of transgenic food.
In the suit, OSGATA says:
“Not only do transgenic crops violate the property rights of farmers in the same as if a neighbor’s randy, fence-breaking bull impregnated your expensive purebred cattle, it violates the informed-consent health rights of consumers, because they have no way of knowing the long-term health impacts of even 1% of transgenic contamination in food.”
Patterson says many farmers who are victims of transgenic trespassing fear Monsanto will sue them for having its patent-protected seeds on their property.
Monsanto has sued farmers before, but the company says it does not act when trace amounts of their product unintentionally end up in a farmer’s field.
Thomas Helscher, Monsanto’s director of corporate affairs, sent the Newsplex this statement regarding the suit:
“The district court ruling dismissing the case (February, 2012) noted it was simply a transparent effort by Plaintiffs to create a controversy where none exists and further there was neither a history of behavior nor a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement matters against the Plaintiffs. Farmers who have no interest in using Monsanto’s patented seed products have no rational basis to fear a lawsuit from Monsanto, and claims to the contrary, to quote from the district Court, are “groundless” and “baseless.” As was stated in the Court, it has been, and remains, Monsanto’s policy not to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patents are present in a farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means. Nothing presented at the appellate hearing (January, 2013) contradicts this or establishes the Plaintiffs’ hypothetical assertions.
We believe all farmers should have the opportunity to select the production method of their choice – whether organic, conventional or improved seeds developed using biotechnology. All three production systems co-exist and contribute to meeting the needs of consumers. Since the advent of biotech crops more than 15 years ago, both biotech and organic crop production have flourished. We have no reason to think that will not continue to be the case.”
A New York judge dismissed the case in February of 2012. OSGATA appealed in January of this year. They are currently waiting for a decision from the appeals court on the dismissal and say they expect it to come soon.
Earlier in the week, the U.S. Supreme Court settled a separate case involving Monsanto. The unanimous decision ruled farmers may not use patented seed for more than one planting. If they do, they are responsible for damages.
Neonicotinoid insecticides have adverse effects not only on bees but also on freshwater invertebrates. Exposure to low but constant concentrations of these substances — which are highly soluble in water — has lethal effects on these aquatic organisms.
At the end of April, the EU imposed a 2-year ban on the use of neurotoxic agents belonging to the neonicotinoid group. In Switzerland, the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) has followed suit, suspending the authorizations of three insecticides used on oilseed rape and maize fields. These measures have been taken in response to evidence that neonicotinoids are toxic to honeybees and are contributing to the decline of bee colonies.
Problems seen with constant exposure
An Eawag study published today in the journal PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science) now shows that at least one of the insecticides in this class also has toxic effects on freshwater invertebrates. In this study, native freshwater shrimps (gammarids) were exposed to pulsed high and to constant low concentrations of imidacloprid.
Peak concentrations typically occur when rain falls on farmland during or shortly after the application of insecticides; these soluble but persistent substances can then enter surface waters via runoff. Interestingly, pulses lasting no more than a day proved less harmful to the organisms than concentrations that were much lower but persisted for several days or weeks.
While organisms transferred to clean water after pulsed exposure recovered relatively rapidly, constant exposure led to starvation after 2 to 3 weeks. This was because the organisms’ mobility and feeding behaviour was impaired by the neurotoxin.
Failure of conventional toxicity testing
The slow starvation effect observed under constant exposure to low levels of neonicotinoids is not detected by conventional toxicity tests, as they are not carried out over a period of several weeks. In addition, the study indicated that seasonal and environmental factors can be crucial: the results of the experiments are significantly affected by organisms’ initial fitness and lipid reserves.
To eliminate these effects and to identify processes other than starvation that influence survival rates in aquatic organisms, the research team has also developed a mathematical model which makes it possible to predict harmful concentrations and exposure times.
The post Insecticides Lead to Starvation of Aquatic Organisms appeared first on Cornucopia Institute.