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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

California's Proposition 37; the night mare for Mosanto technophobes: GMO labeling revolution and the Protection of our God Given Organic Heritage

In the US, an estimated 70% of items on supermarket shelves contain GM ingredients, commonly corn, soy and canola oil products

Meanwhile, 92 percent of Americans want the FDA to label GMO foods, according to various polls conducted throughout the states.

If the measure, "The Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act", which will be on the ballot in November, passes, California will become the first state in the nation to require that GM foods be labeled as such on the package.


How California's GM food referendum may change what America eats | Richard Schiffman

California GMO Labeling Law Named Prop. 37

Marcie Plummer
No one is trying to stop an industry or deny starving people food choices. Labeling is for the purpose of allowing people to be fully informed about what they are ingesting and making a choice to purchase GMOs or not. Plain and simple. Keeping people ignorant is never the right option.

Understand this: Monsanto is spending millions to marketing companies who pay teenagers to sit in from of their computers and write pro-GMO comments. I live in California and practically everyone I talk to wants GMO labeling. Many of these people are farmers.

Reader beware,
The majority of Pro-GMO commenters are paid by the industry to distract and divide by using ad hominem. Don't take anything you read as gospel. Be smarter, do your own research, think for yourself. Kudos to those that already do!

The GMO Labeling Revolution

by Marty Kassowitz
There’s a revolt in progress in America. It’s a quiet, non-violent revolt, but it is a revolt nonetheless.

People are taking GMO labeling into their own hands—going into supermarkets and doing shopping cart drive-by labeling of GMO laden food products. No one knows how many are participating, but why people are getting involved is of little surprise.

With an estimated 80 percent of conventional processed food in the United States containing GMOs, often hidden behind labels like “natural,” “all natural,” “naturally made” and “naturally grown,” there are a lot of targets for this grassroots rebellion.
The movement even has its own website:

The Label It Yourself (#LIY) is a decentralized, autonomous grassroots campaign born out of our broken food system. We have been asking our government to label food products so we can make educated decisions about what we eat. The government has ignored our requests and so we are taking matters into our own hands.

Using LIY’s resources, we encourage people to: autonomously label GMOs and empower others to do so, rescue words like “All Natural” and “Natural Flavors” from being hijacked, expose unfair labor practices. We have a right to know what is in our food and where it is coming from.

The sources of the frustration fueling this movement are only too obvious.

Despite receiving over 1 million signatures to a petition demanding the labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients, the FDA has so far declined to respond in any way. Well, they did try to change the million plus number into a few hundred—possibly a new type of government-only mathematics. The big biotech companies pushing GMOs, Monsanto in particular, have shown a remarkable ability to bend the FDA, USDA and even the White House to their will.

Monsanto even managed to turn the Bush Administration State Department into an extension of its sales force to try and force GMOs into the European Union, as disclosed by Wikileaks.

A few state legislatures have taken the initiative to introduce GMO labeling laws. All have been defeated by the biotech lobby, the latest being Vermont and Connecticut.

Meanwhile public concern over the safety of GMO foods has only grown. There are countless articles about the health, environmental and ethical issues surrounding GMO foods, many of which have been published right here by Organic Connections.

With surveys by organizations such as the Mellman Group showing that 90 percent of voters are in favor of labeling, it is little wonder that public frustration is being converted into guerilla actions.

The Mellman Group results were also consistent with other surveys:

Add to this the continually growing knowledge afforded to consumers by the Internet and social media. More and more people are simply ignoring the messages poured at them by mainstream media outlets on behalf of biotech and food industry advertisers. The same surveys by the Mellman Group showed that more and more people simply don’t believe messages from these organizations.
The pent up frustration of consumers over the desire to know what is in their food is fast becoming a defining human rights issue in the United States.

This is no more apparent than in California. In a watershed event, the issue of GMO labeling has now been taken away from the hands of politicians for the first time. The California Secretary of State has certified the GMO Right to Know Initiative for the November 2012 ballot. And as Tom Philpott of Mother Jones opined, “California could force the rest of the US to label GMO foods.”

Revolutions, at least those based on popular movements, are generally about rights. The GMO labeling issue is no exception. We as consumers have the right to know what is in our food. Opposing this is a group of biotech companies and industrial food giants who feel their rights to profit can override customer preference. Possibly the overarching fact in this fight is that we as consumers are the far greater power. All the advertising, lies, lobbying, agency corruption and even legal threats by the biotech and food industries amount to only one thing: getting us to part with money and flow it to them.

What You Can Do

There are the legitimate factors of ownership and private property that come into play in the Label It Yourself effort. Civil disobedience has become regarded as a legitimate means of protest. But since grocery stores are private property and not civil entities, this could be a problem. There are however powerful tools available to us to make the changes that are needed.
  1. We can vote with our wallets right now. Simply stop buying foods that obviously contain GMO contents. The Non-GMO Project has tools and a database to help.
  2. Californians can vote in November. You can help support the California campaign here:
  3. Perhaps the most important tool is education. Let people know about the issues of GMO ingredients in foods. Too often we hear, “What’s a GMO?” That’s exactly what the biotech companies hope for—ignorance of the issues. The more people remain uninformed, the more successful these companies become. (Isn’t it interesting that while most businesses thrive on informing their potential customers about their products, the biotech industry fights disclosure tooth and nail and thrives on our ignorance?) There are LOTs of resources. This site has numerous articles and links to important consumer advocate groups like the Center for Food Safety, Institute for Responsible Technology and of course the Non-GMO Project.

California Wins a Battle in the GMO War

Written by Laura Vladimirova

The fight to label GMO products is the latest in a string of legislative actions against big GMO producing corporations. In what seems to be a major victory, the California Office of Secretary of State announced the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, a GMO labeling initiative.

If the measure passes, it will make California the first state in the United States to instate a GMO labeling process wherein all GMO ingredients have to be labeled as such.

For many years, much of the GMO industry was shrouded in secret. No consumer scales existed to find out what foods were actually GMO grown. The public was kept in the dark with GMO brands fighting fierce legal battles to avoid labeling of their products.

In Europe, all products containing more than .9 percent GMO are labeled. China and Japan also require labeling. Alaska requires labeling of GE fish and shellfish, making it the only U.S. state with even a minor labeling law. As for the rest of the U.S., which is the largest grower of GMO foods, there is no required GMO ingredient transparency.

Proposition 37, which will appear on the November elections ballot, aims to change that., the organization responsible for helping bring this proposed change about, writes:

"We believe our right to know what we are buying and feeding ourselves and our kids supersedes corporate rights to a nontransparent profit. We are tired of elected officials buckling to corporate pressure over the clear desires of us, their constituents. We are outraged that we don't have the same right that over 40% of the world's population has: A clear, transparent market with genetically engineered ingredients disclosed in a simple, easy to read way." encourages people to contact their local leaders so that when the time comes, the bill is signed into law.

Most major food corporations oppose labeling, citing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's requirement that engineered ingredients only be labeled if they represent a change to nutritional value or consumer safety levels.

Meanwhile, 92 percent of Americans want the FDA to label GMO foods, according to various polls conducted throughout the states.

Critics of the bill state that GMO labels are a pointless effort because GMO foods will continue to feed people all over the world. Supporters say that the labels are about giving consumers a choice.

Advocates, supporters and law makers are waiting until the November elections to see what happens next.

GMO labeling is an issue that concerns all of us, from farmer to mothers who wish to raise healthy children. It is important to become a part of the community that wants to give consumers a choice: To buy GMO or skip it in favor of organic options. The GMO battle is not just about healthy, non-artificial food. It is about the right to have transparency when it comes to corporate business and the individual choice to reject it.

In order to be heard, supporters are encouraged to visit or to learn about this issue, volunteer, or donate resources. Otherwise, find your local leader on this map and email them about your support for Prop 37!

If Supermarkets Get Their Way, You Won't Know If GMOs Are in Your Food

August 1, 2012

California's Proposition 37—which demands labeling on genetically modified foods—has the food industry in a fit.

It's not often that it feels possible to take Big Food to its knees in the fight for a transparent, ethical, and sustainable food system. But a recent meeting of food industry bigwigs has demonstrated there may be a chink in Big Food's armor. That chink is Prop 37, a genetically modified foods labeling proposal which recently earned a spot on the November ballot in California.

Addressing the American Soybean Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) President Pamela Bailey said that defeating the initiative "is the single-highest priority for GMA this year."

Vaguely named, the GMA seems like it would have a loose stake, if any, in the Prop 37 debate. But the Association is comprised of heavy-hitting food makers like PepsiCo, Kellogg, General Mills, and Monsanto, who are prepared to fight tooth and nail against a measure that could legitimately threaten their bottom line. Bailey's comments highlight just how much industry executives don't want information in the hands of consumers.

So far, GMA has already spent $375,000 to oppose the measure. TreeHugger reports that GMA members have also added additional out-of-state lobbying power "in the tens of thousands of dollars."

All that money is going toward shutting down voices from the Right to Know Campaign, which garnered nearly a million signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. Backed by the Sierra Club, the American Public Health Association, United Farm Workers, the Center for Food Safety, and Food Democracy Now!, among others, the campaign has been a force to reckon with the last few months.

So what does the GMA have to lose?

Critics of Prop 37 say that adding a label would create unfounded fear among consumers about genetically modified foods. But recent polls suggest that Californians are craving that info: Ninety-one percent of Californians are in favor of GMO labeling. That same 91 percent could take their dollars elsewhere, and GMA—who has also fought for the right to market junk food to children—doesn't want that to happen.

"If California wins, you need to be worried the campaign will come to your state," Bailey warned the Soybean Association.

Her opponents agree wholeheartedly.

"If California succeeds, democracy will succeed—the vast majority of Californians and Americans want genetically engineered food to be labeled," Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the Right to Know Campaign, told TakePart. "If Prop 37 passes, I believe it will be just a matter of time before other states and the federal government follow, and give the people the right to know what's in their food."


How California's GM food referendum may change what America eats | Richard Schiffman

In the US, an estimated 70% of items on supermarket shelves contain GM ingredients, commonly corn, soy and canola oil products

The vast majority of Americans want genetically modified food labelled. If California passes November's ballot, they could get it

Last month, nearly 1m signatures were delivered to county registrars throughout California calling for a referendum on the labeling of genetically engineered foods. If the measure, "The Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act", which will be on the ballot in November, passes, California will become the first state in the nation to require that GM foods be labeled as such on the package.

This is not the first time that the issue has come up in California. Several labeling laws have been drafted there, but none has made it out of legislative committee. Lawmakers in states like Vermont and Connecticut have also proposed labeling legislation, which has gone nowhere in the face of stiff industry opposition. And the US Congress has likewise seen sporadic, unsuccessful attempts to mandate GM food labeling since 1999.

What makes the referendum in California different is that, for the first time, voters and not politicians will be the ones to decide. And this has the food industry worried. Understandably so, since only one in four Americans is convinced that GMOs are "basically safe", according to a survey conducted by the Mellman Group, and a big majority wants food containing GMOs to be labeled.

This is one of the few issues in America today that enjoys broad bipartisan support: 89% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats want genetically altered foods to be labeled, as they already are in 40 nations in Europe, in Brazil, and even in China. In 2007, then candidate Obama latched onto this popular issue saying that he would push for labeling – a promise the president has yet to keep.

In Europe, only 5% of food sold contains GMOs, a figure that continues to shrink. In the US, by contrast, an estimated 70% of the products on supermarket shelves include at least traces of genetically engineered crops – mostly, corn and soy byproducts and canola oil, which are ingredients in many of America's processed foods.

Given their unpopularity with consumers, labeling "Frankenfoods" would undoubtedly hurt sales, possibly even forcing supermarkets to take them off their shelves. In one survey, just over half of those polled said they would not buy food that they knew to be genetically modified.

This makes the financial stakes for November's referendum vote huge. California is not just America's leading agricultural state, but the most populous state in the nation. If companies are made to change their labels in California, they may well do so all over the country, rather than maintain a costly two-tier packaging and distribution system.

Several hurdles will have to be overcome, however, before this happens. The ballot initiative will face fierce opposition from the food and biotech industries, which are expected to spend an estimated $60-100m on an advertising blitz to convince Californians that labeling is unnecessary, will hurt farmers, increase their food prices, and even contribute to world hunger.

One lobbyist the corporations have hired to make this case is Tom Hiltachk, the head of the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition (CACFLP), whose members include the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta, as well as several big food processors and supermarket chains. Hiltachk is no stranger to the shadowy world of industry front groups, according to Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association. The food activist reported on Alternet that:

"With a little help from his friends at Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, he helped organize the Californians for Smokers' Rights group to fight anti-smoking initiatives in the 1980s and 1990s."

Also working to defeat the labeling initiative, according to Baden-Mayer, is the California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA), which likewise receives big bucks from the tobacco industry and assorted other corporations. The consumer watchdog group Public Citizen says that CALA aims "to incite public scorn for the civil justice system, juries and judges, and to pave the way for enactment of laws immunizing corporations from liability for actions that harm consumers."

Whether lobbying groups like these will be able to convince famously independent Californians to reject the labeling initiative in November remains to be seen. But even if the referendum passes, the food industry can be expected to challenge in court the state's right to mandate its own labeling requirements – a function usually reserved for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at the federal level.

The FDA's position on GMOs is that they are safe and essentially equivalent nutritionally to conventionally grown food varieties. But critics counter that the FDA has no way of knowing if this is true, since crucial testing of GM foods has never been required by the agency, and indeed, has not yet been conducted. Writes Dr Suzanne Wuerthele, a toxicologist with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

"We are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences."

The concern is that genetic modification alters the proteins in foods in ways that researchers do not yet fully understand. Substances that have never existed before in nature are entering our food supply untested. While researchers have not yet found a "smoking gun", which would prove that GM foods as a class are dangerous, there are troubling signs that they may be a factor in the recent epidemic of food allergies. Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, for example, soy allergies escalated by 50%.

Rosa Rashall, a nutritionist in Garberville, California, who took part in the petition campaign to get the labeling initiative on the ballot, told the Redwood Times:

"We are all worried for a variety of reasons, from health effects to skyrocketing food sensitivities that have started to come about in the last 20 years. There has been an incredible 400% increase in food sensitivities that coincides pretty well with the unlabeled introduction of GMO food into the marketplace."

Critics also argue that agriculture's increasing dependence on GMOs has coincided with a steep rise in toxic agrochemical use over the last decade. A variety of GM corn sold by Monsanto was developed specifically to withstand punishing doses of the company's bestselling herbicide, Roundup.

Food scientists remain divided on the larger food safety issue. Some say that there is no cause for alarm, while others cite the allergy problem and also animal studies, like one published by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, which showed high levels of kidney and liver failures (the two organs of detoxification) in rats that were fed Monsanto GM corn. Monsanto's biotech corn is designed to produce a pesticide in its cellular structure that wards off insect pests. Nobody knows what effect this toxin will have on the people who eat the flesh of livestock that are fed it.

The bottom line is that we can't be sure what the physiological effects of consuming GM foods are until rigorous human trials are conducted – which is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Californians aren't waiting until all of the scientific results are in. And what they decide at the polling station in November may change what the rest of us eat.

• Editor's note: this article originally stated that California was the "third most populous state" in the US; in fact, it is the most populous (and third largest geographically); the article was amended at 12pm ET (5pm UK) on 13 June.