GMO FOOD FIGHT - Round Two 2013
Ronnie Cummins Organic Consumers Association
"This gives us hope that you can, with a well-funded, well-organized, well-executed campaign, defeat a ballot initiative and go directly to the voters. We hope we don’t have too many of them, because you can’t keep doing that over and over again . . .".
- Jennifer Hatcher, Food Marketing Institute, on Big Food and Big Biotech’s narrow defeat of Prop 37, the California Right to Know GMO ballot initiative.
Big Food and Big Biotech can hope all they want. But consumers can – and will – propose state laws and state ballot initiatives as often as we need, in as many states as we must, until we have what 61 other countries have: truth and transparency in the form of mandatory GMO labeling laws.
Today, activists in Washington State are delivering approximately 350,000 signatures to the state legislature to guarantee that a mandatory GMO labeling Initiative, I-522, will be on the ballot in November. Initial polling shows that Washington state voters will likely pass this Ballot Initiative, no matter how much money the biotech industry and large food corporations put into an anti-labeling campaign.
Vermont legislatures will reintroduce a GMO labeling bill early this year and Connecticut plans to introduce one in May. And that’s just the beginning.
GMO Salmon Would Be Approved as ‘New Animal Drug’
Do you really want a mutant, likely allergenic salmon on your dinner plate that was approved by the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine as a "new animal drug"?
Last week the FDA cleared the way for approval of the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption - a GMO salmon gene-spliced with an eel - despite mounting concerns that it's likely hazardous for humans and poses a threat to the wild salmon population.
Scary enough. But get this. The FDA considers any genetically altered animal a “new animal drug” for approval purposes. That means the genetically modified animal – in this case a salmon intended as food for humans – is subjected to a less rigorous safety review than if it were classified as a food (for humans) additive.
Shameless. And there are plenty of other reasons to stop this dangerous experiment. The FDA’s own testing revealed that “Frankenfish” causes increased allergy risk in humans. “Frankenfish” grows twice as large, twice as fast as the average wild salmon. If it escapes into the wild, it could threaten the entire wild salmon population.
And, of course, there are no laws in the U.S. requiring “Frankenfish” to be labeled.
Washington State to Deliver GMO Labeling Signatures Today!
Vermont, Connecticut Also Advance Labeling Laws
We may have narrowly lost the GMO labeling fight in California this past November, but there’s good reason to believe we’ll win in at least two or three states in 2013.
Today, activists in Washington State will deliver approximately 350,000 signatures to the state legislature, guaranteeing that when voters show up at the polls in November, they’ll get the chance to pass I-522, a statewide GMO labeling initiative.
On the other side of the country, Vermont is picking up where it left off last year after the governor caved in to Monsanto’s threats to sue the state if it passed a GMO labeling law. Undaunted, and buoyed by stronger-than-ever support from consumers and lawmakers, Vermont legislators will reintroduce GMO labeling legislation in early January. Connecticut is moving forward, too, with plans to introduce a similarly popular GMO labeling bill early this year.
All signs point to an uphill battle for Monsanto and friends to defeat I-522 in Washington State. I-522 proponents have a full nine months to raise awareness and money, compared with the YES on 37 (California Right to Know Genetically GMO Labeling) Campaign which had only six months to reach voters and raise money. Plus we had to raise a lot more money in California, which has five times as many voters as Washington.
Other reasons for optimism in Washington?
- Washington’s wheat farmers, apple farmers and fishing communities support mandatory GMO labeling because it’s in the best economic interests of the state. Unlabeled GMO wheat, apples and salmon coming on the market will severely damage state agricultural exports.
- Washington’s newly elected Governor, Jay Inslee, is a long-time supporter and former Congressional advocate of GMO labeling.
- The biotech industry is going to have a tough time explaining why GMO salmon have to be labeled in Alaska, under a state law passed in 2005, but won’t be labeled in Washington.
- Consumers could force Big Food, which donated millions in California to defeat Prop 37, to sit out the fight in Washington, as they continue to boycott the organic and natural brands of big donors, such as Kellogg’s, General Mills, Unilever, Dean Foods, Kraft, Pepsi and Coca Cola.
- If we pass a GMO labeling law in Washington and Vermont and/or Connecticut it will likely have the same marketplace impact as a national law. National brands won’t want to face the PR nightmare of labeling their products as containing GMOs in one state, while keeping consumers in the dark about GMOs in other states.
SUPPORT OCA & OCF
It’s Up to Us. And We Need Your Help.
With the FDA, USDA and politicians shamelessly pandering to the biotech industry, the need for transparency in food labeling will be more urgent than ever in 2013.
Last week, the FDA opened a 60-day comment period on the first genetically engineered animal to enter the U.S. food supply: a salmon that grows twice as large, twice as fast, as the average salmon. Environmentalists worry that “Frankenfish” will threaten the wild salmon population. Health officials worry that the GMO salmon will result in more people with allergies and other chronic illnesses.
As if that weren’t enough, the USDA last week awarded a company called Recombinetics, Inc. a $500,000 grant to develop the first genetically modified pig – one that fails to reach sexual maturation.
Unlike 61 other countries in the world, including China, Russia and most of the European Union, the U.S. has no mandatory GMO labeling laws. So consumers can’t easily avoid GMO food ingredients and, now, genetically engineered animals. And biotech industry lobbyists are determined to keep it that way.
Thanks to you, we made tremendous progress in 2012. We educated millions of people about the dangers of GMOs. We came very close to passing a GMO labeling law in California.
With the FDA about to approve Frankenfish, and the USDA funding research on genetically modified pigs, there’s no time to waste. We need to pass GMO labeling laws in 2013. And we need your help. Please consider a generous donation today. Thank you!
Donate to the Organic Consumers Association (tax-deductible, helps support our work on behalf of organic standards, fair trade and public education)
Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund (non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our legislative efforts in California and other states)
Tell Kraft: No Right to Know? No Boca Burgers!
Kraft, maker of Boca Burger® and one of the largest food manufacturers in the world, spent $2 million to defeat Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. So why would you spend one dime on their products, even on their line of organic Boca products?
Combined, Big Food companies like Kraft contributed nearly half of the $46 million used to defeat GMO labeling in California. How do we convince these companies to keep their money out of the GMO labeling fights in Washington, Vermont, Connecticut and other states? By refusing to buy their products until they support our right to know.
Good News, Bad News: Farm Bill Extended Under Fiscal Cliff Deal
Monsanto Riders on Hold, but Extension a ‘Disaster’ for Farmers and Americans
Several proposed riders to the new 2012 Farm Bill, including the “Monsanto Rider” that would have granted biotech firms immunity from federal law, are on hold for at least nine months, thanks to the last-minute fiscal cliff deal passed by Congress on Jan. 1.
That’s the good news. But the last-minute extension, which the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition calls a “disaster” for farmers and the American people, contains plenty of bad news, too:
- It discontinues funding for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers, organic programs, and any of the some 37 “orphan programs” that are helping to build a new food system.
- It continues $5 billion worth of direct subsidies for commodity crops, regardless of price and income conditions – payments that would have been discontinued in the proposed 2012 farm bill that is now on hold.
- It continues the 2008 Farm Bill dairy policy that benefits large dairy processors but weakens the safety net for dairy farmers.
- It discontinues funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program that enables farmers to improve soil and water conservation practices.
Congress has nine months to come up with a better Farm Bill. But will they? In the meantime, we need to keep the pressure on to reject the Monsanto Riders.
UNFI Losing Business Over Workers’ Strike?
Support OCA’s Boycott of UNFI Brand Woodstock Foods!
What happens when the largest wholesale distributor of natural and organic foods in the U.S. refuses to play nice with its workers? Business suffers.
The latest retail coops to hold United Natural Foods (UNFI) accountable for workers' rights violations are Olympia Food Co-op and Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets (PCC), the nation's largest consumer-owned retail grocery chain. Olympia supported workers by refusing to place orders with UNFI for one week, a move that cost UNFI more than than $100,000. And last week PCC Natural Markets, the nation's largest consumer-owned retail grocer, threatened to shift its annual $100 million purchases of organic and natural foods to other wholesalers unless UNFI cleans up its act.
The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating UNFI for 45 violations of federal labor law. The charges include allegations that UNFI engaged in worker surveillance, intimidation and retaliation, that it refused to bargain in good faith, and that it illegally reassigned bargaining unit work. UNFI workers and drivers at UNFI’s Auburn, Wash., distribution center went on strike for better pay and better working conditions Dec. 10, after rejecting UNFI’s latest contract offer.
In response, the OCA has called for a national consumer solidarity boycott of UNFI's private label products, Woodstock Foods. Don't spend your hard-earned consumer dollars with a company that exploits farmers, farm workers, processing workers, truck drivers, warehouse workers and retail clerks. Boycott Woodstock Foods until UNFI recognizes that organic and Fair Trade practices must go hand in hand!
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