As if we needed another reason to reject approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon, internal agency documents uncovered by environmental groups raise serious questions about the adequacy of the FDA’s review of the AquAdvantage Salmon application. Friends of the Earth, Earthjustice, Center for Food Safety and Food & Water Watch received the previously undisclosed documents through a Freedom of Information Act request. Read more
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The movement to label genetically engineered (GE) foods in the U.S. is gaining momentum by the day. Just this week, a federal bill to require labeling of GE foods was introduced in Washington D.C. with strong bipartisan support —including that of over 30 Congressional co-sponsors from House and Senate. And more states have introduced GE labeling bills this year than ever before. Whether or not these initiatives pass in 2013, this much seems clear: we will win labeling of GE foods. It’s just a matter of time. Read more
Our founding fathers, white-maleness aside, did get a few things right. One of them was the concept of “separation of powers,” to ensure a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. But a dangerous provision snuck into the budget bill passed last week in Congress upends that system. Without any hearings on the matter, the Senate included language that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to essentially ignore any court ruling that would otherwise halt the planting of new genetically-engineered crops. Read more
Friends of the Earth is excited to announce our new campaign to prevent genetically engineered fish from hitting our dinner plates: the Campaign for Genetically Engineered (GE)-Free Seafood. Read more
We recently came back from five weeks of filming in India and Sri Lanka. We spent a lot of time researching story ideas, but one topic we knew we wanted to cover was seed saving and farmer suicides in India. In case you aren’t familiar, there have been over 270,000 farmer suicides in the country over the last 15 years (most are cotton farmers). There are many theories about what circumstances have led to this rash of deaths, but for Dr. Vandana Shiva, the reasons are clear: GMOs. Read more
Recent reports of secret meetings among industry reps and the Food and Drug Adminstration over GMO labeling piqued my interest, mostly because this critical aspect was missing: any effort to label GE foods at the federal level could bring the current grassroots movement to a grinding halt by preventing any stronger local laws from ever being enacted. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Last month, Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association and one of the leaders of the GMO labeling effort, recently published an article about how “representatives of Wal-Mart, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, Mars, Coca-Cola and others” met with the FDA on January 11 “to lobby for a mandatory federal GMO labeling law.” Read more
Twitter-land was abuzz last week with news that a formerly ardent critic of genetic engineering (GE) has recanted his position. Mark Lynas gave a long mea culpa speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, in which he apologized to the world for tearing up GE crops back in the day, and for what he described as his “anti-science environmentalism.”
Unfortunately, Lynas then went on to ignore the weight of scientific evidence (more on that below). He claimed that GE crop production is good for biodiversity and necessary to feed the world, that organic farming is bad, and that “there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment.” He then quickly slammed the door shut on public debate, pronouncing “discussion over.” Many of us in the global scientific community were left shaking our heads, bemused if disappointed in Lynas’ anti-science rhetorical flourishes. Read more
I’m part of the camp that was thrilled that Proposition 37 registered a full 48.6 percent of the California vote last November. More than 6 million voters saying “yes” to labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods was a huge victory in my book, especially given that the No campaign (with major funding from chemical companies and packaged food giants such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, PepsiCo and Kraft) outspent the initiative’s supporters by more than $35 million dollars.
Naturally, I would like to have seen Prop. 37 win, despite the mountain of money against it, providing us with a model for more robust and honest food labeling. But the run we made at it was historic — and it is hardly the last time we’ll see GE labeling on state ballots and in legislatures. The showing California’s “right to know” initiative made is proof-positive that we are only an election (or two) or legislative victory from a different kind of understanding of both how we are producing our food and what we are eating and feeding our families. Prop. 37 was a breakthrough, not a moment of doubt. Read more
If you want to bury an unsavory news story, the afternoon before Christmas vacation is a good time to break it. The FDA chose December 21 to release its Environmental Assessment (EA) of the genetically modified “AquAdvantage“ salmon. This move quietly slid the fish closer to making history as the first GM animal approved for human consumption. The public was given 60 days to comment on a farmed salmon that American fish farmers wouldn’t be allowed to raise, but American consumers would nonetheless be allowed to eat.
If the announcement’s timing suggests FDA wants the application to flow smoothly, also consider that it has been 17 years since AquaBounty first applied for permission to sell its recombinant Atlantic salmon in the U.S. The company has paid a heavy price for trying to be first. Read more
Jane Brody, a long-time health columnist for The New York Times, has undoubtedly written great columns over the years, but her most recent one, published on December 31, 2012, was not one of them. In fact, this column, which claims to debunk health myths, is one of the most misinformed columns on health, nutrition and the environment to be published recently in the Times, filled with factual errors as well as outdated nutrition information. The piece warrants a detailed rebuttal, because so many people turn to the Times and to Brody for health advice and this time she was way off the mark. Read more