On the heels of California’s Proposition 37 and the national debate over genetically engineered (GE) food, pesticide companies are continuing to push to legalize new types of GE crops linked with powerful pesticides. Farmers like Indiana’s Troy Roush are objecting to such a shortsighted approach to agriculture. There are currently 13 new GE crops pending USDA approval, the most threatening of which may be Monsanto’s Dicamba Soybean. (Other crops include Dow’s 2,4-D Corn and 2,4-D Soybean, and the non-browning “Arctic Apple.”)
Why the need for new seeds? The first GE seeds were introduced in 1996 and adopted widely. Instead of having to rotate crops, farmers could spray the herbicide RoundUp to kill weeds while the GE plants survived. Gradually the weeds adapted and herbicide-resistant weeds now affect an estimated 12 million acres of farmland (about half the size of Indiana), and that number is growing rapidly. Read more
If Proposition 37, California’s GMO labeling measure, gets voted down today, it will be unfortunate and frustrating for many. But it won’t happen for lack of a movement.
Last month, in a much-quoted New York Times Magazine article, Michael Pollan framed this state-level ballot initiative as an important test with national implications. If we can translate the growing consumer awareness about the value of organic and local food into a movement with real political will, he argued, then surely this ballot initiative was a reason to pull out the stops and push this burgeoning movement to its limit. Read more
Many farmers have ended up face-to-face with biotech giant Monsanto in court, but so far none of them have ever won. In fact, no farmer has challenged Monsanto in court without getting either 1) hammered financially like this farmer or 2) laughed out of court like these ones. But the company’s winning streak could soon come to an end.
Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of a federal court ruling that Monsanto won against an Indiana soybean farmer. And while that’s no guarantee they’ll side with the farmer, I’ve often heard it said that the Supreme Court doesn’t take cases to pat the ruling judge on the back. Read more
Very big news exploding across the media yesterday. Eating genetically engineered (GE) corn has been strongly linked to serious health effects—including mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage. A team of European scientists today released the first ever long-term animal feeding study of the health effects of eating GE foods in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. Read more
In case you had any doubt that California’s Prop 37—which would require labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—is a significant threat to industry, a top food lobby has now made it perfectly clear.
In a recent speech to the American Soybean Association (most soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified), Grocery Manufacturers Association President Pamela Bailey said that defeating the initiative “is the single-highest priority for GMA this year.” Read more
Last week, the National Academy of Sciences hosted a summit to discuss “superweeds,” or the widespread problem of herbicide-resistant weeds currently afflicting millions of farm acres across the United States.
Superweeds—the “weeds that man can no longer kill!”—have been in the news for several years. All across the Midwest and Southeast farmers have been photographed and filmed standing in fields surrounded by the giant plants. They bemoan the cost of pesticides and point to industrial rows of crops that don’t have a chance when up against feisty weeds that grow up to three inches a day.
Superweeds have been especially likely to appear alongside genetically engineered (GE) crops, which are engineered to withstand large amounts of pesticide and herbicide use. And these weeds show no sign of going away any time soon. Read more
Last week the White House released its National Bioeconomy Blueprint (PDF) which “outlines steps that agencies will take to drive the bioeconomy—economic activity powered by research and innovation in the biosciences—and details ongoing efforts across the Federal government to realize this goal.”
Unfortunately, this new bioeconomy is not as green as the Obama administration is making it out to be. The so-called bioeconomy is dependent primarily on the risky, unregulated field of synthetic biology and the use of unsustainably produced biomass to feed synthetic organisms created by these technologies. The National Bioeconomy Blueprint, while offering little in new substantive policy, causes more harm than good by giving the green light to the growth and profit of the synthetic biology industry without making any real effort to protect people and the environment from the novel risks posed by this emerging technology. Read more
A new coalition is trying to throw sand in the gears of industrial agriculture’s chemical treadmill. And this one just may have what it takes to slow it down. I’m referring to the fight over USDA approval for Dow AgroScience’s new genetically modified corn seeds (brand name “Enlist”), which are resistant to the herbicide 2,4-D.
This is part of biotech’s “superweed” strategy, by which they hope to address the fact that farmers across the country are facing an onslaught of weeds impervious to the most popular herbicide in use, Monsanto’s glyphosate or RoundUp (and in some cases impervious to machetes as well!). Of course, this is a problem of the industry’s own making. It was overuse of glyphosate caused by the market dominance of Monsanto’s set of glyphosate-resistant genetically engineered seeds that put farmers in this fix in the first place. Read more
This week, the University of Guelph, the Canadian university that developed the genetically engineered (GE) “Enviropig,” announced it is closing down its research. The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is now calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop any work on approving the GE pig. For years CFS has criticized the developers of the “EnviroPig” for engineering an animal specifically to fit into large-scale and highly polluting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). CFS has also criticized the genetically engineered “AquAdvantage” salmon developed by AquaBounty, Inc.–also under review by the FDA–which was similarly engineered to grow better in the confined tanks of industrial fish farming operations.
“There’s a lot of green lipstick on this pig,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “The whole idea of genetically engineering a pig to fit into an unsustainable production model and then dubbing it “enviro” is ridiculous. Given recent industry and consumer backlash, it’s no surprise that funding for this misguided research has dried up.” Read more
The Just Label It (JLI) Campaign announced today that a record-breaking one million Americans of all political persuasions have called on the FDA to label genetically engineered (GE) foods. Today, March 27, is the date that the FDA is required to respond to the petition. It took JLI and its more than 500 partner organizations less than 180 days to accumulate an historic number of public comments—a testament to the power of collective voices to demand our right to know what’s in our food. (I’ve written about the campaign before here, here, and here.) Read more