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 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
The food industry really hates it when you compare them to Big Tobacco. They try to deny the negative association by claiming that food is different than tobacco. Of course that’s true, but why are the same consultants that have worked for the tobacco industry now shilling for Big Food, opposing the ballot initiative that would require labeling of all foods containing GMO ingredients? Read more
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a ban on the use of bisphenol A, or BPA, in baby bottles and children’s cups. BPA is an estrogen-mimicking chemical that has been used in hard plastics, the linings of cans, food packaging, and dental fillings, even receipts–for which the Environmental Protection Agency is now investigating alternatives–for years. We’ve reported about the dangers of BPA on Civil Eats here, here, and here. This move essentially made official a practice that many manufacturers of baby bottles and cups already follow in response to growing pressure from consumers.
Questions of safety remain when it comes to the use of any plastic products that come in contact with our foods. The FDA ban is raising concern and creating headlines about what manufacturers will substitute in place of the BPA. A 2011 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that all plastics contain estrogenic activity (EA) and in some cases, those labeled “BPA free” leached more chemicals with EA than did BPA-containing products. The study’s authors write, “Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled—independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source—leached chemicals having reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA free.”
When it comes to the chemicals used in food packaging, there is much we still don’t know. After a recent U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) decision last month to not put further restrictions on bisphenol-A (BPA), a new report today in the Washington Post takes a closer look at studies that reveal that such endocrine-distrupting chemicals are not only ubiquitous, they might also be harmful at much lower doses than previously thought. Read more
The California Assembly did not pass the Consumer Right To Know Act, AB 88, introduced by Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and put to a vote earlier this year. This is too bad. It would have meant that food is “misbranded” if it is a genetically engineered fish or fish product, but its labeling does not conspicuously identify it as such. The timing of this measure is significant, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the first-ever proposed commercialization of salmon genetically engineered (GE) to mature more quickly. Read more
Though it has dropped from the headlines recently, the bisphenol A discussion continues to rage. California is one Jerry Brown signature away from a partial ban of the chemical, which is used in everything from canned goods to PVC plastic to cash register receipts. There is ample evidence that BPA, an endocrine disruptor, has been linked to various ills, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Some scientists are even raising questions about the damage it’s doing to our oceans.
And, despite FDA footdragging on the issue, the government is worried. The National Institutes of Health recently initiated a $30 million research program (though not without some controversy) to examine the growing risks and make a final call on BPA’s safety.
Now, a new study by U.S. government scientists purports to debunk the entire BPA threat. It claims that BPA poses no risk whatsoever and goes so far as to conclude that every previous study that found otherwise was fundamentally flawed. Read more
According to a new study, exposure to the gender-bending chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) is worse than previously estimated. The study, which appeared Monday in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to recreate the chronic daily intake of BPA in humans, which leaches into our food–our primary channel for exposure–via its packaging. Researchers showed this by feeding a steady BPA-spiked diet to mice, whereas previous studies have only used a single exposure. Read more
Earlier this year, I was contacted by a PR firm working for Dow Chemical to contribute a 60-second video for The Future We Create virtual conference on water sustainability the company launches today. As a vocal advocate for strict regulation of toxic chemicals—especially for food and farming—I was surprised the company would approach me. Dow is the country’s largest chemical maker, and profits handsomely from developing some of the world’s most polluting products, many of which are widely used in industrial and consumer goods as well as agriculture.
In the video I submitted, which you can watch below, I stress that one of the greatest threats to clean water is chemical contaminants—and that Dow Chemical has a long history of water pollution. The PR representative e-mailed to say “unfortunately we can’t use your video,” but that she would be happy to include me, still, if I would consider re-recording it. When we discussed what that would mean she said, no “fingerpointing;” they wanted a “positive, inclusive discussion.” Read more
Many Americans, including a high number living in low-income communities, have come to rely on canned tomato sauces, soups, and vegetables to expedite their meal preparations. Yet a new study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveals that the canned food items on your dinner plate are over 90 percent likely to be tainted with Bisphenol-A (BPA), a primary chemical used in the lining of cans. (For more information on BPA, check out Civil Eats’ previous reporting here, here, here, and here.)
These findings are notable because they underline the fact that BPA levels in cans are variable depending on the type of food, or even within batches of the same food item. This is the FDA’s largest study to date across a wide spectrum of commonly consumed canned food items, including soups, chilis, pasta and pork and beans–foods often consumed by children, who have a heightened risk of exposure due to their body size. Read more