As we were roasting sweet corn on our barbecue grills last summer, we wanted to know: Was this the same corn on the cob we’ve been eating all our lives or was it a new type of corn genetically engineered by Monsanto to contain an insecticide and resist weed killing chemicals? Read more
Lawmakers in Kauai today will decide the fate of a hotly debated bill that would require agri-biotech companies to disclose details about the pesticides they are using as well as the genetically modified crops they are growing on the Hawai‘ian island. Following the recent demise of Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative, Bill 2491 has turned Kauai into the latest battleground in the fight over genetically modified crops. Read more
Tomorrow Washington State voters will decide on The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, also known as I-522. This initiative will mandate labels on all foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sold in grocery stores. It follows on the heels of last year’s Proposition 37, a similar ballot measure in California that drew national attention and massive campaign coffers on both sides of the issue. Proposition 37 was narrowly defeated, 51-49 percent. Read more
The hotly contested battle over GMO labeling just got hotter in Washington state. The latest wrinkle comes just a few weeks before November 5, when voters decide on I-522, the ballot initiative that would mandate labels on all genetically modified food sold in grocery stores.
Opposition has been fierce; the No on 522 campaign has raised $17.2 million, a record for monies raised against a statewide initiative, according to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. From the opposing war chest, $7.2 million came from the Grocers Manufacturers Association (GMA), a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing hundreds of food and beverage companies. But unlike the GMA-funded opposition to Prop 37, a similar initiative in California last year, the GMA-funded opposition to I-522 has been a mystery–until now. 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
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
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
As a scientist at Pesticide Action Network, I am frequently asked these days to explain what genetically engineered (GE) crops have to do with pesticides. When I answer that GE crops both contain and drive up pesticide use, I am often met with earnest incredulity. We seem to need to believe that GE technology is the best thing since sliced bread.
On a radio program just last week, a caller voiced his genuine hopes to me that GE crops would provide a green solution to the woes of the world since he’d heard that these crops increase yield, cure blindness and reduce pesticide use. I was sorry to have to disappoint him on all counts, since GE crops have consistently failed to improve yield, have done nothing to date for Vitamin A deficiency-related blindness and have driven increases in pesticide use since their introduction some sixteen years ago.
On this last point, a new study on GE crops out last week added yet more weight to the body of evidence contradicting the GE crop industry’s long-standing myth. Published Friday in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, the Washington State University (WSU) study offers a simple but devastating finding: GE seeds dramatically increase pesticide use, and that use will grow unless we change the course of our food and farming system. Read more