Tag Archives: food

Yurok Tribe of California Passes Ordinance Banning Genetically Engineered Foods

Klamath, CA. — In early December, the Yurok Tribal Council unanimously voted to enact the Yurok Tribe Genetically Engineered Organism (“GEO”) Ordinance, according to a press release from the tribe. The Tribal GEO Ordinance prohibits the propagation, raising, growing, spawning, incubating, or releasing genetically engineered organisms within the Tribe’s territory and declares the Yurok Reservation to be a GMO-free zone.

In their monthly newsletter the Yurok wrote, “The Tribe’s position is to support of the protection of Klamath River Wild Salmon and indigenous plants and berries. The Tribe has taken a firm stand against the use of Genetically Modified salmon for any purpose, as it is a threat to the health and wellbeing of our community. An ordinance about GEOs would further the Tribe’s interest in protecting Wild Salmon and against any genetic alteration to Klamath River Salmon.”

Violations of the ordinance will be enforced through the Yurok Tribal Court.

“It is the inherent sovereign right of the Yurok People to grow plants from natural traditional seeds and to sustainably harvest plants, salmon and other fish, animals, and other life-giving foods and medicines, in order to sustain our families and communities as we have successfully done since time immemorial; our Court will enforce any violations of these inherent, and now codified, rights,” Yurok Chief Judge Abby Abinanti stated.

The Yurok People live on the Klamath River in northern California. The tribe has relied upon the salmon for generations and are dependent upon the health of the wild, native Klamath River salmon species and other traditional food resources which could be threatened by the introduction of genetically engineered species.

James Dunlap, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe, said his people “have the responsibility to care for our natural world, including the plants and animals we use for our foods and medicines. This Ordinance is a necessary step to protect our food sovereignty and to ensure the spiritual, cultural and physical health of the Yurok People.” Dunlap said the Yurok are taking a stand against GE food production systems because they are “inherently dependent on the overuse of herbicides, pesticides and antibiotics, are not our best interest.”

In April 2013, the Yurok Tribe also passed a resolution opposing genetically engineered salmon. In November 2015, after years of controversy surrounding the safety of GE salmon, the FDA announced that the AquAdvantage salmon is as safe and nutritious to eat as the non-genetically engineered variety.

The FDA stated, “The FDA scientists rigorously evaluated extensive data submitted by the manufacturer, AquaBounty Technologies, and other peer-reviewed data, to assess whether AquAdvantage salmon met the criteria for approval established by law.”

The FDA says the data shows “that the inserted genes remained stable over several generations of fish, that food from the GE salmon is safe to eat by humans and animals, that the genetic engineering is safe for the fish, and the salmon meets the sponsor’s claim about faster growth.”

Despite the FDA’s decision, AquaBounty has faced criticism and lawsuits for their products. After the decision, The Guardian reported that several environmental groups are suing the Canadian government in an attempt to end the production of GE salmon eggs. The lawsuit claims AquaBounty is operating a “huge live experiment” with the genes of the wild Atlantic salmon. The Canadian government previously gave AquaBounty permission to create GE salmon eggs in Canada and ship them to Panama to be grown before selling them on the market in the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to the GE ban from the Yurok Tribe, Kroger and Safeway, the nation’s two largest grocery chains, announced they would not sell the genetically engineered salmon. The two chains joined Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s in their opposition to the GE salmon.

Lawmakers Attempt to Add ‘Monsanto Rider’ to Government Budget Bill

Critics of a food labeling bill recently passed by the House fear that it could be added as a last-minute provision to the looming federal budget bill.

Known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act to supporters and the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act by critics, the law would effectively nullify Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling measures like the bill recently passed in Vermont. The Vermont law is scheduled to go into effect July 2016. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring labeling, but those measures will not go into effect until bordering states also pass legislation.

Genetically modified or engineered seeds are engineered to have certain traits, such as resistance to herbicides. The majority of the United States’ corn and soybean crops are now GE, including a large portion which goes to animal feed.

The labeling act would create a federal voluntary standard for GMO labeling and block mandatory labeling efforts by states. The AP reports that “the food industry wants the labeling to be voluntary, and it hopes to get a provision in a massive spending bill that Republicans and Democrats want to wrap up this week.”

“It is imperative that Congress take action now to prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling laws from taking effect next year and spreading across the country,” a coalition of groups representing growers and the food industry said in a letter to House and Senate leaders.

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told the AP“We have a lot of folks on our side of the aisle that are very opposed.” Sen John Hoeven of (R-ND) said he is “trying to come up with a compromise that brings both sides together, and it doesn’t seem like we’ll have that by year-end.”

Reuters reports that a vote on the budget will happen on Friday before the midnight deadline for funding the federal government. According to Reuters, “lawmakers have been unable to reach agreement on a number of policy “riders” some lawmakers would like to add to the bill.” These “riders” include the DARK Act provision.

In response to the criticism of the DARK Act, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition & Forestry recently held a hearing titled Agriculture Biotechnology: A Look at Federal Regulation and Stakeholder Perspectives.

The committee heard testimonies from several speakers representing farmers, the GMO lobby, and consumer groups. Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency also testified. The hearing was criticized for being one-sided and favoring corporations who will directly benefit from the passage of the bill.

As Reuters reported, “the Consumers Union and five other consumer organizations sent a letter to the Senate committee complaining that the lineup of speakers was not balanced and did not include a consumer representative.” Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union said, “Time and again, a large majority of consumers have expressed strong support for GMO labeling.”

Ronnie Cummins, international director for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and a speaker at the hearing, released a scathing review of the events. “Today’s hearing on H.R. 1599 made a total mockery of democracy. Of the eight witnesses allowed to testify, only one could be remotely considered as someone who represents the interests of consumers and public health,” Cummins said. “The other seven have ties to the biotech and corporate food industries, and were there to represent the interests of corporations, not people.”

Please stay tuned to TruthInMedia.com for development on this story and the “government shutdown.”

EPA Proposes Ban on Common Pesticide

Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new proposal which would ban the use of chlorpyrifos on citrus fruits, almonds and other crops. Chlorpyrifos is a common insecticide which is used on a number of crops that also includes oranges, apples, cherries, grapes, broccoli and asparagus.

The Associated Press reports:

“The pesticide, in use since 1965, has sickened dozens of farmworkers in recent years. Traces have been found in waterways, threatening fish, and regulators say overuse could make targeted insects immune to the pesticide. U.S. farms use more than 6 million pounds of the chemical each year – about 25 percent of it in California.”

The EPA stated that a recent analysis did not show risks from exposure to chlorpyrifos in food, but combined with estimates for exposure from drinking water, the “EPA cannot conclude that the risk from aggregate exposure meets the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act safety standard.”

The agency will take public comments on the proposed ban for at least two months. A final ruling is expected in December 2016 with the rule going into effect in 2017.

In the early 2000’s the EPA banned home use of chlorpyrifos and in 2012 placed “no-spray” buffer zones around schools and other sensitive areas.

The AP reported the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a federal lawsuit asking for a national ban on chlorpyrifos, citing evidence the chemical interferes with brain development of fetuses, infants and children.

Veena Singla, a scientist with NRDC’s health and environment program, said that the proposal “is a huge step in the right direction, but we think there’s enough evidence to ban all its uses now.”

The proposal from the EPA came just days after a researcher with the United States Department of Agriculture filed a whistleblower complaint alleging his supervisors suspended him in retaliation for his research on pesticides. The complaint follows calls for investigation of both the USDA and the EPA.

The Anti Media reported that Jonathan Lundgren, an entomologist and 11-year veteran of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, filed the complaint with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board after his supervisors allegedly began to “impede or deter his research and resultant publications.” Lundgren is well-known in the scientific community for previously alleging that the USDA attempted to prevent him from speaking about his research for political reasons.

Lundgren previously published a study that found soybean seeds pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides “offer little benefit to soybean producers.” He also served as a peer reviewer in a report published by the Center for Food Safety. That study found further evidence that neonicotinoids adversely affect bees.

Although Lundgren’s work is examining a different class of pesticides, his story highlights a dangerous trend around the science of pesticides: the suppression of research and retaliation against those who challenge the safety of pesticides.

In early May of this year, Truth In Media reported that 25 organizations representing farm workers, food safety organizations, and the environment issued a letter to officials with the USDA and EPA. They called for an investigation into claims that scientists are facing pressure and retaliation for research that presents the controversial neonicotinoid insecticide in a negative light.

A number of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides have now been linked to health problems in animals and humans, as well as environmental degradation.

In March of this year it was reported that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a report on the herbicide glyphosate which concluded that there was “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”  The researchers found “convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause cancer in laboratory animals.” The report points out that the EPA had originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 1985.

The IARC Working Group evaluated the original EPA findings and more recent reports before concluding “there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.” Despite the WHO’s findings, the EPA approved Monsanto’s use of glyphosate as recently as 2013.

Since the IARC’s rulings, Monsanto has faced a wave of lawsuits as personal injury lawyers are now looking for plaintiffs who have been harmed by the corporations products. 

The rise in the use of pesticides and herbicides comes with the increased use of genetically engineered or genetically modified crops. In September 2014, I wrote about the USDA’s decision to approve GE corn and soy and how this decision would lead to an increase in pesticide use.

This happens because the food products being approved by the government are engineered to resist widely-used chemicals such as glyphosate. This has led to an increase in “super-weeds” which are immune to the effects of glyphosate. This leads to an increase in spraying of these chemicals, as well as newer, stronger chemicals to fight the super weeds.

This cycle of spraying, and nature responding and adapting, will likely continue as the USDA recently approved another GE corn from Monsanto. Fellow bio-tech giant Syngenta is also applying for approval of a glyphosate-resistant GE corn. The USDA’s preliminary findings stated the risk of herbicide-resistant weeds will be an ongoing problem as long as herbicides are used.

The EPA’s latest proposal to ban the use of chlorpyrifos may indicate a shift towards more nuanced policies on herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides.

New Bill Could Ban Genetically Engineered Labeling Laws

Recently the House Agriculture Committee approved a controversial bill that would ban states from enacting mandatory labeling laws  as well as regulations on genetically engineered foods.

House Resolution 1599, known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act to supporters and the DARK act by critics, would overturn current state laws requiring labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, as well as prevent future labeling laws from being passed on the state or local level.

Now that the Committee has approved the bill it moves towards a full vote in the House before moving on to the Senate where it will likely face opposition from Democrats. The bill currently has 106 cosponsors, 91 Republicans and 15 Democrats.

After the committee approved the measure Pamela Bailey, CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), released a statement claiming that the legislation will ensure that Americans have accurate, consistent information about their food rather than a 50 state patchwork of labeling laws that will only prove costly and confusing for consumers, farmers and food manufacturers.”

The GMA is calling on the House to approve the measure before the coming August recess.

Scott Faber, executive director of Just Label It, said the fight has just begun. “The real fight will be in the Senate. This is from over.”

Currently three states have passed GE labeling bills, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut. Maine and Connecticut’s laws do not go into effect unless their surrounding neighbor states also pass similar legislation.

Supporters of labeling say that consumers have a right to know if their food is genetically engineered. Some critics also fear the increasing use of herbicides and pesticides resulting from the proliferation of genetic engineering. The crowds are split between blanket opposition to genetically engineered foods and those who are calling for more studies to trace the effect on human consumption. Others oppose the GMO industry for limiting research and questionable business practices.

Supporters of the bill say that the labels will cause food prices to rise and cause confusion about the safety of GE food. At the committee hearing, Gregory Jaffe, Biotechnology Project Director with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, stated that since there were no known nutritional or safety issues connected to GE food, there should be no need for labels.

What are your thoughts? Are GMOs safe? Should they be labeled? Should the government ban labeling?


To fight obesity, scientists suggest a tax on sugary foods

While obesity continues to threaten the lives of many Americans, a government advisory committee has suggested placing a tax on sugary food items to drive people away from the foods in order to fight the heath threat.

The Dietary Guideline Advisory, which consists of fourteen health experts according to CBS Boston, released a report saying the health and well-being of Americans would benefit from a tax on sugary foods and drinks. The committee recognizes though, they do not make any policies concerning the public, rather they simply make suggestions.

The report reads, “Taxation on higher sugar-and sodium-containing foods may encourage consumers to reduce consumption and revenues generated could support health promotion efforts… Alternatively, price incentives on vegetables and fruits could be used to promote consumption and public health benefits.”

Economic and social costs were also considered in the report, with the committee saying, as time goes on and people continue to neglect their physical wellness, the costs would be irreversible as people would require more healthcare in order to live.

“What we’re calling for in the report in terms of innovation and bold new action in health care, in public health, at the community level, is what it’s going to take to try and make a dent on the epidemic of obesity,” said committee chairwoman Barbara Millen according to Bloomberg Business

CNBC also reports the committee suggested nutrition programs should be made available at the federal, state, and local levels in order to promote a healthier lifestyle for all citizens.

The report made other suggestions for living a healthier lifestyle as well. Namely, the report suggests eating less red and processed meats, and eating more farm-raised fish instead.