Full list: GMO News

The New England Journal of Medicine: GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D.
Full Article

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not high on most physicians’ worry lists. If we think at all about biotechnology, most of us probably focus on direct threats to human health, such as prospects for converting pathogens to biologic weapons or the implications of new technologies for editing the human germline. But while those debates simmer, the application of biotechnology to agriculture has been rapid and aggressive. The vast majority of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are now genetically engineered. Foods produced from GM crops have become ubiquitous. And unlike regulatory bodies in 64 other countries, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require labeling of GM foods.

Two recent developments are dramatically changing the GMO landscape. First, there have been sharp increases in the amounts and numbers of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops, and still further increases — the largest in a generation — are scheduled to occur in the next few years. Second, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate, the herbicide most widely used on GM crops, as a “probable human carcinogen”1 and classified a second herbicide, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), as a “possible human carcinogen.”2

The application of genetic engineering to agriculture builds on the ancient practice of selective breeding. But unlike traditional selective breeding, genetic engineering vastly expands the range of traits that can be moved into plants and enables breeders to import DNA from virtually anywhere in the biosphere. Depending on the traits selected, genetically engineered crops can increase yields, thrive when irrigated with salty water, or produce fruits and vegetables resistant to mold and rot.

The National Academy of Sciences has twice reviewed the safety of GM crops — in 2000 and 2004.3 Those reviews, which focused almost entirely on the genetic aspects of biotechnology, concluded that GM crops pose no unique hazards to human health. They noted that genetic transformation has the potential to produce unanticipated allergens or toxins and might alter the nutritional quality of food. Both reports recommended development of new risk-assessment tools and postmarketing surveillance. Those recommendations have largely gone unheeded.

Herbicide resistance is the main characteristic that the biotechnology industry has chosen to introduce into plants. Corn and soybeans with genetically engineered tolerance to glyphosate (Roundup) were first introduced in the mid-1990s. These “Roundup-Ready” crops now account for more than 90% of the corn and soybeans planted in the United States.4 Their advantage, especially in the first years after introduction, is that they greatly simplify weed management.

But widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops has led to overreliance on herbicides and, in particular, on glyphosate.5 In the United States, glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 — from 0.4 million kg in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014. Global use has increased by a factor of more than 10. Not surprisingly, glyphosate-resistant weeds have emerged and are found today on nearly 100 million acres in 36 states. Fields must be now be treated with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D, a component of the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War.

The first of the two developments that raise fresh concerns about the safety of GM crops is a 2014 decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve Enlist Duo, a new combination herbicide comprising glyphosate plus 2,4-D. Enlist Duo was formulated to combat herbicide resistance. It will be marketed in tandem with newly approved seeds genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, 2,4-D, and multiple other herbicides. The EPA anticipates that a 3-to-7-fold increase in 2,4-D use will result.

In our view, the science and the risk assessment supporting the Enlist Duo decision are flawed. The science consisted solely of toxicologic studies commissioned by the herbicide manufacturers in the 1980s and 1990s and never published, not an uncommon practice in U.S. pesticide regulation. These studies predated current knowledge of low-dose, endocrine-mediated, and epigenetic effects and were not designed to detect them. The risk assessment gave little consideration to potential health effects in infants and children, thus contravening federal pesticide law. It failed to consider ecologic impact, such as effects on the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. It considered only pure glyphosate, despite studies showing that formulated glyphosate that contains surfactants and adjuvants is more toxic than the pure compound.

The second new development is the determination by the IARC in 2015 that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen”1 and 2,4-D a “possible human carcinogen.”2 These classifications were based on comprehensive assessments of the toxicologic and epidemiologic literature that linked both herbicides to dose-related increases in malignant tumors at multiple anatomical sites in animals and linked glyphosate to an increased incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans.

These developments suggest that GM foods and the herbicides applied to them may pose hazards to human health that were not examined in previous assessments. We believe that the time has therefore come to thoroughly reconsider all aspects of the safety of plant biotechnology. The National Academy of Sciences has convened a new committee to reassess the social, economic, environmental, and human health effects of GM crops. This development is welcome, but the committee’s report is not expected until at least 2016.

In the meantime, we offer two recommendations. First, we believe the EPA should delay implementation of its decision to permit use of Enlist Duo. This decision was made in haste. It was based on poorly designed and outdated studies and on an incomplete assessment of human exposure and environmental effects. It would have benefited from deeper consideration of independently funded studies published in the peer-reviewed literature. And it preceded the recent IARC determinations on glyphosate and 2,4-D. Second, the National Toxicology Program should urgently assess the toxicology of pure glyphosate, formulated glyphosate, and mixtures of glyphosate and other herbicides.

Finally, we believe the time has come to revisit the United States’ reluctance to label GM foods. Labeling will deliver multiple benefits. It is essential for tracking emergence of novel food allergies and assessing effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops. It would respect the wishes of a growing number of consumers who insist they have a right to know what foods they are buying and how they were produced. And the argument that there is nothing new about genetic rearrangement misses the point that GM crops are now the agricultural products most heavily treated with herbicides and that two of these herbicides may pose risks of cancer. We hope, in light of this new information, that the FDA will reconsider labeling of GM foods and couple it with adequately funded, long-term postmarketing surveillance.

Raconteur: For and against GM

July 29, 2015
Supporters and opponents of genetically modified food are passionate in their beliefs, but who is more persuasive?
By Stephen Tindale, former Greenpeace UK executive director
Full Article

Genetic modification can be used for good or bad purposes, environmentally and ethically. So biotechnology should be assessed case by case – what does this aim to achieve, will it work, what are the possible side effects and do the potential benefits outweigh the risks? Opposition to all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the basis that they are not “natural” makes no sense. Most things in the modern world are not natural, including the crops produced by centuries of plant breeding.

Oxfam states that it “does not support GMOs as the solution to hunger, poverty and development”. This is understandable. GMOs are not the solution, but they could be part of the solution. Hunger and poverty could be eradicated through redistribution of global wealth. But that is not going to happen any time soon. So why not use some GMOs – golden rice, BT aubergine – to help tackle problems of hunger and ill health?

Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International, wrote in 2010 that “Oxfam understands technology does matter and that modern biotechnology might play a role in helping to achieve global food security, but only so long as farmers are central to the process and their rights are strengthened, not harmed”. So, Oxfam takes a selective, rational approach to biotechnology – it does not support or oppose the technology per se, but considers how it is used.

Hang on, GM opponents will say, biotech has not been proven to be safe. They would be right in one sense as science does not definitively prove anything. New discoveries are always possible. But the overwhelming majority of scientific research over the last 20 years finds GM to be safe. Similarly, it has not been proven that pollution causes climate change, but almost all peer-reviewed scientific publications find that it does. Green campaigners often point this out, but don’t mention that a similar majority of scientists find GMOs to be safe.

With biotechnology, the science says the risks of action are small, while the risks of inaction are enormous. So, cautiously and case by case, GMOs should be supported.


By Dame Dr Jane Goodall, campaigning environmentalist

We’re repeatedly assured modern genetic engineering is merely a minor extension of natural breeding, that there’s an overwhelming scientific consensus the modified foods it creates are as safe as naturally produced ones, that this consensus rests on a mass of solid evidence and these foods are necessary for meeting the world’s future nutritional needs.

But I believe none of these claims are true. This is well established by extensive evidence that’s skillfully presented in the excellent free resource, GMO Myths and Truths, and also within the pages of an important new book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government and Systematically Deceived the Public, for which I wrote the foreword.

This book explains in detail how the GM food venture has been “chronically and crucially dependent on disinformation” and could not have survived without it. The disinformation is still being dispensed today – if the truth had been widely shared from the beginning, GM foods would probably never have come to market and we would not be having this debate.

Furthermore, the sheer extent of the irrefutably documented deception is itself proof of how strongly the evidence weighs against the safety of GM foods, because (as the book points out) if it were truly supportive, there would be no need to distort it.

In reality, genetic engineering is a radical break with natural processes and there has never been a consensus among scientists that its foods are safe, with cautions issued by institutions such as the Royal Society of Canada and the Public Health Association of Australia. A significant number of well-conducted studies published in peer-reviewed journals have detected serious harm to the animals that consumed them.

Finally, extensive research has demonstrated they are not the solution for world hunger and that in fact the GM food venture is actually harmful to efforts to increase food production. Numerous studies in a variety of African nations have consistently shown agroecology and permaculture are not only safe and sustainable methods of farming, but can also outperform industrialised approaches even when GMOs are employed. Unfortunately, however, the GM venture is capturing a large portion of the money and attention that should be directed towards establishing these patently superior forms of farming.

Clearly, GM foods are unacceptably risky, deceptively promoted and obstructing genuine progress. The world will be much better off without them.

VT Digger: Consumers don’t see GMO labeling as a deterrent to buying foods, study shows

Sam Heller
Jul. 29 2015
Full Article

A new study on GMO labeling shows that most people would not view a GMO label as a warning to avoid eating products containing genetically modified ingredients, according to a news release issued by the University of Vermont on July 27.

Jane Kolodinsky, a professor who authored the study and chair of the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics at the University of Vermont, drew from five years of data from statewide surveys about consumer opinions on GMO labeling. The surveys focused on the relationship between whether the respondent opposed the commercial use of GMOs, and whether or not they believed products containing GMOs should be labeled.

The study found that 93 percent of respondents were in favor of GMO labeling laws, and 60 percent of respondents were opposed to the use of genetically modified ingredients in commercial products. There was no evidence to suggest that those who were in favor of a GMO labeling law were no more likely to oppose the commercial use of GMOs than those who did not, however.

“When you look at consumer opposition to the use of GM technologies in food and account for the label, we found that overall the label has no direct impact on opposition. And it increased support for GM in some demographic groups,” Kolodinsky said.

The study comes at a time when GMO labeling is a hot-button issue in Vermont. At a concert in Essex Junction, Canadian rock star Neil Young announced that he would make a $100,000 donation to the Vermont Food Fight Fund, established to defend Act 120 – Vermont’s GMO labeling law – from opponents who wish to see it overturned in court.

Meanwhile, Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has spearheaded legislation in the Senate which would allow Vermont to require manufacturers to list genetically modified ingredients on food labels.

Vermont’s GMO labeling law, Act 120 has been challenged in court by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other food industry trade groups, who say the bill is unconstitutional and a violation of free speech.

“The First Amendment dictates that when speech is involved, Vermont policymakers cannot merely act as a pass-through for the fads and controversies of the day. It must point to a truly ‘governmental’ interest, not just a political one,” the Grocery Manufacturers Association says on its website.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is considering the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling bill which, if passed, will nullify Vermont’s Act 120.

“Proponents of the U.S. Senate-bound bill, which if enacted would nullify Vermont’s GMO labeling law that has yet to take effect, argue that mandating labels on foods containing GMOs is misleading, because it suggests to consumers that GMOs are somehow risky to eat,” reads the UVM news release.

But Kolodinsky’s findings indicate that most people who support GMO labeling laws do so out of a desire to make an informed decision about what they’re eating, rather than out of concern that GMOs are dangerous.

“This study adds to the GM labeling evidence by showing that, in the only U.S. state that has passed a mandatory positive GM labeling law, the label will not act as a ‘warning label.’ When only the label is considered, it has no impact on consumer opposition. And there is some evidence that the label will increase consumer confidence in GM technology among certain groups,” she said.

Burlington Free Press Op-ed: My Turn: Fear for your food future

August 6, 2015
Full Op-Ed

If you listen closely, you can still hear the echoes of the nuclear power industry when their over-paid scientists, lawyers, publicists and lobbyists sanctimoniously and superciliously asserted that nuclear power would be clean, safe, reliable and too cheap to meter. If only, people would stop being so afraid of the unintended consequences of nuclear power and listen to the “facts” they were smugly spewing, they could get on with their agenda. Unfortunately, for them the nuclear trifecta —– the melt down at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania and the continuing disasters in Fukushima, Japan and Chernobyl, Russia — seems to have driven those old arguments underground. But you can still hear the echoes.

The remarkable similarities of the justifications now advanced by big “Agribiz” (Monsanto et al.) in support of GMOs to the arguments once offered in support of nuclear power leave one with the chilling thought that maybe —just maybe — the new crop of overpaid scientists, lawyers, publicists, and lobbyists being rewarded by “Agribiz,” are reading from the old playbill. Feed the world with clean, safe, reliable and cheap GMOs. Once again, they claim, that advanced technology will rescue us from ourselves.

Well, maybe that’s possible but I, once again, fear the potential, unintended consequences of these new experimental food products. I fear a future that puts my food supply in the hands of a few multinational corporations driven primarily by “the bottom line” of a few wealthy investors. (The Pope might call that greed.) I also fear the impact on our farmers, and I fear the impact on the existing crop supply. And I want to choose whether I consume GMOs in the food I eat.

And that’s what the Vermont legislature intended when it passed the GMO labeling bill. In spite of the threats from big Agribiz, Vermont was and is prepared to go it alone. All we Vermonters want is an opportunity to know what’s in the food we eat and make informed choices on issues of global significance. Isn’t full disclosure and transparency essential to the twin concepts of consumer capitalism and caveat emptor? How else can we opt out of the world dominated by Monsanto et al. Our only leverage is to vote with our pocketbooks.

And, so Agribiz has dispatched a coven of ankle-biting lawyers to smother our new law in legal briefs. But it’s not enough for Monsanto to challenge our law in the courts. They are now challenging our law in the well-plowed fields of Washington, D.C. Money goes further in Congress and so they are succeeding. The U.S. House voted by a frighteningly high margin to block us from requiring labeling of genetically modified foods. (Where are the “states rights” boys when you really need them?)

We can hope that the unintended consequences of GMOs will not be as dramatic as those of the nuclear power industry. But that’s what makes it so insidious. The consequences of GMOs may occur long before we know about them. Let’s hope the grid lock in Washington can kill Agribiz’ latest maneuver.

GM Watch: New revelation about glyphosate-cancer link

Glyphosate narrowly missed being classed as a known rather than a probable carcinogen in the World Health Organisation evaluation.
Claire Robinson reports
Full Article

An excellent article by Andrew Cockburn in Harpers explains that anti-invasive species hysteria is prevalent across the US, from university biology departments to wildlife bureaucracies to garden clubs. Glyphosate is the weapon of choice for battling invaders that are seen as threatening native species. Over 90 percent of California’s land managers use the compound, which is particularly recommended as a slayer of eucalyptus trees. Last year, the federal government spent more than $2 billion to fight the alien invasion, up to half of which was budgeted for glyphosate and other poisons.

This resulting high exposure to glyphosate of the American public is an especially serious issue since the decision of the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency IARC that the herbicide is a “probable” carcinogen. Monsanto has tried to bamboozle the public about the significance of the IARC decision by confusing the 2A (probable human carcinogen) category that IARC put glyphosate into with the 2B category – “possible human carcinogen”, a group occupied by common substances like coffee and pickled vegetables. The message is: many of us drink coffee and eat pickled vegetables without worrying, so we shouldn’t worry about glyphosate either.

Cockburn’s article reveals that the discussion at IARC was NOT about whether glyphosate should be in category 2A (probable carcinogen) or category 2B (possible carcinogen). Instead the discussion was about whether glyphosate should be classed in category 1 (known human carcinogen).

The IARC group was headed by Aaron Blair, an epidemiologist who spent thirty years at the National Cancer Institute. Cockburn paraphrases Blair as follows:

“According to Blair, there were good grounds to declare that glyphosate definitely causes cancer” – in other words, it should be classed in category 1 as a known human carcinogen. But “This did not happen, [Blair] said, because ‘the epidemiologic data was a little noisy’. In other words, while several studies suggested a link, another study, of farmers in Iowa and North Carolina, did not. Blair pointed out that there had been a similar inconsistency in human studies of benzene, now universally acknowledged as a carcinogen. In any case, this solitary glitch in the data caused the group to list glyphosate as a probable (instead of a definite) cause of cancer.”

Iowa and North Carolina study not reassuring

Blair of the IARC mentions the Agricultural Health Study in Iowa and North Carolina as a study which, in Cockburn’s paraphrasis, did not find a link between glyphosate and cancer. In reality, though, the study is not reassuring and doesn’t contradict other studies that did find a link, for two reasons.

1. The study did find “a suggested association” between glyphosate exposure and multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. A rebuttal study commissioned by Monsanto and published in 2015 ahead of the re-evaluations of glyphosate by the US and the EU used a different dataset and concluded “no convincing evidence” of a link. Whether the Monsanto re-analysis is more reliable than the findings of the publicly funded Agricultural Health Study is debatable.

2. In a separate study also conducted in Iowa, detectable levels of glyphosate were found in urine samples from farm families and non-farm families. The researchers put this down to the fact that glyphosate herbicides are used in home gardens as well as in agriculture. Thus in the Agricultural Health Study the control population is as likely to be exposed to glyphosate as the “exposed” population, so the differences between the groups may be small or non-existent. The implication of the urine study is that the real link between glyphosate and cancer could be far stronger than was found in the Agricultural Health Study.

Glyphosate-resistant weeds: the ultimate invasive species

The massive irony emphasised by Cockburn’s article is that America’s reliance on the probable carcinogen glyphosate has backfired. Glyphosate over-use on both invasive species and GM glyphosate-tolerant crops has led to the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds. The agricultural consultant Dr Charles Benbrook is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s a disaster… As resistant weeds spread and become more of an economic issue for more farmers, the only way they know how to react — the only way that they feel they can react — is by spraying more.”

It has become common for farmers to spray three times a season instead of once, and Benbrook estimates that the extra doses of herbicide will add up to 75,000 tons in 2015. Farmers now have to contend with glyphosate-tolerant marestail that grows up to eight feet tall, with stems thick enough, according to one farmer, to “stop a combine in its tracks”. It is, according to Cockburn, the ultimate “alien invasive, made right here in America”.

The Undercurrent: why are we being fed by a poison expert?

Full Video

The Undercurrent delves into the world of mass agriculture to ask how one company has such control over food supply. The name Monsanto was once synonymous with Agent Orange, but today it’s the dominance of the widespread herbicide Roundup which helps keep the company on top. But is the World Health Organisation’s claim that Roundup ‘probably’ causes cancer, cause for concern? And what about the company’s stance on patenting which sees farmers in developing countries unable to hold on to seed? Guardian Australia has joined forces with The Undercurrent – an online news show billing itself as an antidote to the five-second soundbite – for a four-part series over June and July.

WCAX: Vermont lawmakers support GMO labeling law

By Logan Crawford
Full article & Video
BURLINGTON, Vt. – The U.S. House of Representatives voted to block states from requiring labels on genetically modified food. Vermont was the first state in the nation to legalize labeling genetically engineered food and it has been a controversial issue ever since.

Vermont is a leader in requiring food makers to label what’s in their product. A law passed in 2014 mandating food containing genetically modified organisms in the state say so on the container.

“And now what the House is doing is going to keep that information away from consumers if it becomes law of this country,” said Vt. Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

In Washington Thursday, the House passed a bill called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, banning states from requiring GMO labels. Sorrell says the House is listening to big food manufacturers rather than consumers. Rep Peter Welch.

“This is not a question about whether science says GMO foods cause medical issues, that’s not the issue. The question is whether consumers when they purchase food have a right to know what’s in it,” said Welch, D-Vermont.

Those in favor of the GMO labeling law call this the DARK Act, or the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act. Connecticut and Maine passed laws like Vermont’s and more states are looking to also. National food groups filed a lawsuit earlier this year with the state of Vermont over the issue. They claim the law violates free speech and could wrongly imply foods are unsafe.

The Vermont Retail and Grocers Association are against letting states have their own labeling laws. The group of food merchants says Vermont’s law will be confusing to consumers and require manufacturers to print different labels for each state.

“We believe that Congress, the president or designated agencies within the administration should be the ones determining whether genetically engineering food should be labeled,” said Sigrist.

This anti-GMO label bill will now go to the Senate. It will become law only if the Senate and the president approve. Sorrell says he expects Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, to fight for GMO labeling in the Senate.

Brattleboro Reformer: House passes bill to prevent mandatory GMO labeling

House passes bill that would prevent states from requiring labels to indicate presence of GMOs.
The Associated Press
Full Article

WASHINGTON >> Food companies would not have to disclose whether their products include genetically modified ingredients under legislation passed by the House Thursday.

The House bill is backed by the food industry, which has fought mandatory labeling efforts in several states around the country. The legislation, which passed 275-150, would prevent states from requiring package labels to indicate the presence of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

So far, Vermont is the only state set to require the labels. That law will take effect in July 2016 if it survives a legal challenge from the food industry. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring the labeling, but those measures don’t take effect unless neighboring states follow suit.

The country’s largest food companies say genetically modified foods are safe and that labels would be misleading. They say a patchwork of laws around the country would be expensive for companies and confusing for consumers.

“The reality is, biotechnology has time and time again proved safe,” the bill’s sponsor, Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, said on the House floor. “We should not raise prices on consumers based on the wishes of a handful of activists.”

Advocates for the labels say people have a right to know what is in their food and criticize the legislation for trying to take away states’ ability to require the labels.

“What’s the problem with letting consumers know what they are buying?” asked Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat.

Genetically modified seeds are engineered in laboratories to have certain traits, like resistance to herbicides. The majority of the country’s corn and soybean crop is now genetically modified, with much of that going to animal feed. It also is made into popular processed food ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soybean oil.

The food industry says about 75 percent to 80 percent of packaged foods contain genetically modified ingredients.

The Food and Drug Administration has said GMOs are safe, and the federal government does not support mandatory labels. Even so, the House bill would make it harder for the agency to require labeling nationally by laying out additional standards for such a policy.

At the same time, the legislation would step up FDA oversight by requiring that any new genetically engineered products be reviewed by the agency before they can be sold. That process is now voluntary for most modified foods.

The bill would also create a new certification process at the Agriculture Department for foods that are labeled free of GMOs. That would mean anyone wanting to use that label would eventually have to apply. Organic foods would be automatically certified, since they are already required to be free of engineered ingredients.

A December Associated Press-Gaff poll found that two-thirds of Americans support labeling of genetically modified ingredients on food packages.

Many of those who support the labels say they have no problem buying food containing GMOs, but they think there should be more accountability in the food industry. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said Wednesday in a speech opposing the bill that he buys genetically modified foods but thinks it should be a choice.

There is no similar bill in the Senate, although Sen. John Heaven, R-N.D., has said he is working on legislation.

It’s unclear whether President Barack Obama would sign the legislation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been supportive of genetically modified crops and has praised voluntary labeling solutions like special bar codes on packages to allow consumers to access information via smartphone. But the White House has so far been silent on the House bill.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said after the vote that people who want to know what’s in their food will eventually win the fight.

Americans “are demanding the right to know what’s in their food,” Shumlin said.



State of Vermont: Gov. Shumlin Statement on House Passage of Bill to Block Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law

Full Release

MONTPELIER – July 23, 2015 – Gov. Peter Shumlin issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation today that would block Vermont from enforcing its mandatory GMO labeling law.

“Monsanto and their corporate food allies have millions of dollars to dedicate to this fight, and today’s vote shows that they are quite skilled in using those vast resources to buy votes in Congress. But here is what Monsanto will never be able to do: Win this fight. Millions of Americans are demanding the right to know what is in their food. And every time Monsanto fights tooth and nail to deny people that right, all they do is grow the ranks of ordinary Americans who are willing to stand up and fight. So this message is for Monsanto: Bring it on. You may have the money, but we have the people. And the people always win.

“I want to thank Congressman Peter Welch for fighting so hard against this bill. In Vermont we are lucky to have a congressional delegation that understands that giving people the right to know what is in their food is simply common sense.”

Media Matters: National TV News Silent On Congressional Plan To Prevent Labeling Of Genetically Modified Foods

In recent weeks, major broadcast networks and primetime cable news programs have completely ignored debate and passage of a House bill that would prevent states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring labels for foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Consumer rights advocates, environmental groups, and the vast majority of Americans support the right to know whether foods contain GMOs.

UPDATE: Rep. Conyers Responds To “Lack Of News Coverage” Of Congress’ Anti-GMO Labeling Bill [Media Matters7/24/15]

Bill That Would Block States, FDA From Requiring GMO Labels Moving Through Congress

Anti-GMO Labeling Bill Passed By The House Would Nullify States’ Laws On Food Labels. On July 23, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would block states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring GMO labels on food products. The bill will now head to the Senate, as McClatchy reported:

A bill that would prevent state and local governments from requiring labels on genetically modified foods passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday after contentious debate, 275-150.

The bill now heads to the Senate. If enacted into law, it would nullify labeling laws that already have passed in three states but have yet to take effect, in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.

At least 15 other states have introduced legislation to impose similar regulations on food made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. But it’s been an uphill battle in many places, with strong opposition from the food industry helping to defeat anti-GMO proposals in California and Washington state, among others.

Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas and his Democratic colleague, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, championed the bill that passed the House on Thursday.

Their Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act would replace state and local laws with a voluntary GMO-free certification program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [McClatchy, 7/23/15]

Bill Would Also Allow Companies To Label Food Products “Natural” Even If They Contain Genetically Modified Ingredients. As Iowa Public Radio reported, the House-passed bill “expands the definition of ‘natural’ – already a nebulous term with few strict standards – to include some genetically modified ingredients.” The House rejected an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that “would have banned the use of the term ‘natural’ on food that contains a genetically engineered plant,” as The Hill noted. [Iowa Public Radio, 7/23/15; The Hill, 7/23/15]

Environmental Working Group: Bill Would Even Obstruct Voluntary GMO Labeling. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) stated that the bill would not only prevent states from implementing mandatory GMO labeling, but would also complicate the process for any food manufacturers to voluntarily label GMO foods, possibly delaying voluntary labeling for years. EWG concluded that “the real intent” of the bill is to stop “both mandatory GMO labeling and voluntary non-GMO claims” (emphasis original):

[S]ection 102 of  Pompeo’s bill would make any non-GMO claim a violation of federal labeling law – unless the non-GMO claim was approved through a new certification program to be established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under Pompeo’s bill, it could take the USDA at least a year, and more likely years to set up such a certification program. After all, it took ten years to publish the rule implementing the National Organic Program.

In the meantime, food companies would have no way [to] inform consumers that their products didn’t contain GMO ingredients.


Taken together, it’s clear that the real intent of the new version of the DARK Act is to end all claims related to genetically modified ingredients – including both mandatory GMO labeling and voluntary non-GMO claims. [EWG, 6/22/15]

Major TV News Shows Completely Ignored Bill As It Moved Through House

Broadcast Programs, Primetime Cable Shows Ignored Advancement Of Anti-GMO Labeling Bill. Since it began to be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee on July 14, the major broadcast networks and primetime cable news shows have completely ignored the anti-GMO labeling bill.* [Congress.gov, accessed 7/24/15]

By Contrast, Local CBS Affiliate In Vermont Reported On Bill’s Passage. The House vote did receive coverage on CBS’ local affiliate in Burlington, Vermont. Vermont has passed the strongest mandatory GMO-labeling bill, which is set to take effect in July 2016 but is now at risk. On the July 24 edition of Channel 3 News Early Morning, anchor Eva McKend reported that the House bill “could reverse” Vermont’s GMO labeling law, and that Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell “says the House is listening to Big Food manufacturers rather than helping people.” [WCAX-TV, Channel 3 News Early Morning, 7/24/15]

GMO Labeling Has Widespread Support From Consumer Rights Advocates, Environmental Groups, And Vast Majority Of Americans

Consumer Reports’ Advocacy Arm: House Bill Is “Contrary To What Consumers Clearly Want And Need.” Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to oppose the bill, which it said “is contrary to what consumers clearly want and need.” Consumers Union added that the bill “interferes with the democratic process, and the long-recognized role of states to enact laws that respond to their citizens’ desires for consumer information that helps them make decisions in the marketplace.” [ConsumersUnion.org, 7/17/15]

Center For Food Safety Exec. Dir.: “Corporate Influence Has Won And The Voice Of The People Has Been Ignored.” The Center for Food Safety “expressed deep disappointment” in the bill’s passage, noting in a statement that “over 300 farmer, consumer and environmental groups opposed the bill.” Andrew Kimbrell, the group’s executive director, said the bill’s passage “is an attempt by Monsanto and its agribusiness cronies to crush the democratic decision-making of tens of millions of Americans. Corporate influence has won and the voice of the people has been ignored.” [Center for Food Safety, 7/23/15]

NRDC Attorney: House Is “Trying To Keep Us In The Dark About What Is In Our Food.” Mae Wu, a health attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), called the bill “concerning,” and said House members who support the bill are “trying to keep us in the dark about what is in our food.” [NRDC Switchboard, 7/22/15]

EWG: House Voted To “Deny Americans The Right To Know What’s In Their Food.” In a statement on the Environmental Working Group’s website, EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber said:

It’s outrageous that some House lawmakers voted to ignore the wishes of nine out of 10 Americans. … Today’s vote to deny Americans the right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown was a foregone conclusion. This House was bought and paid for by corporate interests, so it’s no surprise that it passed a bill to block states and the FDA from giving consumers basic information about their food. [EWG, 7/23/15]

Union of Concerned Scientists: GMO Foods Should Be Labeled So “Consumers Can Make Informed Decisions.” In a section of its website devoted to “Genetic Engineering in Agriculture,” the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) stated that policy makers should “[s]upport food labeling laws that require foods containing [genetically engineered or GE] crops to be clearly identified as such, so that consumers can make informed decisions about supporting GE applications in agriculture.” UCS also said that although the risks from genetic engineering “are often exaggerated or misrepresented,” GE crops still “have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts”:

While the risks of genetic engineering are often exaggerated or misrepresented, GE crops do have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts. For instance, they may spread undesirable traits to weeds and non-GE crops, produce new allergens and toxins, or harm animals that consume them.

At least one major environmental impact of genetic engineering has already reached critical proportions: overuse of herbicide-tolerant GE crops has spurred an increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant “superweeds,” which will lead to even more herbicide use.

How likely are other harmful GE impacts to occur? This is a difficult question to answer. Each crop-gene combination poses its own set of risks. While risk assessments are conducted as part of GE product approval, the data are generally supplied by the company seeking approval, and GE companies use their patent rights to exercise tight control over research on their products.

In short, there is a lot we don’t know about the long-term and epidemiological risks of GE–which is no reason for panic, but a good reason for caution, particularly in view of alternatives that are more effective and economical. [Union of Concerned Scientists, accessed 7/24/15]

Associated Press Poll: Strong Majority Of Americans Support GMO Labeling. On January 13, the Associated Press reported that a December AP-GfK poll found that “66 percent of Americans favor requiring food manufacturers to put labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms, or foods grown from seeds engineered in labs. Only 7 percent are opposed to the idea, and 24 percent are neutral.” The AP added that the portion of Americans who say it is very or extremely important to know whether a product contains GMOs is “higher than the share who say it’s important to know whether a food is organic, and about on par with the share saying they consider the amount of protein in a food an important factor.” [Associated Press, 1/13/15]
*According to a Nexis search of GMO or “genetically modified” for all news shows on PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, and the primetime news shows on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, from when the bill began to be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee on July 14 until the time of this publication.