Full list: GMO News

VT Digger: Eight states, environmental groups back Vermont in GMO labeling lawsuit

Erin Mansfield
Sep. 2 2015
Full Article

Eight states and several organizations have filed briefs in federal appeals court supporting Vermont’s food labeling law from 2014, joining the state in its battle against corporate interests.

Attorneys general in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire and Washington filed a friend-of-the-court brief this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City.

Four environmental groups — the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, or VPIRG, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Cedar Circle Farm, and Rural Vermont — also filed a friend-of-the-court brief. Several doctors, scientists, and business groups also support Vermont.

Laura Murphy, associate director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, said in a statement that Vermont Law School was “honored” to file the brief on behalf of the four environmental groups that were “so instrumental in passing Act 120.”

“The legislative process for this law was very thorough and thoughtful, and there are many reasons why this law is different from Vermont’s rBST labeling law,” Murphy said. “We look forward to seeing this case through.”

The case is on track for the Second Circuit to hear oral arguments by this fall and make a decision by the end of 2015. Depending on what’s decided, that could push the case back down to U.S. District Court in Vermont for a trial, according to Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

“We’re pleased to have the help of businesses, of states, and the various other organizations favoring food safety and consumer rights,” Sorrell said. “Basically, it’s a First Amendment case, freedom of speech.”

The law would go into effect in on July 1, 2016 with two main parts: manufacturers would need to say there are genetically engineered products in their food, and they would not be allowed to call their products “natural” if the food contained genetically engineered materials.

Sorrell is comparing the case to an historic case that required meat packaging to show what country the meat came from. “It’s a straightforward, non-editorialized (labeling),” he said. “It’s not like tobacco products that say ‘hazardous to your health’ or whatever.”

The plaintiffs are four food manufacturers associations: the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association. The groups appealed a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss that upheld Vermont’s law.

Most recently, in June, the Grocery Manufacturers Association wrote to Gov. Peter Shumlin to say that its members could end up paying $10 million per day in fines. The group said that was too much money considering that Vermont is the second-smallest state in the country.

Shumlin issued a snarky response: “Here’s an idea for the industry: Just label your products. All of them, nationwide. Sixty-four countries already do it. I’m sure the food industry in America could summon the moral imagination to be the 65th.”


VT Digger: Vermont Groups Help Defend GE Food Labeling Law

9/2/15
Full Article

Contacts:
Maryellen Apelquist, Director of Communications, Vermont Law School
office: 802-831-1228, cell: 802-299-5593, mapelquist@vermontlaw.edu

Laura Murphy, ENRLC, 802-831-1123, lmurphy@vermontlaw.edu

Falko Schilling, VPIRG, 802-223-5221, ext. 26, falko@vpirg.org

Andrea Stander, Rural VT, 802-223-7222, andrea@ruralvermont.org

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt., Sept. 2, 2015––Monday, Aug. 31, four Vermont groups filed an amicus curiae brief with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Vermont’s genetically engineered (GE) food labeling law. Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), Cedar Circle Farm, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) and Rural Vermont were instrumental in passing Act 120, Vermont’s labeling law, and are continuing to fight for it in court.

“The outpouring of support for the State of Vermont is compelling,” said Falko Schilling, consumer protection advocate for VPIRG. “In addition to our brief, national consumer, environmental and farming groups, other states, scientists, First Amendment specialists, and Vermont’s own Ben and Jerry’s and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility all came together to make a strong case for Vermont’s law.”

After Vermont’s GE labeling bill became law in May 2014, several industry associations sued the State of Vermont claiming the bill was unconstitutional. In April 2015, the United States District Court for the District of Vermont issued a ruling that was largely in favor of the state, and held that Vermont’s law was constitutional under the First Amendment. Industry appealed part of that ruling to the appellate court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, arguing that Vermont’s law violates the First Amendment.

The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) at Vermont Law School, which represents the Vermont groups, prepared and filed the brief. The clinic has represented VPIRG for the past several years on legal advocacy for the bill, and continues to represent VPIRG and the Center for Food Safety, along with co-counsel from the Center for Food Safety, as amici curiae in ongoing proceedings in District Court.

The brief filed Monday lays out the legislative process for Act 120, explaining why Vermont’s legislative decisions are reasonable and constitutional, and drawing upon the extensive legislative record in this case. The brief also explains in detail why a 1996 rBST decision—in which the court held that Vermont’s dairy labeling law violated the First Amendment—does not apply in this case. The brief can be found on the ENRLC website. The State of Vermont’s own brief, which was filed last week, is available here.

“We were honored to file this brief on behalf of the coalition of groups that was so instrumental in passing Act 120,” said Laura Murphy, associate director of the ENRLC. “The legislative process for this law was very thorough and thoughtful, and there are many reasons why this law is different from Vermont’s rBST labeling law. We look forward to seeing this case through.”

Many other organizations also filed briefs in support of the law. They are:

–          States of Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Washington (represented by attorneys general)

–          Consumers Union, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, and Ben & Jerry’s (represented by Earthjustice)

–          Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, Dr. Jack Heinemann, Dr. David Schubert, Dr. Allison K. Wilson, Dr. Jonathan Latham, National Family Farm Coalition, Our Family Farms Coalition, Sierra Club, and Center for Food Safety (represented by the Center for Food Safety)

–          Public Good Law Center, Free Speech for People, and Consumer Action (represented by Ronald A. Fein, Seth Mermin, and Tom Bennigson)

–          Public Citizen (represented by Julie A. Murray, Scott L. Nelson, and Allison M. Zieve)

The briefing at the Second Circuit will be complete in September, and oral argument likely will be scheduled for the fall. 


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

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D.
August 20, 2015
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. Farmers can spray herbicide both before and during the growing season, leaving their crops unharmed.

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 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.  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.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Consumer interest: Congress should not ban states’ GMO food labels

By the Editorial Board
8/13/15
Full Article

Should food companies be required to label products that include GMOs — genetically modified organisms? At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be credible evidence that GMOs can harm human health. But in the absence of long-term studies, many consumers are skeptical and want to know more about what goes into their food.

Grass-roots movements in some states seek to require labeling of genetically modified ingredients. Vermont passed a law that will require GMO labeling beginning next year.

But Republicans in Congress, for all their talk about states’ rights, want to make that impossible. The GOP-controlled House approved a bill in July that would prevent states from requiring GMO labeling. Instead, the measure would create a voluntary national program that would let companies apply for GMO-free labels through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The bill’s sponsors point out that the scientific community agrees that GMOs, which are present in most supermarket foods, are safe for consumption. But supporters of labeling say genetically modified ingredients have been widespread in foods for less than 40 years — not enough time to study long-term effects.

The European Union, Japan, Australia and other advanced countries require GMO labeling. The American College of Physicians argues that the lack of transparency around bioengineered food prevents doctors from diagnosing allergies or other adverse reactions to GMOs.

Opponents of labeling say it would mislead consumers about the safety of bioengineered foods, but no proposed state labeling system would make inaccurate claims about GMO safety. Like ingredient lists, the labels would simply inform consumers how their food was made.

This is a debate about access to information. Congress shouldn’t prohibit states from offering food labels that will enhance consumers’ knowledge.


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

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D.
8/20/2015
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.

AGAINST

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

By MICHAEL BURAK
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.
8/13/15
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?

6/3/15
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.