Despite consumer opposition, the FDA is one step away from approving genetically engineered salmon.
While most Americans were enjoying the holiday season or stressing out over the nation’s imminent leap off the so-called fiscal cliff, the Food and Drug Administration delivered some big news as quietly as possible.
On December 21, the agency announced that AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon had cleared the final hurdle before clinching FDA approval.
Despite insufficient testing and widespread consumer opposition, AquaBounty’s food experiment is dangerously close to becoming the first genetically engineered animal produced for human consumption. Yes, a newfangled fish may soon land on a dinner plate near you.
For those who have been following this news for the past several years, the timing of the FDA’s release of its draft environmental assessment — the Friday before Christmas — was no surprise. But the news was still frightening: The FDA may give this transgenic animal the green light under a new approval process that treats the fish as an “animal drug.”
Prefer your salmon without those eel genes spliced into its DNA? Pay close attention because this frankenfish may hit the market without any sort of label.
It seems that AquaBounty and the FDA don’t believe consumers deserve the right to know whether the fish we eat is genetically engineered. Those who have demanded labeling for genetically engineered food will be unable to identify this transgenic salmon from standard farm-raised varieties.
Not only does this ignore our fundamental right to know what we are putting on our plates, it’s also a bad business decision. It’s entirely possible that many Americans will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered.
AquaBounty, the biotech company responsible for bringing us this fishy salmon, used its own data to convince the FDA that it is safe to eat. But AquaBounty’s profits are inextricably linked to approval of this salmon. It’s outrageous that the FDA would take AquaBounty’s word over that of dozens of lawmakers and scientists, including experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service, not to mention thousands of concerned consumers.
The FDA has the difficult task of protecting consumer safety, but it’s hard to take it seriously when it comes to genetically engineered salmon. So far, they’ve failed to conduct the appropriate studies to determine if the fish is safe to eat. Independent scientists have skewered the FDA’s process, noting that serious environmental concerns have not been examined while food safety issues related to hormone levels and allergies have been glossed over.
Even AquaBounty’s claim of faster growth rates is suspect. The company hasn’t yet demonstrated that its transgenic salmon can grow faster than salmon without its new traits. And that’s the whole reason they say it should be approved. SalmoBreed AS, a Norwegian company specializing in the selective breeding of Atlantic salmon, has directly challenged AquaBounty on this point.
By releasing an environmental assessment instead of a more thorough environmental impact statement, the FDA has failed to fully consider the threat this controversial new fish could pose to wild fish populations.
While the FDA is close to approving genetically engineered salmon for consumers, Congress can still keep them from unleashing this dangerous experiment. Consumers don’t have million-dollar accounts with K Street lobbyists, but we do have a powerful voice of opposition, one that has effectively put the brakes on this untested laboratory experiment for more than two years. Members of Congress are speaking out against this controversial fish. Let your elected officials know you don’t want this frankenfish on your plate. Visit Foodandwaterwatch.org to find out how.
Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch. www.foodandwaterwatch.org Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
The energy industry and Big Agribusiness are distorting academic research by wielding corporate influence.
— by Wenonah Hauter
In 1862, the federal government created the land-grant university system to produce critical agricultural research. Since then, America has relied on these schools to inform and guide independent scientific advances in areas like food production and energy development.
Yet public funding for that kind of research has eroded over recent decades, and these schools have turned to corporations to augment their budgets. The consequences of increasing dependence on profit-driven research in academia are becoming troublingly clear. The recent exposure of numerous sham scientific reports generated by biased individuals at supposedly objective institutions should draw intense public scrutiny to this new era of corporate-funded science.
While drug makers and other industries have spent heavily in academia for years, a relatively new player in corporate-influenced “research” is the natural gas business. Awareness has grown recently of the serious environmental and health dangers associated with fracking — the highly controversial drilling process that has opened up millions of acres of domestic land to shale gas production by blasting water and toxic chemicals underground at great pressures. In response, the industry has become extremely aggressive in its attempts to influence academic reporting on the subject.
The Dark Side of Corporate Research, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
Consider the State University of New York at Buffalo and its now-defunct Shale Resources and Society Institute. In May, the institute released a report claiming that improving technologies and updated regulations were making fracking safe. But to SUNY Buffalo faculty, students, and community members, something smelled fishy. The nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative, based in Buffalo, scrutinized the report and did some additional digging. What it found was alarming.
Despite the report’s conclusion stating the contrary, an analysis of its data actually showed that gas fracking is causing more environmental contamination than ever. Even more telling, researchers determined that the report’s authors had all done previous work directly funded by the oil and gas industry, and that significant portions of the report had been copied directly from a previous industry-funded paper.
Under intense pressure from the university community, including the Board of Trustees, the institute that had released the skewed report was shut down by SUNY Buffalo’s president in November.
An isolated incident? No. The University of Texas at Austin announced on December 6 that the head of its Energy Institute had resigned over allegations of conflicts of interest, ethics violations, and industry influence regarding another pro-fracking study its institute had released in February. In the fallout, the university is currently updating its conflict-of-interest policies.
As for agriculture, corporate influence now appears to be routine. Beginning in 1982 with the Bayh-Dole Act, our land-grant schools have been encouraged to partner heavily with the private sector. By 2010, almost a quarter of all the grant money for agricultural research came from industry, with companies like Walmart, Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s receiving unencumbered access to and exerting great influence on many campuses nationwide.
The integrity of the “science” produced under this funding regime is troubling, but not surprising. The nutrition school at the University of California, Davis is researching the health benefits of chocolate with funding from the Mars candy corporation. A study supported by the National Soft Drink Association found that soda consumption by school children wasn’t linked to obesity. An Egg Nutrition Center-sponsored study determined that frequent egg consumption didn’t increase cholesterol levels.
More broadly, corporate funding steers agricultural research toward the goals of industry. It discourages independent analyses that might be critical of the many hormones used in industrial meat and poultry production, and genetically engineered crops that are now widely grown.
With the health and safety of our families and our communities hanging in the balance, it’s time to demand more transparency and less corporate influence from our research universities.
Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch. www.foodandwaterwatch.org Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
—by Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch
Last night, I and many others breathed a sigh of relief as voters rejected a vision for our country that would have taken our economy, environmental regulations and consumer protections back to the 1920s. However, we cannot sit back and assume that protections for our food and water will improve. Rather, we need to take lessons from the last four years and redouble our organizing efforts to press the Obama administration, Congress and state legislatures across the country to keep our food safe and our water in public hands.
If there is one overarching lesson this election taught us, it’s that getting organized CAN overcome industry money in elections. Two ballot measures that Food & Water Watch worked on this cycle illustrate the need and power of organizing, even in the face of entrenched and powerful interests.
One of the most exciting victories from election night was in Longmont, Colorado, where voters passed an historic and precedent-setting ballot initiative to ban fracking. We were up against incredible odds in Longmont, with the oil and gas industry spending over half-a-million dollars for TV commercials, full-page ads and multiple mailers to try to scare Longmont citizens. Governor Hickenlooper sued the citizens of Longmont to slow down our efforts, and the Denver Post editorialized against this vote to ban fracking, but we were on the ground, knocking on doors, talking to voters and doing the hard work to support a citizen-led effort to protect our health, safety and property, and the citizens of Longmont still spoke loud and clear. We won with 60% of the vote!
We also worked hard in California with many of our allies to pass Proposition 37, which would require labeling for all genetically engineered foods. This popular measure was only narrowly defeated at the polls, due in large part to the massive spending by large chemical and junk food companies, which outspent our side by over $40 million.Despite this loss, support for GE food labels has never been stronger, and we will continue to build a robust national grassroots campaign to push for mandatory labeling across the country.
These measures prove what we already know: An educated and mobilized citizenry can fight back the corporate control of our common resources, but our work is far from over.
Right now, our policy experts are still sorting out what this election means for every issue we work on. I’m going to be giving a live telephone town hall meeting this Friday at 2 p.m. EST, and I want you to join me so you can hear our more detailed analysis of what this election means for your food and water, and you can ask me questions.
Protecting our water resources and making our food safe is challenging no matter which political party is in office. The truth is, because corporations have so much influence in our political and regulatory systems, we have to educate and mobilize citizens to build the power we need to hold our newly elected officials accountable.
We believe there is a role for strong government regulations over corporations that are abusing our essential food and water resources. Only time will tell if the newly elected Congress can get anything done during the next session, but we know we will need your help to make sure that existing regulations for our food system, the environment and the energy industry are strengthened, not weakened. Among the issues that we will be calling upon you to be involved in are banning fracking and labeling genetically engineered foods at the local, state and national level.
I hope to speak with you on Friday:
Thanks for taking action,
Executive Director—Food & Water Watch
David Korten, Op-Ed: “The tell-all defection of Greg Smith, a former Goldman Sachs executive, provided an insider’s view of the moral corruption of the Wall Street banks that control of much of America’s economy and politics. Smith confirms what insightful observers have known for years: the business purpose of Wall Street bankers is to maximize their personal financial take without regard to the consequences for others.”
Martin Feldstein, Op-Ed: “During the past four years, the United States Federal Reserve has added enormous liquidity to the US commercial banking system, and thus to the American economy. Many observers worry that this liquidity will lead in the future to a rapid increase in the volume of bank credit, causing a brisk rise in the money supply – and of the subsequent rate of inflation.”
Chris Hedges, Truthdig Op-Ed: “The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by President Barack Obama last Dec. 31, puts into the hands of people with no discernible understanding of legitimate dissent the power to use the military to deny due process to all deemed to be terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers, and hold them indefinitely in military detention.”
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: According to an analysis of tax returns by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Pikkety, the top 1 percent pocketed 93 percent of the gains in 2010. 37 percent of the gains went to the top one-tenth of one percent. No one below the richest 10 percent saw any gain at all. In fact, most of the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Their average adjusted gross income was $29,840 in 2010.
Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: The Romney/Ryan America of tomorrow is more like the science-fiction worlds of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than it is like the United States, as we know it. The privileged few would be even wealthier than they are today, while the rest of us struggle to survive in a dystonic world of disease, deprivation, and fear. That’s not lefty rhetoric, either. All you have to do is read the budget. What did Romney say about Ryan’s budget? “He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control.”
Scott Keyes, Video Report: With the election just two months away, outside spending groups are already scrambling to pour money into ads both for and against Walker. However, because of a quirk in Wisconsin campaign law, these groups can spend unlimited funds without disclosing where their money is coming from. ThinkProgress spoke with attendees last weekend at the Americans For Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit in Milwaukee.
Michael T. Klare, Op-Ed: Eager to escape ever-stronger environmental restrictions and dying oil fields at home, the energy giants were naturally drawn to the economically and environmentally wide-open producing areas of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America — the Third World — where oil deposits were plentiful, governments compliant, and environmental regulations few or nonexistent.
Steve Horn, News Analysis: “While the North American shale gas boom continues full-steam ahead, so too does another boom receiving less of the spotlight: the LNG export boom. LNG, shorthand for liquefied natural gas, is gas that’s been condensed into a liquid form by chilling it to approximately −162 °C (−260 °F). That gas is placed in LNG tankers, also known as ‘trains,’ then shipped off to lucrative global markets.”
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “Yes, we certainly need to cut unnecessary and frivolous federal spending, because…well, because it’s unnecessary and frivolous. So Congress has targeted unnecessary oil subsidies and frivolous tax giveaways to billionaires, right? Uh…no. Instead, our learned solons have chosen to whack the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.”
Mike Barrett, News Report: BPA has been shown to prompt hyperactivity and depression in young girls, while also being linked to breast cancer in more than 130 studies. Infertility and fertility defects are also caused by BPA exposure. The chemical is used so widely that it has been found in the urine of nearly 93 percent of Americans, with one study finding that eating canned soup can spike urinary bisphenol-A levels by 1,200 percent compared to fresh soup.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: “Producers of toxic BPA are now boasting $8 billion in sales for 2012 thanks to the FDA rejecting a potential ban on the cancer-linked chemical on March 30th. According to GlobalData, manufacturers will produce 4.7 million metric tons of BPA this year to be dispersed into the daily lives of millions worldwide.”
Ronnie Greene, News Report: “Under federal and international law, ships must properly dispose of oily wastewater and sludge by passing the waste through an oil-water separator on board, or burning sludge in an incinerator. The ship’s crew must record each transfer or disposal in an ‘Oil Record Book.’ When dumping occurs in international waters, U.S. authorities cannot prosecute the actual pollution because it lies outside their jurisdiction.”
Stephen Leahy, News Analysis: “A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Mar. 28, provides solid evidence that record-breaking weather events are increasing in number and becoming more extreme. And if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, these events will reach dangerous new levels over the coming century.”
Anthony Gucciardi, News Analysis: “Obviously there is no room for GMOs in truly healthy food products, which is why it is truly vital that you understand the nature of GMOs and how they are oftentimes hidden in commercial food products. It may very well shock you to know just how prevalent GMOs are within the food supply. It’s truly amazing that modified products continue to go unlabeled despite being linked to organ damage — among a barrage of other conditions — in a prominent review of 19 studies.”
Blair Hickman and Cora Currier, News Analysis: As we wait for the Supreme Court to issue its verdict on the health-care reform law, we rounded up some of the most revealing reporting on the issues. They’re grouped roughly into articles on high costs and those on insurance. The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters are some publications who have given their opinion on the subject matter.
Igor Volsky, News Analysis: “Republicans like to claim that exposing people to the true cost of health care — that is, putting more skin in the game — would discourage overtutilizaiton of care and force health care beneficiaries to act more like consumers, shop around, and select the best deal for a given service or treatment. The theory sounds good, but there is very limited evidence that it actually works. After all, insurers have been shifting individuals into high-deductible plans for some time now, but premiums and prices continue to increase. ”
Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: “With the mainstream media in the hands of the mostly conservative wealthy, it’s difficult for average Americans to learn the truth about critical issues. The following five conservative claims are examples of mythical beliefs that fall apart in the presence of inconvenient facts.”
Zack Ford, News Report: Despite acknowledging the technology young people have access to, he completely ignores the significant impact that cyberbullying now has on young people. Last year, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that nine out of ten have witnessed the cyberbullying of their peers. A similar Associated Press-MTV poll found that about half of young people regularly encounter discriminatory slang in their online communications, and 54 percent of them think it’s okay to use such language in their circle of friends because “I know we don’t mean it.”
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes – who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money. Yet America is now opening the floodgates. Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes – who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money.”
Robert Scheer, Truthdig Op-Ed: “The Supreme Court is so full of it. The entire institution, as well as its sanctimonious judges themselves, reeks of a time-honored hypocrisy steeped in the arrogance that justice is served by unaccountable elitism. My problem is not with the Republicans who dominate the court questioning the obviously flawed individual mandate for the purchasing of private-sector health insurance but rather with their zeal to limit federal power only when it threatens to help the most vulnerable.”
Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia clearly isn’t going to take the time to actually read the health care reform law before he decides whether or not it’s constitutional, maybe he and a couple of his buddies on the High Court can catch a screening of ‘The Hunger Games’, the movie about children battling each other to the death in a futuristic America, renamed Panem.”
Dean Baker, Op-Ed: “The conventional wisdom following the oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week is that, at the least, the health insurance mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act is going down. Many observers thought it likely that the Republican-controlled court would strike down the entire bill. Either way, it will be necessary to do some serious rethinking of health care policy.”
E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed: “Last week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on health care were the most dramatic example of how radical tea partyism has displaced mainstream conservative thinking. It’s not just that the law’s individual mandate was, until very recently, a conservative idea. Even conservative legal analysts were insisting it was impossible to imagine the court declaring the health-care mandate unconstitutional, given its past decisions.”
|ANALYSIS: The End of Health Insurance as We Know It?
Wendell Potter, News Report: Bertolini ticked off a number of reasons why providing basic health insurance to Americans was no longer viable — changes in demographics and the economy and, of course, health care reform at both the state and federal levels. What he did not say was that the standard operating practices of the industry were simply not sustainable and actually contributed more to the demise of the business model than any external factors.
|HR 347 & S 1794 aka The ‘Trespass Bill’ of 2011 Criminalizes Protest…
Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed: “The legislators responsible for bringing this legislative excrement to life are Representative Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) leading the Senate version. The ‘Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011’ sounds more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds landscaping. This bill potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.–a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”
|Nurses Fight for a Dose of Tax Justice
Sarah Anderson, News Analysis: National Nurses United (NNU), a union representing registered nurses, is a major, visible force in the growing movements challenging corporate power. One of their key demands is a financial transaction tax: a small fee on each trade of stocks, derivatives, bonds, and other financial instruments, which could generate massive revenues while discouraging high-frequency speculative trading.
|99% Spring April 9-15
Dave Johnson, Video Compilation: “Action Coming — Spread The Word! This is a Big Deal, just look at end of this post for the list of organizations that are signed on to this so far – and more coming. April 9-15, 2012, the 99% Spring: 100,000 Americans will train for non-violent direct action. Sign up. And spread it around. This spring, the 99% Spring.We will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to train ourselves in non-violent action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country. History is calling; it’s time to step up.”
|Jim Hightower | Woody at 100
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “In these times of tinkle-down economics — with the money powers thinking that they’re the top dogs and that the rest of us are just a bunch of fire hydrants — we need for the hard-hitting (yet uplifting) musical stories, social commentaries and inspired lyrical populism of Woody Guthrie. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of this legendary grassroots troubadour, who came out of the Oklahoma dust bowl to rally America’s “just plain folks” to fight back against the elites who were knocking them down.”
|Obama Releases Housing Plan to Help Military Veterans Who Were Victims of Illegal Foreclosures
Travis Waldron, News Report: Obama’s plan seeks to remedy those problems by providing relief to members who sold their homes at a loss due to a permanent change in station, and provides $10 billion from mortgage services to bolster the Veterans Housing Benefits Program. It also draws on the recent mortgage fraud settlement between the government and major lenders to force banks to compensate service-members who were improperly foreclosed upon by paying lost equity, plus interest, and $116,785.
|State Investigators, Workers Cite Labor Abuses in Warehouse EmpireLilly Fowler, News Analysis: “As a warehouse worker in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, the nation’s biggest distribution hub for consumer goods, Jorge Soto handles shipments for retail giant Walmart every day. But Soto, who works for a subcontractor, claims that, along with routine jobs such as unloading trucks, he also has been ordered to perform an illegal task: falsifying employees’ time sheets to cheat them out of getting the minimum wage.”|
|Limbaugh Launched 46 Personal Attacks on Fluke; He Apologized for Two Words
Research: “Rush Limbaugh has ‘sincerely apologize[d]’ for using the words ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ to describe Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke on two separate days and claimed that he ‘did not mean a personal attack’ on her. These statements fail to account for the other 44 times that Limbaugh personally insulted Fluke over the course of three days. Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, much of her testimony was about women who take birth control for medical reasons.”
|Monsanto’s Roundup Shown to be Ravaging Butterfly PopulationMike Barrett, News Report: A 2011 study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity found that increasing acreage of genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans is heavily contributing to the decline in monarch butterfly populations within North America. Milkweed, a plant butterflies rely on for habitat and food, is being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides and Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the monarch butterfly population in central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.|
|Dean Baker | Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Bowles-Simpson Commission ReportDean Baker, Op-Ed: “Parents often find it useful to tell their children about non-existent creatures to instill habits of good behavior. It seems that many political leaders are going the same route. How else can one explain the repeated references to the Bowles-Simpson commission report and its advice to the country on how to reduce the deficit? The point here is a simple one: there was no Bowles-Simpson commission report. There was no document that commanded the necessary majority of commission members to be adopted as an official report.”|
|The True Cost of Tar Sands
Joe Romm, Video Report: “What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat. This powerful talk is for anyone who thinks the tar sands are just another source of oil — and that the only source of greenhouse gases from the tar sands come from burning gas and oil.”
|The Best Reason for the Very Rich to be Paying A Lot More in Taxes
Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: “The super-rich like to believe their own initiative and creativity have been the primary drivers of growth in technology and science and business and medicine. Some innovative business leaders deserve credit for putting the pieces together on specific initiatives. But the pieces themselves were put together over many years by thousands of less conspicuous people.”
|Where are the Progressive Christians?
Dekker Dreyer, Op-Ed: “Where are the left-wing Christian voices in American politics? The rise of Rick Santorum to a contender position in the GOP primary race, alongside the current debate over contraception has shown proof positive that Christian conservative politics are near the height of their power in guiding the national conversation. This month, while questioning President Obama’s Christianity, Bill O’Reilly said, “A Christian wouldn’t be telling other Christians that you have to put your belief system aside and do what the government tells you as far as birth control or anything else.”
|The ‘All Natural’ Scam: How to Shop Healthy For You and Your Family
Andre Evans, News Analysis: “How do you make an educated food purchase that will protect you and your family from harmful yet common food contaminants? You must be privy to the subtleties. Many people today accept ‘all natural’ as a stamp of integrity for their food. FDA regulations, however, make the guidelines for authenticity rather lenient, and capitalize on the unawareness of the average buyer with strong advertising.”
|How to Fund an American Police State
Stephan Salisbury, Op-Ed: “Government budgets at every level now include allocations aimed at fighting an ephemeral “War on Terror” in the United States. A vast surveillance and military buildup has taken place nationwide to conduct a pseudo-war against what can be imagined, not what we actually face. The costs of this effort, started by the Bush administration and promoted faithfully by the Obama administration, have been, and continue to be, virtually incalculable. In the process, public service and the public imagination have been weaponized.”
|Greg Palast | BP Settlement Sells Out Victims
Greg Palast, Op-Ed: And here’s the sick, sick part. This is exactly the same thing BP did in the Exxon Valdez case. It was BP, not Exxon, that was responsible for stopping the spread of oil in Alaska in 1989. In Alaska, decades ago, BP told federal regulators it would have oil spill “boom” (the rubber that corrals the spreading stuff) ready to roll out if a tanker hit. When the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef, BP’s promised equipment wasn’t there: BP had lied.
|BP Settlement Leaves Most Complex Claims Unresolved
Abrahm Lustgarten, News Report: The payout agreed to Friday is BP’s best estimate of what it will cost to meet outstanding claims, but is not capped and could wind up being higher. As of now, though, the amount is significantly less than many had expected and does not appear to require BP to spend any money that it had not already agreed to pay. The settlement will come out of a $20 billion fund set aside in June 2010 by BP at the behest of President Obama to cover claims from disaster victims.
|The Right-Wing Effort to Smear Obama and Liberals as ‘Anti-Israel’
Ben Adler, Op-Ed: On Sunday ECI released a thirty-minute Web video intended to build a case that Obama has not been a loyal friend to Israel. Its documentation takes the same approach as the ads. They quote partisans leveling criticisms against Obama rather than offering strong independent evidence. They ask what Obama’s real approach to Israel has been and then answer with a long quote from Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the very conservative Hoover Institution.
|Anthony Gucciardi | Genetically Modified Food Labeling Initiative Gains Momentum
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Advocates have repeatedly demonstrated their resistance to GMOs, with more than 500 activist groups banding together over the Just Label It campaign. One petition to the FDA, filed by the Center for Food Safety, called upon the agency to require labels for GMO-containing foods. Shockingly, the petition received 85,000 signatures in support. The number marked the most ever for a federal food petition.Deadline Today to tell Congress to Label GMOs! http://t.co/4e0oPCxl
|Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have BothD
ave Johnson, Op-Ed: Recent stories about the conditions of Apple’s contractors in China have opened many people’s eyes about where our jobs, factories, industries and economy have been going, and why. The stories exposed that workers live 6-to-12-to-a-room in dormitories, get rousted at midnight to work surprise 12-hour shifts, get paid very little, use toxic chemicals, suffer extreme pollution of the environment, etc. Is this “trade?” Or is it something else?
|America the Possible: A Manifesto
Gus Speth, Op-Ed: We work the media and other channels to raise public awareness of our issue, and try to shift public understanding and discourse in our favor. We lobby Congress, the current administration, and government agencies with well-crafted and sensible proposals. When necessary, we go to court. With modest resources, we devote what we can to the electoral process and to candidates for public office. And we hope somehow that lightning will strike and events will move in our favor.
|What If Corporations Couldn’t Use Our Commons for Free?A cushion of reliable income is a wonderful thing. It can help pay for basic necessities. It can be saved for rainy days or used to pursue happiness on sunny days. It can encourage people to take entrepreneurial risks, care for friends, or volunteer for community service. Conversely, the absence of reliable income is a terrible thing. It heightens anxiety and fear. It diminishes our ability to cope with crises and transitions. It traps many families on the knife’s edge of poverty, and makes it harder for poor people to rise.|
|The Opposite of Snobbery
David Sirota, Op-Ed: N+1 magazine notes that since the late 1970s, when Santorum was enjoying his taxpayer-subsidized higher education, “the price of tuition at U.S. colleges has increased over 900 percent.” In 2011, that meant the average total cost of a year at a public university was $21,477, up 5.4 percent in just 12 months. Thanks to cuts to programs that make college and vocational education more affordable — cuts Santorum supported in Congress
The FDA is on the brink of approving genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. This would be the first genetically engineered animal on supermarket shelves in the United States.
The salmon is engineered to produce growth hormones year-round that cause the fish to grow at twice the normal rate. The government already requires labels to tell us if fish is wild-caught or farm-raised—don’t we also have a right to know if our salmon is genetically engineered? Without labels, we’ll never know.
More than forty countries, including Russia and China, already require labels on genetically engineered foods. As Americans, we firmly believe that we deserve the same right to know what we are eating.
That’s why we created a petition to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on SignOn.org, which says:
Commissioner Hamburg, we urge the FDA to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. We have a right to know about the food we eat and what we feed our families, but under current FDA regulations, we don’t have that ability when it comes to genetically engineered foods.
Polls show that more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling. Such near-unanimity in public opinion is rare. Please listen to the American public and mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Will you sign the petition? I don’t know about you, but I’m not all that keen about genetically-modified foods that don’t just pass through one’s body, but have the potential to modify it as well. In what ways? Good? or very badly? Click here to add your name.
—Eric Schlosser and Gary Hirshberg
As part of Prevention and Wellness activities taking place this month, the Food Safe Families campaign was announced this morning by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in time for the July 4th holiday and the start of summer when foodborne illnesses tend to increase—a time when many families celebrate with food. It’s also a time when foodborne illnesses tend to increase with more outdoor meals, and other factors that increase the risk for disease-causing bacteria in food.
The Ad Council is joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to debut their first joint national multimedia public service campaign to help families prevent food poisoning in the home.
Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is a serious public health threat in the U.S. CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. While USDA, HHS and other federal government agencies are dedicated to protecting consumers by setting and enforcing food safety standards, it is also the federal government’s responsibility to give consumers important safety information for safe food handling in the home.
Created pro bono by ad agency JWT New York, the new Food Safe Familiespublic service campaign aims to raise awareness about the risks of foodborne illness and educate consumers, especially parents, to take specific actions to reduce their personal risk. Through humorous over-the-top depictions of the four key safe food handling behaviors, the television public service advertisements (PSAs) urge parents to keep their families safer from food poisoning and deliver clear steps to reduce their risk. Audiences are encouraged to achieve the following safe food handling behaviors:
- Clean: Clean kitchen surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water while preparing food.
- Separate: Separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards.
- Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer.
- Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly.
“The launch of the Ad Council campaign comes at a time of heightened attention to food safety issues, when American families are looking for clear and concise information on how to better protect themselves,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Ensuring the safety of food is a top priority for USDA and we work with the meat and poultry industry each day on best practices to decrease potential risks. The Ad Council campaign has the potential to generate unprecedented national exposure to issues of food safety and foodborne illness prevention.”
“Our food safety strategy is based on preventing food safety problems, and these efforts must begin where food is produced and continue where food is processed and marketed,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Consumers also play a role in preventing food safety problems by properly handling, preparing and storing food in the home. This campaign will help consumers understand their role in farm-to-table food safety.”
The campaign includes English and Spanish-language television, radio, print, and Web advertising, as well as an integrated social media program. The program includes a new FoodSafety.gov Facebook page and outreach via the FoodSafety.gov Twitter handle, both emphasizing “Check Your Steps.” All campaign elements direct audiences to visit FoodSafety.gov, a recently refreshed and updated site in English (www.foodsafety.gov) and Spanish (www.foodsafety.gov/espanol), where they can learn about food safety practices. Consumers can also access “Ask Karen” (www.foodsafety.gov/experts/askkaren/index.html), an online database with answers to nearly 1,500 questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses.
“When it comes to food safety, our number one priority is prevention,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “Knowing that the risk of foodborne illnesses may never be zero, it is important for us to get the word out about what consumers can do.”
At USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the primary focus is preventing foodborne illness by making sure that industry produces safe meat, poultry and processed egg products and the department is constantly looking for ways to improve that system.
- In the past 15 years, illnesses from E. coli O157:H7 have been cut in half, in large part because of the beef safety policies put in place by USDA.
- In this Administration’s watch, we have met the objective for E. coliillness rates proposed in the Healthy People 2010 initiative.
- Our Administration has put forward tougher performance standards forSalmonella and the first-ever standards for Campylobacter in poultry.
- This Administration has unveiled a policy that will require that the products we test will be held from market until those tests are confirmed.
- In addition to the Ad Council efforts, USDA’s FSIS has continued to break new ground with consumer education, including introduction of the Mobile Ask Karen smartphone web application.
“We are proud to join the USDA and the federal government on this first ever Ad Council campaign to help parents and families protect against foodborne illness,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “Consumer education focused on safe food handling and preparation practices is essential and these new ads, as well as our targeted outreach in both traditional and non-traditional media, will help motivate consumers to take critical steps that will keep their families safe and healthy.”
The Ad Council is distributing the new PSAs to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide. The ads will air and run in advertising time and space entirely donated by the media. Several media companies have committed to supporting the PSAs prior to their launch. For example, the Meredith Corporation Local Media Group and Parade will be supporting the PSAs in the upcoming months.
“The goal of the campaign is to break through the complacency to educate people about something they don’t worry or necessarily think about, namely food safety,” said Bill Oberlander, executive creative director, JWT New York. “Using humor and hyperbolic metaphors we drove home the four ways a family can be ‘food safer’ in a way that will grab people’s attention and helps them learn the basic steps to avoid foodborne illnesses. JWT is proud to be a part of this important effort.”
The pen might be mightier than the sword, and written warnings have been printed on cigarette packs for years. That may have gotten some to quit over the years, but the FDA is banking on these photo images being even more powerful at finally getting even large numbers of Americans to kick their habits for good.
Today, HHS Secretary Sebelius and FDA Commissioner Hamburg announced and introduced the nine shocking graphic health warnings that will be required to appear on packs of cigarettes sold in the United States and in every cigarette advertisement beginning in September 2012. This measure is aimed at making sure that every American understands the dangers of smoking and cigarette producers have 15 months to comply.
The cost of smoking is huge. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. with 443,000 attributed to it annually. The FDA estimates that it costs the nation’s economy about $200 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity.
According to a release by the FDA Starting in September 2012, the new cigarette health warnings will appear
- on the top 50 percent of both the front and rear panels of each cigarette package.
- in the upper portion of each cigarette advertisement, occupying at least 20 percent of the area of the advertisement.
The tea party may claim they’re against ‘big government’ and ‘regulation’ in any form, but it’s clear they weren’t any type of driving force in stopping the food safety bill. Yesterday, 11/30/2010, the Senate finally passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act (S. 510), 73 to 25.
S.510 must now be reconciled with a House version that was approved more than a year ago, or be passed by the House, before it can be forwarded on to the President for signature. The House passed an earlier version of the bill in 2009, but the Senate version has significant changes that include an exception for some food producers who have annual revenue of less than $500,000. And that same Senate bill also includes (in Section 107) a set of fees that are classified as revenue raisers, which are technically taxes under the Constitution. Under the Constitution, ‘revenue’ bills must start in the House … and the House bill (H.R. 875 doesn’t have any revenue generating provisions).
A number of House Republicans are threatening to ‘blue slip’ the bill. What that means is that a ‘rejection slip’ is given to the Senate indicating that they have generated a bill that is contrary to the Origination Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Basically, that clause (Article I, Section 7, Clause 1) provides that the House of Representatives has exclusive authority to introduce bills raising revenue. The Senate can simply circumvent this requirement by substituting the revenue-generating text into any ‘revenue’ bill passed by the House.
The blue slip could lead to one of two likely outcomes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) could simply drop the issue and let the next session of Congress start from scratch, a strategy that would allow him time in the lame-duck session to tackle other last-minute priorities, like the Dream Act (Immigration Reform), repeal of DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell), and an extension of unemployment benefits for those people unable to find employment. Or … he could try to force the issue in the Senate after the House passes a new version of the bill. However, to do that and still tackle the other issues, he would need a unanimous consent agreement to limit debate, a consent that requires 60 votes. Given that the bill passed 73 to 25, that may be possible, unless of course, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) puts another hold on the bill until such time as he can introduce amendments.
The food safety bill would give the federal government broad new powers to finally begin policing the nation’s food system. This $1.4 billion bill aims to prevent massive outbreaks of tainted food. It would finally give the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) actual authority to order mandatory recalls and require more frequent inspections of high-risk food processing plants. It also places new responsibilities on farmers and food companies to prevent contamination, and it finally sets safety standards for imported foods which are rapidly becoming a growing part of our American diets.
“No one in America should have to worry if the food they put on the table every night is going to harm them or their families,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement. The bipartisan bill we passed today will make sure that continues to be true. Our food-safety system has not been updated in almost a century.”
The most important provisions in the bill:
- A schedule to inspect 50,000 foreign and domestic food production facilities by 2015 (600 to be inspected in year one, doubling that number each year for 5 years)
- Ability to directly recall tainted foods (rather than relying on food manufacturer’s to voluntarily recall it on their own)
- Transforming the FDA from an agency that merely responds to crises, into a watchdog that can actually head off potential crises ‘before’ they can occur through policing actions at home and abroad.
There are approximately 76 million foodborne illnesses each year in the United States, according to a report released in June, “Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration,” which was requested by Congress. Those illnesses cause more than 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the new bill would cost $1.4 billion over five years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that foodborne illnesses cost the country $152 billion annually.
Meat products, which represent approximately 20% of our diet, will still remain regulated by the USDA.