Out of the Kitchen and On Capitol Hill: Chefs Speak Out for GMO Labeling

‘Having honest, clear labeling of the foods we eat is a fundamental right, one that’s worth fighting for.’

— by Deirdre Fulton, CommonDreams staff writer

More than 700 chefs and restauranteurs are calling on Congress to support legislation to mandate labeling of genetically modified foods and to oppose efforts to block state GMO labeling laws.

colicchio
Chef Tom Colicchio testifies before Congress in 2010. (Photo: House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats/flickr/cc)

Advocates from Food Policy Action, Environmental Working Group, Center for Food Safety, Just Label It, and other national groups joined high-profile chefs—including Tom Colicchio, José Andrés, Art Smith, and Sam Talbot—on Tuesday for meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and to deliver a petition in favor of a GMO-labeling bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon).

“As chefs, we know that choosing the right ingredients is an absolutely critical part of cooking,” reads the petition. “But when it comes to whether our ingredients contain genetically modified organisms, we’re in the dark. The simple truth is consumers have the right to know what they’re feeding their families, and as chefs we have a right to know what we’re feeding our customers.”

Further, the petition points out that while 93 percent of Americans support GMO labeling, the U.S. is one of the only industrialized countries in the world without labeling laws. GMO labeling laws have passed in Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut; an Oregon ballot measure requiring labels on all genetically modified food sold in the state will be recounted after falling just shy of the votes necessary for passage in the November election.

“As a chef and father, I want to know what I’m serving my customers and kids, and the majority of Americans want honest information about the food on their tables,” said Colicchio, the owner of Craft Restaurants, co-founder of Food Policy Action, and head judge on Top Chef, who authored the petition. “Having honest, clear labeling of the foods we eat is a fundamental right, one that’s worth fighting for.”

Culinary insiders are increasingly flexing their advocacy muscles outside the kitchen and in Washington, D.C.—a phenomenon explored at Politico last week.

“Colicchio is part of a growing army of chefs across the country looking to channel their growing celebrity to influence food and agriculture policy in Washington, from school nutrition to the farm bill to animal welfare and even fisheries management,” wrote Helena Bottemiller Evich. “Their number is legion, their ranks full of names like Rachael Ray and Mario Batali along with scores of local celebrity chefs and restaurateurs—and their increasingly organized effort backs up some of the Obama administration’s sweeping food policy agenda right as it faces down an adversarial Congress.”

“Chefs are among the most influential advocates I’ve ever lobbied with,” Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, told Politico. “They bring a business perspective to food policy that a traditional advocate might not bring and they rise above the partisan divide.”


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A Last (Chemical) Gasp for Bees?

Colony collapse disorder threatens food crops valued at $15 billion a year. New research says farm chemicals put our food system at risk.

by Shannan Stoll

Bee photo by Brian Wolfe

Photo by Brian Wolfe.

Newly published scientific evidence is bolstering calls for greater regulation of some of the world’s most widely used pesticides and genetically modified crops.

Earlier this year, three independent studies linked agricultural insecticides to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that leads honeybees to abandon their hives.

Beekeepers have reported alarming losses in their hives over the last six years. The USDA reports the loss in the United States was about 30 percent in the winter of 2010-2011.

Bees are crucial pollinators in the ecosystem. Their loss also impacts the estimated $15 billion worth of fruit and vegetable crops that are pollinated by bees in the United States.

The studies, conducted in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, all pointed to neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals used widely in U.S. corn production, as likely contributors to colony collapse disorder. The findings challenged the EPA’s position—based on studies by Bayer CropScience, a major producer of the neonicotinoid clothianidin—that bees are only exposed to small, benign amounts of these insecticides.

The new studies found that bees are exposed to potentially lethal amounts of neonicotinoids in pollen and in dust churned up by farm equipment. They also found that exposure to neonicotinoids can reduce the number of queen bees and disorient worker bees.

An alliance of beekeepers and environmental groups filed a petition on March 21 asking the EPA to block the use of clothianidin in agricultural fields until the EPA conducts a sound scientific review of the chemicals.

Meanwhile, farm chemicals and the biotech industry have come under fire for the problem of pest resistance. Some weeds and bugs have become less susceptible or immune to the chemicals or biotechnology used to control them.

In March, national experts on corn pests published a letter to the EPA describing how rapidly rootworms are becoming resistant to the larvae-killing gene in Monsanto’s genetically engineered “Bt” corn. The letter warns that the EPA should move to regulate Bt corn—by requiring, for example, non-GM buffer zones—with “some sense of urgency.”

In a similarly alarming trend, Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” soy and corn, which are genetically modified to tolerate the active ingredient in Roundup, are associated with the creation of “super weeds.” The widespread use of these crops has led farmers to vastly increased use of the herbicide, leading to the development of resistant weeds.

The agriculture industry has responded to Roundup’s failure by developing new crop varieties resistant to another pesticide/herbicide, 2,4-D. An ingredient of Agent Orange, 2,4-D is linked to birth defects, hormone disruption, and cancer. Last December, Dow AgroSciences LLC asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the new varieties for cultivation.

In response, the Pesticide Action Network, Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for Food Safety, and Food and Water Watch are gathering public comments for a petition to the USDA against Dow AgroSciences’ request.


Shannan Stoll wrote this article for Making it Home, the Summer 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Shannan is an intern at YES!

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Under the Reading Lamp — 5/15/2012

Colonized by Corporations

Chris Hedges, Truthdig Op-Ed: “We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called ‘the wretched of the earth,’ including African-Americans.”

The National Security State Wins (Again)

William Astore, Op-Ed: The president and his campaign staff are no fools. Since any sign of “weakness” vis-à-vis Iran and similar enemies du jour or any expression of less than boundless admiration for our military will be exploited ruthlessly by Romney et al., Obama will continue to tack rightwards on military issues and national defense. As a result, once elected he, too, will be a prisoner of the Complex. In this process, the only surefire winner and all-time champ: once again, the national security state.

Jamie Dimon’s JPMorgan Chase: Why It’s the Scandal of Our Time

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “The JPMorgan Chase story is the story behind the financial crisis that has thrown millions of people out of work. It’s the story behind our ever-growing wealth inequity. It’s the story behind Washington’s inability to prosecute criminal bankers, regulate reckless ones, and propose the economic solutions the rest of us urgently need. Depending on the day and the measurement used, JPMorgan Chase is now the largest or second-largest bank in the world.”

JPM Chase Chairman, Jamie Dimon, the Whale Man, and Glass-Steagall

Nomi Prins, Op-Ed: Financial history has a sense of irony. JPM Chase was the post-Glass-Steagall repeal marriage, 66 years in the making, of Morgan Bank and Chase. Today, it is the largest bank in America, possessing greater control of the nation’s cash than any other bank. It also has the largest derivatives exposure ($70 trillion) including nearly $6 trillion worth of credit derivatives. It is the size of a bank holding company’s deposits that dictates the extent of the risk it takes, risk ‘models’ not withstanding: the more deposits, the more risk, the more potential loss.

America’s G-Zero Moment

Ian Bremmer, Op-Ed: “U.S. foreign policy may be as active as ever, but it is downsizing and becoming more exacting about its priorities and as a result, many global challenges – climate change, trade, resource scarcity, international security, cyber-warfare, and nuclear proliferation, to name a few – are bound to loom larger. Welcome to the G-Zero world, a more turbulent, uncertain environment in which coordination on global policy issues falls by the wayside.”

America as a Shining Drone Upon a Hill

Tom Engelhardt, Op-Ed: “In the service of this war, in the midst of a perpetual state of war and of wartime, every act committed by these leaders is, it turns out, absolutely, totally, and completely legal. We have their say-so for that, and they have the documents to prove it, largely because the best and most elevated legal minds among them have produced that documentation in secret. (Of course, they dare not show it to the rest of us, lest lives be endangered.)”

Palin’s Rhetoric Torpedoed Medicare Savings

Wendell Potter, News Analysis: The Congressional Budget Office projects that the average annual growth in Medicare spending will be 5.8 percent between 2012 and 2020. It would have been one percentage point higher than that, according to the CBO, if not for the cost-constraining provisions of the Affordable Care Act, most notably the one that will gradually eliminate the bonuses the government pays private insurers to participate in the Medicare Advantage program.

Tar sands pipelines don’t just leak oil

Lorne Stockman: When Enbridge’s Line 6B burst open near Marshall, Michigan in July 2010 spewing over a million gallons of tar sands sludge into the Kalamazoo river watershed, funds were quickly released from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to mobilize Environmental Protection Agency staff and other federal employees to assist and monitor clean up. But the tar sands companies that produced the oil that is still polluting Talmadge Creek nearly two years later have never paid a penny into the fund. Why? Because when payments into the fund were reinstated by the 2005 Energy Policy Act following a hiatus, someone convinced the IRS that tar sands crude was not crude oil, and therefore did not need to pay.

Five Facts That Put America to Shame

Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: Privatization simply hasn’t worked for health care, mortgage banking, higher education, or prison management. There is little incentive for profit-motivated firms to invest in disadvantaged or underemployed Americans. That’s why taxes are necessary — to provide for the common good, and to return some of the gains from 60 years of productivity to the great majority of Americans who contributed to our growth.

Our Guns and Butter Economy

David Sirota, Op-Ed: The result is that America has become the true "Lord of War," as the arms dealer motto goes. We are the leading arms supplier to the developing world and we are responsible for the majority of all weapons sales across the globe. Yes, we are so committed to selling instruments of death to the rest of the planet that military industries have almost tripled their share of the U.S. economy in just a decade.

GMOs and Whole Foods Market in St. Louis

Barbara Chicherio , Daniel Romano and Don Fitz, News Report: “Many say that GMOs should be banned from food because we do not know the true health and environmental consequences. A second response is that food-containing GMOs should be clearly labeled so that consumers can make an informed choice of whether they want to purchase it. As the world’s largest advocate for GMOs, St. Louis-based Monsanto is the company with the greatest interest in the debate. But an often-unnoticed player is WFM.”

EPA Grossly Misrepresents the Toxicity of Corexit Used in Gulf Of Mexico

Susan Aarde, News Report: What is the buying public to make of such conflicting data? Those who have medical conditions which require complete avoidance of toxic seafood need to know with certainty what they are eating. Likewise, the fishermen in the Gulf need to know the true condition of their catch. Swimmers and beachgoers need to know the state of the water, as well as the beaches. Boaters ought to be informed of the relevant risk factors when out in the areas of recently sprayed waters, whether surface or deep sea.

Climate Change Threatens Crucial Marine Algae

Stephen Leahy, News Report: The good news is this has slowed the rate of global warming. The bad news is oceans are now more acidic and it will get worse as more CO2 is emitted. This is basic, well-understood ocean chemistry. Gao and his team made several trips into the South China Sea taking samples from surface waters where phytoplankton are found. While still on the research vessel, those samples were made as acidic as the oceans are likely to be in 2100 without major emissions reductions (800-1000 parts per million compared to current 392 ppm).

CEOs of Tax Dodging Corporations Want to Cut Their Own Taxes Too

Pat Garofalo, News Report: “It’s bad enough that these corporations are contributing so much to the fact that corporate taxes are. But to then turn around and advocate for preserving the low rate on capitals gains — which is a leading contributor to income inequality — really adds insult to injury. Remember, it was conservative icon Ronald Reagan who completely equalized the treatment of wage income and capital gains income, rejecting the conservative argument that a lower rate on investment income is necessary.”

Boehner Threatens To Take The Debt Limit Hostage Again

Pat Garofalo | ThinkProgress: In a speech Tuesday, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to address the issue of national debt, which will once again be nearing its legal limit in January, just as the tax hikes and spending cuts are due to hit.  According to advance remarks provided to The Post, Boehner will insist that any increase in the debt limit be accompanied by spending “cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase” — the same demand that pushed the Treasury to the brink of default during last summer’s debt-limit standoff.

France Doesn’t Play Monsanto’s Game

by Christine O’Brien, Nutrition and Healing

Here in the United States, we might be afraid that Monsanto is going to take over the food supply, but in France, they’re not standing for the food giant’s antics.

This month, the Agricultural Minister in France banned (albeit temporarily) the MON 810 strain of maize, citing that the ban was “to protect the environment.”

The agricultural ministry had previously placed a ban on genetically modified crops from Monsanto in 2008. Concerned about public safety, they didn’t want to take the risk. However, the ban was overturned late last year by the top administrative court in France.

The ministry wouldn’t sit idly by in the face of the overturned ruling, though. They instead focused their efforts on one strain of maize, MON 810, that includes DNA from a bacteria. Monsanto claims it’s resistant to pests. The agricultural ministry, like many of us, fears that the strain could be dangerous to plants, animals, and public safety.

In February, the ecology ministry in France asked the European Commission to suspend authorization of MON 810 crops after a study from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) showed that the genetically modified crops did in fact pose environmental risks.

The members of the Commission refuse to do anything at the moment. They want to hear from the EFSA first. Yeah, I’m not sure why the study wasn’t enough, either.

So France took action on its own. Monsanto countered by saying they weren’t going to sell that strain in France anyway, because they didn’t think France was ready. Or, in other words, “Well, we didn’t want to play with you anyway!”

It sounds like a struggle over there, for sure. But at least France is doing something to fight back against Monsanto. Instead of, you know, handing out top-level FDA positions to former Monsanto execs.


Researchers found that consumption of GMO corn or soybeans may lead to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice – particularly in the liver and kidneys. [1]

Monsanto, the company that brought the world Agent Orange, is also the creator of the best-selling herbicide Roundup, which has spawned over 120 million hectacres of herbicide-resistant superweeds while damaging massive amounts of soil. [2]

Monsanto has created several varieties of “superbugs”. Monsanto engineered genetically modified crops containing Bt, a toxin incorporated in GMO crops which has spawned insect populations which are resistant to the biopesticide. Insect populations have and are mutating to resist the biopesticide. So far at least 8 insect populations have developed resistance, with 2 populations resistant to Bt sprays and at least 6 species resistant to Bt crops as a whole. Farmers are therefore forced to use even more pesticides to combat the resistant bugs. [3]

Monsanto may be destroying the planet’s soil. Certain bacteria essential as “food-starters,” such as L cremoris, used in raw and fermented dairy products have begun to disappear in certain geographic regions. The cause has been found to be an element of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, glyphosate which is destroying and/or altering the microbial biodiversity of the soil, jeopardizing the fertility of the entire biosphere. [4]

Monsanto has been caught running “slave-like” rings, holding off pay and forcing undocumented workers to buy their food only from the Monsanto company store. The company not only ‘hired’ all of the workers illegally, but prevented them from leaving the farm premises and withheld their salaries. [5]

Monsanto effectively owns most US diplomats, and is currently using this political capital to start “Trade Wars” against Nations Opposed to Monsanto’s destructive policies. [6] France, Hungary, and Peru are a few of the countries that have decided stand up to Monsanto with Hungary going as far as destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with GMOs. Peru has passed a monumental 10 year ban on modified foods and French legislatures are planning to launch new restrictions regarding the use of Monsanto’s 810 maize on French soil. [7]

Monsanto poses one of the greatest threats on the planet to human health and the environment.

Nation of Change is teaming up with activists across the country for an ongoing campaign to fight back against one of the worst corporations in the world.  The first step: raise awareness about Monsanto’s crimes against human health and the environment.

With the Anti-Occupy Law Now in Play, How Will This Protest End for Protesters?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2012

GCU Media Liaison: Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671
GMO@occupy-monsanto.com

Occupy-Monsanto to Wear Bio-Hazmat Suits as they
Protest a Genetically Modified Congress

WASHINGTON DC – On Friday, March 16, 2012, Occupy Monsanto’s agents of change with the Genetic Crimes Unit (GCU), a group designed to protect America from genetically modified foods, will wear bio-hazmat suits when they visit Congress. The group will gather at Capitol South Metro station at noon on March 16 to highlight how chemical company Monsanto is contaminating our political process. The GCU opposes Monsanto’s bid to increase spraying of food with toxic weed killers like 2,4 D (the main ingredient in Agent Orange), genetic contamination of the organic food supply, and other risks associated with genetically modified food (GMOs).

The GCU will arrive at the metro station wearing bio-hazmat suits to assess whether Members of Congress and their staff have been victims of genetic crimes. The GCU will hold a banner that reads, “Congress is Genetically Modified,” as they circulate on Capitol Hill sidewalks. This day of action is part of a larger international call to ‘Occupy Monsanto’ taking place all over the globe including Spain, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and at least 28 cities throughout the US.

“In the name of Wall Street profits, chemical corporations such as Monsanto genetically engineer crops to withstand high doses of their toxic weed killers that contaminate our food and water, and have not been proven safe. We deserve to know what we are eating. Virtually every major country requires labeling of GMOs in foods so their citizens can make informed choices, including all of Europe, Japan and even China,” said GCU’s Ariel Vegosen. “Monsanto’s lobbying dollars are pouring into politicians so its clear we have a GMO contaminated US Congress that threatens our health and the health of the planet,” says Vegosen.

WHO: Occupy Monsanto’s Genetic Crimes Unit (GCU)
WHAT: ID’ing Victims of Monsanto’s Genetic Crimes by GCU Agents in Bio-Hazmat Suits
WHEN: Friday, March 16, Noon
WHERE: Cannon Building: Independence Ave. SE, Washington, DC, 20540, corner NJ Ave

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced three bills addressing concerns with GMOs. In addition, more than 900,000 people have signed onto the JustLabelit.org citizens’ petition to the Food and Drug Administration for GMO labeling (the most to sign an FDA petition ever). Last fall about 100 people marched in the Right2Know March from New York to the White House to demand President Obama keep his campaign promise to label GMO foods. Video of the promise can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqaaB6NE1TI In California Monsanto faces a 2012 ballot proposition on GMO labeling. Finally, on September 17, 2012 Occupy Monsanto is calling for hundreds of actions internationally, www.occupy-monsanto.com