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How Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs

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Non GMO Project
Non GMO Project

If you hadn’t heard, Vermont recently passed a GMO labeling law, and Congress, since it is so dysfunctional, could not muster a response. Thus Vermont’s law will become the de facto law of the nation, at least for a while…

You’ll soon know whether many of the packaged foods you buy contain ingredients derived from genetically modified plants, such as soybeans and corn.

Over the past week or so, big companies including General Mills, Mars and Kellogg have announced plans to label such products – even though they still don’t think it’s a good idea.

The reason, in a word, is Vermont. The tiny state has boxed big food companies into a corner. Two years ago, the state passed legislation requiring mandatory labeling.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has fought back against the law, both in court and in Congress, but so far it’s been unsuccessful.

Last week, as we reported, Congress failed to pass an industry-supported measure that would have created a voluntary national standard for labeling — and also would have preempted Vermont’s law. Which means for now, food industry giants still face a July 1 deadline to comply with the state’s labeling mandate.

And since food companies can’t create different packaging just for Vermont, it appears that the tiniest of states has created a labeling standard that will go into effect nationwide.

This statement, from General Mills’ Jeff Harmening, sums it up:

“Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines,” Harmening wrote on the General Mills blogs.

“We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that,” explains Harmening.

So, as a result: “Consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products,” he concludes.

Chocolate giant Mars struck a similar tone in its announcement: “To comply with [the Vermont] law, Mars is introducing clear, on-pack labeling on our products that contain GM ingredients nationwide,” the company statement says.

(click here to continue reading How Little Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs : The Salt : NPR.)

All Your Bonnie Plants Come from Non-GMO Seeds, and All Your Base are Belong to Us
All Your Bonnie Plants Come from Non-GMO Seeds, and All Your Base are Belong to Us

For the record, I’m ok with the Vermont labeling law. I don’t know if genetically modified food is good or bad, but truthfully, nobody really does. The American government’s regulatory agencies are permanently tilted towards the interests of corporations, always, and nearly without exception; the FDA cannot be trusted to protect the health of consumers. Do we really know if gene splicing pesticide resistance into apples or wheat is going to alter our bodies? The corporations pinky-swear GMOs won’t have long-term effects on cancer rates and other health-related concerns, and maybe they are right.

But maybe they are not.

Last spring, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization declared glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide on GMO crops, to be a probable carcinogen. And just last month, the FDA announced it would begin testing food products sold in the U.S. for glyphosate residue.

State legislators across the nation introduced 101 bills last year pertaining to GMOs. Of the 15 that passed, four had to do with labeling, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A bill introduced by Illinois state Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, requiring disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients stalled in committee.

More than 90 percent of corn and soybeans grown in Illinois is genetically modified, said Adam Nielsen, director of national legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

The GMO crop movement took off in 1996, when Monsanto Co. introduced Roundup Ready soybean seeds, genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide. Similarly marketed cotton, canola, corn and sugar beet seeds soon followed.

For farmers, glyphosate represented a safer, cheaper, more effective way of controlling weeds, thwarting pests and growing crops, Moose said. It’s since become the standard in large-scale agriculture.

The general public and the scientific community don’t tend to agree when it comes to GMO safety, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey conducted before the World Health Organization finding. Most consumers surveyed, 57 percent, said they considered GMOs to be generally unsafe to eat, whereas 88 percent of scientists surveyed, all of them connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said GMOs were generally safe.

Genetically modified crops don’t present a health risk, but the herbicides used on them are “a big problem,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and an expert on environmental health concerns and children.

As GMO crops have become more common over the years, weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, which has led to heavier use of the herbicide, he said.

Landrigan is among scientists and health experts calling on the EPA to “urgently review the safety risk of glyphosate” and says it’s time for GMO labeling. “Not because I think genetic rearrangement is bad, but because I think consumers have a right to know what they’re eating,” he said.

(click here to continue reading GMO labeling debate puts food industry on defensive – Chicago Tribune.)

The agribusinesses are not being banned from using GMO products, only being required to be transparent if they are. Does this mean General Mills has to change their packaging? Yep. So what? They can’t be complaining about the extra ink required, only that they are being forced to alter their packaging by dictate of the people. Boo hoo. Packaging changes all the time anyway, I don’t see the harm in adding a few words to a package.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 27th, 2016 at 8:29 am

Step Forward for Genetically Engineered Salmon

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Catch Anything?

Follow up on the AquaBounty Frankenfish FDA hearing held yesterday…

Still some panel members did say the studies the F.D.A. relied on to reach its own conclusion that the salmon would be safe were flawed, often using only a few dozen fish or even fewer.

“I do get heartburn when we’re going to allow post-market surveillance to finalize our safety evaluation,” said one committee member, Michael D. Apley, a pharmacology expert at Kansas State University.

The criticisms could add to the time needed to approve the salmon. It could also provide grist for consumer and environmental groups, many of which testified on Monday that the salmon should not be approved.

Approval of the salmon could pave the way for other such biotech animals to enter the food supply, like a pig developed in Canada that has more environmentally friendly manure.

(click to continue reading Step Forward for Genetically Engineered Salmon – NYTimes.com.)

Fish head surprise

Humanity has been modifying food since agriculture was invented, but grafting apple saplings or breeding milk cows is not quite the same as modern techniques. It could be absolutely harmless, but I don’t see the need to rush the salmon to market without conducting comprehensive, exhaustive tests. Especially because the reality of a laboratory is much different than the reality of a factory farm, especially after a decade of production.

The company said that fish would not escape because they are grown inland in facilities with containment mechanisms. If any did escape, it said, the rivers outside the Canadian and Panama facilities would be too salty or warm for the fish to survive. And the fish would all be female and almost all would be sterile, so they would not interbreed with wild salmon.

But some committee members, as well as some environmental groups, said the government’s environmental assessment should evaluate what would happen if the salmon were grown widely in many facilities.

“The F.D.A. must consider issues related to realistic production scenarios,” said Anna Zivian, a senior manager at the group Ocean Conservancy.

One test showed a possible increase in the potential to cause allergic reactions that was almost statistically significant even though only six fish were used in each group in the study.

More tests please…

Written by Seth Anderson

September 21st, 2010 at 10:38 am

Posted in Food and Drink,government

Tagged with , , ,

Toothless FDA Nibble on Frankenfish

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Unlabeled genetically engineered salmon: such a crowd pleaser that the FDA is working overtime to change the subject and make excuses, and the AquaBounty “fish” isn’t even on the market yet. Too bad we don’t have any regulatory agencies that are concerned with public opinion, and public safety.

Fresh Copper River Sockeye Salmon

The FDA’s apparent readiness to approve the AquaBounty salmon has inflamed a coalition of consumer, environmental, animal welfare and fishing groups, who have accused the agency of basing its judgment on data compiled from small samples supplied by the company, rushing the public portion of the review process and disclosing insufficient information about the fish.

The FDA does not have an approval process designed specifically for genetically engineered animals and is evaluating the salmon under the process used for new veterinary drugs. That means that much of the data provided to FDA to demonstrate the safety of the fish is considered a trade secret.

The process doesn’t allow enough public participation, doesn’t give the FDA enough leeway to consider environmental factors and doesn’t give the agency enough power to withdraw the salmon from the market if something should go wrong, said Greg Jaffe, director of the Biotechnology Project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a member of the FDA advisory committee that will evaluate the agency’s findings.

(click to continue reading FDA advisors to vote on genetically engineered salmon – latimes.com.)

So is this frankenfish safe to eat or not? I couldn’t tell you, but I’d sure like the FDA to conduct more tests instead of rushing this beast to market.

Fishy Fishy Fish

Written by Seth Anderson

September 20th, 2010 at 7:02 pm