Turning the Tide on Monsanto
By Dr. Mercola
Between October 18 and November 5 the next big GMO-labeling vote will take place in the United States; this time in Washington State, where citizens will cast their votes for the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.”
Initiative 522 (I-522) will require seeds, raw agricultural commodities, and processed foods to be labeled if they’re produced using genetic engineering.1
The success of this ballot initiative is dependent on public donations, and we’re up against industry giants with very deep pockets, so please, help us win this key GMO labeling battle and continue to build momentum for GMO labeling in other states by making a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund (OCF) today.
The video above features Ronnie Cummins, the national director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the Organic Consumers Fund—one of our allies in the movement to build a sustainable and healthy system of food and farming in the United States.
Part of this food movement is the Millions Against Monsanto campaign, and campaigns pushing for labeling of genetically engineered foods across the US.
The first March Against Monsanto, which took place in May, 2013 was really an extraordinary event that did not get the media attention it deserved. Some two million people in 450 cities and 50 countries took to the streets with the same message—that genetic engineering and Monsanto are out of control, and we need labeling and safety testing.
According to Cummins:
“We need to get these crops off the market or marginalized. That’s what worries Monsanto and the rest of the food industry. Last November, they came close to a disaster when the California ballot initiative Proposition 37 nearly passed. We got 48.5 percent of the vote. They beat us by one and a half percentage points. Well, Monsanto and their allies – Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, and the rest – they had to spend 50 million dollars to beat us in California.”
Why Are Chemical Companies in Charge of Our Food Supply?
For a long time, Monsanto appeared to be perched on top of the world, making enormous profits and wielding near unparalleled political clout. One of the most recent examples of their political power was the insertion of the “Monsanto Protection Act” rider into the appropriation bill, back in January, which basically eliminated the power of the federal judiciary to control genetically engineered crops. As explained by Cummins:
“Under this Monsanto rider to the appropriation bill, even if a federal court rules that a genetically engineered crop has been improperly approved—that it could harm the environment or public health, they can’t stop it. Monsanto’s chief cheerleader in the Senate, Roy Blunt from Missouri, was very proud of this rider, and it went through.
But in a sign of change, millions of people complained, emailed and called Congress, and caused the backers of the bill to back off and say that, ‘Well, it’ll expire on September 30 and then it won’t be part of the Farm Bill or continuing appropriations.’”
Thankfully, the rider, which was renewed by the House of Representatives, was finally voted down by the Senate, thanks to your overwhelming support and affirmative action. As of September 30, the “Monsanto Protection Act” expired. It just goes to show how critical it is that we unite and address these issues together. It’s the only way we will make positive change.
It’s worth remembering though that Monsanto is not alone in recklessly pushing genetically engineered (GE) crops and foods. The following five multi-national chemical companies are also major players:
All of these chemical companies have tried to reposition themselves as “life science” companies, but, as Cummins points out, “they’re still the same old companies whose bottom line depends on selling as many toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides as possible.” Disturbingly, these chemical companies have also bought out most of the seed industry, worldwide, making it extremely difficult for farmers to buy non-GE seeds.
Monsanto’s Grip Slips as Americans Become Better Informed
While the overall picture looks bleak, a number of things have happened in the last 12 months that have shaken Monsanto’s image of invincibility. For example:
- A growing epidemic of genetically engineered (GE) super weeds and super pests is spreading across US farm fields. As reported by Cummins, 49 percent of American farmers are now battling Roundup resistant weeds in their corn and soy fields. In an effort to get rid of them, they’re resorting to ever-increasing amounts of Roundup herbicide, Monsanto’s flagship chemical weed killer, and/or other even more toxic herbicides such as Agent Orange 2,4-D or Dicamba. If you look at the statistics over the last decade, there are actually more herbicides than ever being used. As a result, the industry’s promise that GE crops would allow for fewer pesticides to be used has taken on a distinctively hollow ring.
- Also, part of the original rationale for using GE crops was that they could be sprayed with less toxic herbicides, such as Roundup—which was touted as harmless and biodegradable. Now, mounting research reveals that Roundup may actually be one of the most toxic chemicals ever to enter our food supply! Some scientists, like Dr. Don Huber, believe it may be even more toxic than DDT.
- Genetically engineered Bt seeds are also soaked in toxic fungicides called neonicotinoids, which have now been linked to the mass die-off of bees in the US and around the world. This in and of itself threatens about 70 percent of the US food supply (fruits, vegetables, berries and nuts that rely on bees for pollination) and the rapid demise of these pollinators has gained worldwide attention.
- Mounting research published in peer-reviewed journals reveals a wide variety of health hazards associated with consuming genetically engineered foods and the chemicals that accompany these crops.
- The environmental impact of GE crops and associated agricultural chemicals, like Roundup, is also coming into clearer focus as research reveals how they destroy soil microbes and inhibit the fertility of the soil.
Recent Events Highlight Necessity for GMO Labeling
In 2013, we’ve seen efforts to pass genetically engineered food labeling laws in 30 states, and the state legislatures in Connecticut and Maine have passed such laws. The next major event is November 5. The citizens’ ballot initiative in Washington State is very similar to the law that was proposed in California last year. Polls and focus groups indicate this ballot initiative is indeed going to win. A number of recent events have also heightened the public’s awareness of the necessity for GMO labeling, not to mention the need to implement the precautionary principle. For example:
- The federal government is considering approving the most controversial genetically engineered product since bovine growth hormone in 1994, namely genetically engineered salmon. Even FDA scientists are warning that the GE salmon created by Aquabounty appears to be allergenic to humans. Marine biologists and fishing communities are also pointing out that once these genetically engineered salmon escape into the wild, which they will, they will decimate the wild salmon population.
- Industry is also trying to get approval for a GE apple, which is anathema to Washington State’s apple producers. This apple is genetically engineered to not turn brown once sliced. Here too, scientists are warning that the genetic manipulation involved in producing this non-browning apple is unpredictable and possibly quite hazardous to human health.
- Unapproved genetically engineered wheat varieties, created by Monsanto, were recently discovered in the Northwest, causing overseas markets to temporarily cancel imports of American-grown wheat. This naturally caught the attention of wheat growers in Washington State as well.
Who Is Funding the Anti-Labeling Campaign?
Monsanto has so far donated $4.8 million to the No on 522 campaign. Dupont has kicked in another $3.4 million,2 and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) $2.2 million. Curiously absent from any list of donors are the big spenders from last year’s No on Prop 37 campaign. However, as explained by Cummins, this cannot be taken as a good sign:
“I think we’re going to win on November 5th, and industry sees that, too. That’s the reason none of the Big Food companies have been willing to donate money to defeat I-522 in Washington State, or at least they haven’t been willing to publicly donate money.
The main donations so far against labeling in Washington State, which is about two million dollars, have come disguised as a donation from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The Grocery Manufacturers Association is basically a trade association of 300 large corporations – food and manufacturing corporations – and supermarket chains.
No one wants to be identified with being against mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, so they’re trying to conceal their donations by giving them to the GMA, and then the GMA launders the money for them. But that’s not going to work. It’s going to be coming out more and more: Who is providing the money to try to keep consumers in the dark about labeling?”
New Hurdles to Be Faced as Big Biotech Fights to Maintain Control
Recent polls show that 64-66 percent of likely voters in Washington State strongly support GMO labeling, which puts further pressure on companies who’d rather not disclose such ingredients. So what is Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association apt to do, knowing that the Washington State ballot initiative is likely going to pass on November 5th?
According to Cummins, they’re presently hard at work on a number of fronts. For example, they’re trying to insert a measure into the Farm Bill—known as the King Amendment—which could make it very difficult for states to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws. They also tried and failed to keep the “Monsanto Protection Act” rider in the appropriations bill.
Worse yet, Big Biotech and the Grocery Manufacturers Association are also working on two secret trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). You can learn more about these trade agreements on Organic Consumers Association’s web site.3