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Senate Food Fight Erupts Over Sham GMO Labeling Bill


#1

Senate Food Fight Erupts Over Sham GMO Labeling Bill

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The pending "compromise" GMO labeling bill has food safety and consumer advocates both in and out of government scrambling to block the legislation, which they warn will destroy popular efforts to label products made with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to put a hold on the legislation, which would prevent it from coming up for debate unless proponents can muster 60 votes.


#3

Call your senators and harangue them about this. It's a bill made of cattle manure--finely spun manure, maybe, but it's still bullshit. The whole point of this "compromise" is to prevent democratically derived state-level bills from taking force, that would require labeling of GMo foods--labels required in 60 countries, and not so different from the label requirements we have now, just on a different subject. The notion that this would be "too hard" to implement or drive costs up for consumers is belied by the bill's substitution of QR codes for simple labeling. So, if you care about GMO foods, all you have to do is whip out your cellphone (if you have one, and carry it while shopping) and scan in each label of each item you're contemplating buying...and then, assuming the link goes through, scroll through the ads and extraneous material on a company website to see if the product contains GMOs. Shouldn't take more than five or ten minutes per item! Are you ^%$$ kidding me? But virtually all GMO foods are exempted by the language of the bill anyway, and there are no penalties for companies that simply ignore it. So...once you extract the bullshit from this, what's left? A ban on states requiring labeling, which is of course the whole point. Monsanto owns FDA and can count on no action ever at the federal level, but has had to spend tens of millions of dollars to block initiatives in several states, and they want an end to that. They can buy the FDA and USDA, the Clinton and Obama and no doubt Clinton White Houses--and probably your senators, if they don't get a deluge of calls on this. Ring em up.


#4

This is typical bipartisan crap. Where exactly is the compromise? Seems like the corporations get it all.


#5

You need to get over this manufactured fear of "GMOs". Today in the Washington Post was an announcement that 107 Nobel Prize winning scientists have issued a public appeal to Greenpeace to drop the campaign against GMOs. All the facts say that GMOs are beneficial to the environment. Here is part of the letter the scientists wrote:
"Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity."
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GMOs, as you call them, have known, documented modifications. In contrast, many of the foods you eat that you do not consider "GMO" were genetically modified decades ago by a process than created completely "unnatural" genes, that had never existed anywhere, by a process known as "radiational mutagenesis" . Thousands of plants, many of them what you buy every time you go to the grocery store, were created that way - not through "natural" breeding. None of those plants have been shown to be harmful in the last 80 years - and that includes a lot of the stuff you buy that is labeled "organic". This is why the whole "label it" campaign is so fraudulent - you don't care about all the unnatural genetics that were created by subjecting plants to nearly lethal doses of radiation - but you claim to care that one or two specific, well-understood changes are made. You don't care about the inter-species crosses on the grocery store fruit shelves, but you care if just one gene is moved from one type of potato to another? That makes no sense.
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The whole gmo-labeling campaign is NOT about consumers right to know - it is a campaign originally created by Greenpeace to gain political power in Europe - which they did.. As the then-leader of Greenpeace, Mark Lynas, has stated, the Greenpeace campaign was the most successful PR campaign in history -but he has publicly stated that the campaign was not based on science, and he, too, has called for Greenpeace to drop the opposition. Unfortunately, there are other political activist groups besides Greenpeace all too willing to dupe ignorant people into believing the fiction.


#6

I found this piece rather interesting re the so called safety of GMO's and the latest study by "scientists."

"A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) on GE crops and technology was met with cheers from the biotech industry, but little meaningful scrutiny by the mainstream media.

Initial media reports boiled the message down to “GMOs Are Safe” and even “healthy.” Some even claimed the study “proves” the safety of genetically modified crops.

Aside from the obvious—that the headlines over-simplify the NAS findings in a way that spins favorable for the biotech industry—the media also overlooked the influence, as reported by Food & Water Watch, of the biotech industry on The National Research Council (NRC), the research arm of the NAS.

According to F&WW, the NRC takes millions of dollars in funding from biotechnology companies; invites sponsors like Monsanto to sit on high-level boards overseeing the NRC’s work; invites industry-aligned, pro-GMO scientists to author NRC reports; draws scientific conclusions based on industry science; and operates at times as a private contractor for corporate research.

An NAS spokesman defended the report, telling the Washington Post that the NAS didn’t appoint anyone from the biotech industry to the committee, didn’t use any money from the industry to fund the study, and that all committee members were required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest."

https://www.organicconsumers.org/essays/three-take-aways-nas-study-gmos

I support clear mandatory labeling and urge everyone else not biased by corporate BS to do the same.


#7

So good to know and of course, that would be a reason to proudly proclaim the GMO contents on the label so all of us consumers can buy these, better than millions of years of evolution, tested for 80 years on us, products.


#9

It is extremely disappointing that you choose to accept the claims of two highly political organizations over the conclusions of Nobel prize winning scientists and the larger scientific community that is responsible for the development of everything from life-saving treatments for cancer to the vaccines that have saved millions of people from death or permanent disability due to polio, smallpox, and many other diseases. It is so very, very wrong to suggest that the members of the NAS and NRC are industry puppets. Every one of those people gave up a decade of income to go through extensive schooling and training to get to the point where they could start their careers as independent scientists. They are still independent scientists because they have consistently made discoveries that other scientists could confirm, and from which other scientists could make additional discoveries. An independent scientist would rather quickly be out of a job if it was found that they were knowingly falsifying data. While many scientists have tenure at research universities, they cannot continue to do scientific work unless they can get research projects funded by organizations outside the University. In the U.S., most of that money comes from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense, with much smaller amounts coming from the Gates Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and even smaller amounts from a vast array of private foundations. Those institutions do not provide funding to anyone who has been found to have falsified or fabricated data, or made deliberately false statements. The scientists who are selected to sit on the NRC are among the best of the best, who have produced significant discoveries that have been confirmed time and again. Most of them are leaders in the scientific community, because of their dedication and commitment to the scientific process and their contributions to our knowledge about the world. Becoming an independent research scientist is one of the most difficult positions there is to obtain and hold. If the scientists on the NRC, or who are members of the NAS, were to behave the way that F&WW and the OCA claims they behave, they would all be completely disgraced by now, and their careers would be over. Instead, the work of the NRC has been endorsed by the world's most elite and accomplished scientists - those who have been awarded Nobel prizes for the very significant contributions they have made - usually over and over again for decades - to scientific knowledge and ultimately to the betterment of society. These people have all made far more contributions to society and to improving life for all of us than most of us can ever hope to accomplish. The claims of F&WW and OCA that the NRC was influenced by corporate dollars is childish, ignorant, highly disrespectful, and disgusting.
Large corporations that make nearly everything that our modern lives depend on - plastics, steel, electronics, medicines, and yes, food, depend on the best available scientific information, to develop products that work. This is particularly true of pharmaceuticals, agriculture, chemicals, and transportation. A company cannot just somehow dream up a product and the demand that somehow scientific data be created that make the product valid. No way - nature is what nature is. Corporations, and the scientists and engineers in those companies, look to the discoveries by independent scientific research labs to get new ideas, it is not in the interest of corporations to interfere with independent science. Instead, corporations often contract with independent scientists to carry out work that the corporation wants done, but that it does not have the expertise to do. If a particular line of research and development turns up evidence that the idea may not work, it is abandoned. That happens constantly in pharmaceutical research and development hundreds or thousands of potential new medicines are scrapped because additional scientific research relative to product indicates that the proposed medicine will not perform acceptably in clinical practice.
That is why the allegations put forward by F&WW and OCA that corporations "own" scientists is so completely wrong and misleading - it is a complete reversal of how commercial progress and scientific progress is really made.
How any organization that has no involvement is any type of scientific research, and has no recognizable scientific staff, can claim to have knowledge about food safety and health that is not known to thousands of independent research scientists, including many Nobel prize winners, is beyond absurd. It is equivalent to a mother who has a very sick child, and instead of taking that child to the Mayo Clinic or M.D. Anderson, she claims that all doctors are frauds, and gives the child the latest over-the-counter "instant cure-all" hyped on TV, thus accepting commercial hype over scientifically proven medical treatment.
If you choose to live your life by following the profit-driven, politically charged claims of organizations like F&WW and OCA, while claiming that the judgement of the world's best scientists is wrong, that is your business, but just remember that nearly everything in your life is the product of scientific research and discovery, and chances are pretty good that someday you or someone in your family will develop a potentially fatal disease - at which point you are going to want and need the products of all those scientists that F&WW are telling you are not to be trusted.


#10

Clever, pretending that Monsanto wins from labeling! No doubt they're paying big money to defend Vermont's law, eh?
All right, let's cut the crap. The biotech industry and the Grocery Manufacturers Association and others spent big to stop labeling laws in California, Oregon and Washington, but failed to stop it in Vermont, where money isn't everything. It wasn't "stupid" for Vermont to demand labels--it might make more sense to have national-level legislation on GMO labels AS 60 COUNTRIES DO--but we can't, because Monsanto and its friends have been revolving through the doors of the FDA and USDA, and pay enough to US politicians, that they can prevent this from ever happening. Incidentally, they did succeed for awhile in making "GMO-free" labels illegal.
These "it would cost too much and consumers would pay" and "it would be terrible to have varying state laws" arguments come straight out of the playbook used to defeat labeling laws on the West Coast (I wonder if Roy Williams was one of those players). What gives this the lie are, first, that many companies are already complying with Vermont's law, and secondly, that this "compromise" does supposedly mandate labels--only they'd be QR codes instead of simple intelligible information. If it would be so terrible to have conflicting state laws, let's have a national one--but a real one, involving labels, not this QR code BS.


#11

More misleading stuff probably from a PR firm working for Monsanto, its competitors, or its allies. Like "one gene from one potato to another" when much GMO gene-splicing crossing species, genus, even sometimes kingdom barriers. And it "makes good better." Can you name a single example of IMPROVED FOOD? (Here we go with the golden rice daydream.) No--the vast majority of the vast quantity of GMO food out there is designed to do one of two things: survive being sprayed with Roundup, Monsanto's top moneymaker for years, which makes life easier for struggling farmers because they can just spray the entire field, crop and all, with weed-killer instead of cultivating. Or, it has BT, a naturally occurring bacteria that kills soft-bodied bugs, spliced into the genetic code so that it's present in every cell of the plant from seed to crop--again, in the short term this makes life easier for the farmer but it also guarantees that resistance will develop much faster. Roundup has been assessed by a UN scientific body as a "probable carcinogen"--unfortunately, it's now being used not only to kill weeds before and during crop growth, but to knock down NON-GMO crops like wheat and potatoes at harvest time, so there is fresh spray on the plants at harvest time.
Your claim that GMO makes for "better food" reminds me of the situation here in West Virginia in the battle over mountaintop removal coal mining. This practice involves using enormous quantities of explosives to blast the tops off mountains, and dump the resulting "overburden" into what used to be creeks, thus eliminating creek life and creating hideous scars on the landscape, polluting the water with the mercury and other toxins once safely sequestered in the buried coal, and driving off the people who once lived in these beautiful hills.People who come and look at this are invariably shocked. But industry, and the "miners" who make $70,000/year with a high school education in a poverty stricken area proclaim that they have made the mountains "better".


#12

Improved foods: Innate potato: reduced Acrylamide potential (slight reduction in the production of carcinogenic chemicals during frying) disease resistance (reduces crop loss), longer shelf life; Starch Potato: reduced amylose and increased amylopectin content (improved nutritional content), arctic Apple: longer shelf life; Phytaseed Canola: allows humans and pigs to digest/absorb phosphorous present in phytates in the plant (improved nutrient availability), Papaya - resistance to ringspot virus (reduces crop loss), Beans - resistance to Bean Golden Mosaic Virus (reduces crop loss), Soybeans: increased yield through enhanced photosynthesis. Those have all received regulatory approval in one or more countries.


#13

Until money - campaign-contribution bribes - is taken out of politics, along with "lobbyists" and their bribes, and all corruption that subverts honest (as rare as chicken lips today) representation, we will be victims of the corrupt consequences. Whether consumer protections, banker/wall street crimes and usury being "legal", wars for profit and resources, or any other outside influence that steals the time, minds and integrity (sounds funny just writing that) of our "elected" selected representatives, they will be beholden to those special and money interests rather than the peoples needs and future - all the things that make a nation truly strong subverted to sham, charade and frauds. The Grand Con all "legalized" and sanctified under law.........


#14

There is zero biological issues with moving genes from one species to another. There are many genes that are common to an enormous range of species. DNA, the chemical in which genes are encoded, is identical for all species in all kingdoms of life. It is 100% impossible to determine what species produced a segment of DNA, because all DNA has exactly the same chemical components. That is why it is easy to create manufacturing processes that are based on bacteria, as has been done to produce large supplies of human insulin. By inserting the human genes for insulin production into bacteria, the bacteria produce the same insulin that your own body produces. The gene works the same in bacteria, yeast, and humans. In biomedical research and in basic biological research, genetic modification is done routinely. There are thousands of different strains of mice, yeast, and bacteria that have all been created through genetic engineering. Far from "experimental", genetic engineering is one of the two fundamental tools of biological research, refined and improved over the last 40 years. Recent discoveries have made genetic modification so easy to do that one start-up company is selling a kit that lets you do genetic modification of yeast in your kitchen - doesn't really do anything but change the color of the yeast, but the point is that there is no mystery or magic.
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The development of resistance to antibiotics, to herbicides, to insecticides is something that occurs before the product is ever created - bacteria, insects, and plants all continually undergo mutations. We must continually develop new compounds to keep ahead of the pests. To make drugs, herbicides, and pesticides safer, there has been a trend to develop compounds that are highly specific - like glyphosate - which have a very specific chemical reactivity. Unfortunately, that also means that the target species can have fewer spontaneous mutations to escape the effect of the compound. It is a never-ending, complex battle with no simple answers. We need to kill the bacteria that cause us to be sick, and we need to prevent diseases and predators from consuming food we grow to feed us. Fortunately, through scientific research we know way more than we did just a few years ago, and we have better tools to address the issues. The biggest barrier now are the ideological objections to genetic engineering.
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By the way, there is nothing to be gained by trying to discredit me by erroneously suggesting that I am a PR firm working for some biotech company. I am one individual, with some advanced training in molecular biology, who works in a research lab that primarily works on ways to improve healthcare. We are funded by the National Institutes of Health. We are part of a non-profit teaching and research hospital. Zero connection to industry.


#15

Unfortunately, the OCA in particular has stated that the objective of getting GMO-derived products labeled is to teach people not to buy them. Sort of like the health warnings on cigarettes.
When it first became possible to put new traits into plants in a controlled, deliberate way, there was a lot of excitement on the part of plant scientists that we would soon be able to have a vast variety of improved foods - a few of which have been developed, but still not really implemented. In a world free of irrational ideology, there would today be many products on the shelves loudly proclaiming the latest improvement in their makeup, that made them a better buy. I for one cannot understand why anyone would oppose the worldwide use of potatoes that resist the disease that destroys 20% of the world's potato crop every year - that alone would be huge improvement in world food security, and no farmer or consumer would have to do anything differently. Plus, what consumer likes to have food "go to waste" because it spoils? The same is true of wheat - 20% of the world's crop is lost to something that we know how to fix, that requires no chemical sprays, etc. It is crazy that there is opposition to that.
But now we have a determined set of political activists skilled at manipulating public opinion, who constantly broadcast a string of completely false allegations, who have succeeded in making the general public that has (apparently) very little knowledge of biology, equate "GMO" with "harmful". So - no - I don't want to see GMO labels until the day that there is no longer this belief that there is some fundamental "bad" in plant and animal varieties produced by modern genetic engineering techniques


#16

Your middle paragraph is true enough as it stands--but it leaves out some important issues. Namely, the way the never-ending battle between humans and our crops on the one hand (and our health) versus "pests" on the other, intersects ecology. The more "pressure" there is on a "pest"organism, the faster it will mutate to gain resistance. Thus, Bt can be used occasionally by millions of gardeners and organic farmers, and may eventually generate resistance on the part of some target organisms--but when it's present in every cell of every plant in a field from planting to crop residue, resistance will arrive a whole lot faster. When antibiotics are fed daily to animals raised by the thousands in CAFOs, because they gain weight a little faster for unknown reasons, or because in those conditions pest attack is much likelier, the antibiotics lose effectiveness..and many are used in human medicine as well. Monoculture is an invitation to pests and to resistance generation, whether we're talking about genetically identical corn plants in neat rows as far as the eye can see in Iowa, or ten thousand pigs in a building. When that field is corn again the next year, because lobbyists keep the irrational quota for ethanol in place and thus corn is the highest value crop, the problem is exacerbated. But these decisions are not made by public policy experts seeking the public good--they are made by politicians bribed by corporate lobbyists, and government agencies captured by the industries they supposedly regulate. US farmers choose to use GMO crops because saving time is critical when you're trying to survive in a business controlled by a few megacorporations--Cargill, ADM, ConAgra, Monsanto--which makes it a desperate struggle to survive financially, so that most have to have an off-farm job.


#18

I'm sure the cigarette companies would remove objections to labels warning about cancer as soon as consumers stop thinking of cancer as something bad too. You are saying the public is wrong and should not be allowed to find out what's in our food, because our opinions are irrational prejudices (and the scientists who issue warnings are evil naughty people who must be discredited and hounded!) Why have labels at all? Why not just let a consensus of rational, well-educated scientists like yourself decide what can be sold to us stupid sheep?


#19

I have two problems with this one. One is your inclusion of food among items that we must be grateful to scientists for. No. We must be grateful to thousands of generations of peasant farmers, and to Nature herself, for food.
The other is your whole picture of the piously disinterested world of science. I think it probably was largely accurate about 50 years ago. But the profit motive, and the reduction in government funding of science, both within and outside universities, have left scientists as individuals and universities dependent on corporations, which can see only the bottom line. A woman at the head of one of the key medical journals stated that they don't even bother with conflict of interest disclosure anymore because essentially all the authors have ties to pharmaceutical corporations. Research is done to find drugs that will make piles of money for drug companies, meaning it may be of little or no increased benefit over current drugs, and diseases that kill millions every year go begging if the third world poor are the victims--instead we get drugs that wealthy people or their insurers will pay for, to cure baldness or erectile dysfunction.Scientists doing critical work on climate change can sometimes be defunded because Congress is bribed by fossil fuel interests. I think it didn't used to be this way--corruption has vastly increased in the past forty or fifty years. And scientists generally, unlike politicians or business people, are not primarily motivated by money. What they want is to play with their toys, and they'd like to do good while they're at it...but they have to earn a living like anyone else, and if their "toys" are in the microbiological realm, the money is likely coming from Monsanto or pharmaceuticals. In other fields, it all too often is the Defense Department or NSA.


#20

30% of men and 40% of women in the U.S. are obese, and Frankenfood = Genetically Modified Foods and especially corn are the reason. So are the cancer rates. It's like a drug addiction cycle with always need need seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides.


#21

About the food you eat today: yes, thousands of years of cultivation by "peasant farmers" got food production to where it was in 1860. From 1860 to 1930 there was a slight downward trend in the yields of most crops for which extensive records are available. This was the case even though by the 1920's there was increased use of tractors to replace horses. The introduction of synthetic fertilizers and commercially produced hybrid varieties started an upward trend in crop yields that has continued to the present day. Many of the crops we consume today are not the crops given to us by "peasant farmers" - they are the very early successes of the first crude form of genetic engineering, known a radiational mutagenesis. In this process, growing plants are continuously subjected to nearly lethal radioactivity. The radioactivity causes DNA to break and then be repaired. However, just as when you are (hopefully not) subjected to radioactivity (x-rays, etc) when DNA is repaired the repair often does not go well, and if any gene sequence crosses the repair, the gene no longer works at all or works differently. In you, that most likely leads (if it happens several times) to cancer. The radiated plants produce seeds that have altered genes - and once in a few million seeds, one of those altered genes results in a plant with some new characteristic that is deemed beneficial. With a lot of breeding back and breeding back again, that new gene will be consistently present in all the seeds produced by some generation of offspring of the originally mutated plant. ---- That is how most of the plants you eat today, including the "organic" foods - were developed. "Nature" gave our ancestors some starting plants about 8000 years ago, not what we have now. We obviously cannot go back to the yields of 1860; we would need two to three times as much land to produce what is produced now, and that is excluding all the land being used for ethanol production.
Every paper in every scientific journal that I know of (and I read a lot of papers) includes disclosure of conflict of interest. In fact, very few papers are published by individuals who have a financial interest in their research. The very few scientists who decide to try to develop a discovery into a product generally don't publish, since that would reveal trade secrets. If they lie, and are later found out, they have to suffer serious loss of stature in the scientific community. I attend a fair number of presentations by scientists to scientists - there is always a disclosure of conflict of interest. I have occasionally attended a presentation that is given by someone who trying to bring a product to market - but it is usually after the product is already on the market, and they are sharing some underlying basic biology or chemistry with other scientists. In that setting, if the science meets the test of being scientifically logical and well supported by experimental evidence, the presenter's financial connections have little relevance to the science.
You are correct that the money that fuels early drug development - venture capital - is reluctant to fund antibiotic research because of the low probability of any return. Funding for basic research comes from non-profit sources. Funding for the initial "translational medicine" research - taking a discovery from lab bench to a prototype product that can go into clinical trials - comes almost exclusively from venture capitalists. If a new drug shows promise, the venture capitalists sell the company and the prototype to "big Pharma", which then spends another billion dollars or so to develop production processes, run the required clinical trials, and clear all the regulatory hurdles. If you don't have a billion dollars or so that you can afford to get no return on for 10 to 15 years while you hire a team of lawyers and clinical research scientists to push the application through the regulatory system, then you can't bring a new drug to market. (I'm talking about truly new drugs, not repackaging of existing drugs.) The only organizations that have the capability to get drugs through the U.S. regulatory system are the large Pharmaceutical companies. So I don't see a good answer to the lack of new antibiotics until the regulatory system changes, and public attitude shifts toward being supportive of biotechnology. Developing antibiotics is something that congress could do something about - but so much health related legislation gets blocked over funding for Planned Parenthood, it is difficult to see how congress can bring itself to fund antibiotics research.
As far as the funding of scientific research, corporations essentially never fund basic research. If the NIH did not fund basic research, we would have very few drugs. The combined support of all the private foundations, most of which is the Gates Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is small compared to that provided by the NIH and similar government agencies in other countries. Corporations cannot and will not put large sums of money into basic research that has no apparent relation to their business. The only corporation that does that, to my knowledge, is Microsoft. IBM Research, AT&T Bell Labs and Xerox Parc were at one time great corporately funded labs that did some basic research. In my institution, which houses hundreds of scientists doing basic biomedical research, I think it is correct that none of them have any corporate funding. They do get funding from some private foundations, and from consumer groups who have an interest in promoting research on a particular disease. I wish the activists who scream so loud about the "bad" influence of corporations on research would (a) get the facts straight, and (b) get busy and raise at least half as much money to support research as they raise money for political campaigns that retard research. The fact that they don't indicates to me that those groups are not interested in helping society - only in their own political power grab.


#22

There will be no persuading those who make a living doing GE or from flacking for it. Those of us who are concerned about GMOs for any number of valid reasons, and who believe that consumers have a right to know and not be paternalistically told "eat it...it's good for you", should contact not only Senators and Representatives, but Obama, the OTA (write them at https://www.ota.com/ ) and their members, to let them know how you feel. OTA has a list of its members on its website.
Ultimately, the product companies will only respond to economic pressure. (In fact, that's why people like Roy Williams and others who'd deny us the right to know want to stifle labeling...to blunt the ability of people to vote with their wallets.)


#23

Food & Water Watch has made it easier to contact appropriate people:
https://secure.foodandwaterwatch.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2650#_ga=1.156121650.847082145.1467290139