GMOs

Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a threat to organic agriculture? Are they dangerous when consumed? Do they lead to higher use of chemical herbicides and pesticides? And why aren’t GMOs labeled so we know which foods are made with them? We find and discuss the latest news on this critical issue.

Feel strongly about this controversial topic? Please let us know what you think, in comments over at our GMO Forum page.

Who Supports Labeling GMO Foods?

California’s Initiative 37Those following the battle to pass California’s Initiative 37 — the bill that will require labeling GMO foods (do we really need to tell you what GMO means?) — will be interested to read The Cornucopia Institute’s report “Agribusinesses Owning Natural/Organic Brands Betray Customers: Fund Attack on GMO Labeling Proposal in California.” Some of those organic food product companies we all love (sorry) and (maybe) trust have joined with the anti-Prop 37 forces to defeat the initiative. Guess it’s the end of a beautiful love affair.

Some other interesting info in the report: 70% of the public supports GMO labeling (a good thing); “new contributions to fight the measure [have] rolled in from the biotechnology industry and food manufacturers, totaling over $23 million, according to the California Secretary of State. This dwarfs the approximately $3 million contributed by proponents of GE labeling” (very bad news). The post has a chart that graphically shows who the players are. And if you scroll down a bit, on the right margin is an illustration that shows which politicians and government office holders (otherwise known as “public servants”) have direct connections to Monsanto. Sad fact there is it’s not so surprising. Anyway, go read the report. Knowledge is power. (more…)

Drought, Corn and Genetic Engineering

GMO CornDrought has been big news this summer, no more so than regarding its effect on America’s corn crop. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that it has put renewed emphasis on corn raised for energy production (ethanol) and the amount that goes into making high-fructose corn syrup with all its connections to obesity. The down side? What about genetically engineered corn that resists drought?

This article in The Washington Post and a related blog post on its “Wonk Blog” tells us something we might have guessed: Monsanto has developed a so-called drought-tolerant corn. We’re reminded of the dictum that’s been bandied about the last several years: Never let a good crisis go to waste. Monsanto, apparently, has taken that to heart. It goes without saying that the claim to drought resistance is something of a stretch.

Is there a silver lining to these articles? Scroll down through the Wonk Blog and find some doubters (enter the Union of Concerned Scientists – PDF). (more…)

Avoiding GMOs

GMO CornA friend asks, “What’s the big deal? You’re an organic gardener.” (“As best I can,” I reply, knowing there are few absolutes in gardening). “Why don’t you grow what you need? You want to eat non-GMO corn? Eat the corn you grow. Don’t buy it in the store.”

If only it were that simple.

Yes, my friend, by being something of a know-it-all, shows how little he knows. The problems associated with GMOs are far more complicated than just avoiding their purchase. There are problems of cross-pollination of GMO crops with crops in our organic garden. There’s the loss of biodiversity. And, avoiding GMO products in our grocery stores is not as easy as he thinks it is. (more…)

One Bad (GMO) Apple

GMO ApplesWhile most of the GMO attention these days is focused on the upcoming vote on California’s “Right To Know” initiative, another GMO controversy has boiled to the surface, this time with apples. Okanagan Specialty Fruits corporation has developed a genetically modified apple — known as the “Arctic Apple” — that does not brown, or at least doesn’t brown as quickly, when exposed to the air. The fruits are also not as susceptible to bruising, a problem that results in apples being refused by buyers at both the distribution and consumer levels. The controversy has spread across British Columbia’s apple growing regions and now, with articles in The New York Times and other publications, is gaining more focus in America. (more…)

Who’s Fighting GMO Labeling?

GMO LabelingIt’s no surprise that Monsanto, Dupont and others are pouring big money into California to fight the state’s GMO labeling referendum which will be on the ballot November 6. How they’re doing it — through surrogate organizations — is right out of the grand American political tradition of ironically-named organizations. Front groups help hide the players behind these organizations. And what could be more ironic that hiding the identities of the companies and individuals who are fighting a right-to-know initiative?

AlterNet, the independent news gathering service, estimates that several big front groups will spend $60 to $100 million fighting the initiative. One of the largest is The Coalitition Against Costly Food Labeling. Their website lists such scary articles on topics including how GMO labeling will hurt the poor and limit your food choices. Who exactly is behind the CACFL? The names aren’t surprising. According to the article, it’s composed of the “Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), whose members also include Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta, all producers of GMO seed and related products, as well as many large food processors and supermarket chains. (more…)

Mickey Hearts GMO Foods

Epcot Center GMOsFrom Natural News, a public education website anyone interested in keeping up with GMO issues should follow, comes this not-so-surprising information. Disney, at its Florida-based EPCOT Center (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) has for years been hosting biologists from the United States Department of Agriculture who have been growing genetically-modified fruits and vegetables. The story was originally broken by Susan Fehrenbacher over at Inhabitant, but it’s been no secret. The USDA announced back in 1996 in its Agricultural Research magazine that it was working with Disney “to communicate the science of agriculture. We do this by showcasing various tools — such as biotechnology…” The site, a two-acre facility sponsored by Nestlé USA, is called Living With the Land. Nestlé is one of the world’s largest pro-GMO corporations. In 2006, it obtained a patent on a genetically-engineered coffee. (more…)

Paying Attention to GMOs

Right to Know GMOThe GMO products issue is gaining attention world-wide, a fact that can only help the cause against them. In the U.S., it’s currently focused on labeling. Should consumers have the right to know what products they’re buying has been made from genetically-modified crops? This article in today’s New York Times, centered on activists fixing GMO labels on products, serves to demonstrate just how complicated the issue is while emphasizing the forces arrayed against those demanding simple product labeling. Who is it that fears what GMO labeling might do to their sales? “…conventional farmers, agricultural biotechnology companies like Monsanto and many of the nation’s best-known food brands like Kellogg’s and Kraft.” We’re talking big money. The article estimates that tens of millions of dollar will be spent ahead of the vote on California’s referendum on labeling GMO products. Want to guess which side will have the most to spend? (more…)

Demon Seed

GMO SeedIt’s important to remember, as this article at the Organic Consumers Association points out, that corporate control of the seed market extends right into your home garden. Important takeaway from the article: when Monsanto purchased international seed giant Seminis in 2005, it took control of a company that produced 40% of the international vegetable seed market. The chart (PDF) accompanying the article is particularly revealing, illustrating how a handful of international conglomerates control almost all of the commercial seed companies in the world (yes, Monsanto is shown to be the largest). Surprisingly, these large seed controlling companies are often chemical and pharmaceutical companies. (more…)

GMOtion

GMO TomatoThose hoping for a GMO ban on crops know that the issue will only be resolved through a series of incremental steps. Labeling GMO food products would go a long way towards that goal. By giving consumers the knowledge of which foods they purchase contain GMO they will have a choice. And if given a choice, we can guess which side consumers would come down on.

The labeling movement took a big step this month in California when supporters turned in nearly a million signatures to put the labeling issue on the ballot (550,000 signatures were needed). The United States lags behind other countries in the banning, let alone labeling, of GMOs. While we wait for the count to be certified in California, here’s a citizen-written editorial that makes common sense of the GMO issue. The takeaway: (more…)

Bee Afraid

HoneybeeThe decline of honeybees in the United States — a third of the country’s hives were wiped out in 2008 — and elsewhere has been a matter of concern for a number of years. Recent studies in France and Britain now point the finger at a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These commonly-used pesticides, which are often used to treat seed corn ahead of planting, work against the bees in two ways: by confusing their homing capability and limiting their ability to provide enough food to their hives for producing new queens. Other studies in the U.S. and Germany indict the pesticides but for different reasons. Calls for banning neonicotinoids were immediate. (more…)

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