Posts Tagged ‘ Monsanto ’

Aspartame and GMOs: What You Really Need to Know About the Science and Health Risks

Coca-Cola claims diet drinks promote weight loss, but studies show that artificial sweeteners actually contribute to weight gain.

In response to a plunge in sales of artificially sweetened sodas last week, Coca-Cola announced plans to roll out an ad campaign to win back popular favor for its aspartame-containing beverage, Diet Coke. (Diet Pepsi, which also contained aspartame, saw its sales fall 6.2 percent in 2012 while regular Pepsi sales fell little more than half that amount.)

The safety of aspartame, which the FDA approved for human consumption in 1981, has long been in dispute, before, during, and after its approval by the FDA. The simmering controversy is notable for the parallels between aspartame’s safety and regulatory history, and that of another controversial industrial food product – genetically modified foods also known as GMOs.

Aspartame, developed by Searle, was approved for public consumption despite the strong concerns of FDA scientists, who were over-ruled by Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr. then the newly appointed FDA Chief—handpicked by Donald Rumsfeld, the former CEO of Searle, and the Secretary of Defense in two Republican administrations. Hayes pushed through the approval, and then returned to the same industry (at Searle’s public relations firm.) Upon aspartame’s approval, Searle gained two things:

1. The ability to market and profit from this product (sold as NutraSweet or Equal)

2. The upper hand in science

Since then, industry sponsored science has sustained the FDA decision, opposing both independent scientific findings, as well as citizen reports of adverse reactions. After a profitable three decades, first for Searle, soon thereafter for Monsanto, which bought Searle in 1985, the vestiges of the former company are now owned by Pfizer. But public confidence in aspartame has steadily eroded. Coca-Cola’s ad campaign seeks to restore that confidence.

Following a similar pattern, the 1992 FDA declaration that GMO seeds and plants were “substantially equivalent” to regular seeds and plants, also occurred despite the concerns of FDA scientists, who were over-ruled by a policy maker (Michael R. Taylor) who came in to the FDA (as Deputy Commissioner of Policy) from industry (Monsanto’s law firm), got GMOs approved, and then returned to the same industry (serving as a Monsanto Vice President for Public Policy.) Note: Taylor is currently Commissioner for Food at the FDA. This time the Searle/Monsanto playbook gave Monsanto three things:

1. The ability to develop, market, and profit from its products

2. The upper hand in science, AND

3. The right to patent its seeds and products and to protect its patents.

With many open questions about the long-range health and environment impacts of GMOs, today over twenty years after FDA approval, public discomfort with GMOs continues to rise. According to a recent New York Times poll, ninety-three percent want GMO foods to be labeled. While industry science supports use, other evidence (and many more concerns not addressed by industry science) continue to emerge. Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, the Monsanto herbicide, integral to GMO agriculture, increases the proliferation of breast cancer, even at exposures at low concentrations of parts per trillion, 2013 research found. Glyphosate decreases the body’s ability to detoxify from other toxic exposures, thus increasing the potential for diseases arising from other toxic chemicals, a second study found.

According to Dr. Charles Benbrook, a Washington State University professor and researcher, GMO agriculture’s dramatic increases in the use of fungicides and pesticides (principally Roundup) could outstrip earlier scientific projections of safe exposure levels. Based on current use and exposure rates, risk assessment faces a multiplex of testing challenges arising from the likely presence of multiple transgenes, DNA fragments, promoters, regulatory sequences and chemicals from pesticides (active ingredients, metabolites, surfactants, adjuvants…

But how well can the needed risk assessment be conducted (and acted upon) in a climate where science gets mired in debate between independent researchers and pro-industry factions? If we lack the science to inform policy, both environmental risks (like honeybee collapse) and health risks will only become apparent over time. Accurate assessment is further hampered when patent laws permit Monsanto to limit seed access for study. Aspartame is freely available, yet it still took thirty years for concerns over aspartame’s health risks to amplify to levels that would significantly dent sales. We can learn a lot about the risks from GMOs by taking a look at aspartame.

Conflicting Studies
In its ads, and media messaging, Coke plans to tout the benefits of its aspartame-containing soft drinks as a weight loss aid. Its print ad, rolling out in Atlanta and Chicago this week will say that, “diet drinks can help people manage their weight.” Despite Coke’s claim, several studies found that artificial sweeteners fail to promote weight loss, and instead contribute to weight gain.

According to one of the researchers, the San Antonio Heart Study, which studied over 1,100 participants found that, “On average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese.”

The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) confirmed these findings when it found that, “Daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”

One mechanism for weight gain could be that the “Overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes,” says Dr. David Ludwig, MD, PhD, a leading Harvard clinician and researcher into the causes and treatment of the obesity epidemic. As a result, less sweet or non-sweet foods may become unpalatable, driving people to avoid healthy foods and eat unhealthy ones.

Given this evidence, Coke’s boast that diet drinks produce weight loss may be a fib, but nowadays, industries wooing the public back to their product, can also bolster their claims with science. Though confusing to a public seeking answers, for every scientific finding, there is often an opposite scientific finding.

For example, a 2012 study published in The Journal of Nutrition concluded that, “There is no evidence that low calorie sweeteners can be claimed to be a cause of higher body weights in adults.”

What explains these opposite findings? Well, the thrust of the JN study is that with so many egregious foods on the nutritional landscape, it’s hard to single out just one. Point taken. Surprisingly, this implied critique of the industrial food system comes from the four study authors, three of whom had “received consulting fees, honoraria, donations, and unrestricted grants from food, beverage, and pharmaceutical companies.”

The Double-Faced Role of Science

If only all science were as unanimously agreed to as is climate science. Despite a lack of political will to address climate change, and public bafflement about how to tackle it, there is no uncertainty in the science.

But that’s harder to locate in other regulatory realms, due to opposing claimants. When assessing the health and safety of products and practices, government regulators default to industry sponsored scientific research. It’s up to independent scientists, (or members of the general public) to uncover evidence of harm— all too often after governmental approval.

Sometimes the shoe winds up on the other foot: Industry sponsored scientists question the safety of their competitors’ products. Exaggerated concerns over artisanal jams, or locally grown lettuce come from the pesticide-ridden ag industry. Drug companies fret that someone will reject pharmaceuticals because they take vitamin C. In such cases, independent scientists, farmers, or regular people counter health concerns with evidence of no to low-harm for non-industrial products.

Beyond aspartame’s benefits (or lack thereof) for weight loss, over the last three decades, public health gatekeepers, reliant on industry research, consistently affirm that aspartame (marketed as NutraSweet and Equal) is safe. This past week, both the FDA and the American Cancer Society were cited in the COMMENT NOW! following Coke’s campaign launch. The American Cancer society noted that: “Most (italics mine) studies using people have found that aspartame is not linked to an increased risk of cancer…”

The same language appears on the ACS on-line information page on aspartame’s cancer risk. “Most (italics mine) studies in people have not found that aspartame use is linked to an increased risk of cancer.”

This is misleading because when scientists consider evidence, they don’t merely count the number of studies, a la the Electoral College, in which a majority vote wins. They evaluate the weight of the evidence, and damning evidence on aspartame goes back to the mid-1960’s. The phrase “most studies” likely refers to the many industry-sponsored studies, but certain significant independent studies find that there are health concerns.

The ACS aspartame web page was created in February 2011, and never revised to include significant 2012 findings on aspartame cancer risks. When this past week, the ACS (and the FDA) weighed in with Coke on the safety of aspartame, both the agency and the premiere cancer organization politely omitted mention of a well-regarded December 2012 Harvard study which found that a daily serving of diet soda increased the risks of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma in men.

Nor was this the first warning of health risks with aspartame. As is often the case with science, first there were animal studies.

The Animal Studies
As early as 1967 and again in 1971, animal study outcomes provoked questions about aspartame health risks. In 1980, a Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) convened by the FDA, revoked an earlier approval of aspartame because of a study indicating it caused brain tumors in rats.

More recently, a 2007 study conducted by Dr. Mirando Soffritti, MD, the Scientific Director of the Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences, (located in Bologna, Italy) found high rates of lymphomas, leukemias and other cancers in rats consuming aspartame. As in the Harvard study, this similar constellation of cancers was more pronounced in males.

Soffritti, a prominent and highly regarded international scientist, designed his research to correct design flaws he identified in the original Searle research. Searle scientists followed rats for only two years, which roughly equates to age fifty-three in the human life span. The Ramazzini study used a larger cohort of rats (1,900 vs. 300-700 animals) and followed them throughout their natural life cycle. Soffritti’s rationale for the study design was that:

Cancer is a disease of the third part of life. You have 75 percent of cancer diagnoses for people who are 55 years old or older. So if you truncate the experiments at 110 weeks and the rats are supposed to survive until 150 to 160 weeks, it means you avoid the development of cancer at the time when cancer would be starting to arise.

When independent, international, or even mainstream Harvard scientists find post-approval evidence of health risks from ingredients (like aspartame or GMOs), they are in effect acting as scientific whistleblowers, but scientific whistleblowers all too easily get dismissed or marginalized as cranks or quacks.

Yet over time, the evidence mounts. As aspartame research continues to emerge, the history of aspartame science and its suppression confers key lessons for the scientific assessment of GMOs.

First, GMOs were introduced a decade later than aspartame, and have much less science, and consumer report. Second, GMOs are difficult for independent scientists to study because Monsanto (via patent law) limits access to its seeds. Nevertheless, two animal studies done in Europe, found evidence of tumor growth in mice consuming GMO ingredients. A storm of protest erupted over the study design both for the earlier English study and the recent French study. But while study designs can often be improved, and independent research merits better funding, it’s vital that critiques not end by suffocating all independent research into industrial food products.

A 2009 position paper published by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, surveyed animal studies on GMO health effects, and found:

  • Immune dysregulation of inflammatory markers associated with increases in asthma, allergy, and inflammation.


  • Functional and structural changes of the liver, which can alter fat and carbohydrate metabolism


  • Intestinal and immune system damage, including proliferative cell growth


  • Changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen have also been documented


  • Links to infertility and low birth weight


  • Changes in the expression of four hundred genes that “control protein synthesis and modification, cell signaling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation

This review of animal studies is a strong indicator of areas of health concern entailed by GMO consumption. The Public Trust

What people find so hard to wrap their minds around is this: How can major gatekeeping organizations, trusted by the public, lay claim to scientific validation of product safety while selectively ignoring animal studies and other meaningful science?

First, it’s obvious that institutional loyalties, economic pressures, and reputations make it hard for organizations like the FDA and the ACS to shift their stance on nearly three decades of safety claims.

Second, we, the public allow it. Apart from climate science, in most cases where there is scientific debate, there is complexity. As the breakdown in traditional journalism eats away at traditional scientific reporting, people seek simple answers and lack time for nuanced analysis.

Most of the educated public wants to trust science, without having to evaluate its credibility, and industry takes advantage of that.

“If at the outset, agencies like the FDA confer scientific validation on an industrial food product or ingredient, going forward, industry can more readily maintain the scientific upper hand,” says James S. Turner, Chairman of Citizens for Health, a health and science policy organization.

The studies industry commissions will be cited. Contending studies will be invalidated. Typically corporate funded science has more generous budgets for larger cohorts of participants in a study than independent researchers. This can translate into a seemingly “scientific” basis for rejecting independent research, because “most studies” are funded by industry and support industry claims.

Because it takes time and money to progress up the chain of proof from animal to human studies, it may take decades for independent science to reverse the initial advantage conferred by a government agency like the FDA, the USDA, or the EPA. By then the product or ingredient is in wide use, making its risks “impossible” to accept (even with scientific proof) given that by then millions have been exposed to its dangers. Moreover, there is heavy economic vestment in the use of even a nutritionally valueless ingredient like aspartame. Finally, since our medical treatment and research model focus on treatments of disease, rather than the causes of disease, it will be harder after the fact to ascertain whether a person’s illness was caused by aspartame or GMOs or other exposure to chemicals, like in plastic bottles and containers containing bisphenol-A (BPA), or chemicals used in fracking oil and gas wells, which are becoming more common, or myriad other chemicals or combinations of chemicals.

Soffritti defined the bottom line when he spoke to The New York Times back when his animal study was first published, “If something is a carcinogen in animals, then it should not be added to food, especially if there are so many people that are going to be consuming it.” When it comes to the novel ingredients in the food supply, independent study is a must.



Colombian Farmers Defeat Monsanto: Win Back Control of Seeds After Prolonged Strike

london-colombians-protest-seed-monopolyOn Sept. 10 in Colombia, after 21 days of a nationwide strike by thousands of farmers, who were supported by bus and truck drivers, miners, students, and others joining massive demonstrations in cities and towns all around the country in places as far as Boyacá, Cundinamarca, Cauca, Huila, Putumayo, Caldas, Cundinamarca, and Nariño, and blocking more than 40 roads, in an historic moment, protesting farmers forced the Colombian government to negotiate the rejection of a farm bill and the release of detained protesters.

On Sunday, September 8, Vice President Angelino Garzón met with the Strike Negotiating Commission in Popayan and agreed to suspend Law 970, the one that gave control over seeds to the government [which made it illegal for farmers to save seeds, any seeds, forcing them to buy patented ones].

They also were promised the release of the 648 arrested during the strike and the creation of a new mining law.

Under this first and provisional agreement, the government will compensate the farmers for their losses when competing with cheaper products imported under as much as ten free market treaties with countries all around the world. In other cases it will suspend the importation of such products.

The strike was ended and negotiations started to discuss the farmers’ proposals. The process of negotiation, as well as the final agreement and its implementation, will be verified by the United Nations.

In Putumayo in the south of the country, farmers leaders and other actors of Colombian society met with President Santos and other authorities and officially started the negotiations after signing the initial document.

The destruction of the farmers’ rice stock seeds, seeds they were keeping for the following year’s planting time, occurred in Campo Alegre and other towns in 2012. For some these images became the symbol of the farmers’ strike fighting for the right to keep their seeds. Seed control was described by President Santos as having Colombia “tune up to international reality”.

Having the Law 970 suspended is a partial yet symbolic victory for Colombia’s social movement. Not only they got the seed control suspended, but most importantly, they got the Government to recognize their leadership, the Mesa de interlocución agraria, Agricultural Dialogue Table, which was elected by the the Coalition of Colombia’s Social and Political Movements to negotiatie with the government when they were organizing the strike.

The press reported a number attempts by the government to negotiate and extract concessions with various farmer groups. But 13 regions where still on strike, and the government was forced to finally sit down on the farmers’ table and negotiate.

This is a profound contrast with Colombia’s recent past. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have documented attacks on Colombian farmers and union leaders, who have been kidnapped, tortured, and massacred by paramilitary forces, and sometimes even by the army, according to a number of reports published by Amnesty International.

Index Number: AMR 23/035/2013

One of the towns that initiated the social strife was El Catatumbo, in Tibu, north of Santander in the northwest of Colombia, where local farmers resisted 51 days in street battles like this one in the video.

El Catatumbo’s fight inspired thousand of other farmers who “lost their fear”, and about a month after that, they started a nationwide farmers strike, a strike that 21 days after it began, managed to force the government to suspend law 970 and at least study their other proposals.

To push a resumption of negotiations, the strikers opened the roads they had blockaded. The negotiations are ongoing, and they have to decide over more structural issues.

These are some of their petitions:

  • •To set the prices for agricultural products independently of the international market, and to set a fund to cover the difference so local farmers can get a fair price and the government can guarantee their crops;
  • •A reduction in the price of gas and diesel, road tolls, and reduction on the price of fertilizers and other supplies;
  • •Cancellation of the current agricultural policy, including the control of seeds, but also other policies not favorable to small and medium farms;
  • •To stop the importation of many products, but most importantly to suspend and review the free trade agreements with United States, European Union, China, and other countries;
  • •Pardon for small and medium farmers’ debts, and the adoption of “softer credit” for farmers via public banks;
  • •To stop and reverse the sale of public lands to international owners, and give them back to local farmers.

The mining sector also pledged to the strike and even incorporated its demands, some of which are:

  • The participation of traditional and small mining operators when setting policy that regulates the industry;
  • •To stop and even revert some mining concessions and public contracts until it’s determined if the local communities are affected, if the resources generated in the mines benefit them, and if local small operations are allowed to work as well.

MINER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): In my town, the big open mines will destroy a way of life we’ve had for 500 years. This fills our hearts with sorrow, because we have historically fought for those lands, for the tradition of artisanal mining.

LEÓN: For the population in general, they demand investment on rural populations and cities to get access to education, health care, public services, and affordable housing. Many of these demands go against the core of the neoliberal policies adopted by previous Colombian administrations.

The strike represented a broader segment of population than first thought. What started as a farmers and miners strike very soon turned into a general strike, with bus drivers, truckers, students, and even general population in the streets claiming for their own demands.

Street battles of all kinds took place, like this one in Bosa, La Libertad, a neighborhood outside Bogotá, where many protesters attempted to take a police station by storm.

The strike organization reported 660 human rights violations that were documented. The police brutality and the negative by president to recognize the farmers’ leadership, as well as the dire economic situation Colombians live every day, with a minimum salary of $291 and a gas price of $4.6 a gallon. All of this created a sort of perfect storm that exploded in August.

Police reported 648 arrested. The farmers’ organization claimed 262 of them were illegally detained. There was 485 wounded and 12 dead on a week marked by protest. And while Santos put up a political fight, at the end of the day, after his popularity went down to an all time record low of 21 percent, his government was forced to admit that it needed to recognize and negotiate with the national strike’s leaders.

We are yet to see if the Santos Administration will concede any more of the farmers demands, especially the more structural ones.


World War 4 Report:

However, just as the peasant strike ended Sept. 10, some 330,000 public school teachers across Colombia opened an indefinite strike, accusing the government of failing to deliver on promises made to pay an estimated $40 billion in back wages. Leaders of the Colombia Federation of Education Workers (FECODE) charged that the government is intentionally bleeding the national school system with the intention of privatizing it. (UPI, Sept. 11; BBC Mundo, Sept. 10)


Not-so-sweet death: Critics call on Canada to ban pesticide linked to dwindling bee populations

imageFood production and bees: Believe it or not, the two go hand-in-hand … like milk and honey.

Bees serve an all-important role in transferring pollen and seeds from one flower to another – a practice that supports at least 30 per cent of the world’s food crops and 90 per cent of our wild plants, according to the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

But despite a bee’s integral role in cross-pollination, news that their population is on the decline is unlikely to come up at the dinner table.

But it is catching the attention of governments around the world, including in Europe, the U.S, as well as here at home, in Canada.

In 2012, more than 200 bee yards in southern Ontario and Quebec reported an “unusually high number” of losses, according to a recent Health Canada report. An analysis of the dead bees found that approximately 70 per cent of their bodies contained residue of the commonly-used neoncotinoid class of pesticides. According to evidence from the European Food Safety Authority, neoncotinoid pesticides attack a bee’s nervous system, potentially reducing its chances of survival.

Following the Health Canada report, the federal government launched a re-evaluation of the rules around use of these popular pesticides. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is currently conducting a review of three pesticides in the neonicotinoid class to determine if they pose an environmental risk to bees.

“The 2012 bee incidents will be considered as part of the re-evaluation…. If warranted, regulatory action will be taken at any time to further protect pollinators,” Mary Mitchell, the co-chair of Health Canada’s PMRA, said in a statement.

In the meantime, farmers and chemical producers are being encouraged to adopt such practices as avoiding pesticide use in areas where beehives are known to be located.

That nonchalant approach has the Sierra Club of Canada shaking its head.

“I think Health Canada has got it wrong,” executive director John Bennett told CTV’s Canada AM this week. “The government has chosen to protect the companies that produce the pesticides, not Canadians.”

He believes the government needs to take immediate action by banning such pesticides, which are commonly used on tree fruit, corn and soy crops. Neoncotinoid pesticides are intended to protect crops often attacked by other insects, but Bennett says bees are getting caught in the crossfire.

“They’re not the target insect,” he said.

Bennett suggests Ottawa take a page from the European Union, which decided this week to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect the quickly-declining bee population.

A two-year moratorium – to be applied to plants and crops that attract bees — will come into effect on Dec. 1, 2013.

The ban is being applauded by environmentalists who say it will throw a “vital lifeline” to Europe’s dwindling bee population.

“Europe is taking science seriously and must now put the full ban in place to give bees the breathing space they need,” Iain Keith, of the Avaaz environmental organization, told The Associated Press.

But not everyone agrees.

In the EU, for example, the decision to restrict the pesticide was made without the consensus of all of the bloc’s 27 members. While 15 EU countries voted in favour of the moratorium, eight were against it, and another four abstained.

Many of the nations that voted against the ban, including the U.K., pointed to inconclusive science linking the use of the pesticides to documented hive deaths. Even the EU’s parliamentary environmental committee admits “precise data is still lacking.”

Globally, researchers have suggested there are multiple culprits behind the collapse of the honeybees, and say focusing on pesticides alone is a mistake. In a report published in October 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ranked pesticides at the bottom of the list of potential causes, saying the decline of the bee population is a “complex problem.”

“It is not clear, based on current research, whether pesticide exposure is a major factor associated with the U.S. honeybee health declines in general, or specifically affects production of honey or delivery or pollination services,” the report explains.

However, researchers did say “in some instances” severely high doses of pesticides can harm honeybee colonies. The report ultimately concludes more research is needed to determine the effect of pesticide exposure.

But according to the Sierra Club and other bee activists, waiting would be a mistake.

While Bennett recognizes that the rapid drop of the bee population cannot be solely attributed to the use of pesticides, he says bees currently endure a “tremendous amount of stress.”

Here at home, he says the Canadian government needs to be proactive, before it’s too late.

“(Pesticide use) is just one of the causes of the overall decline of bees, but it’s one of the causes that we can actually control,” he said.

Did Monsanto Win Prop 37? Round One in the Food Fight of Our Lives

It was a mighty fight. And it’s far from over.

Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 6, 4.3 million Californians – nearly 47% of those who voted – cast their ballots in favor of what would have become this country’s first law to require mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and ban the routine industry practice of marketing GMO-tainted foods as “natural.”

That Monsanto and Big Food’s 4.8 million votes managed to scuttle Prop 37, one of the most widely publicized and closely watched state ballot initiatives of 2012, is almost a footnote to the real story. (As of today, with reports of almost 3 million votes still uncounted, some still question the “official” vote count and whether the No on 37 camp really won at all).

The real story is this. Prop 37, the grassroots-powered California ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods in California has focused a national spotlight on GMOs, and the serious hazards that transgenics pose to human health and the environment.

It has permanently altered the national debate surrounding food safety, chemical-intensive agriculture, and sustainability.  And it put the consumers’ right-to-know and truth-in-labeling on the table for millions of Americans.

Prop 37 has exposed the dark side of Big Ag and Big Food, and their desperation to keep U.S. consumers in the dark about whether or not our food has been genetically engineered, a fundamental right enjoyed by citizens in over other 60 countries.

This monumental food fight has underscored how dirty money, indentured media, and dirty tricks have polluted our democratic process.

Prop 37 has brought together an unprecedented state and national coalition of more than 3000 organic food retailers and public health, faith and labor, consumer and agriculture, and environmental and political groups, with combined email lists of over 10 million people. The campaign collected almost a million signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot. It mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers and raised more than $8 million, much of that from individual organic consumers and natural health advocates from around the country, not just from California. It spawned new networks like GMO-Free USA and the 30-state Coalition of States for GMO Labeling, alliances that will help raise public awareness and money, and streamline the process of writing state GMO labeling laws.

Prop 37 has awakened a sleeping giant. It has created a statewide and national Movement with the potential to transform the entire U.S. food and farming system, part of a new political awakening in which grassroots forces have begun challenging the power of the corporate and political elite.

Prop 37 may indeed symbolize the “beginning of the end” for agricultural biotechnology and industrial food and farming, a profoundly unhealthy, unsustainable, climate-disrupting system that has dominated American agriculture for the last 60 years.

The real story is this. Prop 37 has created an unstoppable Movement, one that is already preparing for a new fight, on the next battlefield.

Behind Monsanto’s Narrow ‘Victory’

What did Big Ag and Big Food win on Nov. 6? A closer look reveals just how narrow their victory was.

Pre-election poll results revealed that early voters and those who still planned to vote No on 37 supported Prop 37’s basic premise: that consumers should have the right to know what’s in their food.

So why did so many vote No? Because they heard over and over, via $46 million-worth of TV and radio ads, that Prop 37 was poorly written, “made no sense,” included special-interest exemptions, would trigger thousands of lawsuits, and would cost them money at the checkout counter. They were even led to believe, through blatantly fake voter guides mailed to their homes, that the Democratic Party urged them to vote No – even though the California Democratic Party had loudly and publicly endorsed the measure.

Prop 37 showed us yet once again what money can buy. And the No on 37 forces, led by the six largest pesticide and junk food manufacturers in the world, had a seemingly endless supply of cash to pour into their campaign of lies and deceit. Yet all that cash couldn’t convince consumers that they shouldn’t have the fundamental right to know what’s in their food, much less that GMOs are a good idea.

In the end, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola were forced to pretend they were on our side. They ultimately argued through their advertising that sure, consumers should have the right to know, but that Prop 37 was the wrong path to take toward consumer free-choice and truth in labeling.

Big Ag’s strategy? Convince voters that industry respected our right to know, but that they were so concerned about saving consumers money and protecting them from a law they portrayed as ill-conceived, that they just had to rush in with their millions to protect us from ourselves – as if they were the ones who were going to come back with a more consumer-friendly law.

Should we hold our collective breath for Monsanto’s new-and-improved version of Prop 37? A GMO labeling law written by grannies, not trial lawyers? A law that will ensure that meat from animals fed GMOs and shot up with GMO growth hormones must also be labeled? A stricter law, requiring that restaurant food containing GMOs be labeled so consumers can choose to avoid their laboratory-concocted Frankenfoods even when they dine out?

Prop 37 won in most coastal counties, including Los Angeles County and San Francisco, but lost in rural areas – areas the No on 37 campaign began pounding with anti-Prop 37 propaganda on Oct. 1, a week before early voting began. Flush with cash, they outspent us 5 to 1, running ads for almost a month before we were able to respond with our own campaign. Results showed that once we got our message out to those areas, the tide started to turn back in our direction.

The election result numbers shed a great deal of light on how powerful this consumer movement is: With only $8 million to spend, compared with their $46 million, we came within six percentage points of winning. And we are not going away anytime soon.

No Turning Back for the Alternative Food and Farming Movement

Prop 37 was the largest and most successful GMO labeling campaign yet, but it was not the first and it will not be the last.

In the last two years alone, 19 states have made a run at GMO labeling, either through citizens’ initiatives or legislative efforts. We’ve come a long way from the failed push for GMO labeling in Oregon 10 years ago, a campaign that barely made a ripple outside that state. We’ve put GMO labeling on the national map, and we’ve put Monsanto on notice: This movement is stronger than ever, and it’s not going away.

Activists in Washington State have already collected more than half of the signatures they need to put Initiative-522 on the ballot there in 2013. Oregon activists are eying a similar initiative in 2014. Plans are now in the works to restart campaigns in states like Vermont and Connecticut,  where laws don’t provide for citizens ballot initiatives, and reignite legislative those states’s efforts to pass GMO labeling laws. Consumer support in those states is running higher than the national average of 90%, yet previous attempts to pass laws in Vermont and Connecticut  those failed when legislators caved into threats by Monsanto to sue if they passed GMO labeling laws.

Prop 37 may change that, now that legislators have seen just how powerful this movement is – and how vulnerable their political careers may be if they continue to cast their votes against their constituents in favor of corporate lobbyists.

The Organic Consumers Association and our allies will now mobilize our growing base of organic consumers and natural health advocates to educate the public and pass GMO labeling laws across the country. Our narrow loss in California at the hands of dirty money and dirty politics has only strengthened  our resolve and energize our grassroots army.

Prop 37 has fueled Americans growing outrage toward the role of corporate cash and indentured media. In the wake of this bitterly contested battle, food activists will continue to expose companies such as Kellogg’s, General Mills, Coca-Cola, Dean Foods, and Pepsi, who donated millions to quash Prop 37 and who make billions of dollars by deceiving consumers with their so-called “natural” brands, produced with genetic engineering, toxic pesticides, and climate-disrupting chemical fertilizers. We will not rest until consumers understand that so-called “conventional” or “natural” products are a fraud, posing unacceptable risks to public human health and the environment.

We hold out faint hope that our Monsanto-controlled FDA will respond to consumer demand for a national GMO labeling law, even though a GMO labeling petition garnered more signatures than any FDA petition in history. We’re equally skeptical that President Obama will honor his 2007 campaign promise to label GMOs, given his history of pandering to Big Ag and smoothing the way for faster approval of GMO crops. Yet we welcome these national grassroots lobbying efforts for their ability to broaden public awareness and build support for one of the most critical food policy issues of our time. So we’ll keep up the pressure on the Obama administration in their second term.

We are witnessing one of the greatest consumer awakenings in recent times. Consumers are more ready than ever to help us pressure the marketplace for truth and transparency in labeling, especially when it comes to GMO labeling laws. They’re ready to help us promote those companies who are on the right side of consumers, and expose those who aren’t. They’re willing to take on multi-billion companies like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s who can – and should – support  consumer’s right to know by immediately beginning to implement the voluntary labeling of the thousands of foods in their stores that contain GMOs.

So, go ahead, Monsanto and DuPont. Celebrate while you can. Your dirty money and dirty tricks have knocked us down. But we’re back on our feet, energized and battle-savvy.

Round one in the food fight of our lives is over. But the battle has just begun.

The Fight Against GMO Technology

“In the end, perhaps this is where the fight against GMO technology will ultimately be won: not in the halls of congress or parliament, but on the dinner plates of an informed citizenry who have taken matters into their own hands and refuse to eat these GMO products.”

Below is the transcript for the video above copied from here.

In the face of yet more scientific evidence of the adverse health effects of genetically modified foods, country after country is working to ban, limit or restrict the cultivation and testing of GM crops.But as the biotech giants gear up the PR war against their opponents, the question of what people can do to avoid GMO foods is becoming more important than ever. Find out more about this topic in this week’s GRTV Backgrounder on Global Research TV.


Genetically modified food crops have long been sold to the public as the answer to humanity’s 21st century food supply problems. For decades now, the public has been told that they are safe for human consumption, that they will improve crop yields, that they will require less pesticides and that they will be the safest, most effective way to feed the world’s population as we head into times of severe instability in the global food supply. Although scientific research have long exposed these claims as biotech propaganda, a new batch of studies in recent months have garnered attention for upending every one of these claims about GMO technology.

Last month, a new study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that rats fed Monsanto’s patented NK603 gmo corn were more likely to develop tumours and suffer severe liver and kidney damage. The study followed 200 rats over two years, divided into 10 groups of 10 males and 10 females. Three groups were fed the NK603 corn alone, three groups were fed the corn treated with Roundup herbicide, three groups were not fed the corn but their water was treated with Roundup, and a control group was fed non-GM corn and plain drinking water. The researchers found that the rats that consumed the GM corn or the Roundup, separately or combined, were prone to serious health problems that typically did not manifest until the fourth month of the trial. Industry-sponsored rat feeding tests only span three months.

This is in addition to numerous studies in recent years showing that, contrary to the claims of the GM food supporters, GM crops neither produce larger yields nor reduce the amount of pesticides necessary for the cultivation of crops. A 2009 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists foundthat genetically engineered crops produced no significant yield increases, and what increases in yield were detected were almost exclusively due to traditional breeding and improvement in agricultural practices. This was affirmed in a report to the UN Human Rights Council last year showing that the scientific literature demonstrates that the greatest potential for increased yield in the future comes not from gmo foods, but from organic agro-ecological practices that are capable of doubling yields within entire regions in under 10 years. A 2011 study coordinated by the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture showed that GMO crops were promoting the creation of “superweeds,” contributing to food insecurity, and required vastly higher concentrations of pesticides to be sprayed.

As convincing as the results of this latest research is, it only adds to an already voluminous body of research in the scientific literature that has already undermined claims of GMO’s safety and efficacy. Earlier this week I had the chance to talk to independent journalist and researcherAnthony Gucciardi of about these studies, and the detrimental health effects that have been tied to the consumption of genetically modified crops.

The reason that this scientific refutation of the safety and efficacy of GMO technology has not reached the general public is hardly mysterious. The biotech giants whose very reason for existence is the promotion of the GMO myth have fought a long and protracted campaign to smear, undermine and cover up studies pointing out the disastrous consequences of the use of this technology. This process has been underway for years and, unsurprisingly, the GMO PR machine is once again revving into action to attempt to counteract the damage to the reputation of genetic engineering technology that this recent research has caused.

Immediately upon the release of the latest rat feeding study, a coordinated effort to undermine the study and its researchers began. Critics pointed to perceived flaws in the collection, reporting and analysis of the study’s findings. One of the key voices driving the campaign against the study was the Science Media Centre, a supposedly neutral party that connects journalists to scientists when important scientific discoveries are in the headlines. The Science Media Centre itself, however, is funded by bodies like CropLife International, a biotech trade association working to promote the interests of biotech companies around the world, and Syngenta, one of the key biotech seed giants. It has also received funding directly from Monsanto UK.

In the wake of the publication of the new study, the popular GMO information website was targeted with an aggressive cyber attackthat succeeded in almost crippling the website. The site operators had to direct traffic from their main page to their Twitter account at the height of the attack, which they noted was not the first time that outside forces had attempted to take them offline. GMWatch is not funded by the biotech industry and regularly publishes news, information and studies demonstrating the health risks of GM foods.

The latest round of attacks and misinformation brings to mind for many the case of Arpad Puzstai, a renowned British researcher who was immediately fired from his position at a prestigious Scottish research institute after announcing in 1998 the disturbing findings of severe health effects on rats subjected to feeding tests of a new genetically modified potato variety.

Still, despite the best efforts of the biotech giants and their financially connected apologists, public skepticism over the benefits of genetically modified foods is reaching new highs, even as public awareness that GMO crops already account for a large percentage of the North American food supply is also hitting record levels. This awareness and understanding is slowly being transformed into action, as grassroots movements are prompting country after country to set up new barricades against the introduction and spread of these GMO foods.

In 2010, Germany announced a ban on the cultivation of Monsanto’s MON 810 genetically modified corn. In January of this year, BASF, the last firm still developing genetically modified crops in Germany, was forced to stop working on GM crops because of widespread public backlash.

In 2011, Peru passed a law banning genetically modified ingredients for ten years to prevent, in the words of the Peruvian Agrarian Commission President, the “danger that can arise from the use of biotechnology.”

Also in 2011, Hungarian authorities destroyed 1000 acres of corn which were found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, which are banned under Hungarian law.

In the wake of the French rat feeding study, Russia immediately suspended the importation and use of Monsanto’s GMO corn.

In India, the Supreme Court has just called for the Indian government to follow suit with a 10 year ban on all GMO crop field trials for the next 10 years.

In the United States, meanwhile, the fight for a proper, standardized labelling system for foods containing GMO ingredients is heating up. In California, citizens are preparing to vote on a ballot measure, known as Prop 37, which will require clear labelling for genetically modified products.

As promising and hopeful as it is that people are moving to ban GMO foods from their country, and as helpful as movements like the Prop 37 GMO labelling movement are in raising awareness of the issues, such activism runs the risk that the public will be placated into thinking that the legislative process can be relied on to keep this genome-altering technology in check. This thinking is ultimately utopian, seemingly ignoring the existence of the long-acknowledged revolving door between the biotech corporations and the institutions like the FDA which are supposedly there to monitor and regulate them.

In the case of Prop 37, draft proposals of the text show lengthy lists of exemptions that would allow animals that have been reared on GMO feed, or foods that contain as many as 10 GMO ingredients, being labelled as “non-GMO” foods. It is scarcely believable that any attempt to check the spread and use of these GMO foods by purely legislative means will survive the legislative process in a state that would render it ultimately effective.

Much more important, as always, is what individuals can do for themselves to insure that they do not purchase, support or consume GMO products. Although the process of sorting through the ingredients and production processes of various foods can be a bewildering experience, grassroots movements are now taking advantage of the crowdsourcing and networking powers of the internet to do an end-run around the government regulatory process altogether to create usable, practical lists of truly non-GMO foods that can be cross-referenced by anyone with access to the internet. Websites like that of the Non-GMO Project at are helping concerned citizens to take matters into their own hands to empower them to avoid GMO products altogether and to stop supporting the corporations that are producing these foods with our own funds.

In the end, perhaps this is where the fight against GMO technology will ultimately be won: not in the halls of congress or parliament, but on the dinner plates of an informed citizenry who have taken matters into their own hands and refuse to eat these GMO products.