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A recent report by the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth found that agricultural biotechnology feeds the profits of biotech companies not the poor. The reports findings support the United Nations assessment of world agriculture released in a report in 2008, which concluded that GE crops have little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world, and instead recommended low-cost, low-input agroecological farming methods. The solutions for food security through agricultural development lie in promoting agroecological practices that not only increase agricultural productivity, but are affordable and accessible to small-scale developing world farmers. As Ben Burkett, an African American farmer from Mississippi and President of the National Family Farm Coalition who has visited Africa many times, said in a recent article, More expensive genetically modified seeds, pesticides and chemical-intensive practices wont help the hungry and will only allow more profits and control for seed companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. Food aid and development assistance should never be pre-conditioned on accepting unwanted and ineffective genetically engineered crops. Tell Congress to keep genetic engineering out of any food aid and agricultural research legislation.', 'pdf' => array ( 0 => '', 1 => '', ), 'link' => array ( 0 => '', 1 => 'http://truefoodnow.org/2009/05/18/reliance-on-biotech-in-food-aid-bill-is-a-step-in-the-wrong-direction/', ), 'images' => array ( 0 => array ( 0 => 'ge_icon1.jpg', 1 => '', 2 => '', 3 => '', 4 => '', 5 => '', 6 => 'Reliance on Biotech in Food Aid Bill is a Step in the Wrong Direction', 7 => 108, 8 => 108, ), ), 'cat' => array ( 0 => array ( 'id' => '111', 'PARENT_ID' => '110', 'sub_group' => '0', 'name1' => 'Politics and Policy', 'url' => 'politics-and-policy', 'visible' => '1', 'order' => '5', ), 1 => array ( 'id' => '116', 'PARENT_ID' => '110', 'sub_group' => '0', 'name1' => 'GE Food', 'url' => 'ge-food', 'visible' => '1', 'order' => '9', ), 2 => array ( 'id' => '117', 'PARENT_ID' => '110', 'sub_group' => '0', 'name1' => 'GE Crops', 'url' => 'ge-crops', 'visible' => '1', 'order' => '10', ), 3 => array ( 'id' => '119', 'PARENT_ID' => '110', 'sub_group' => '0', 'name1' => 'Take Action', 'url' => 'take-action', 'visible' => '1', 'order' => '12', ), ), ), ), ), 1 => array ( 'id' => '698', 'SECTION_ID' => '129', 'PARENT_ID' => '0', 'BLOCK_ID' => '0', 'order' => '973', 'visible' => '1', 'feature' => '0', 'hide' => '0', 'name1' => 'Beekeepers & Environmental Groups to EPA: Pesticide Approval is â??Irresponsibleâ? & â??Damaging.â? Over 1 million urge EPA to suspend use of pesticide harmful to bees, fix broken regulatory system', 'url' => 'beekeepers-and-environmental-groups-to-epa-pesticide-approval-is-irresponsible-and-damaging-over-1-million-urge-epa-to-suspend-use-of-pesticide-harmful-to-bees-fix-broken-regulatory-system', 'bitly' => 'http://bit.ly/10dLPW9', 'lead_img' => '', 'meta_title' => 'Center for Food Safety | Press Releases | | Beekeepers & Environmental Groups to EPA: Pesticide Approval is â??Irresponsibleâ?', 'meta_desc' => 'Today, commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations 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Today, commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations filed an urgent legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)to suspend further use of a pesticide the agency knows poses harm to honey bees, and adopt safeguards to ensure similar future pesticides aren’t approved by the agency. The legal petition is supported by over one million citizen petitions also submitted today that were collected from people across the country calling out one pesticide in particular – clothianidin – for its harmful impacts on honey bees.

“EPA has an obligation to protect pollinators from the threat of pesticides,” said Jeff Anderson of California Minnesota Honey Farms, a co-petitioner. “The Agency has failed to adequately regulate pesticides harmful to pollinators despite scientific and on-the-ground evidence presented by academics and beekeepers.”

Over two dozen beekeepers and beekeeper organizations from across the country, from California and Minnesota to Kansas and New York, filed the legal petition with the EPA today. Many of these family-owned beekeeping operations are migratory, with beekeepers traveling the country from state-to-state, during different months of the year to providing pollination services and harvesting honey and wax. And they are concerned about the continued impacts on bees and their beekeeping operations, which are already in jeopardy.

“The future of beekeeping faces numerous threats, including from clothianidin, and we need to take steps to protect pollinators and the livelihood of beekeepers,” said Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co and a co-petitioner.

Nine years ago, scientists within the EPA required a field study examining the potential harms of clothianidin to non-target insects – specifically honey bees – because they had reason to believe the pesticide may harm pollinators. In the years since EPA first required this study, a substantial body of scientific evidence has confirmed that the use of clothianidin, a persistent chemical, presents substantial risks to honey bees and other insects that are in or near recently sown fields.

“EPA ignored its own requirements and failed to study the impacts of clothianidin on honey bees,” said Peter Jenkins, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety and co-petitioner. “The body of evidence against the chemical continues to grow, yet the agency has refused to take action.”

The legal petition points to the fact that EPA failed to follow its own regulations. EPA granted a conditional, or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003 without a required field study establishing that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on pollinators. Granting conditional registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study, but this requirement has not been met. EPA continues to allow the use of clothianidin nine years after acknowledging that it had an insufficient legal basis for allowing its use to begin with. Additionally, the product labels on pesticides containing clothianidin are inadequate to prevent excessive damage to non-target organisms, which is a second violation of the requirements for using a pesticide and further warrants removing all such mislabeled pesticides from use.

Over 1.25 million people, including many hobbyist beekeepers, submitted comments in partnership with the organizations Avaaz, Change.org, Credo, Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides and Neals Yard Remedies/Care2.com, calling on EPA to take action on clothianidin.

“EPA should move swiftly to close the loophole and revoke the conditional registration of clothianidin,” said Heather Pilatic, co-director of Pesticide Action Network and a co-petitioner. “Bees and beekeepers can’t afford to wait another nine years for inaction.”

Petitioners point to the agency’s demonstrated delay in analyzing potentially harmful products and then taking them off the market. EPA is concurrently conducting a review of clothianidin’s registration, which it projects completing in 2018.

Beekeepers estimate the real value of their operations at $50 billion, based on retail value of food and crop grown from seed that relies upon bee pollination. Bees in particular are responsible for pollinating many high-value crops, including pumpkins, cherries, cranberries, almonds, apples, watermelons, and blueberries. So any decline in bee populations, health and productivity can have especially large impacts on agriculture, the food system and rural economies. Honey bees are the most economically important pollinators in the world, according to a recent United Nations report on the global decline of pollinator populations.

Beekeepers have survived the economic recession only to find their operations are still threatened.  Recent, catastrophic declines in honey bee populations, termed “Colony Collapse Disorder,” have been linked to a wide variety of factors, including parasites, habitat loss and pesticides like clothianidin.

“Independent research links pollinator declines, especially honey bees, to a wide range of problems with industrial agriculture, especially pesticides,” said John Kepner, program director at Beyond Pesticides and a co-petitioner.

Neonicotinoids, a class of systemic pesticides, is taken up a plant and expressed through the plants through which bees then forage and pollinate. Recent research in the journal PLoS ONE underscores the threat of these pesticides through a previously undocumented exposure route – planter exhaust – the talc and air mix expelled into the environment as automated planters place neonicotinoid-treated seeds into the ground during spring planting.

As a result of the petition, EPA may choose to suspend the use of clothianidin, or open a public comment process to evaluate the concerns voiced by beekeepers and environmental organizations.

The text of the legal petition is available here. Background on the economic value of honey bees and pollinator services is available here.

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Urge Trader Joes to source only meat raised without antibiotics This is the first national consumer-facing marketplace campaign working with major retailers to reduce supermarket sales of meat produced with antibiotics. As part of the campaign launch, Consumer Reports has just released a new report titled Meat On Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It. Additional organizations supporting this campaign include Center for Science in the Public Interest, Environmental Working Group, Food & Water Watch, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, MomsRising, Natural Resources Defense Council and STOP Foodborne Illness. The Antibiotic Resistance Problem The declining effectiveness of antibiotics has become a major national public health crisis. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 99,000 people died of hospital-acquired infections in 2002, the most recent year for which data are available. According to the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the vast majority of those infections were caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Superbugsbacteria resistant to one or more antibioticsare also showing up in food and causing illness such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and even death. Doctors and scientists have called for much more careful use of antibiotics so that disease-causing organisms dont become immune to them. The major user of antibiotics in the U.S. today is not the medical profession. Its the meat and poultry business. Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not on people, but on animals. Antibiotics are given to food-producing animals for three reasons: 1. Make them grow faster 2. Prevent diseases in crowded, unsanitary and inhumane animal factories 3. Treat illnesses in individual sick animals To preserve medically important antibiotics for treatment of disease in people, currently accepted practices must be radically changed. What Congress Should Do: Pass PAMTA Several members of Congress are continuing to push for federal action. In 2007, Representative Louise Slaughter, a microbiologist by training, introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) into the House, a bill that would prohibit the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock production. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a similar bill last year in the Senate. As of mid-2012 neither had passed. What FDA Should Do: More Stringently and Immediately Restrict Uses Since the late 1960s the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been aware that antibiotic use in agriculture can create resistance in humans, yet it has failed to take any meaningful action. However, recent signals from the agency indicate that change may be possible. In 2010, the FDA said, In light of the risk that antimicrobial resistance poses to public health, FDA believes that the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food producing animals for production purposes - represents an injudicious use of these important drugs, and promised further action. However, by the spring of 2012 no more had been done than a general FDA call on drug companies to voluntarily stop selling antibiotics for growth-promotion purposes in animals. Whether companies will comply remains to be seen. FDA should immediately ban all use of medically important human antibiotics in food-producing animals for growth promotion or disease prevention. 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Genetically Engineered Crops Are Already Having Negative Impact on Farm Sustainability in the United States

The Center for Food Safety today released a statement in response to a National Research Council (NRC) report that purports to address the impact of genetically engineered (GE) crops on “farm sustainability,” understood to include farmer economic welfare as well as the environment. Center for Food Safety Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell reacted to the report, which was released this morning by NRC in Washington, DC:

Center for Food Safety has maintained for years that most GE crops are unsustainable, in that they foster a pesticide-promoting agriculture that degrades the environment and increases production costs for farmers. The NRC has taken a small step toward acknowledging the truth of this critique, but its recommendations fall far short of adequately addressing the problem.

At issue is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready technology, which is found in over 70% of GE crops grown on 130 million acres in the U.S. Roundup Ready crops are engineered to survive direct application of glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup herbicide, which would kill or injure a conventional crop. Roundup Ready crops do not increase yield. Rather, they have provided about a decade of convenient, labor-saving weed control by facilitating vastly increased and more frequent use of glyphosate, perhaps the most effective weed-killer ever developed.

The costs of what the NRC calls ‘excessive reliance’ on Roundup Ready technology are legion. In just 14 years, the Roundup Ready system has triggered an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds, in the same way that an overused antibiotic fosters resistant bacteria. Resistant weeds lead to increased pesticide use, which in turn harms the environment and human health. The leading independent study demonstrates that Roundup Ready crops and resistant weeds have increased use of herbicides (weed-killing pesticides) by 383 million lbs. over what would otherwise have been used in the 13 years from 1996 to 2008. Resistant weeds also trigger greater use of soil-eroding tillage, and in some cases manual hoeing to remove weeds, as well as higher production costs.

Significantly, glyphosate-resistant weeds are becoming so prevalent as to undermine the efficacy of glyphosate itself in ever more areas of the country. In response, companies are introducing crops resistant to non-glyphosate and multiple herbicides – an ultimately futile approach that will simply deepen the pesticide dependence of the American farmer.

In short, the biotech industry’s flagship product is proving to be inherently unsustainable, digging its own grave after just a decade and a half of use, and driving development of still other short-term fixes that will in turn rapidly become obsolescent.

Center for Food Safety is not certain what ‘sustainability’ means to the NRC. In our view, it should mean farm technologies and practices that remain effective and enhance productivity over many generations, not flash-in-the-pan innovations (like Roundup Ready technology) that drive their own obsolescence in just a decade or two.

Unfortunately, the rapid takeover of the seed supply by pesticide-biotechnology companies means that farmers have ever fewer conventional seed options. Monsanto is the world’s largest seed company, followed by DuPont (#2) and Swiss-based Syngenta (#3). Other pesticide manufacturers with a large stake in the seed industry include Dow Agrosciences, and German-based Bayer CropSciences and BASF Plant Science. It should not be surprising that these pesticide companies are developing new GE seeds for use in tandem with weed-killing pesticides they also sell.

Farmers are increasingly turning away from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds to conventional seeds due to astronomical GE seed prices, resistant weeds, and the ability to legally save and replant conventional seeds. (Seed-saving, a traditional practice in the U.S. and around the world, has been made illegal with patented Roundup Ready seeds.) Demand for conventional soybean seeds has outstripped supply in at least five states, which means that some farmers who want to “go conventional” are unable to do so thanks to shortage of conventional seeds.

The declining availability of conventional seeds – due in part to atrophy of public sector breeding programs – is hopefully one topic the Department of Justice and state attorneys general will explore in their ongoing investigation of anticompetitive effects of seed industry concentration. Other issues include anti-farmer seed patents, the astronomical cost of GE seeds, and a number of anticompetitive practices used by Monsanto. Monsanto has used its seed patents to wring anywhere from $85 to $160 million from U.S. farmers for allegedly saving and replanting the company’s patented seeds.

Monsanto’s latest quarterly financial report shows a massive 19% drop in earnings, which directly reflects the farmer revolt against overpriced and increasingly ineffective Roundup Ready technology. The result would have been still worse for the company if farmers had had an adequate supply of viable conventional seed alternatives to draw on.

In the end, the NRC makes too much of short-term benefits of certain GE crops, and fails to appreciate the inherent unsustainability of the pesticide-promoting technologies being offered by the industry. In addition, there is too little concern for the many adverse impacts of seed industry concentration and seed patents on farmers’ welfare.

CFS calls for a moratorium on approvals of all new pesticide-promoting GE crops; an end to utility patents on seeds such that farmers can again save and replant seeds from their harvest; and serious antitrust remedies to break up the ongoing takeover of the seed supply by pesticide companies. The Federal government should commit significant new funds for independent, public-sector breeding programs. Without strong, decisive action of this sort, the pesticide-seed-biotechnology conglomerates will continue to saddle farmers with increasingly expensive, pesticide-promoting seeds that represent the complete opposite of sustainability.

Click here to view the footnoted version of CFS’s statement

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Action Ensures Consistent Enforcement of Organic Standards

At the urging of the National Organic Coalition and others, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it will subject its National Organic Program (NOP) to a stringent audit and continued oversight by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In a July 29 letter addressed to the National Organic Coalition, USDA Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan underscored the value of scrutinizing the NOP to strengthen the integrity of the program and the USDA organic seal.

The NOP is USDA’s regulatory body that develops, implements, and administers the USDA organic seal and national standards for organic agricultural products sold in the U.S. It accredits domestic and foreign certifying agents who inspect organic production and handling operations producing organic food sold in the U.S. as compliant with USDA organic standards.

NIST’s National Voluntary Conformity Assessment Systems Evaluation (NVCASE) program reviews accreditation programs such as the NOP to assess their ongoing conformity with international standards for management of accreditation program through onsite audit, evaluation of office system, and oversight of record keeping, enforcement, and corrective actions.

“Third-party recognition is important for many of USDA’s audit-based programs,” Merrigan said in her letter to the National Organic Coalition. “We understand the value of this step as we continue working to strengthen the integrity of the NOP and to build the organic community’s trust in the program.” Merrigan anticipates that the NIST review will begin October 1, 2009.

“We applaud USDA’s willingness to submit its organic program to the rigors of these international norms and believe this will pave the way for continued growth and success of the U.S. organic industry,” said Robynn Shrader, a

National Organic Coalition founding member and CEO of the National Cooperative Grocers Association.

In June, the National Organic Coalition met with Merrigan to discuss the need for greater consistency in the implementation of NOP rules. The coalition proposed that the NOP apply to NIST at the U.S. Department of Commerce for recognition of its accreditation function and to make a commitment to strictly comply with NIST requirements.

“USDA’s organic seal is the best guarantee for people who want to eat healthy foods grown without the use of toxic pesticides, GMOs or artificial growth hormones such as rBGH,” said Liana Hoodes, National Organic Coalition policy coordinator. “We anticipate that the potential changes NOP will make to earn NIST recognition will result in greater consistency and integrity in USDA organic standards, greater fairness to organic farmers and handlers, and greater consumer confidence in the USDA organic label.”

The National Organic Coalition is a non-governmental alliance of organizations working to provide a “Washington voice” for farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, consumers and progressive industry members involved in organic agriculture.

In order for the NOP to be recognized by the NIST NVCASE program, National Organic Coalition anticipates NOP will be required to make significant modifications to its accreditation procedures.

“We think the USDA and the entire Obama Administration have sent a clear message that maintaining and improving the integrity of the organic industry is a national priority, and that the USDA will continue to build a trusting alliance with the broader organic community as the NOP grows and matures,” Hoodes added.

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From Agriculture Spending Bill', 'date' => '2012-06-19', 'desc' => '

Hidden rider poses unprecedented constitutional assault, blocks USDA authority and denies GE crop safeguards

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and a coalition of farm, food safety, environmental and consumer advocacy groups today formally submitted a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations voicing strong and immediate opposition to the so-called “farmer assurance provision” (Section 733) that was quietly inserted in the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of U.S. courts, jettisons the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.

Flying under the radar as committee debate starts today, the “farmer assurance provision” is engineered to strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of illegal, potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses potential hazards. It also would inexplicably force USDA to allow continued planting of a GE crop even if a court of law identifies previously unrecognized risks. In addition, Section 733 targets vital judiciary oversight over USDA approvals by barring courts from compelling USDA to take action against agriculture policies that may harm farmers and the environment.

The coalition letter identifies the rider as a deliberately designed attempt to exchange long-established policies of good governance and lawful, impartial public review for the guarantee of control and profitability by a handful of biotech companies.

“This is nothing more than a Monsanto profit assurance provision,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. “There is no doubt that the objective of this explosive Appropriations bill insertion is to empower a single corporation and a few of its industry friends to move beyond the control of the U.S. courts, USDA and public review to make their own rules and profit from slippery backdoor politics.”

In addition, the provision has the capacity to harm farmers and damage the U.S. agricultural economy. With an increasing number of global markets requiring agricultural products grown without the use of GE technology, many seeds, crops and foods contaminated with GE material cannot be sold in many international markets. If the provision evades detection and becomes law, USDA would be forced to immediately approve all permits for continued planting of an unapproved biotech crop, potentially exposing other farmers to substantial damages and putting the viability of U.S. agriculture markets at risk, as was the case with the StarLink corn and LibertyLink rice contamination episodes. This directly counters the established guidelines of the Plant Protection Act of 2000, which require USDA to regulate GE crops to protect “the agriculture, environment, and economy of the United States.”

“This provision has nothing to do with farmers, and everything to do with the biotech industry’s sales,” said Dena Hoff, vice president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “Far from safeguarding farmers, it evades the law of the land and endangers their way of life and their livelihoods. The only parties whose interests would be assured are the corporations developing biotech crops.”

Signed by Center for Food Safety, National Family Farm Coalition, ACLU, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Organic Trade Association, Earthjustice, Organic Valley, Union of Concerned Scientists and many others, the letter was delivered to Appropriations Committee chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) and the Committee’s ranking member, Norm Dicks (D-WA).

“It’s no accident that game-changing policy riders like these are buried deep inside the pages of appropriations documentation,” said Kimbrell. “Daylight and open, public review are the enemy of a private agenda. Our hope is that by exposing this senseless, unlawful and arrogant biotech industry ploy the Committee will quickly end a debate that should never started in the first place.”

The letter can be found at http://bit.ly/CFS_FarmerAssuranceProvisionLetter

###

About Center for Food Safety
The Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org

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Public remains in the dark another year as the federal government considers approving genetically engineered salmon

Earthjustice sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Friday calling on the agency to provide a final substantive response to a citizen petition filed one year ago on behalf of Ocean Conservancy, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Greenpeace. The petition asked FDA to complete a thorough environmental impact statement assessing the full range of potential environmental and ecological risks associated with an application to market the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) fish intended for human consumption in the U.S. It also asked FDA to improve its process for reviewing these kinds of applications so that environmental threats and public concerns are considered at a much earlier stage. Friday’s letter reminds the agency of its outstanding duty to provide a final response to the petition and reiterates the serious concerns previously raised by the petitioning environmental groups.

The FDA has yet to approve the “frankenfish” application from Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies, which has been hoping to sell its GE salmon product in the U.S. for more than a decade. When FDA first announced its intent to approve AquaBounty’s application in the fall of 2010, the public sent more than 400,000 comments in opposition. However, recent reports suggest that the application will be approved soon without the kind of full environmental impact statement demanded in the citizen petition.

“The citizen petition was filed to ensure that the FDA conducts a careful, comprehensive, and open review of the many significant environmental risk questions raised by this first-of-its-kind application,” said Earthjustice attorney Khushi Desai. “It is unacceptable that a full year has passed and we still have no answers and absolutely no insight into the agency’s consideration of these risks.” Of particular concern is that behind its closed doors, FDA has simply been reviewing and revising AquaBounty’s strikingly deficient environmental assessment without conducting additional risk assessments needed to truly understand the potential impacts of GE salmon on natural environments. That’s why the citizen petition asked the agency to refrain from making a decision on the application until FDA prepares an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“Just last week, the U.S. Senate debated the need for a more rigorous process to evaluate the risks of genetically engineered fish,” said George Leonard, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Ocean Conservancy. “It is crystal clear that more scientific analysis is needed before GE fish is allowed into the seafood supply. If the FDA won’t ensure that happens, the agency must not approve the fish.”

"The need for a full environmental impact statement has only become more urgent in light of recently revealed information showing that Aquabounty’s egg facility had previously been infected with infectious salmon anemia,” said Eric Hoffman, food and technology policy campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “The fact that the presence of this disease was found in the company’s own facility and was concealed from the public is unacceptable and irresponsible. Proper environmental review would look at these and other environmental risks, and would provide an opportunity for the public to provide input into this precedent-setting decision.”

“Fish escape from aquaculture facilities on a disturbingly regular basis,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “FDA needs to do a complete analysis of the risks posed by GE salmon to wild salmon and other aquatic species if they escape into the environment.”

“The risks of these unprecedented engineered fish are very real and must undergo rigorous review,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety. “FDA’s continued silence on this legal petition speaks volumes, but there is still time for the agency to comply with the law.”

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FDA poised to take action on the first-ever application to market a genetically engineered salmon without adequate consideration of environmental risks and public input

Earthjustice, on behalf of Ocean Conservancy, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Greenpeace, submitted a citizen petition yesterday to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the Agency to withhold final action on an application to market the first ever genetically engineered (GE) salmon intended for human consumption in the U. S. The petition requests that FDA complete a comprehensive environmental impact statement on the risks GE fish could present to the natural marine environment before making a final decision.

After a decade of behind-the-scenes work with the GE fish sponsor, AquaBounty Technologies, FDA announced last fall that it intended to approve AquaBounty’s application. In response, the public sent over 400,000 comments to the FDA opposing the “Frankenfish” and demanding mandatory labeling of any GE fish approved for sale to US consumers. FDA has not yet taken final action on the AquaBounty application.

According to the petition, the application material released to the public raises serious concerns regarding potential destruction of wild salmon populations that require FDA to prepare an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The petitioners argue that the environmental assessment AquaBounty previously submitted to FDA, and FDA’s evaluation of that assessment, fails to provide necessary assurances that AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage Salmon, which are supposedly engineered to grow twice as fast as wild Atlantic Salmon, will not endanger natural fish populations by outcompeting non-GE fish.

“As far as we and the public can tell, FDA has not comprehensively assessed the full range of environmental risks inherent in the production and distribution of genetically engineered fish,” explained George Leonard, Ocean Conservancy’s aquaculture program director. “Instead, FDA is relying on the company’s own scientific analysis that no fish will escape, survive, or reproduce in the wild—even though that type of security cannot be guaranteed.” 

The groups’ concerns are heightened by the fact that FDA has thus far refused to consider AquaBounty’s publicly stated intent to expand production and commercialization of AquAdvantage Salmon throughout the U. S. and abroad.

“FDA wants to consider this application in a bubble to avoid doing a more comprehensive environmental review, but if it follows the law, it simply cannot avoid the fact that this is just the first step in a broader plan to produce these GE fish and others like them around the world,” said Eric Hoffman, biotechnology policy campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “FDA must take this opportunity to conduct a thorough review of the environmental risks associated with genetically engineered fish and prevent potentially irreversible ecological harm before it is too late.”

The petition also challenges FDA’s continued closed-door review of the AquaBounty application and asks the Agency to revise its regulations to better account for the environmental risks attendant to the production and distribution of GE food animals.

“FDA’s regulatory framework for reviewing applications to market genetically engineered animals is fundamentally flawed,” said Earthjustice attorney Khushi Desai. “The process fails to ensure that FDA closely studies the full impact of such applications, and it keeps the public in the dark.”  

While the FDA considers AquaBounty’s application, several states have taken up the issue of labeling genetically engineered fish. “This is a watershed moment,” explained Leonard. “While the FDA is poised to approve the first ever genetically engineered animal for human consumption, fourteen states across the nation are considering legislation to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food.”

The petitioners find the FDA approach to GE salmon woefully inadequate, and simply hard to believe:

“When you stop to consider that even other federal agencies like the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service are wondering what in the world the FDA is thinking – literally asking in disbelief if they’ve watched Jurassic Park – you realize this is an environmental disaster waiting to happen,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Unfortunately, it appears the FDA has conflicting interests since they continue moving forward with genetically engineered salmon despite strong consumer opposition – perhaps because the biotech industry has spent over half a billion dollars pushing this science experiment.”

“This genetically engineered fish has no redeeming value,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “It has lower nutrition and represents other potential hazards to consumers; it puts the entire US salmon industry at risk, and most importantly it could threaten the very survival of our native salmon populations. FDA needs to assess all these risks and then take the only rational step, which is to deep-six this hopelessly misguided and dangerous product.”

View the Petition

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Published by Navdanya (India), Navdanya International, the International Commission on the Future of Food,  with the participation of the Center for Food Safety. The report consists of contributions from groups around the world. Entire report may be viewed HERE

A new report highlights scientific research and empirical experiences from around the globe demonstrating that genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops have failed to deliver on its advertised promises.

Advocates of GMOs claim that biotechnology increases yields, reduces chemical usage, controls crop pests and weeds, and delivers “climate ready” traits such as drought-tolerance. However, the on-the-ground experience in many countries discloses that this technology has failed on all fronts.

For example, GMO proponents often hail the success of GM cotton in South Africa’s Makhatini Flats. But after initial, highly visible headlines of success, this report reveals a different story. Instead of thriving crops and increased farmer incomes, after five years, the majority of farmers growing GM cotton are in debt due to the high costs of seed, chemical, and other farm inputs. Concurrently, the volatility of the cotton market means that farmers cannot rely on predictable, steady incomes. The essays contained in this Global Citizens Report confirm that such experiences are repeated in many countries and regions. The story of Indian farmer indebtedness and over 250,000 suicides further emphasizes the tragic costs of this failed GM technology. (The essay from India thoroughly reviews this tragedy.)

Super Weeds, Super ProblemsFarmers and agronomists throughout the world are alarmed by the growing epidemic of weeds developing a resistance to the herbicide, glyphosate, used on GM crops. These “superweeds” have evolved resistance to glyphosate as a result of the intensive use of this herbicide. From November 2007 to January 2011, infested acreage in the U.S. has more than quintupled, from 2.4 to 12.6 million acres. In Brazil, researchers have reported that nine species have developed tolerance to glyphosate.

And now super pests are also becoming a major hazard. Rootworms are developing a resistance to GM corn in Iowa and Illinois. And, Monsanto, the undisputed leader in GM seed and crop technology and ownership, has, after several years, finally acknowledged that a bollworm pest has developed resistance to its Bt cotton in India.

Another common story detailed in this Global Citizens Report describes how GM technology is pushed by intensive lobbying and marketing efforts, “revolving door” influences, and funding of research and educational institutes. As noted in the report from the U.S., the leading proponent of GM crops—top food and agricultural biotechnology firms spent more than $547 million lobbying Congress between 1999 and 2009. The report from Argentina documents that representatives from biotechnology corporations—Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, and Pioneer—sit on a prominent national panel that directly advises the government agency that approves field trials and commercialization of GM crops. 

Finally, the report documents increasing scientific evidence and warnings from scientists that GMOs may be harmful to human health, ecosystems and also have failed to increase food production. It highlights that, in contrast to GM seeds and crops, agroecological farming systems are proving to be the real answer to food insecurity. A recent study by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food reported that agroecological systems doubled crop yields over a period of three to 10 years in field tests conducted in 20 African countries. The report also cites numerous other studies confirming high yields and reduced chemical use in other regions of the world due to agroecological farming methods.

Owning at least 90 percent of GM seeds and crops, Monsanto is viewed as the leader in promoting this technology and thus its role is particularly highlighted in these voices from the planet reports.

The report will be launched around the world during 2011 and 2012, beginning with a launch in San Francisco on October 13.

Read the Report

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Monsanto’s Failure to Provide Binding Legal Covenant To Protect Family Farmers Threatened by GMO Contamination Necessitates Amended Complaint

New threats by Monsanto have led to the filing of an amended complaint by the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) in its suit on behalf of family farmers, seed businesses, and organic agricultural organizations—including the Center for Food Safety—challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed. Twenty-three new plaintiffs have joined with the original 60 in the amended complaint, bringing the total number represented in the case to 83. The plaintiffs in the suit, titled Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), et al. v. Monsanto and pending in the Southern District of New York, now include 36 family farmer, food, agricultural research, food safety, and environmental organizations representing hundreds of thousands of members including several thousand certified organic, biodynamic, or otherwise non-transgenic family farmers.

“Our clients don’t want a fight with Monsanto, they just want to be protected from the threat they will be contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed and then be accused of patent infringement,” said PUBPAT Executive Director Daniel B. Ravicher. “We asked Monsanto to give our clients reassurance they wouldn’t do such a thing, and in response they chose instead to reiterate the same implicit threat to organic agriculture made in the past.”

Soon after the March filing of the lawsuit, Monsanto issued a statement saying they would not assert their patents against farmers who suffer “trace” amounts of transgenic contamination. In response, and in the hope the matter could be resolved out of court, PUBPAT attorneys wrote Monsanto’s attorneys asking the company to make its promise legally binding. Monsanto responded to PUBPAT’s request by hiring former solicitor general, Seth P. Waxman, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of WilmerHale, who rejected PUBPAT’s request and instead confirmed Monsanto may indeed make claims of patent infringement against organic farmers who become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed. Copies of both letters are available as exhibits at the end of the amended complaint [link].

“Monsanto’s letter was an empty, indefensible, and self-evident evasion showing they are only interested in spinning propaganda without taking serious steps to resolve the problem created for organic and non-transgenic agriculture,” said one of the co-plaintiffs in the suit, Don Patterson of Virginia. “With the Monsanto letter signed by Waxman, the company rolled out their biggest legal cannon, but they fired off only fluffy wadding and smoke,” as he views it. “The letter shows Monsanto wanting to protect their freedom to threaten farmers with patent infringement suits,” he states; “Both the threats and the lawsuits are clearly important to their marketing strategy and business model.”

“Despite their empty propaganda to the contrary, they plainly do not want to give up these tactics,” Patterson asserts. “Monsanto has collected multiple millions of dollars in settlements often from family farmers without the resources to defend themselves,” he reports; “Too many have had to settle because they could not afford to fight.”

“The serious issues being engaged in this case require a constructive and socially-acceptable response from the defendant in the public interest,” adds Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of OSGATA, the lead plaintiff in the suit. “In the absence of that, we reassert the essential importance of the arguments stated in March and reinforced now by the additional evidence of the Monsanto intransigence. Monsanto’s utter failure to act reasonably to address our concerns has only reaffirmed the need for our lawsuit.”

“We don’t think we are asking too much to want assurance that if Monsanto’s transgenic genes contaminate our crops we will not be sued by Monsanto,” adds Iowa organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke, owner of plaintiff Radiance Dairy; “It is bad enough that we face the threat of contamination of our organic and non-transgenic crops.  The least Monsanto can do is give us assurance that they won’t sue us for their own genetic trespass.”

The amended Complaint elaborates a fear tangibly vexing many family farmers: “Monsanto continued in the statement to perversely characterize this suit as an ‘attack,’ when Plaintiffs seek no money from and no injunction against them.  All Plaintiffs seek is peace of mind if they are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed, the company could never sue them for patent infringement. This is not an attack by the Plaintiffs and to characterize it that way only further evidences Monsanto’s aggressive and threatening attitude with respect to its patents. Thus, the statement made by Monsanto in response to this suit has only served to heighten Plaintiff’s fear that Monsanto will seek to enforce its patents against them should they ever be contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed.”

“It is outrageous that our entire farm, family business, and livelihood could be at risk because of Monsanto’s backward and oppressive response and enforcement towards farmers in regards to transgenic pollen drift, unasked for and unwanted—and the subsequent results in fields and farms,” says Ruth Chantry of Common Good Farm in Nebraska; “Any transgenic pollen drift that would ever come onto our farm is of great detriment to us, and as such, it is an invasion upon and a contamination of our crops, the multi-species habitat we are assisting and creating here—and to the integrity of how we are farming organically and Biodynamically.”

The request for court protection through a declaratory judgment is a primary objective of the case. The suit also argues the invalidity of Monsanto’s transgenic Roundup Ready patents under both statute and case law precedent requiring patented products to demonstrate clear social utility and not be dangerous to health. Four basic contentions, ranging from the patent invalidity, through the establishment of proper requirements for a finding of patent infringement to patent unenforceability and Monsanto’s lack of entitlement to collect damages were asserted in the original complaint filed March 29, 2011. Court relief is being sought to protect organic farmers and other growers of non-transgenic crops from liability should unwanted transgenic contamination occur in their fields. The response to the PubPat letter of April 18 was received on April 28 from the Monsanto attorneys. When no binding legal covenant was provided, Ravicher states, the filing of the amended complaint was required to make the defendant’s position fully clear. “The reply from Monsanto is insufficient and unsatisfactory to protect the interests of my clients,” said Ravicher.

The biotech impact on the quality, safety, and nutritional integrity of food will be brought up for public and courtroom scrutiny, so that the truth can be determined between their arguments and ours, states Ravicher; “If Monsanto is proud of what they do, they should be happy for the opportunity to present the evidence in support of their ideal.” To help stimulate and promote objective debate between the differing agricultural philosophies, the new group of plaintiffs has joined the case as part of today’s filing. Included among these are groups long committed to food safety and environmental responsibility in the public interest. Some of the new plaintiffs have been prominent in other legal actions and advocacy against Monsanto’s efforts to aggressively and monopolistically assert its chemically and transgenically-dependent agricultural system.

Marty Mesh, Executive Director of Florida Organic Growers, states, “We join this suit with sadness but feel compelled to seek justice. If Organic farmers, seed growers, and companies have no assurance that technology they have never asked for, never signed a licensing agreement to use, have no desire to be a part of, and in fact, go to great lengths to avoid, can still trespass on their farms and subject them to a lawsuit by the patent holder who seemingly escapes all  liability for that trespass,  then it is not only morally wrong, ethically  unjust, but also legally perverse.”

In addition to supplementing the complaint with Monsanto’s most recent clarifying statement confirming its threat to the plaintiffs and GMO-free agriculture, the new group of 23 organizations, seed companies, farms and individual farmers includes fourteen organizations: Weston A. Price Foundation, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Manitoba Organic Alliance, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (Wisconsin), Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Florida Organic Growers, Peace River Organic Producers Association (Alberta and British Columbia) and Union Paysanne (Quebec); two seed companies: Seed We Need (Montana), Wild Garden Seed (Oregon); and seven farms or individual farmers: Common Good Farm, LLC (Nebraska), American Buffalo Company (Nebraska), Full Moon Farm, Inc. (Vermont), Radiance Dairy (Iowa), Brian L. Wickert (Wisconsin), Bruce Drinkman (Wisconsin), and Murray Bast (Ontario).

These plaintiffs join the 60 plaintiffs from the original filing of the lawsuit in March including twenty-two organizations: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc. (OCIA); OCIA Research and Education, Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network (California); Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems (Montana); Global Organic Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders, Inc.; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; twelve seed companies: FEDCO Seeds, Inc. (Maine); Adaptive Seeds, LLC (Oregon); Sow True Seed (North Carolina); Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Virginia); Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds (Saskatchewan); Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC (Missouri); Comstock, Ferre & Co. LLC (Connecticut); Seedkeepers, LLC (California); Siskiyou Seeds (Oregon); Countryside Organics (Virginia); Cuatro Puertas (New Mexico); Interlake Forage Seeds, Ltd. (Manitoba); and, twenty-six farms and farmers: Alba Ranch (Kansas); Wild Plum Farm (Montana); Gratitude Gardens (Washington); Richard Everett Farm, LLC (Nebraska); Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc. (Wisconsin); Genesis Farm (New Jersey); Chispas Farms, LLC (New Mexico); Kirschenmann Family Farms, Inc. (North Dakota); Midheaven Farms (Minnesota); Koskan Farms (South Dakota); California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm (North Dakota); Taylor Farms, Inc. (Utah); Jardin del Alma (New Mexico); Ron Gargasz Organic Farms (Pennsylvania); Abundant Acres (Missouri); T & D Willey Farms (California); Quinella Ranch (Saskatchewan); Nature’s Way Farm, Ltd. (Alberta); Levke and Peter Eggers Farm (Alberta); Frey Vineyards, Ltd. (California); Bryce Stephens (Kansas); Chuck Noble (South Dakota); LaRhea Pepper (Texas); Paul Romero (New Mexico); and, Donald Wright Patterson, Jr. (Virginia).

In the face of the established historical record of over 100 lawsuits brought against farmers, the amended PUBPAT complaint asserts, “Monsanto implicitly acknowledges that its transgenic seeds can contaminate the property of non-transgenic farmers,” but in its asserted “commitment” to not sue farmers over “inadvertent,” and “trace” amounts of contamination, the company fails to define either term. Therefore, the Complaint argues, “the clear implication is that Monsanto indeed intends to assert its transgenic seed patents against certified organic and non-transgenic farmers who come to possess more than ‘trace amounts’ of Monsanto’s transgenic seed, even if it is not their fault.”

When Monsanto sued family farmer Percy Schmeiser in Canada over contamination caused by transgenic seed blown off a passing neighbor’s truck, it cost him a half million dollars to fight them, and he had to mortgage his farm to raise the money, Patterson recalls. In the process, he lost control over 50 years of his own traditional, non-transgenic seed development work, according to Patterson and published reports telling the Schmeiser story. “Monsanto reportedly spent $4 million on their case against Schmeiser,” Patterson says. Percy Schmeiser told him Monsanto had 19 lawyers at one point in the courtroom up against his own single lawyer. “In the school yard and in the NFL, that is called ‘piling on,’” he concludes.

“The issues raised in the lawsuit are critical, not just to organic farmers and others who do not want to grow genetically-modified (transgenic) crops,” Gerritsen says, but “also to the safety of food and everyone who eats—and that includes everyone concerned about environmental protection and public health.” As Gerritsen sees the lawsuit, “This is not just a minor dispute between a few family farmers and a powerful corporation accustomed to getting its own way; it is a debate over who offers the best and most responsible way to feed the people of the world over the decades and centuries ahead.” Monsanto offers an expedient short-cut with enormous long-term risks and consequences for public health and environmental degradation, he says; “This, we intend to prove in court.”

“We believe Monsanto has anti-competitively and improperly abused their rights under patent law and have used their patents to gain monopoly dominance over major sectors of the seed industry,” said lawyer Ravicher; “They have gained control over as much as 90% of the U.S. corn and soybean seed market.” Independent research on the safety of transgenic food has not been permitted because Monsanto has used its patent control to prevent that, Ravicher adds, though he notes some information has begun to emerge despite the tight control exercised. Often the most illuminating research findings have come from other nations or from U.S. researchers who have retired from positions where they were formerly under contractual constraint imposed by Monsanto and other biotech companies, Ravicher reports. “The operation of the patent system against the public interest will be an important issue to be examined as part of this case,” Ravicher affirms; “In arguing the invalidity of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready patents, we will show how the Patent and Trademark Office has too readily and even profligately served the interest of politically-influential corporations at the expense of the public.”

“The USDA, the White House, and the Congress have evaded responsibility to protect the public from the potential and unstudied dangers of transgenic food, not even requiring careful, long-term, independent testing nor the clear GMO labeling long-demanded by the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens,” states Bryce Stephens, a Kansas wheat farmer, who is OSGATA’s vice-president. “President Obama said he wanted to see mandatory GMO labeling during his 2008 presidential campaign, but he has not provided it,” Stephens reminds us. “We need someone to act in the public’s defense if our officials will not,” he says, and that is part of the motivation for Stephens’s decision to join the case as an individual plaintiff alongside his participation in plaintiff organizations.

Stephens is also a spokesman for the second leading plaintiff in the case, the Organic Crop Improvement Association-International (OCIA). He points out, “Long-term, fully objective, independent, multi-generational studies about the safety of transgenic food are scarce world-wide and virtually non-existent in the United States; studies have not been done in the U.S. to replicate, verify, or rebut the findings of studies undertaken in other nations.”

“When GMO crops were first given the green light to enter the market in 1992 by the Bush-Quayle administration, they were declared ‘Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)’ based almost entirely on internal industry studies and industry-sponsored research done under controlling company contract,” Stephens states. “Given the serious potential long-term dangers and only minimally and briefly-studied risks, this was reprehensibly irresponsible, and the government has not shown any more prudence over the years since 1992,” Stephens charges. “With the long-term health consequences of GMO food yet to be understood and in the absence of objective studies, we have all been involuntarily co-opted into a giant biotech industry experiment,” he concludes; “Our citizens and the people of the world deserve better than that.”

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AGENCY MAKES NO DECISION ON APPROVAL OF THE ROUNDUP READY CROP

CITING HARM TO ORGANIC INDUSTRY AND PROLIFERATION OF SUPERWEEDS CFS URGES AGENCY TO CONTINUE BAN ON POTENTIALLY HARMFUL CROP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that sets forth its plans to once again allow commercial planting of Monsantos genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa. The FEIS gives USDA three options for RR alfalfa its two preferred options are to either completely deregulate the crop, allowing it to be grown anywhere or impose geographic restrictions and isolation requirements limiting where the crop can be grown. Another still possible option is to continue the ban on the crop because of its environmental and economic impacts.

"The only option that will protect organic and conventional alfalfa growers and dairies is for the USDA to deny any approval of GE alfalfa" stated Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS). We are disappointed that the agency has not made this one of its preferred options but are encouraged that it remains an option being considered by the agency.

On a call today with CFS and other stakeholders, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said that USDAs Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will be submitting the EIS to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for publication in the Federal Register. USDA anticipates that EPA will publish a notice in the Federal Register on December 23, 2010 announcing the availability of the final EIS on RR alfalfa for public review. There will be a 30-day review period for the FEIS, in which comments can be submitted for consideration by APHIS, before USDA publishes a record of decision on how it will proceed.

The FEIS comes in response to a 2007 lawsuit brought by CFS, in which a Federal court ruled that the USDAs approval of GE alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa and the development of superweeds that are resistant to Monsantos herbicide, Roundup. The court banned the planting of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a rigorous analysis of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on GE alfalfa planting. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on Monsantos Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation occurs.

In response to USDAs Draft EIS, published nearly a year ago, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), joined by 49 other representatives and five other senators, sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack asking USDA to retain the regulated status of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. In their letter, endorsed by over 50 businesses and organizations the lawmakers assert that the draft USDA findings about genetically engineered alfalfa cannot be justified. In March 2010, more than 244,000 people submitted comments to the USDA critiquing the substance and conclusions of its Draft EIS on GE Alfalfa. Groups, including CFS, the National Organic Coalition (NOC), Organic Consumers Association, Food & Water Watch, the Institute for Responsible Technology, CREDO Action and Food Democracy Now, mobilized their communities to help generate the unprecedented number of comments. In addition, more than 300 public interest organizations, farmers, dairies, retailers and organic food producers from the U.S. and Canada delivered a strongly worded letter to USDA, calling upon it to deny approval of Monsantos genetically engineered, Roundup Ready alfalfa (GE alfalfa).

CFS is currently reviewing the USDA decision and will make further comments once the documents have been thoroughly reviewed and when the agency makes its final decision.

USDA\'s Announcement can be found HERE

The Final EIS and related documents can be found HERE

###

The Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS currently represents more than 175,000 members across the nation.

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Riders attacking GE crop safeguards and USDA review process remain amid growing concerns over risk to nation’s food supply

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture completed the markup of its Farm Bill yesterday evening.  Buried in the bill reported out of committee are a suite of chemical industry-promoting riders (Sec. 10011, 10013, and 10014) that seek to severely weaken the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) oversight of genetically engineered (GE) crops, fundamentally eroding science-based review.

These riders have the potential to:

  • completely eliminate the critical roles of our most important environmental laws;
  • unreasonably pressure USDA with impossible deadlines for analysis and decision, while withholding funds to conduct environmental reviews;
  • create multiple backdoor GE crop approval mechanisms that would allow the premature commercialization of untested biotech traits to enter our food system;
  • limit the regulatory authority of other agencies, such as EPA; and
  • force USDA to adopt a controversial policy of allowable levels of GE contamination in crops and foods.

Center for Food Safety (“The Center”) has warned that these hidden biotech riders would eliminate vital USDA safeguards that are currently protecting American farmers and the nation’s food supply.  With the provisions in place, USDA would be ill-equipped and potentially incapable of preventing costly contamination episodes (such as the Starlink corn and Liberty Link rice fiascos which cost American farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses) and risks damage to vital U.S. export markets.

Responding to the bill reported out of committee, the Center reiterates its strong opposition to irresponsible and unnecessary changes to USDA’s regulations, and joins a growing numbers of organizations and businesses in opposing the riders.  Given the 100+ amendments offered to the bill and the sweeping opposition to it in general, the Center is not surprised little attention was paid to these provisions during markup and is confident that they will ultimately be eliminated on the House floor or when the House and Senate bills go to conference.

Earlier this week, a letter signed by 40 organizations and businesses including the Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, National Family Farm Coalition and Organic Trade Association was delivered to Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) opposing the biotech riders.  The National Grain and Feed Association, whose members include Archer Daniels Midland Company and Cargill, Inc., also expressed serious concern with the chemical industry-promoting riders.

The letter can be found at Organizations and Businesses Join to Oppose Stripping of USDA’s Biotech Regulations in House Farm Bill.

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The initiative has the support from a coalition of consumer groups and organic food companies â?? this coalition is expected to grow as the campaign unfolds in the coming months. The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act is an initiative intended to be on the California ballot in November 2012, pending securing enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot. The Act would simply require that food sold in retail outlets be labeled if it is genetically engineered, or if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. "Genetic engineering adds completely new elements into our food. Because the FDA has failed to require labeling of GMO food, this initiative closes a critical loophole in food labeling law. It will allow Californians to choose what they buy and eat and will allow health professionals to track any potential adverse health impacts of these foods." said Andy Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "Genetically engineering food can cause unintended consequences and because there have been no long term studies, we are unsure of how GMOs may affect our health." CFS believes that consumers have a right to know whatâ??s in the food we eat and feed our children, including whether food is genetically engineered. We all should be able to make informed choices, and have the ability to choose whether to buy genetically engineered food or not. Stay tuned to CFSâ??s websites for more information on this issue in the coming weeks!', 'pdf' => array ( 0 => '', 1 => '', ), 'link' => array ( 0 => 'TFN Url', 1 => 'http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/2011/11/10/california-ballot-initiative-filed-to-require-labeling-of-genetically-engineered-foods/', ), ), ), ), 13 => array ( 'id' => '776', 'SECTION_ID' => '129', 'PARENT_ID' => '0', 'BLOCK_ID' => '0', 'order' => '987', 'visible' => '1', 'feature' => '0', 'hide' => '0', 'name1' => 'Talking Turkey: Stuffing, Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes andâ?¦Arsenic\'', 'url' => 'talking-turkey-stuffing-cranberries-sweet-potatoes-andarsenic', 'bitly' => 'http://bit.ly/1070PoZ', 'lead_img' => '', 'meta_title' => 'Center for Food Safety | Press Releases | | Talking Turkey: Stuffing, Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes andâ?¦Arsenic\'', 'meta_desc' => 'Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Center for Food Safety Petition FDA to Eliminate Toxic Arsenic Residues in Meat Nearly 88...', 'meta_img' => 'logolg_58328.png', 'meta_json' => '', 'update_meta_title' => '1', 'update_meta_desc' => '0', 'update_meta_img' => '0', 'update_meta_json' => '0', 'start_time' => '0', 'end_time' => '0', 'content' => array ( 'page_link' => '/press-releases/776/talking-turkey-stuffing-cranberries-sweet-potatoes-andarsenic', 'bitly' => 'http://bit.ly/1070PoZ', 'root_url' => 'media', 'root' => 'Media', 'lead_img' => '', 'rich_snippet' => ' Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Center for Food Safety Petition FDA to Eliminate Toxic Arsenic Residues in Meat Nearly 88 percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving, but most will .', 'page' => array ( 'id' => '776', 'SECTION_ID' => '129', 'PARENT_ID' => '0', 'BLOCK_ID' => '0', 'order' => '972', 'visible' => '1', 'feature' => '0', 'hide' => '0', 'name1' => 'Talking Turkey: Stuffing, Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes andâ?¦Arsenic\'', 'url' => 'talking-turkey-stuffing-cranberries-sweet-potatoes-andarsenic', 'bitly' => 'http://bit.ly/1070PoZ', 'lead_img' => '', 'meta_title' => 'Center for Food Safety | Press Releases | | Talking Turkey: Stuffing, Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes andâ?¦Arsenic\'', 'meta_desc' => 'Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Center for Food Safety Petition FDA to Eliminate Toxic Arsenic Residues in Meat Nearly 88...', 'meta_img' => 'logolg_58328.png', 'meta_json' => '', 'update_meta_title' => '1', 'update_meta_desc' => '0', 'update_meta_img' => '0', 'update_meta_json' => '0', 'start_time' => '0', 'end_time' => '0', ), 'section' => array ( 'id' => '129', 'PARENT_ID' => '486', 'PAGE_ID' => '0', 'name1' => 'Press Releases', 'url' => 'press-releases', 'hide' => '0', 'order' => '1', ), 'bid_2294' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Related Issue', 'block_type' => 'Relation', 'block_alias' => 'rel1', 'post_id' => '12597', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_3612' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Related Issue 2', 'block_type' => 'Relation', 'block_alias' => 'rel2', 'post_id' => '12597', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_3613' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Related Issue 3', 'block_type' => 'Relation', 'block_alias' => 'rel3', 'post_id' => '12597', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_1169' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Image Gallery', 'block_type' => 'Image Gallery', 'block_alias' => 'images', 'post_id' => '7723', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_2291' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Category', 'block_type' => 'Grouping', 'block_alias' => 'cat', 'post_id' => '12598', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_4805' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Tweets', 'block_type' => 'Checkbox', 'block_alias' => 'tweets', 'post_id' => '12598', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_4806' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Quotes', 'block_type' => 'Checkbox', 'block_alias' => 'quotes', 'post_id' => '12598', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_4807' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Join CFS', 'block_type' => 'Checkbox', 'block_alias' => 'join', 'post_id' => '12598', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_5592' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Hide', 'block_type' => 'Hide - In \'page\' table', 'block_alias' => '', 'post_id' => '12598', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'bid_5835' => array ( 'block_name' => 'Scheduler', 'block_type' => 'Schedule', 'block_alias' => 'scheduler', 'post_id' => '12598', 'content' => array ( ), ), 'alias' => array ( 'title' => 'Talking Turkey: Stuffing, Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes andâ?¦Arsenic?', 'date' => '2011-11-22', 'desc' => '

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Center for Food Safety Petition FDA to Eliminate Toxic Arsenic Residues in Meat

Nearly 88 percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving, but most will be blissfully unaware of what their turkey may have eaten—arsenic. Arsenic-containing compounds have been added to animal feeds since the 1940s, including in turkey, chicken and swine production where they are FDA-approved for “increased weight gain, improved feed efficiency, and improved pigmentation.” 

Today, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a petition calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to vastly reduce the legally permissible level of arsenic in meat. Pharmaceutical companies produce and sell three arsenic compounds which are added to animal feed, despite serious risks to public health.

“Arsenic’s a poison that causes cancer, among other harm,” said physician David Wallinga, M.D. of IATP. “The FDA can’t seriously uphold its public health mission while allowing residues of arsenic in the meat our children and families eat. That’s why we’ve submitted this petition.” 

In 1944, 3-Nitro became the first arsenic-containing product approved by the FDA for use in food animals. On June 8, 2011 the FDA announced that Pfizer had voluntarily agreed to stop selling 3-Nitro, also known as roxarsone, of which it is the sole producer. FDA sought the voluntary ban based on its own study that detected inorganic arsenic in the livers of chickens treated with 3-Nitro, and not in the untreated chickens. Inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen.

Before the FDA action, IATP had estimated in its 2006 report, Playing Chicken: Avoiding Arsenic in Your Meat, that more than 70 percent of all U.S. chickens raised for meat are fed arsenic. The European Union has never approved the use of arsenicals in animal feed, acknowledging the lack of science supporting health or safety standards for such use. U.S. organic producers do not use 3-Nitro.

“Allowing arsenic residues in animal feed additives is irresponsible and dangerous,” said the Center for Food Safety’s Paige Tomaselli. “FDA’s own research shows that when arsenic is added to animal feeds, it ends up as carcinogenic residues in meat and other tissues. It’s time for FDA to change the tolerance for these drugs to reflect what the agency knows to be true. The tolerances must be reduced.”

While IATP and CFS applaud Pfizer’s agreement to stop selling 3-Nitro in the U.S., Pfizer has provided no indication it will stop marketing 3-Nitro in as many as 11 other countries in which it has been sold, or that it will stop selling other FDA-approved arsenic feed additives such as carbarsone, nitarsone or arsanilic acid. See online table for full list. 

In announcing the Pfizer ban, FDA stressed that it does not think the increased arsenic in meat poses a human health threat. Inorganic arsenic, however, is known to cause multiple types of cancer in humans, and the science suggests that exposure in food or elsewhere will increase risk of developing those cancers across the population. In December 2009, IATP and CFS also submitted a citizen’s petition to the FDA seeking withdrawal of its approval of roxarsone, nitarsone, carbarsone and arsanilic acid in animal feed. FDA has made no decision on that citizen’s petition. Read the 2009 full petition.

Read IATP’s 2006 report on arsenic in poultry: Playing Chicken: Avoiding Arsenic in Your Meat.

###

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems. www.iatp.org.

The Center for Food Safety is a national nonprofit membership organization, founded in 1997, that works to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. www.centerforfoodsafety.org.

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USDA VIOLATES ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS IN ATTEMPT TO CIRCUMVENT RECENT FEDERAL COURT ORDER MAKING THE PLANTINGS ILLEGAL

On September 1, 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it was in the process of issuing permits to authorize the planting of genetically engineered (GE) sugar beet seedlings this Fall, without performing any review of the crops’ environmental impacts. These GE beets have been altered so that they can tolerate being sprayed with Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. The unprecedented permitting process for a commercially-grown genetically engineered crop was initiated without public notice and comment or any environmental review. Last week the agency met with companies involved and invested in promoting the gene-altered crop.

On August 13, 2010, United States District Judge Jeffrey S. White vacated USDA’s approval of the GE sugar beets, making the planting of these beets after the date of the order illegal. The Court reversed the agency’s approval because of the USDA’s failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.  Specifically, the USDA had failed to prepare an Environmental Statement addressing the potential of these GE plants to cause a variety of environmental and social-economic injuries, including contaminating conventional and organic crops and promoting the growth of “superweeds” that are resistant to Roundup, and therefore are very difficult to eradicate unless highly toxic chemicals are used.

In his opinion, Judge White admonished the agency for “not taking the [NEPA] process seriously.” The USDA action today in allowing planting without any environmental review justifies the Court’s concern.

The recent court ruling on sugar beets follows a series of other federal court opinions which reversed USDA approvals of GE plants.  These courts also faulted the agency for its continuing failure to address the biological pollution issue surrounding genetically engineered alfalfa, bentgrass and so-called biopharmaceutical crops.  Despite repeatedly being ordered to do so, the USDA has yet to complete a single Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) assessing any GE crop.

“USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops. Despite numerous court opinions, congressional mandates and federal investigations, it continues to act illegally,” stated Andrew Kimbrell Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “The agency and Secretary Vilsack seem to see their mission as defending Monsanto’s bottom line rather than protecting farmers and consumers,” Kimbrell concluded.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff commented, “USDA’s persistent refusal to comply with environmental laws in the face of one court decision after another is remarkable.  This is yet another instance of USDA serving Monsanto’s interests at the expense of the public interest, without regard to the rule of law.”

The coalition said it was considering legal action.

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May 18th, 2009
Reliance on Biotech in Food Aid Bill is a Step in the Wrong Direction
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An effort to fight global poverty and hunger may become a Trojan horse to force genetically engineered crops on countries and farmers that do not want them. In the Senate, Senators Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.
June 29th, 2012
This is Your Meat on Drugs. CFS Joins Consumer Campaign for Meat Produced without Antibiotics
This is Your Meat on Drugs. CFS Joins Consumer Campaign for Meat Produced without Antibiotics
The Center for Food Safety has joined Consumers Union and Fix Food for the launch of Meat Without Drugs, a campaign urging supermarkets to only sell meat raised without antibiotics.
April 14th, 2010
NRC Report on Genetically Engineered Crops Misses the Mark on â??Sustainabilityâ?
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August 6th, 2009
National Organic Coalition Applauds USDA's Decision to Seek Independent Oversight of National Organic Program
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June 19th, 2012
Farm Groups and Public Interest Advocates Join Forces to Oust Dangerous â??Biotech Provisionâ?? From Agriculture Spending Bill
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June 4th, 2012
Groups ask FDA for final response to petition, seek comprehensive and transparent review of environmental risks presented by â??frankenfishâ?
Public remains in the dark another year as the federal government considers approving genetically engineered salmon Earthjustice sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Friday calling on the agency to provide a final subst.
May 26th, 2011
Environmental Groups Petition Federal Government to Complete Full and Transparent Review of Environmental Impacts Associated with â??Frankenfishâ?
FDA poised to take action on the first-ever application to market a genetically engineered salmon without adequate consideration of environmental risks and public input Earthjustice, on behalf of Ocean Conservancy, Friends of the Earth, Center f.
October 13th, 2011
New Report: A Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)â?'False Promises, Failed Technologies
Published by Navdanya (India), Navdanya International, the International Commission on the Future of Food, with the participation of the Center for Food Safety. The report consists of contributions from groups around the world.
June 1st, 2011
Family Farmers Amplify Complaint Against Monsanto's GMOs, Reinforcing Their Arguments With Two Dozen Additional Plaintiffs
Monsanto’s Failure to Provide Binding Legal Covenant To Protect Family Farmers Threatened by GMO Contamination Necessitates Amended Complaint New threats by Monsanto have led to the filing of an amended complaint by the Public Patent Foundatio.
December 16th, 2010
USDA Releases Final Environmental Impact Statement for Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
AGENCY MAKES NO DECISION ON APPROVAL OF THE ROUNDUP READY CROP CITING HARM TO ORGANIC INDUSTRY AND PROLIFERATION OF SUPERWEEDS CFS URGES AGENCY TO CONTINUE BAN ON POTENTIALLY HARMFUL CROP The U.S.
July 12th, 2012
The Center's Statement on House Agriculture Committee's Passage of the Farm Bill
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November 10th, 2011
California Ballot Initiative Filed to Require Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
Yesterday, a ballot initiative that would require the labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) foods sold in California was submitted to the Attorney Generalâ??s office.
November 22nd, 2011
Talking Turkey: Stuffing, Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes andâ?¦Arsenic?
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Center for Food Safety Petition FDA to Eliminate Toxic Arsenic Residues in Meat Nearly 88 percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving, but most will .
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Coalition Of Farm And Consumer Groups Condemns USDA Action Permitting Planting Of Monsantoâ??s Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets
USDA VIOLATES ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS IN ATTEMPT TO CIRCUMVENT RECENT FEDERAL COURT ORDER MAKING THE PLANTINGS ILLEGAL On September 1, 2010, the U.S.