Tuesday, January 28, 2014
SECRET INTERNAL DOCUMENT - INACCURATE TALKING POINTS ON SUING ANY STATE TO ENACT GE FOOD LEBELING BILL
By Grocery Manufacturers Association
Organic Consumers Association, January 22, 2014
I. WHAT ARE GMOs?
• Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms are organisms whose genetic material has been altered scientifically.
• Scientists do this to introduce new traits or characteristics to organisms. These alterations are used to improve crop yield by increasing resistance to plant diseases; raising resistance to pests; lowering water requirements—all of which keep production costs down.
• GMOs are present in nearly eighty percent of the foods consumed in the U.S.
II. WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
• GMOs have been the subject of legislation that would require manufacturers to label and distinguish all products containing GMOs.
III. WHAT HAS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DONE?
• The FDA only requires labeling of genetically modified foods if the food’s composition is materially altered (e.g. the food is modified to include an allergen such as peanut proteins that consumers would not expect to be present).
• “The agency is still not aware of any data or other information that would form a basis for concluding that the fact that a food or its ingredients was produced using bioengineering is a material fact that must be disclosed…FDA is therefore reaffirming its decision to not require special labeling of all bioengineered foods.”- Food and Drug Administration**
IV. WHAT DO INDEPENDENT SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATIONS SAY?
• “The World Health Organization, The American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” – American Association for the Advancement of Sciences***
V. WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN OTHER STATES?
• No state has implemented a GMO labeling requirement.
• Maine and Connecticut have passed GMO legislation. However, the Maine and Connecticut labeling laws are dormant and do not go into effect until the following conditions are met: (1) Four other Northeastern states (not including Md.) must enact GMO labeling legislation; (2) One of the states passing GMO labeling legislation must border Connecticut/Maine respectively; and (3) The four Northeastern states must have a combined population of at least 20 million.
• California’s Proposition 37 in 2012 requiring GMO labeling was defeated.
• Washington’s Initiative 522 in 2013 requiring GMO labeling was defeated.
VI. IS THERE A CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE?
• Yes, under the First Amendment, commercial speech has protections which prohibit the government from compelling certain statements. See Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Public Serv. Comm’n of New York, 447 U.S. 557 (1986).
• State labeling statutes have been overturned for violating the First Amendment. In 1996, the Second Federal Circuit in the case of IDFA v. Amestoy, applied the test found in Central Hudson Gas and blocked a Vermont law that required dairy producers to label milk from cows treated with a growth hormone. The court explained that Vermont’s stated interests in adopting the law – strong consumer interest and the public’s right to know – were not substantial enough to justify the functional equivalent of a warning about a production method that has no discernible impact on a final product.
VII. WHAT IS THE RISK TO YOUR STATE OF ADOPTING A GMO LABELING LAW?
• The first state to implement a GMO labeling law will be sued on the constitutional grounds seen in IDFA v. Amestoy.
• Litigation in this area could be long, costly and will probably be decided by the Supreme Court.
• Your state would proceed with almost no regulatory or scientific basis for a new unique labeling requirement.
• Your state would proceed despite not being a part of the “trigger” mechanism required in the Maine and Connecticut legislation.
WHY SHOULD YOUR STATE BE THE FIRST TO ADOPT A LABELING REQUIREMENT THAT HAS NO HEALTH BASIS OR REASON?
*GMA is the voice of more than 300 leading food, beverage and consumer product companies that sustain and enhance the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people in the United States, and around the globe. Based in Washington, D.C., GMA’s member organizations include internationally recognized brands as well as steadily growing localized brands.
Now, none of that should detract from the food miracle that China has enacted since it began its transformation into an industrial powerhouse in the late 1970s. This 2013 report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) brims with data on this feat. The nation slashed its hunger rate — from 20 percent of its population in 1990 to 12 percent today — by quietly turbocharging its farms. China’s total farm output, a broad measure of food churned out, has tripled since 1978. The ramp-up in livestock production in particular is even more dizzying — it rose by a factor of five. Overall, China’s food system represents a magnificent achievement: It feeds nearly a quarter of the globe’s people on just 7 percent of its arable land.
But now, 35 years since it began reforming its state-dominated economy along market lines, China’s spectacular run as provider of its own food is looking severely strained. Its citizens’ appetite for meat is rising along with incomes, and mass-producing steaks and chops for 1.2 billion people requires tremendous amounts of land and water. Meanwhile, its manufacturing miracle — the very thing that financed its food miracle — has largely fouled up or just plain swallowed those very resources.
In this post from a few weeks ago, I told the story of the dire state of China’s water resources, which are being increasingly diverted to, and fouled by, the country’s insatiable demand for coal to power the manufacturing sector.
Then there’s land. Here are just a few of the findings of recent investigations into the state of Chinese farms:
1. China’s farmland is shrinking. Despite the country’s immense geographical footprint, there just isn’t that much to go around. Between 1997 and 2008, China saw 6.2 percent of its farmland engulfed by factories and sprawl.
2. The United States has six times the arable land per capita as China. Today, the FAO/OECD report states, China has just 0.09 hectares of arable land per capita — less than half of the global average and a quarter of the average for OECD member countries.
3. A fifth of China’s land is polluted. The FAO/OECD report gingerly calls this problem the “declining trend in soil quality.” Fully 40 percent of China’s arable land has been degraded by some combination of erosion, salinization, or acidification — and nearly 20 percent is polluted, whether by industrial effluent, sewage, excessive farm chemicals, or mining runoff, the FAO/OECD report found.
4. China considers its soil problems “state secrets.” The Chinese government conducted a national survey of soil pollution in 2006, but it has refused to release the results. But evidence is building that soil toxicity is a major problem that’s creeping into the food supply. In May 2013, food safety officials in the southern city of Guangzhou found heightened levels of cadmium, a carcinogenic heavy metal, in 8 of 18 rice samples picked up at local restaurants, sparking a national furor. The rice came from Hunan province — where “expanding factories, smelters and mines jostle with paddy fields,” the New York Times reported. In 2011, Nanjing Agricultural University researchers came out with a report claiming they had found cadmium in 10 percent of rice samples nationwide and 60 percent of samples from southern China.
5. China’s food system is powered by coal. It’s not just industry that’s degrading the water and land China relies on for food. It’s also agriculture itself. China’s food production miracle has been driven by an ever-increasing annual cascade of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer (it now uses more than a third of global nitrogen output) — and its nitrogen industry relies on coal for 70 percent of its energy needs. To grow its food, in other words, China relies on an energy source that competes aggressively with farming for water.
6. Five of China’s largest lakes have substantial dead zones caused by fertilizer runoff. That’s what a paper by Chinese and University of California researchers found after they examined Chinese lakes in 2008. And heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer takes its toll on soil quality, too. It causes pH levels to drop, turning soil acidic and less productive — a problem rampant in China. Here’s a 2010 Nature article on a national survey of the nation’s farmland:
The team’s results show that extensive [fertilizer] overuse has caused the pH of soil across China to drop by roughly 0.5, with some soils reaching a pH of 5.07 (nearly neutral soils of pH 6-7 are optimal for cereals, such as rice and grain, and other cash crops). By contrast, soil left to its own devices would take at least 100 years to acidify by this amount. The acidification has already lessened crop production by 30-50% in some areas, Zhang [a Chinese researcher] says. If the trend continues, some regions could eventually see the soil pH drop to as low as 3. “No crop can grow at this level of acidification,” he warns.“If the trend continues …” That, I guess, is the broad question here. A global economic system that relies on China as a manufacturing center, in a way that undermines China’s ability to feed itself, seems like a global economic system headed for disaster.
This story was produced by Mother Jones as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Published on Monday, January 27, 2014 by Common DreamsThe term peasant often conjures up images of medieval serfs out of touch with the ways of the world around them. Such thinking is out of date. Today, peasants proudly and powerfully put forward effective strategies to feed the planet and limit the damages wrought by industrial agriculture. What’s more, they understand the connections between complex trade and economic systems, champion the rights of women, and even stand up for the rights of gay men and lesbians.
Today’s Peasant Movement – Sophisticated, Threatened, and Our Best Hope for Survival
These are not your great ancestors’ peasants.
“A peasant is a scientist. The amount and quality of knowledge we have been developing and practicing for centuries is highly useful and appropriate,” said Maxwell Munetsi, a farmer from Zimbabwe and a member of the Via Campesina.
“Unlike agribusiness, peasants do not treat food as a commodity for speculation profiting out of hunger. They do not patent nature for profit, keeping it out of the hands of the common man and woman. They share their knowledge and seeds, so everyone can have food to eat.”
The Via Campesina is perhaps the largest social movement in the world, consisting of more than 250 million farmers and small producers from over 70 nations. At the top of the Via’s agenda is supporting peasant agriculture, which in today’s era of globalization also means seeking agrarian reform, challenging neoliberalism and corporate-friendly trade agreements, and working to stop climate disruption.
“Peasant organizations today – from Haiti to Brazil to Mali to Indonesia – are tremendously sophisticated in their political analysis, not just their impressive knowledge of seeds, natural pesticides and fertilizers and sustainable agricultural practices,” says Nikhil Aziz, Executive Director of Grassroots International.
“In fact,” Aziz continues, “the methods used by peasant farmers out-produce the far more destructive and costly practices of industrial agriculture. They can grow more food, at less cost, and actually help cool the planet. Meanwhile the massive plantations planted with seeds from Monsanto and other agrochemical giants and flooded with toxics produce less food, create more greenhouse gases and literally are making the farmers, consumers and planet sick.”
A global assessment spearheaded by the United Nations and including the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Program agree. Their 2008 report (the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, or IAASTD for short) concludes that small-scale agriculture produces more food at less cost to the farmer and the environment than does industrial agriculture.
The conclusion of the IAASTD Report comes as no surprise to Carlos Hernriquez. When a member of UNOSJO (the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca, a Grassroots International partner) first reached out to Carlos, he was unconvinced.
“UNOSJO told us we did not have to rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. I was hesitant, thinking that buying fertilizers was a faster way to get results," Carlos said. "I was hesitant for two years, until 2004 when I was motivated to make the organic fertilizer. In 2005, for the first time, I used the organiic fertilizer [in a small plot of land].”
Seeing is believing – and soon Carlos switched completely to agroecological methods that included heirloom seeds, natural fertilizers and pesticides, and intercropping. All of those techniques rely on the farmers’ knowledge. To succeed, farmers need to learn new and sustainable methods, share their knowledge, adapt to changing climate conditions, and maneuver politically at a time when global policies favor massive corporate agriculture and chemical giants.
The change in Carlos’ life is profound. Now he and his family have healthy food to eat and to sell at local farmers’ markets, they can afford to send all their children to school, and he is eager to share his expertise with others.
Carlos and other peasant farmers are part of a movement for food sovereignty – the right of peoples and communities to control the seeds they plant and the food they grow and consume in an ecologically sustainable and culturally appropriate way. This is the central concept of peasant agriculture, and it offers the potential to boost our global food system and protect the planet from climate disruption.
“Not only do peasant farmers feed communities, they also cool the planet and protect Mother Nature,” explains Via Campesina a statement on International Peasant Day last year saying. “Unlike agribusiness, peasants do not treat food as a commodity for speculation profiting out of hunger. They do not patent nature for profit, keeping it out of the hands of the common man and woman. They share their knowledge and seeds, so everyone can have food to eat.”
Food is central to our culture and our civilization, which is precisely the analysis that the small producers – farmers, fishers and foresters – of the Via Campesina bring. As long as corporations control the food system in order to produce short-term profit, our collective lives are in danger. Systems of injustice that uphold the corporate food system include trade agreements, water privatization schemes, land grabs and gender inequality. These are the connections that peasants like Carlos see every day.
For instance, more than 60 percent of the world’s farmers are women, yet women cannot own land in many nations. To confront this institutional violence against women, as well as domestic violence, the Via launched the Global Campaign to End Violence Against Women in 2008. The movement conducted trainings at the grassroots and also required co-gender leadership at all levels, including the highest level. Farmers are also calling for a dismantling of the World Trade Organization and its manipulation of food commodity structures.
The success of peasants means success for all of us, because they are leading the way in feeding the world, counteracting greenhouse gas emissions and other environmentally toxic poisons, conserving water and biodiversity and expanding social and economic justice. The peasant movement chant of "Globalize the struggle, globalize the hope" is a roadmap toward a sustainable, dignified future.
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