Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"The GMA and GMOs" by Kenneth Fuller... corporations versus the people; corporate science versus science for the people.

The GMA and GMOs
·                                 Written by  Ken Fuller 
                               Tuesday, 01 July 2014 00:00
·                                 Daily Tribune
This column has recently made mention of the increasingly common practice by which corporations, sometimes aided by “free trade” agreements, sue governments that take decisions which, while they might serve the interests of the people of the country concerned, run counter to those of the corporate bottom line.

Well, there is now a further example, although the respondent in this case is not a country but a state: Vermont, the second least populous state in the USA. And what is Vermont’s crime? Earlier this year it passed a law which is not to the liking of Monsanto, the agriculture giant responsible for much of the world’s genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Vermont has taken the position, which most people would find eminently reasonable, that if there is no scientific consensus concerning the safety of GMOs (the truth of the matter is that there have been no studies “proving” their safety apart from those funded by the corporations that produce them), then the consumer should at least be alerted to the fact that a product contains them. Products containing GMOs should, in short, be labeled.

In mid-June, a suit was filed against Vermont by a coalition consisting of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers. The first-named of these consists of over 300 of the world’s largest food manufacturers, including Monsanto, which threatened to sue as long ago as 2012, causing Vermont legislators to place the labeling measure on hold.

Monsanto is notoriously litigious, having filed almost 150 lawsuits between 1997 and 2010, many against independent farmers who made allegations against its GMO products.

It is not, however, that the Grocery Manufacturers Association is against labeling per se. Far from it, for in December last year the New York Times reported that the GMA had written to the Food and Drug Administration advising that it would be petitioning that body to rule that food containing GMOs should be labeled as “natural.” For the GMA, therefore, labels are okay as long as they lie.

The GMA argues in this case that the labeling of GMO products would be a “burden” for industry (a burden that suddenly vanishes, it would seem, if GMOs are labeled as “natural”), and that Vermont has usurped the powers of the federal government, which alone has responsibility for such regulation. The GMA is also promoting a congressional bill to this latter effect — a useful illustration of the nature of US “democracy” as recently discussed in this column.

The impact of this case will extend beyond Vermont, as several other states have said that they will follow suit — if Vermont survives the legal challenge. Connecticut already has a labeling law, but its implementation is conditional upon other states, with a total population of at least 20 million, enacting similar legislation. Likewise, implementation of the law in Maine is dependent upon five other states adopting the measure.

Such qualifications were inserted, says the Center for Food Safety’s lead attorney, because these states feared what Vermont now faces — “getting sued by Monsanto, the GMA, the biotech industry.”

Some states like Washington and California have already rejected labeling requirements. Did citizens in those states arrive at their decisions by exercises in Jeffersonian democracy, attending town meetings where arguments pro and con were advanced and the issue was soberly debated? Of course not. The industry giants spent at least $20 million in Washington state and $46 million in California to achieve those negative votes.

Some Filipino columnists have over the past year or so taken the side of the GMO corporations by presenting the conflict in this country as being one between “our farmers” and “our scientists” against the “powerful, European” campaigning organization Greenpeace. The truth, of course, is that Filipino scientists and farmers were involved in the case against the GMO trials at UP Los Baños, alongside the Filipino arm of Greenpeace. The foreign interest was represented by the GMO-producing corporations, often concealed within innocent-sounding research institutes.

To present the Filipino case as a David vs Goliath struggle in which Greenpeace takes the latter role is a ludicrous misrepresentation of the facts. The corporate interest plays the role of the giant in both the Philippines and Vermont, and in the latter case this is as clear as it can possibly be.

Vermont’s population in 2013 was 626,630, its total revenue $1.732 billion. Monsanto’s net sales in 2011 came to $11.82 billion. And that’s just Monsanto. Its power in this case is augmented by that of the other 300 members of the GMA (to name just a few: Dow, Mars, Kellogg, Proctor & Gamble, Hershey, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Heinz, Unilever, Kraft, Campbell Soup) and those of the other three members of the coalition.

Last December, the Food and Drug Administration announced that there would be no labeling requirement for GMOs in this country as they were virtually no different from organic foods and were not cancer-causing, as “numerous tests” had demonstrated. The Court of Appeals in the Los Baños case took a different view — as have the 60 countries which have either banned GMOs outright or have a labeling requirement.

Had the decision been different (and, of course, it’s still possible for a more enlightened administration to reverse this one), those who attempt to conceal the role of corporate interests in the trialing and promotion of GMOs would have received an education as those interests would have targeted the Philippines just as they’re targeting Vermont. That being the case, it makes one wonder whether, considering this possibility, the FDA decided to play the role of Maine and Connecticut.