Tag Archives: GMO labelling

Politics

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”

– Mahamta Gandhi

 

When I was young, I didn’t think politics was that important.  What mattered to me was learning about *important* things in life: my research into behaviour and development, art, friends, singing…  Yeah, there were some boring folks in government were doing the horribly tedious “government stuff” or “bureaucracy.”  Lawyers and politicians….  Maybe they made it all seem so mind-numbing because they were trying to dissuade others from getting involved?

Well… I am not young anymore.  But neither am I old.

After I came back from thirteen years in Europe, I had an awakening.  What started out as a passion to know more about why and how our food in N. America contains GMOs without our knowledge or permission turned into something else.  I have fortunately – or unfortunately –  developed a sliver of understanding about how the political process works.

In a nutshell, it’s kind of a twister game called follow the money.

How many billions of dollars of subsidies and recorded campaign contributions and speaking fees have influenced policy? Last week, Obama signed the DARK act into law (Deny Americans the Right to Know aka the Roberts-Stabenow Bill of ‘un-labelling’).  For those of you unaware, this bill undoes the hard-won state battles, fought with blood, sweat and tears to label GMOs.  So much for the 4 simple words “produced with genetic engineering” which thousands of products started carrying to conform to Vermont’s law.  Thanks to the DARK act, Vermont’s law is now overturned.  And NOW there will be this strange QR code/funny symbol that only those with a smart phone will be able to interpret.  This DARK bill is about continuing to hide what is in our food.  To continue to confuse the consumer about what is healthy for people and planet.

Although I am wildly angry at this injustice, I continue to harbour hope.  There is so much positive change happening right now.  And everything shows that our clean food movement is gaining ground.  Despite billions of dollars, bought scientists and bought politicians trying to convince us otherwise, sales of Non-GMO and organics are going up.  Farmers markets, urban farms, acres converted to organic and non-GMO are all going up.  Foodies are mushrooming.  We ‘producers’ (not ‘consumers’), through our collective actions (ie: every food purchase), are fundamentally driving the change we want to see.

As the world gets smaller through myriad connections, the polarity of enlightenment shines even brighter in its truth.  I know that with enough political pressure and speaking up and out, we are changing things.  Change comes through struggle for justice. And via the dissemination of truth pollen.

Although ignorance is bliss, once the sleeper is awakened, she cannot go back to sleep. She cannot un-know.  I salute Ye who have been engaged for so long in real politics, fighting for justice and positive change each step of the way. Thank you for waking me up. Here I am trying pay it forward.

So, if you’re new to the deeper side…

TAG! You’re it!

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“Without a struggle there can be no progress”

– Frederick Douglass

I am slightly bashful to admit that I’ve been consumed by the US primaries for the first time in my life. I never thought I would care so much. But as much as I’ve tried to ignore politics – perhaps because I spent so many years living abroad – I sincerely thought it didn’t really affect me.  But I admit it now.

It does.

IMG_1123

I have been nitpicking through the media with a fine-tooth comb to separate the real stories from the corporate spin engines. And today, I just remembered that, in my distraction, I didn’t share some big announcements that came in the wake of this year’s Natural Products Expo.

Basically – drumroll – Big food:  Kelloggs, ConAgra, General Mills, Mars, Hershey, Campbell and Del Monte announced that they will label GMOs nationwide in time for Vermont’s GMO labelling law which kicks in July 2016!!!  Imagine that?!!  Well, it’s not such a stretch since they all already label or reformulate their GMOs in 64 countries.  But finally, they’ve agreed to transparency for their customers in the land of the free and home of the brave.

To remind you all, Big food and Biotech sued the state of Vermont to overturn Vermont’s  GMO labelling law. And lost. They have spent millions upon millions  irrationally fighting grass-roots initiatives to keep American consumers in the dark (CA, WA, CO etc). They lobby congresspeople and senators to the tune of millions of corporate bucks a year. These guys are behind the recently defeated DARK act cloture. So these labelling announcements are BIG news, BIG turnarounds. Finally! This tide is turning, the creaking, leaking ol ship is changing course about the horizon of GMO labelling.

Diya GMO 3 hole shirt

Albeit – there is no guarantee they will follow though. And, although the announcements are not really due to a change of heart, I’m embracing the forth-coming transparency. Some folks have written that they will wait til Big Food follows through and actually labels before declaring victory for the consumer….

Yes, it still is too early to say whether or not the companies who have agreed to label GMOs will renege if they can get the Senate to pass a modified version of the DARK act. The DARK Act = Deny Americans the Right to Know thanks to Senator Roberts and bought politicians protecting corporations over citizen’s rights. To put things into perspective, the DARK Act, alas, is far from dead. Moreover, Vilsack, the US secretary of Agriculture, is still trying to push through the ridiculous idea of QR codes instead of #4simplewords.

Sad to report that my Canadian brothers and sisters are temporarily doomed to the dark, although there are stirrings afoot. More and more people are waking up to the toxic biocide aspect of GMOs, which is a key buried story of this unproven, untested technology.

Let’s just take a tiny second to grin.

(Can you?  Even a bittersweet one-sided wry little upturned lip will do.)

Yes, we still have to push for transparency, fight for the bees and monarchs. We must ban glyphosate, ban neonicotonoids and other biocides, ban these toxic GMOs, stop the TPP, Site C and countless other injustices to people and planet. Work and struggle are ahead indeed. However, things are moving. I just heard about Costco lending money to farmers to spur forward organic production. What fantastic news.

Now if you still haven’t broken out in a smile, check out the Garry Oak Seedling growing out of the remains of an invasive Scotch Broom stump:

garry oak seedling next to broom stub

To summarize, needed change is happening in this important food movement. Away from the dark and towards the LIGHT.  We are turning like Sunflowers.

The truth is our collective light.  The medium is the internet.  I thank independent news, rabble rousers, and social media. I say a great big Grazie to my tireless, driven facebook friends.  Thank you all for sharing inconvenient news we need to hear and have to know. I’m grateful, oh so grateful for you, for this technology. Without it, we would be beholden to corporate media.

Maybe they didn’t realize that in burying our voices, they were inadvertently sowing seeds. Which have been germinating….

The Failed Promises of GMOs

It has been a David vs Goliath fight.  Consumers against corporations.  An epic struggle between truth and deceit, darkness and light, wrong versus right.

How about the fact that the GMA (Grocery Manufacturer’s Association) is again flouting campaign laws in Washington State?  They continue to not declare the donors of their last set of contributions for Initiative 522, the campaign to label GMOs. This recent set of money laundering by corporations denying consumers the right to know, begs the question:

What do they want to hide about the way GMOs are currently grown?

Is it that golden rice and drought resistant rice are not actually available?  That not one of these nutritionally superior poster children for the GMO movement actually works after countless years of research?  And none are actually grown commercially in N. America?  Despite the marvellous magnificent hype, almost all GMOs crops currently grown in N. America have no superior qualities apart from being able to withstand toxins?  The residues of those toxins which we eat?  That they are poisoning the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soils we grow our food in?

Or could it be that glyphosate, being sprayed by the millions of pounds, is not harmless?  It is found in the blood of the unborn?  Moreover that in response to superweeds and superpests which are now found in 73 million acres across America, chemical companies have made an application with the FDA to blast our fields with 2,4 D the active component of agent orange?

What about yields, You may say?  We grow these GMOs because of higher yields, right?  I have news for you. Over the long term, organic yields are higher.  Don’t take my word for it.  Do your own research.  Seek out the literature that is not funded by the chemical companies.

I’m not going into the ethical and moral arguments here about patenting life.  But we swallowed that pill based on promises that have failed to materialize.  We were growing these mono-crop GMOs in the first place because of the promise of increased yields and decreased pest/herbicides use and nutritionally superiority.

Those are no longer valid reasons for growing GMOs here in N. America.

Let’s stop.

Lie-Detector Test

The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, who was sued by Washington State’s Attorney General for hiding their campaign contributions has cut a check for another 3 million dollars. This brings the total contribution to No to over 21 million. These corporations are fighting hard to keep consumers in the dark. Desperate to win, they are blitzing the airwaves, trying to confuse consumers, convincing them that the GMO labelling measure isn’t strong enough. But Initiative Yes on 522 to label GMOs complies with international labelling laws. It’s also endorsed by Consumer’s Reports who have meticulously studied the matter (as Consumer Reports tends to) and say that costs wont increase for putting 5 words on the ingredients panel.

Who will succeed? It’s up to each and every one of us. Please support Yes on 522 so they can continue to run ads.  Make calls, donate to the campaign if you are able.  Send your happy vibes, post on FB your support.  We need to win this for the rights of consumers all over North America.

Click here to know more about what you can do http://yeson522.com/

Paul LeMay’s Op/Ed

Paul LeMay is an Independent Science Writer from Vancouver.   He doesn’t work for the Yes on 522 campaign or the environmental groups.  He wasn’t paid to write this.  He is completely independent from the food industry as well.  His moral qualms about GMOs comes from a faith-based perspective.

It’s a good read and I hope you are inclined to share it with your pastors, priests and other religious and community leaders.  Please share widely and freely as Paul intends.

Below is a cover letter by Paul, followed by the Op/Ed itself.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you on a time-sensitive matter of profound urgency to the
Christian faith as a whole. It goes to the heart of how we break bread
together, and how we relate to one another on a daily basis. And it’s also
about the role Christians can play in the debate currently raging in
Washington State over whether they should or shouldn’t label foods that
contain genetically-modified ingredients (GMOs).

As we all know, within the last two decades or so, industrial science has
jumped into the world of genetic engineering with a vengeance, with the
widely touted goal of providing the world with a more abundant – and hence
more secure – food supply; farmers with supposedly more cost efficient
methods of food production; and consumers with cheaper food on their grocery
store shelves. Moreover, we’ve been told that these new altered foods are
entirely safe because mainstream science has told us so.

But just how much of this is true? After all, as a society we’ve been down
this road before with things like DDT, the artificial sweetener saccharin
and numerous designer pharmaceuticals like Vioxx. All were once deemed safe
until they weren’t and then withdrawn from the market. Before that, few
raised questions as well.

For Christians in Washington State, this issue has taken on an added layer
of urgency because you currently find your selves in the midst of trying to
decide whether to vote for the labeling of foods containing genetically
modified ingredients. Though the vote will technically conclude on November
5th, as it’s a mail-in ballot, people are already trying to make up their
minds on what’s the right thing to do. Indeed, many a church congregation
and many a family will be discussing this question around the dinner table
this weekend.

You can and should play a critical guiding role in this process by helping
to infuse Christian considerations and perspectives into this debate,
perspectives largely absent from the mainstream newsmedia coverage of this
rather technical issue.

In this connection, and as part of your consideration, I’ve pasted below a
copy of a 1,300 word Op/Ed I wrote on this very topic, written from my own
Christian perspective. I do this of my own accord without the prompting of
any organization or ulterior motive. Having been raised in the Catholic
faith, and having seriously contemplated entering the priesthood as well as
monastic life during two periods in my life, you can understand why I might
come to ponder on the implications of the whole GMO issue from a range of
perspectives, including spiritual ones.

But I also come to this matter as an independent science writer based in
Vancouver, B.C. Indeed, what also sensitized me to this whole GMO matter now
before us, is a 400 page book I recently completed co-writing with a
psychiatrist on the topic of the victimization process. We took some eight
years to complete the work. Having written a chapter on victimization in
science has made me acutely aware of both the systemic and psychological
reasons why genetically modified foods have entered North American diets to
the degree that they have with scarcely any notice over the past twenty
years. Until now that is.

What few people realize is that North American society is on the cusp of
making a critical decision over whether we humans should have the luxury of
growing a technology that could change the very genetic and physical
character of all life on the planet, forever. To put that in some sort of
biblical perspective, the only previous time this sort of thing happened was
in Genesis. But have we humans truly obtained the level of wisdom and
compassionate concern needed to mess with the creation in this way? Does
genetic science fully know what it’s doing yet, or has the profit motivation
blinded people to jumping the application gun?

As I mention in my Op/Ed below, taken to its extremes, genetic engineering
could one day result in chickens, pigs, sheep and cows custom-designed not
just for our dinner plates, but for the convenience of questionably humane
factory farms.

And while industry advocates are insistent in saying that what has so far
hit our dinner plates has “been proven safe by mainstream science”, there
are many within the scientific community who vehemently disagree. One such
is the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental
Responsibility, who just this week issued a world-wide news release on the
topic. (See: www.ensser.org and www.ensser.org/media/0513/ ) Another is
British-based Earth Open Source.org. (See its downloadable GMO Myths and
Truths book at www.earthopensource.org )

As a person of the Christian faith, the more I learned about this issue, the
more concerned I became, so much so that in the last three weeks or so I
decided to take on the initiative of writing to every clergyman and
clergywoman I can on the matter. So far I’ve written to the Canadian
Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Moderator of the Anglican Church of
Canada, and the Moderator of the United Church of Canada. I’ve also recently
written to the Archbishop of Seattle in relation to citizens’ initiative
I-522 on the labeling of foods containing GMOs, and at least a dozen
churches of various denominations in your state. But with some 6,000
churches in Washington State alone, it’s more than a single person can do.
So I hope you can help spread the word, if after reading you feel what I
present below is worthy of that effort.

More broadly though, I believe that the broader social question of
genetically-engineering foods – as represented by the vote on I-522 – is
presenting people of faith, be they Christian, Jew, Muslim, Baha’i, Hindu,
Buddhist or those who profess a North American Native spirituality, with a
matter of deep spiritual importance. And rare is the time when so many from
different spiritual traditions appear to feel the same way on a given issue,
insisting on their right to know what’s in the food one eats. It’s probably
because food goes to the core of life, whether we’re talking about its
provenance, its sharing with one other or its ability to nourish our bodies,
for the breaking bread together is foundational to human relationship.
Indeed, no matter political affiliation, 9 out of 10 people want to know
what’s in their food.

So it’s not surprising that being denied knowledge over the content of one’s
daily bread might stir many a deep concern in the lives of soulful people.
In fact, it really is grounds for a dinner plate sermon.

With this in mind, I am hoping each of you and your respective church
communities will give serious consideration to, and reflect upon the
contents of what I have written below. And again, if you feel so inclined,
please share these contents far and wide within your state. In fact, you
have my permission to post my Op/Ed on your congregation’s website if you
like. Again, I want you to know that I do not belong to any environmental
group or the like advocating for labeling of GMO foods. My writing on this
topic represents my own thoughts on the matter without any prompting by
others.

In genuine concern for the well-being of us all,

Paul H. LeMay, B.A. (Psych)
—————————————————————–

Walking the Christian walk: Why Washington State’s Citizens’ Initiative-522
on labeling of foods with GMOs has become an example of bearing witness to
one’s faith

Some day, perhaps in the not too distant future, Christians everywhere could
be faced with the prospect of having to use genetically-engineered wheat in
their communion bread. Though that day hasn’t come quite yet, that day has
certainly come for ingredients that have already entered our “daily bread”
in the many processed foods that sit on our supermarket shelves.

It’s arrived for 88% of the corn, 94% of the soy, 90% of the canola and 95%
of the sugar beets grown in the United States, rendering over 70% of the
processed foods sold in North America genetically modified. Yet none of
those GMO facts appear on the label. Why is that? And should we be
concerned?

Many are concerned of course because the list of genetically-engineered (GE)
foods waiting in the wings is growing, and growing fast. One such is GE
alfalfa. Alfalfa one of the primary feeds used with dairy cattle, owing to
its high protein content, is now eliciting strong vocal resistance from many
dairy farmers who fear that milk derived from cows eating GE Alfalfa will,
when mixed with their own non-GE affected milk, will spark a consumer
backlash owing largely to potential health risks. Question is: Are there any
potential risks to health?

All of these are important questions worthy of deep reflection from a faith
point of view, and answering them has become all the more urgent for those
in Washington State in view of their upcoming vote on Citizens’ Initiative
522, an initiative that asks its citizens to vote yea or nay on the labeling
of foods containing GMOs.

As a person of faith, I believe all Christians have an important moral
guidance role to play in this regard. In fact, one might say that I-522
represents a test of our faith, for it challenges us on the level of our
conviction and practice. How so? Well, for starters, during Christ’s
ministry, he asked that we love our neighbor. More generally, we were also
taught not to bear false witness.

Thus the fact there are players in this debate intent on ensuring others
remain ignorant of the presence of genetically-engineered ingredients in our
foods should raise a red flag. Hiding the presence of a food’s ingredient
inheritance hardly seems like a wholesome proposition. Indeed, it’s
relatively difficult to find people who would disagree with this view, for 9
out of 10 Americans, regardless of political affiliation, feel that they
have a right to know what they put in their bodies.

Of course industry advocates know this too, and it helps to explain why the
Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a D.C.-based lobby group for the
food industry, tried to shield the names of companies that collectively
donated $7 million to Washington State’s ‘No on I-522’ campaign –
heavy-weight companies like Pepsi, Coke and Nestlé – so their brand names
wouldn’t be reflected in such an unpopular light. Nor do they want to see
any of the health risk worries connected to GMO ingredients become
associated with their products. It would simply be bad for business.

In this sense, it’s easy to see why it ultimately took the threat of a
lawsuit by Washington State’s Attorney General to finally crowbar that
ghostly information out of the GMA on October 18th so as to remain compliant
with the state’s law on campaign donation disclosure.

Still, the fact that several normally well-esteemed companies felt it
necessary to hide such monetary facts from the public doesn’t sit well with
many folks with a fully functioning moral conscience. It’s akin to catching
several rather big kids with more than a few well-greased fingers in the
family cookie jar. The guilty looks, if such could even be seen, would tell
it all.

But other companies, such as Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer aren’t nearly as
shy. Between them, they’ve donated over $8 million. And it’s not hard to see
why. GMOs represent a multi-billion dollar industry and the labeling of
foods containing such ingredients would alert more and more uninformed
consumers to what’s in their food, and possibly result in a form of
marketplace stigma, as occurred with the cancer-causing artificial sweetener
called saccharin decades ago. Hence their willingness to support a
television and radio advertising to defeat the GMO labeling effort as they
did last year in California.

Yet for Christians, the gravity of this issue extends well beyond a bit of
moolah-boola shell game mischief or corporate behemoths openly contributing
large sums of cash to construct messages largely aimed at muddying the
issue. Many Christians worry that genetically engineering our food does in
itself represent a dangerous tampering with God’s creation. Nor is this
worry completely devoid of scientific merit.

Independent studies like those conducted by Seralini et al (2012) and
Pusztai (2003) in Europe which respectively looked at herbicide resistant
“Roundup Ready” GMO corn and GMO potatoes, found that these products were
associated with statistically significant higher incidence rates of liver
and kidney dysfunction, disrupted hormone function, cancerous tumor
formation and earlier death in test animals.

If their findings weren’t sobering enough, a Canadian study by Aris and
Leblanc (2011) found Roundup Ready herbicide metabolites in the bloodstreams
of 93% of pregnant women and 80% of the fetal cord blood they examined. And
it’s no wonder. GMO cornstarch or GMO high fructose corn syrup, as found in
soft drinks, are near ubiquitous ingredients in so many of our processed
foods that it’s difficult to count.

Nor has the fact that Roundup Ready corn is one of the most widely present
and consumed GMO ingredients in North American processed foods gone
unnoticed by policy makers in Europe. There such products are labeled, and
life, from all accounts, is still rumored to go on with nary a hiccough. Nor
did such labeling cause a rise in food prices, as big Biotech firms so
keenly proclaimed it would in California’s version of I-522, Proposition 37.
(It’s worth remembering here that Biotech narrowly won that contest – 51% to
49% — for the minds of people in part by outspending their pro-GMO labeling
opposition by a ratio of five to one.)

Now it’s Washington State’s turn. But for people of faith, this contest has
become something of a battleground in a matter with far larger implications,
implications rarely spelled out in mainstream newsmedia. The outcome of the
I-522 vote could well set both the direction and pace of genetic engineering
for decades to come. If the “No” side wins, the results could be interpreted
as a social, if not political license to move full steam ahead with
genetically-engineering animals on an industrial scale. Science fiction you
say? Think again.

Genetically-engineered salmon is already in the development pipeline, and it
sets the stage for what might one day follow – genetically engineered
chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep and cows. And if that whole scenario doesn’t
feel like an imposition on the magnificence of God’s creation, the next item
surely will.

Today’s contamination of the natural ecosystem with genetically-engineered
crops isn’t just a nuisance for fussy farmers who only want to grow and sell
organic crops. Some scientists worry about something much more sinister.
It’s called lateral gene transfer. This is where the naturally occurring
traits in a given plant or even an animal species become genetically altered
thanks to an invasion of their biology by artificially induced traits of
another genetically-engineered plant or animal. In the case of plants, these
are traits like an ability to make an insecticide, or an ability to better
tolerate the presence of a chemical herbicide, such as glyphosate.
(Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the widely used herbicide called
Roundup.)

Imagine the consequences if flowers start killing bees. And what happens
when a genetically engineered animal escapes its enclosure and begins to
interbreed with its wild counterparts?

So not only are we already playing with fire at this point, God only knows
what uncontrollable longer term genetic consequences might be – or are now
being – unleashed into the world as a result.

So what shall it be? Does the Christian walk demand that we label foods
containing GMOs whenever we can? Or do we let someone else worry about the
issue for another day? If Christians stay silent on this question, we will
only have ourselves to blame.

Paul H. LeMay, B.A. (Psych). Independent Science Writer, Vancouver, British
Columbia.