GMO tomato
A few weeks ago I wrote about how when a now retired University of Illinois' professor named Bruce Chassy received money from the U.S. State Department to produce informational videos on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), he collaborated with Monsanto on the content.

Alternet also recently published an article detailing the conflicts of interest between Chassy and Monsanto, and how the professor spent years supporting Monsanto's agenda without disclosing his financial ties to the company.1

But if you think an "independent" public university professor taking government money to produce propaganda for a private company is bad, consider this:

The new spending bill2,3,4 actually calls for $3 million to be allocated for consumer education and outreach to "promote understanding and acceptance of" biotechnology.

Your Money Is Being Spent to Promote Industry Propaganda

That's right, not only are the government and the food and chemical technology industries fighting tooth and nail to prevent GMO labeling, your hard-earned tax dollars will also be spent on industry propaganda to "assure" you that genetically engineered (GE) foods are of no concern.

This joint effort by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an outrage.

Instead of safeguarding environmental and human health, these agencies are simply supporting and promoting the industry agenda, regardless of the cost to society. Indeed, as noted in another recent article, the USDA has come under increasing scrutiny following charges of harassment and censorship of its own scientists.

Vermont Lawmakers Uphold GMO Labeling Law

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and its ally, the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, are also pressuring Vermont lawmakers to add a rider to the state's must-pass budget bill.

The rider would delay the deadline for compliance with the state's GMO labeling law, set to take effect July 1, pushing the deadline all the way back to January 1, 2018.

Clearly, this move has but one purpose, and that is to give these parties more time to convince Congress to implement federal regulations to preempt all state labeling laws, thereby preventing Vermont's law from ever taking effect. As noted by the Organic Consumers Association:
"Vermont voters and lawmakers overwhelmingly supported Act 120, a law to require GMO labels. The governor signed it into law May 8, 2014. Monsanto and the GMA promptly sued to overturn it, but so far, the courts have refused to block the law...
Monsanto and the GMA have failed to convince enough U.S. Senators to preempt Vermont's law. They've failed to get the votes they need for their DARK — Deny Americans the Right to Know — Act.
So they're coming in the back door, using the Vermont Senate appropriations process — to delay the law, and buy themselves more time...
Vermont lawmakers claim they can't hold up the state budget...just to protect the July 1 GMO labeling deadline. That's just wrong. Vermont voters have waited long enough...Food companies have had ample time to prepare GMO labels...
Vermont lawmakers owe it to their constituents to uphold Vermont's law and enforce it. Anything less is just pandering to big corporate interests."
Several Companies Have Already Announced They Will Comply With Vermont Labeling Law

Campbell's was the first company to announce it is ready to comply with the Vermont law and will begin labeling GMOs. Contrary to GMA scare tactic claims, the company also assured consumers the new label would not result in higher prices.5

Mars, Inc.6 Kellogg Company,7 ConAgra,8 and General Mills9 have since followed suit, announcing they too will comply by labeling all of their foods sold across the U.S. General Mills has also launched an online search tool10 to help you determine which of their products contain GMOs.

These companies are proof positive that the food industry does not need more time to comply, and that the Vermont law should go into effect as planned, without delay.

Food companies have had nearly two years to prepare for GMO labels, and the Vermont Attorney General has already announced that fines will not be levied against non-compliant companies until January 1, 2017.

That gives companies that are lagging behind a 6-month grace period to update their labels, during which time right of action suits cannot be filed against them. So truly, there's only one reason to push for a delay, and that's to get the law nullified by some other piece of legislation along the way.

Pro-GMO Senators in Weaker Position Than Ever Before

The Vermont labeling bill passed 28-2. Now, the senators who lost want to modify the bill before it goes into effect, threatening to open the bill up to a fight on the floor unless the deadline gets extended to 2018. But even if that would occur, they hardly stand a chance of winning.

This is because, they're actually in a weaker position today than when the bill was originally passed two years ago.

For starters, in March 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, is a Class 2A "probable human carcinogen."

This determination was based on evidence showing the popular weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with "convincing evidence" it can also cause cancer in animals.

We also know that glyphosate use has dramatically increased as a direct result of GE crops, and that alone is a significant health concern that cannot be overlooked when discussing GMOs and GMO labeling.

Glyphosate Toxicity Is an Important Part of the GMO Labeling Discussion

Before GE crops, glyphosate was used sparingly, as it kills any plant it touches. This meant farmers could not apply it near their crops, lest they risk killing off their crops as well. It was only used where farmers wanted to kill all vegetation, such as between the rows in orchards or in industrial yards.

Comment: The proven and probable effects of glyphosate are manifold; studies have shown that people who are sick have higher levels of glyphosate in their bodies than healthy people. The meteoric rise in chronic diseases and metabolic disorders has occurred during the same time period that glyphosate was introduced, and has followed a trajectory much like that of the herbicide's massive increase in use.

This all changed in 1996, when Monsanto's so-called "Roundup Ready," GE glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced.

Since these crops are impervious to glyphosate's toxic effects, farmers can spray the chemical onto their crops with abandon. And due to mounting weed resistance, that's exactly what they've had to do. Since 1996, glyphosate use has risen nearly 15-fold.11

Since glyphosate was introduced in 1974, 1.8 million tons have been applied to U.S. fields, and two-thirds of that volume has been sprayed in the last 10 years.

Monsanto has also successfully promoted the use of Roundup on non-GE crops as a desiccant.12 Basically, the chemical is sprayed on crops right before harvesting to dry out the crop and allow farmers to harvest earlier — a technique that results in a higher profits as earlier harvest yields higher prices.

Contrary to the U.S., the EU Parliament is calling on the Commission to severely restrict the permitted usage of glyphosate, and to ban pre-harvest dessication in order to protect human health.13

Glyphosate use is in fact so excessive at this point that even organic farms are now plagued by glyphosate residues in their produce, even though it's not actually sprayed on their farms. It drifts over from other farms.

In Vermont, herbicide use on corn increased by 39 percent since the advent of GE corn. Nitrogen fertilizer use has also increased by 17 percent. Moreover, nearly all — 99.4 percent to be exact — of the chemicals used on GE corn grown in Vermont are suspected hormone disruptors, capable of promoting cancer and birth defects.

All of these facts have a bearing on the GMO discussion, and add weight to the call for clear labeling. Vermont is the first state to pass a no-strings-attached GMO labeling law, and it needs to be implemented as planned.

Farm Subsidies Only Make the Rich Richer

While millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent to convince you of the merits of GMOs — which also means they're promoting processed foods, since that's where the majority of GE crops end up — little is being done to promote the growing of healthier foods like fresh fruits and vegetables on small farms.

A recent report14 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) points out that no less than 50 American billionaires received at least $6.3 million in commodity support payments from farm bill programs between 1995 and 2014. Among them are David Rockefeller Sr., Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and Charles Schwab. According to the EWG:
"[T]hese fat cats likely received even more subsidies through the federal crop insurance program ... On average, taxpayers cover 62 percent of the cost of crop insurance premiums ...
Of the 50 billionaires, 46 grow corn, soybeans, sorghum, cotton, rice and barley — commodities that are eligible for both traditional farm subsidies and crop insurance subsidies. Only two of the billionaires exclusively raise livestock, which aren't eligible for subsidies but qualify for disaster assistance ..."
In short, your tax dollars are spent to promote a dietary trend that leads to diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and now they will spend another $3 million to further the completely biased and scientifically unsupported idea that GMOs are safe and beneficial. Talk about misappropriation of funds! So what can you do? The greatest leverage we have as individuals is to vote for the system we want with every purchase.

Boycott GMA Members

For the past three years, there's been an ongoing call to boycott GMA members until they cancel their membership, and if you haven't done so before, I urge you to consider getting serious about boycotting these traitor brands now.

The GMA has led the industry charge to undermine your right to know about GMOs, and they've even resorted to illegal measures to keep you in the dark. So really, by being members of the GMA, they are affiliated with a criminal element that destroys their reputation and severely undermines their integrity.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has created a smart phone application called Buycott, which has already been downloaded by almost half a million people, to step up the boycott against GMA member brands.

The app also helps you determine ethical brands that deserve your patronage. If you don't have a smartphone, or if you don't want to use your smart phone in the grocery store, it's even simpler. Don't buy any processed food or beverage, or any food whatsoever unless it has one or more of these labels:
  • "USDA 100 percent Organic"
  • "100 percent grass-fed"
  • "Non-GMO Verified"
North Carolina Law Silences ALL Whistleblowers

The food and agricultural industries have created a trend that now severely threatens human health, which is ironic considering food is the most important cornerstone for a healthy life. Everywhere you turn these industries are lobbying for more relaxed safety regulations that will allow them to conduct business in pretty much any which way they want.

In addition to fighting against GMO labeling and stricter controls on toxic agricultural chemicals, pushing for so called "ag-gag" laws, which ban undercover recordings on farms, is another example.

Oftentimes, such tactics are the only way to reveal the worst offenders, which benefits society at large. Now, North Carolina has taken matters a giant step further. As of January 1, 2016, no one is allowed to tape malfeasance or wrong-doing anywhere, at anyworkplace, including nursing homes, day care centers, and veteran care facilities. As reported by The New York Times:15
"Anyone who violates the law — say, by secretly taping abuses of elderly patients or farm animals and then sharing the recording with the media or an advocacy group — can be sued by business owners for bad publicity and be required to pay a fine of $5,000 for each day that person is gathering information or recording without authorization.
The law originally singled out factory-farm exposés, but after it twice failed to pass in the face of resistance from animal-rights activists, lawmakers succeeded in pushing through a version that covered everyone equally. Gov. Pat McCrory, who said he was concerned the law would make it harder for employees to report illegal activity, vetoed the measure, but the state's legislature, the General Assembly, overrode the veto last June."
The only way whistleblowers can expose abuses at the workplace is by reporting it directly to a superior and/or state authority. Alas, such reporting rarely if ever actually becomes public knowledge, and that's exactly what the law aims to achieve. "As one of its sponsors told a Senate committee last year, the whole point is to stop people who would go 'running out to a news outlet,'" NYT writes.

Fight for Your Right to Know

A coalition of organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch, and the Government Accountability Project, have argued that this North Carolina law is a clear violation of the constitutional freedoms of speech and the press. They filed a federal lawsuit16 to have the law overturned in January, shortly after its passing. As noted by The New York Times:
"They have precedent to back them up, in the form of a decision by a federal judge last August that struck down an ag-gag law in Idaho on free-speech grounds, the first such ruling in the country. Activists who pose as employees to gain access to farming operations, the judge wrote, 'actually advance core First Amendment values by exposing misconduct to the public eye and facilitating dialogue on issues of considerable public interest.'"
Indeed, people rely on activists and responsible journalists to expose abuse and misconduct, regardless of who's doing it, or where it occurs. How else are we to be made aware of these problems? We also rely on journalists and experts to truthfully and accurately relay information that is of importance to our health and well-being. This absolutely includes GMOs and other agricultural practices. Yet again and again, we see how the media is being manipulated to parrot industry PR.

"The secrecy promoted by ag-gag laws should have no place in American society," The New York Times writes. And I would say that secrecy about food — its ingredients and how it's made — has no place in American society either. Any responsible company should welcome third-party scrutiny, to affirm the quality and benefits of its products.

The fact that so many food companies are spending millions of dollars to prevent consumers from knowing whether a product contains GMOs or not is a clear sign they knowthey're selling something inherently questionable.

They know, or at least suspect, that their ingredients do not meet consumer expectations. There's really no other reason to go so far as to break laws and violate human and constitutional freedoms to prevent people from knowing what their food is made of! If you agree, then do something about it — boycott the traitor brands. No amount of complaining will be as effective as vanishing sales to encourage a company to do the right thing.

As for what you can do right this moment, please remember to call Vermont lawmakers TODAY — even if you don't live there. The two numbers you can use are: 802-828-2228 and 1-800-322-5616. Tell them to NOT make any amendments to Vermont's GMO labeling law, because consumers in all 50 states are counting on them to protect our right to know.