By Elena Day
Back in the early ’60s the Kennedy space program was a big deal. There was buzz about futuristic scenarios in which we would only need to swallow one pill to provide for all our nutritional needs. (This probably had to do with the unavailability of foodstuffs other than orange-flavored Tang on spacecraft.) Space travel and exploration has been totally unappealing to me since because of the unavailability of wholesome food—or any familiar food—on space missions.
On April 16 the Vermont Senate passed a “no strings attached” Genetically Modified Organism labeling bill. Governor Shumlin signed the bill on May 8 and on May 9 the 300-plus member Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) moved to sue Vermont in federal court to overturn the new law. GMO labeling will go into effect in July 2016.
It is important to note that the GMA membership includes not only Monsanto, Dow, Pepsi, Coca Cola and General Mills (the usual suspects) but also Kashi, Cascadian Farm, Odwalla, Naked Juice, Honest Tea, Muir Glen, Gerber, and Santa Cruz Organic, to name a few. Many of these organic food companies have been bought up by the big guys: for example, Pepsi (Naked Juice), Coke (Honest Tea), and General Mills (Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen). There is money in organic foods and the big players are willing to buy up smaller companies. For a navigable listing of GMA members who contributed millions of dollars to the defeat of Washington State’s Initiative 522, an attempt to label GMO ingredients, and those companies that support or do not actively oppose GMO labeling, go to www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/I-522.poster.1101.jpg
The Vermont law is a big one, even though it’s a small state. Monsanto and the GMA have effectively blocked GMO labeling legislation in 30 states at the cost of over $100 million.
In Oregon, Jackson County and neighboring Josephine County approved a ballot initiative to ban GMOs from the Rogue Valley. Although the Oregon governor had signed a bill to disallow local governments from regulating GMOs, Jackson County activists had gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot before passage of the industry-sponsored bill last fall. The initiative passed May 20.
A statewide measure to label GMOs is on the Oregon ballot this November.
In Congress, the Grocery Manufacturers Association continues to push for passage of the so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014,” which will nullify state laws regulating or banning GMOs. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Pompeo (R-Kansas), has been dubbed DARK: “Denying Americans the Right to Know.”
To date, more than 60 countries have restricted GMOs or passed labeling laws for them. In the European Union, GMOs have been banned since 1997. However, GM animal feed (corn and soybeans) imported from the U.S., Argentina, etc., is not.
Mexico banned GM corn last September. Monsanto and the SEMARNAT (the Mexican Environment and Natural Resources ministry) appealed the decision. An Appeals Court judge upheld the ruling. Now Monsanto has requested the removal of the Appeals Court judge. Mexico is a Vavilov Center of Diversity, meaning it is a center for the origin of cultivated plants. The origin of corn or maize is the Tehuacan Valley. The highest diversity of corn’s wild relatives is found in Mexico.
The Accion Colectiva, which led the movement for the ban, has reached out to the medical community in Argentina, where there is recent scientific documentation of glyphosate’s adverse effects on fetuses (Dr. Anthony Carrasca).
Here in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be conducting a registration review of glyphosate, or Roundup®. Moms Across America and Thinking Moms’ Revolution met with EPA officials (after 10,000 Moms called in demanding a meeting) to ask that Roundup® be recalled. Moms provided EPA with test results recording unsafe levels of glyphosate residues in drinking water, breast milk and children’s urine. A number of Moms testified regarding autism, leaky gut syndrome and celiac disease, and their switch to organic diets that improved or cured the medical condition of their children.
A recent article in the independent journal Entropy by Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT argues that glyphosate residues “enhance damaging effects of food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.” Dr. Seneff writes that glyphosate is possibly the most important factor in development of chronic diseases in Western(ized) societies. These chronic afflictions included autism, multiple sclerosis, allergies, colitis, Crohn’s disease, cancer, and obesity, among others. At this point we are all probably contaminated by glyphosate residues regardless of our diet.
Monsanto claims that Roundup® is safe because the shikimate pathway (weed killer mechanism) is absent in animals. The pathway is present in bacteria, however. Dr. Seneff argues that glyphosate residues disrupt microbe function and life cycles of bacteria in the gut. More on this next month.
I cannot imagine efforts in Virginia to ban GMOs or even label them. Virginia is a follower state, not a leader at this point in history. Let’s hope the state gets it together regarding the proposed fracking in our agricultural counties east of Fredericksburg, in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. Our crown jewel, the Chesapeake Bay, is not only undergoing pollution by industrial/chemical agriculture, but may soon be at risk from chemical contamination from fracking, too.