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May 4, 2011 –

In Wake Of Pending FDA Approval Of GE Salmon, California Bill Could Restore Americans’ Right To Choose In The Marketplace

Dissatisfied with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current review of the first-ever proposed commercialization of genetically engineered (GE) salmon, late yesterday the California Assembly Health Committee approved a bill which would require that all GE fish sold in California contain clear and prominent labeling. The bill, AB 88, was introduced by Assemblymember Jared Huffman. The Center for Food Safety (CFS), a co-sponsor of the bill, applauds the Health Committee for protecting the public’s right to know how their food is produced.

“The FDA has indicated that it will not require these GE fish to be labeled once they are approved,” said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety. “As such, it is incumbent on the California State legislature, starting with the Health Committee, to let the people of California make informed choices about the food they eat by requiring the labeling of GE fish sold in California.”

Read more from the Center for Food Safety here.

If you listen to NPR, you might have been surprised to hear a story that ran last week on the program Marketplace that sounded as if it were written by Monsanto itself.

The report, entitled “The Non-Organic Future,” claimed that the only way to feed the world is to give poor farmers fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds.

Pedro Sanchez, a proponent of industrial agriculture who works as a soil scientist at Columbia University, is the mouthpiece for the absurd proposition that soil is “like a bank account, you’ve got to have a positive balance, and if you deposit only organics, you’re going to go broke.”

In a comment posted at Marketplace’s website, Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet, pointed to a gaping hole in their reporting: the failure to acknowledge the 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) Report, a joint project of the U.N. and the World Bank, among other agencies. Here’s Anna’s apt description of the report:

“The groundbreaking study brought together 400 experts who worked for 4.5 years to explore the most efficient, productive, and sustainable strategy for feeding the world. The conclusion – quite the opposite of the one reached by those quoted in this segment – stated in no uncertain terms that we must move away from chemical- and fossil[-fuel]-dependent agriculture, which by the way includes biotech.

“Business as usual is not an option, was the radical consensus. Instead, small-scale and mid-scale agroecological farming holds our best hope for feeding the world safe, healthy food, all without undermining our natural capital.”

As the IAASTD report shows, Sanchez’s view is hardly the only or even the dominant view among development experts about how to “feed the world.” Indeed, if there is a consensus, Sanchez’s views are in the minority.

Listeners might chalk the whole thing up to sloppy reporting, if it weren’t for the fact that over the last couple of years, Marketplace has been underwritten by Monsanto, and the program’s been running ads that tout Monsanto as a sustainable agriculture innovator! Rather than being sloppy, it turns out that the reporting is actually a carefully constructed thank-you gift for a prized advertiser!

If you find this type of corporate influence and media bias unacceptable, please ask American Public Media, producers of Marketplace, to stop spreading Monsanto’s lies.

“What has brought us here today is the belief that our current food system is broken… and we believe this system must be changed,” said Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation” and co-producer of “Food, Inc,” at the Future of Food Conference last Wednesday at Georgetown University. Organized by Washington Post Live, this conference brought together policymakers, scientific experts, advocates and food company leaders to think about how to fix the food system. Read an article by Mara Schechter

On January 17, internationally recognized plant pathologist Dr. Don Huber, wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack warning of the discovery of a new pathogen and a possible link between Roundup Ready® (GMO) corn and soybeans and severe reproductive problems in livestock as well as widespread crop failure.

Less than 3 weeks later, the Obama administration approved 2 new Roundup Ready® GMO crops, set to be planted this spring… Read on about Dr. Huber’s discovery. If it gives you pause, sign Food Democracy Now’s petition to ask Sec. Vilsack to stop these seeds from being planted until further research is done.

The Future of Food’s director, Deborah Koons Garcia, attended a conference appropriately called “The Future of Food” in Washington DC last week. The conference brought together many of the world’s leading experts on food, including The Prince of Wales, a lifelong environmentalist and organic farmer, Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation,” and Wendell Berry, winner of The National Humanities Medal.  Experts from some of world’s biggest food companies, academia and nonprofits discussed trends in agriculture and consumer behavior that is shaping the future of food.

You can see excerpts of the conference from the Washington Post live video stream here:

http://washingtonpostlive.com/conferences/food/archive

Hello to all The Future of Food Documentary Film blog followers! A great apology for a lapse in our postings. Our regular ‘blogger’ has been ill and we have been in full production with Deborah Koons Garcia’s next film, Symphony of the Soil (http://www.symphonyofthesoil.com) that our regular postings have lapsed. We will continue to keep up posting relevant articles and information here. Thanks for staying with us and thank you for protecting the future of our food!

ORGANIC FARMERS AND SEED SELLERS SUE MONSANTO TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROMPATENTS ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED SEED: Preemptive Action Seeks Ruling
That Would Prohibit Monsanto From Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers
If Contaminated By Roundup Ready Seed

NEW YORK – March 29, 2011 – On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed
businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent
Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today
(http://www.pubpat.org/assets/files/seed/OSGATA-v-Monsanto-Complaint.pdf)
against
Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant’s patents on
genetically modified seed.  The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue
preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent
infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s
genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the
past.

The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto,
was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge
Naomi Buchwald.  Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of
family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the
organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by
genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts
to avoid it.  The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members,
including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers
for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed should land on
their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director and
Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “It
seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic
seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such
accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers
for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of
our clients.”

Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed
contaminates and destroys organic seed for the same crop.  For example,
soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola,
organic canola became virtually extinct as a result of contamination.
Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa now face the
same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each
of those crops, too.  Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed
for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed
all agriculture, at stake.

In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic
farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed,
they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement.  One
reason justifying this result is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically
modified seed are invalid because they don’t meet the “usefulness”
requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT’s Ravicher, plaintiffs’
lead attorney in the case.  Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening
filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic
and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified
seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

“Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history
tells us that’s not possible, and it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial
interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total
monopoly over our food supply,” said Ravicher.  “Monsanto is the same
chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB’s and
other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not.  Now
Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is
not.”

The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed
Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association
International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia
Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine
Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming
Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming
Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm
Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains
Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network; Northeast
Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family
Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems; Global Organic
Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.;
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; FEDCO Seeds Inc.; Adaptive Seeds,
LLC; Sow True Seed; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Mumm’s Sprouting
Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC; Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC;
Seedkeepers, LLC; Siskiyou Seeds; Countryside Organics; Cuatro Puertas;
Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.; Alba Ranch; Wild Plum Farm; Gratitude
Gardens; Richard Everett Farm, LLC; Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc;
Genesis Farm; Chispas Farms LLC; Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.;
Midheaven Farms; Koskan Farms; California Cloverleaf Farms; North
Outback Farm; Taylor Farms, Inc.; Jardin del Alma; Ron Gargasz Organic
Farms; Abundant Acres; T & D Willey Farms; Quinella Ranch; Nature’s Way
Farm Ltd.; Levke and Peter Eggers Farm; Frey Vineyards, Ltd.; Bryce
Stephens; Chuck Noble; LaRhea Pepper; Paul Romero; and, Donald Wright
Patterson, Jr.

Many of the plaintiffs made statements upon filing of the suit today.

Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is
President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
based in Montrose, Colorado, said, “Today is Independence Day for
America.  Today we are seeking protection from the Court and putting
Monsanto on notice.  Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers
stops here.  Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and
organic crops ends now.  Americans have the right to choice in the
marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families
– and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to
choose.  Organic farmers have the right to raise our organic crops for
our families and our customers on our farms without the threat of
invasion by Monsanto’s genetic contamination and without harassment by a
reckless polluter. Beginning today, America asserts her right to justice
and pure food.”

Dr. Carol Goland, Ph.D., Executive Director of plaintiff Ohio Ecological
Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) said, “Consumers indicate,
overwhelmingly, that they prefer foods made without genetically modified
organisms.  Organic farms, by regulation, may not use GMOs, while other
farmers forego using them for other reasons.  Yet the truth is that we
are rapidly approaching the tipping point when we will be unable to
avoid GMOs in our fields and on our plates.  That is the inevitable
consequence of releasing genetically engineered materials into the
environment.  To add injury to injury, Monsanto has a history of suing
farmers whose fields have been contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs.  On
behalf of farmers who must live under this cloud of uncertainty and
risk, we are compelled to ask the Court to put an end to this
unconscionable business practice.”

Rose Marie Burroughs of plaintiff California Cloverleaf Farms said, “The
devastation caused by GMO contamination is an ecological catastrophe to
our world equal to the fall out of nuclear radiation.  Nature, farming
and health are all being affected by GMO contamination.  We must protect
our world by protecting our most precious, sacred resource of seed
sovereignty.  People must have the right to the resources of the earth
for our sustenance.  We must have the freedom to farm that causes no
harm to the environment or to other people.  We must protect the
environment, farmers livelihood, public health and people’s right to non
GMO food contamination.”

Ed Maltby, Executive Director of plaintiff Northeast Organic Dairy
Producers Alliance (NODPA) said, “It’s outrageous that we find ourselves
in a situation where the financial burden of GE contamination will fall
on family farmers who have not asked for or contributed to the growth of
GE crops.  Family farmers will face contamination of their crops by GE
seed which will threaten their ability to sell crops as organically
certified or into the rapidly growing ‘Buy Local’ market where consumers
have overwhelmingly declared they do not want any GE crops, and then
family farmers may be faced by a lawsuit by Monsanto for patent
infringement.  We take this action to protect family farms who once
again have to bear the consequences of irresponsible actions by Monsanto.”

David L. Rogers, Policy Advisor for plaintiff NOFA Vermont said,
“Vermont’s farmers have worked hard to meet consumers’ growing demand
for certified organic and non-GE food.  It is of great concern to them
that Monsanto’s continuing and irresponsible marketing of GE crops that
contaminate non-GE plantings will increasingly place their local and
regional markets at risk and threaten their livelihoods.”

Dewane Morgan of plaintiff Midheaven Farms in Park Rapids, Minnesota,
said, “For organic certification, farmers are required to have a buffer
zone around their perimeter fields. Crops harvested from this buffer
zone are not eligible for certification due to potential drift from
herbicide and fungicide drift. Buffer zones are useless against pollen
drift.  Organic, biodynamic, and conventional farmers who grow
identity-preserved soybeans, wheat and open-pollinated corn often save
seed for replanting the next year. It is illogical that these farmers
are liable for cross-pollination contamination.”

Jill Davies, Director of plaintiff Sustainable Living Systems in Victor,
Montana, said, “The building blocks of life are sacred and should be in
the public domain.  If scientists want to study and manipulate them for
some supposed common good, fine.  Then we must remove the profit motive.
The private profit motive corrupts pure science and increasingly
precludes democratic participation.”

David Murphy, founder and Executive Director of plaintiff Food Democracy
Now! said, “None of Monsanto’s original promises regarding genetically
modified seeds have come true after 15 years of wide adoption by
commodity farmers. Rather than increased yields or less chemical usage,
farmers are facing more crop diseases, an onslaught of
herbicide-resistant superweeds, and increased costs from additional
herbicide application. Even more appalling is the fact that Monsanto’s
patented genes can blow onto another farmer’s fields and that farmer not
only loses significant revenue in the market but is frequently exposed
to legal action against them by Monsanto’s team of belligerent lawyers.
Crop biotechnology has been a miserable failure economically and
biologically and now threatens to undermine the basic freedoms that
farmers and consumers have enjoyed in our constitutional democracy.”

Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for plaintiff The Cornucopia
Institute said, “Family-scale farmers desperately need the judiciary
branch of our government to balance the power Monsanto is able to wield
in the marketplace and in the courts.  Monsanto, and the biotechnology
industry, have made great investments in our executive and legislative
branches through campaign contributions and powerful lobbyists in
Washington.  We need to court system to offset this power and protect
individual farmers from corporate tyranny.  Farmers have saved seeds
since the beginning of agriculture by our species.  It is outrageous
that one corporate entity, through the trespass of what they refer to as
their ‘technology,’ can intimidate and run roughshod over family farmers
in this country.  It should be the responsibility of Monsanto, and
farmers licensing their technology, to ensure that genetically
engineered DNA does not trespass onto neighboring farmland.  It is
outrageous, that through no fault of their own, farmers are being
intimidated into not saving seed for fear that they will be doggedly
pursued through the court system and potentially bankrupted.”

ABOUT PUBPAT

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) is a not-for-profit legal services
organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
PUBPAT protects freedom in the patent system by representing the public
interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy.  More
information about PUBPAT is available from www.pubpat.org.

Join this strategy session to take action in response to new, unlabeled genetically modified organisms (GMOs) entering our food supply, increasing the use of dangerous farm chemicals, contaminating organics, and damaging human, animal, plant and soil health with novel diseases and allergens. We’ll hatch real-life, anti-GMO action ideas to take out of the Green Festival and into the streets. A presentation by Deborah Koons Garcia (Director The Future of Food) and Alexis Baden-Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association

Time: Saturday, April 9th 10:30am to 11:15am
Location: Home & Garden Pavilion, SF Green Festival

http://organicconsumers.org/monsanto/index.cfm#summits

 

From Bill McKibbon:  Together we’ve accomplished an awful lot in the last two years—we’ve built the first mass movement around climate change, with thousands of rallies around the country and around the world. We’ve put the basic science out where it can’t be ignored, and built a coalition of poor and affluent people around the planet. If pictures are worth a thousand words, well, we’ve got a lot of pictures. But we’re still losing the battle—more carbon is pouring into the atmosphere, temperatures keep setting new records, and our U.S. Congress still refuses to act.

So it’s time to turn up the other kind of heat, the political kind. For many years, everyone has assumed that if we simply manage to communicate the problem, it will lead to action. It hasn’t, for one simple reason: there’s too much money in the way. A wall of money that separates politicians from the scientific truth that we’re in a desperate crisis.

Big polluters spilled oil into the Gulf and lobbied to have American taxpayers clean up their mess, and those same industry groups are fighting tooth and nail to stop the EPA from protecting our air, water and atmosphere.

That’s why we’re going to spend much of this year taking on the single biggest source of that money pollution, the US Chamber of Commerce. They’re not like your local chamber of commerce—they’re essentially a front group for a few giant corporations.

Read more and take action.

I write on Grist about my small farm, but my day job is different. I’m an organizer for the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA). One of the things we do at CFRA is try to tweak federal farm policies in ways that help rural farm communities thrive. And this past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about developments in Washington that affect both new farmers and rural communities in general.

Recently, White House phone lines have been ringing off the hook as thousands of consumers responded to a coordinated action alert by farm groups, calling to express their support for the Fair Livestock Competition rule. Also known as the “proposed GIPSA rule” [PDF], the goal is to create active competition in the livestock marketplace, so that meat processors can’t unfairly manipulate prices. The USDA has written a fairly strong rule, and industry pressure has caused delays in the roll out of the new rule.

Meanwhile, President Obama released his budget this week, which included farm payment cuts to wealthy farmers and land owners, saving an estimated $2.5 billion dollars over 10 years. The idea to bar people over a certain income from receiving any farm payments caught hold in the last farm bill debate. This new proposal would cut off farm payments to individuals making more than $500,000 instead of $750,000 in on-farm income, and limit off-farm income to $250,000 instead of $500,000.

Read the rest of this article.