Archive for the ‘GE’ Category


The Challenges of Organic: Scott Updike of the USDA National Organic Program Speaks

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By Marlena White

Scott Updike is an Agricultural Marketing Specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s National Organic Program Standards Division and recently spoke to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future about organic standards for meat production and processing. He also touched on how meat production fits into the organic model and just what organic means in the first place.

Scott Updike of the USDA’s National Organic Program spoke about organic standards for livestock production. (Image credit: USDA)

“There are a lot of misperceptions about what organic is and is not” Updike says. The organic label, he explains, is strictly about the process, and does not refer to its health, nutritional, or taste qualities. When meat is certified organic, it means that methods and standards have been followed from the raising and feeding of the animal, to the processing, packaging, and transport of the final product.

When questioned why the organic standards do not focus more on the environment, Updike points out that the organic standards are a broad based set of regulations that encompass maintaining or improving natural resources, animal health and living conditions, minimal use of synthetic substances, and not using excluded methods (like genetic modifications). The organic community is very involved in the development of organic standards, but what organic means differs from person to person.

These differences in opinion, Updike explains, are often due to the various motivations people have for embracing organic. For example, Updike referenced a former National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) member who was a self described “chemophobe” wanting artificial chemicals out of the food supply. Other consumers want to support more environmentally sustainable production, while for some, it is most important to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms). In addition, when the legislation authorizing the National Organic Program was written, organic crop production was more understood than organic livestock production, leading to less clear management requirements for organic livestock.



Update: Just Label It campaign reaches one million comments

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In what could amount to a victory for consumer protection and corporate transparency, the Just Label It campaign has successfully reached its goal of one million comments in support of its petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),  which called on the agency to label all genetically engineered (GE) foods, including the controversial GE salmon.

Image credit: Just Label It

Americans do not currently have the right to know if their food is genetically engineered. But polls show that over 90 percent of them believe all GE foods should be labeled. Their reasons vary—including concerns over health and the environment, religious beliefs, and attitudes toward personal freedom—but the majority of Americans are united in their desire to be able to make informed choices regarding their food. Since its launch last October, the Just Label It campaign has provided resources and information on GE foods, including this infographic and this video by Food, Inc. director, Robert Kenner. Combined with the petition to the FDA, these efforts may help give Americans the right to know what’s in their food.

For more information on the Just Label It campaign and to learn more about GE foods, go to

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


One Week to One Million

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With a week left before the March 27th due date, the Just label It! campaign is less than 10,000 comments away from the goal of 1 million!

More than 990,000 Americans have joined the call for labeling genetically engineered (GE) foods. But the campaign is in need of 10,000 more comments to encourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label GE foods.

Click here to sign the petition before the March 27th deadline.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


We Have A Right to Know

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Check out this latest infographic from the Just Label It! campaign to encourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label genetically engineered (GE) food. Although 92 percent of the American population are in favor of labeling GE foods, the FDA has failed to mandate companies to identify such foods.

(Image credit:

Click here to see the infographic and here to sign the petition before the March 27th deadline.


Food & Water Watch Campaigns to Remove GE Corn from Walmart

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By Jameson Spivack

Food & Water Watch recently launched a campaign to stop Walmart from selling Monsanto’s new breed of genetically engineered (GE) sweet corn. Monsanto has developed sweet corn that produces its own pesticides and resists herbicides.

Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn, which may be sold at Walmart, has never been tested for human safety, and would not require labels distinguishing it as GE. (Image credit: Food & Water Watch)

This is the first time Monsanto has marketed a genetically engineered crop for direct human consumption. There have been no studies about the potential health risks of the genetically engineered traits used in the corn. It also does not require labeling, so there is no way for shoppers to know if the corn they are buying is genetically engineered.

Food & Water Watch hopes to convince Walmart to prevent this harmful crop from appearing on its shelves through extensive campaigning. It has already collected over 70,000 petition signatures, made over 3,300 calls to Walmart customer service, and mobilized community support for the initiative. It has even created a social media project titled “Walsanto Watch” that chronicles the fictional romance between Walmart and Monsanto.

The group’s efforts will culminate in a national day of action in March, just before the April 1st deadline it has given Walmart to commit to not selling Monsanto’s corn. Walmart is the largest food retailer in the U.S., making its selling practices influential to farmers, sellers, and consumers alike.

To sign and share the petition, click here.

Jameson Spivack is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet Project.

To read more about genetically engineered food see: Why GMOs Won’t Feed the World, Labels Matter, The GMO Debate Continues, The Debate Continues: The Economist Hosts Debate on the Compatibility of Biotechnology and Organic Agriculture, Understanding Consumers’ Responses to Genetic Engineering, and Food & Water Watch Wants You to Know Your Fish.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Family Farmers Get Their Day In Court Against Monsanto

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By Leah Baines 

On January 31st, family farmers will begin the first stage of a court case filed against agro-business powerhouse, Monsanto. The goal of the case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) vs. Monsanto, is to protect the 300,000 organic and non-GMO American farmers from the genetic trespass of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds, which contaminate organic crops and often leave farmers vulnerable to harmful patent infringement lawsuits.

On January 31st, American family farmers will fight for their right to grow organic crops with fear of genetic trespassing against Monsanto. (Image credit: Food Democracy Now!)

Monsanto currently controls the genetics of nearly 90 percent of 5 major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. Many farmers who do not use Monsanto seeds have had to stop growing their own crops in order to avoid genetic contamination from those used in fields nearby. According to OSGATA, Monsanto has “created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.”

Food Democracy Now!, an organization working towards building a sustainable food system, says that Monsanto has filed 144 lawsuits against farmers, and settled out of court for undisclosed amounts of money for an additional 700 cases. These lawsuits leave farmers broke and unable to afford the legal costs associated with fighting Monsanto for something beyond their control in the first place.

Click here to learn how you can support these farmers. If you live New York City, you can attend OSGATA’s Citizen’s Assembly on the day of the trial to show farmers that you care about their right to grow crops without fear and the threat of injustice.

What are your thoughts about the case? Let us know in the comments section!

Leah Baines in a research intern for the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Labels Matter

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Check out this latest video from the Just Label It! campaign to encourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label genetically engineered food. Labels Matter, part of a new project by director of Food, Inc., Robert Kenner, tells the story of three consumers who share a belief in the right to know what goes in the production of their food.

Click here to watch the video and here to sign the petition.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Before GE Salmon Goes to Market, FDA Needs to Label It

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Crossposted from the Just Label It campaign.

On December 15, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing on the environmental risks of genetically engineered (GE) fish. In response to ongoing efforts to allow GE foods, such as salmon, to be available without labels, we continue to urge consumers to tell the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that GE foods must be labeled.

Image credit: Just Label It

Consumers have a right to know whether the food we eat and feed our families is genetically engineered or not. We have the right to make an informed choice. If genetically engineered salmon is going to be on the market, labeling needs to happen first.

The Just Label It campaign urged consumers to submit comments in support of a legal petition (Docket # FDA-2011-P-0723-0001/CP) that was filed with the FDA and calls for the FDA to label GE foods.  The FDA has 180 days to respond to the petition. Comments can be submitted easily at our website.

More than 450 organizations throughout the country have signed on as partners of Just Label It and more than 410,000 comments have been submitted to the FDA. Just Label It anticipates flooding the FDA with a record one million comments by mid-April.



“Just Label It” kicks off its campaign

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The “Just Label It” campaign rolls out October 5th, rallying the public to flood the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with comments in support of the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. Over 300 businesses and concerned organizations around the nation have already joined together in the campaign to call on the FDA to require labeling of GE foods. And now consumers are being asked to tell the FDA the same by lending their voice to the issue.

The “Just Label It” campaign is calling on consumers to urge the FDA to begin labeling all GE foods sold in the U.S. (Image credit: Just Label It)

The campaign is focused on transparency in labeling and the right to know, not the science or concerns with genetic engineering. Many countries, including Japan, Australia, the European Union and China, already require labeling of GE foods and proponents say it is time the U.S. does the same. The Just Label It campaign hopes that labeling GE foods will make the food sector more transparent and help consumers make more informed food choices.

Will you join the campaign? Let us know in the comments section!

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


USDA Gives Green Light to GE Alfalfa

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By Matt Styslinger

In late January, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) secretary Tom Vilsack announced approval of the commercial cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. The decision came after a long debate—and legal battle—over the safety of GE alfalfa.


The USDA has approved the commercial cultivation of GE alfalfa without restriction (Photo credit: Food & Water Watch)

Those who oppose the regulation of GE alfalfa—including Monsanto and Forage Genetics, the companies who developed the engineered alfalfa—have argued that restrictions on GE alfalfa would lead to restrictions on other crops that are primarily GE, such as corn, soybeans, and cotton. They also argued that farmers should be allowed to choose for themselves whether or not they wanted to plant GE seeds.

Those arguing for regulation—including organic farmers, some food companies, and advocacy groups like The Center for Food Safety—cite the likelihood that DNA from the patented GE crop would contaminate non-GE alfalfa crops and threaten the rights of both farmers and consumers who wished to avoid GE crops.

GE alfalfa has been modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Farmers growing the GE alfalfa spray Roundup on their fields, killing weeds without damaging their crop. Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop in the U.S. and more than 20 million acres of it are grown nationwide.

The Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) argues that widespread use of Roundup has led to an epidemic of Roundup-resistant weeds. Alfalfa is primarily grown for hay to feed livestock. And hay contaminated with Roundup would contaminate the meat and milk of the cows who eat it, says PANNA. (more…)