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.


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