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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:32 am 
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Bernie Sanders Takes On Monsanto, Vows To Protect Organic Farming And Push For GMO Labeling
January 6th, 2016
by Amanda Froelich

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The biotech industries are “transforming our agricultural system in a bad way,” says Senator Sanders.

Even before Senator Bernie Sanders decided to run for President of the United States, he was quite vocal about factory farming, big corporations, and the Biotech giants. In fact, as early as 1994, Sanders was fighting against companies such as Monsanto for using chemicals that impact human and animal health, reports Alt Health Works.

Now a presidential candidate nominee, Sanders isn’t backing down from the biotech giants and is fighting harder than ever to protect peoples’ right to know what’s in their food.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, who is an avid supporter of genetically modified foods (GMOs), Bernie believes that the biotech industries are “transforming our agricultural system in a bad way.” He believes in mandatory GMO labeling (after all, he helped pass a mandatory GMO labeling law in Vermont) so consumers may be informed and make conscious choices. Like activist and musician Neil Young, Sanders believes the GMO giants are trying to keep consumers in the dark about what they are eating (DARK Act), and supports family-owned and organic agriculture.

Senator Sanders spoke about how to make sure our food is healthy and our farming is ethical during a private dinner event on December 27th. In the video above, the presidential nominee states:

“The debate should be – how do we make sure that the food our kids are eating is healthy food. And having the courage to take on these huge food and biotech companies who are transforming our agricultural system in a bad way.”

He also addressed the fossil fuel industry and said that it’s past due time we start shifting toward renewable and alternative energy. Before Sanders tackled the heavy topics in his speech, he transported the audience to his home state of Vermont. In the lush state, organic farmer’s markets and sustainable farming are becoming the norm; his vision is to lead an America where this is commonplace everywhere. “We have hundreds of farmers markets (in Vermont), you’ll find people buying food, beef and poultry directly from farmers, and there’s a growing farm to school pipeline,” he says. “It’s something we’ve worked very hard on and I think all over this country people are concerned about the quality of food their kids are eating.”

Source: Anonymous.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 5:02 am 
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Huge Victory: Senate Rejects the DARK Act
by Wenonah Hauter
March 16, 2016

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Today, the Senate did the right thing and did not advance a bill from Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) that can best be described as the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act.

The bill would have prevented states from requiring labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods and stopped pending state laws that require labeling to go into effect.

Many Senators properly noted that this bill fails to solve the problem it claims to fix. Instead, by blocking state laws from going into effect and replacing them with voluntary measures and impractical alternatives to labeling, it would have ensured that big food processing companies and the biotechnology industry continue to profit by misleading consumers.

Another common message from many Senators was the need to continue negotiating about the contents of this bill. But more compromise will not fix the problem at the core of Sen. Roberts’ approach: Blocking state laws that require GMO labeling will strip away the ability of states to protect the public’s right to know what is in its food. Any version of this bill that would result in anything less than mandatory on-package labeling is unacceptable.

People want to know if the food they buy contains GMO ingredients. It’s time for Congress to create a mandatory on-package labeling requirement so people can decide for themselves whether they want to eat a food that has been produced using genetic engineering.

The majority of Americans support labeling for GMOs and will hold their elected officials accountable if they vote to strip away transparency about how their food is produced. We urge the Senate to continue to reject bills that would block state labeling laws.

Source: Ecowatch.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2016 4:54 am 
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Monsanto Fingerprints Found All Over Attack On Organic Food
30 June 2016

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JOHN THYS via Getty Images

When a reputable-sounding nonprofit organization released a report attacking the organic food industry in April 2014, the group went to great lengths to tout its independence.

The 30-page report by Academics Review, described as “a non-profit led by independent academic experts in agriculture and food sciences,” found that consumers were being duped into spending more money for organic food because of deceptive marketing practices by the organic industry.

Trade press headlines blared: “Organics exposed!” (Brownfield News) and “Organic Industry Booming by Deceiving Consumers” (Food Safety Tech News), touting the findings by supposedly independent experts. The findings were “endorsed by an international panel of independent agricultural science, food science, economic and legal experts from respected international institutions,” according to the group’s press release.

In case the point about independence wasn’t clear, the press release ends on this note: “Academics Review has no conflicts-of-interest associated with this publication, and all associated costs for which were paid for using our general funds without any specific donor’ influence or direction.”

What was not mentioned in the report, the news release or on the website: Executives for Monsanto Co., the world’s leading purveyor of agrichemicals and genetically engineered seeds, along with key Monsanto allies, engaged in fund raising for Academics Review, collaborated on strategy and even discussed plans to hide industry funding, according to emails obtained by U.S. Right to Know via state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Monsanto’s motives in attacking the organic industry are obvious: Monsanto’s seeds and chemicals are banned from use in organic farming, and a large part of Monsanto’s messaging is that its products are superior to organics as tools to boost global food production.

Academics Carry Monsanto’s Message

Academics Review was co-founded by “two independent professors ... on opposite ends of the planet,” Bruce Chassy, Ph.D., professor emeritus at University of Illinois, and David Tribe, Ph.D., senior lecturer at University of Melbourne. They claim the group “only accepts unrestricted donations from non-corporate sources.”

Yet two email exchanges in 2010 reveal plans to find corporate funding for Academics Review while keeping corporate fingerprints hidden. In a March 11, 2010 email exchange with Chassy, Jay Byrne, former head of communications at Monsanto who now runs a PR and market research firm, offered to act as a “commercial vehicle” to help find corporate funding for Academics Review. Chassy discussed his interest in attacking the organic industry in the emails. “I would love to have a prime name in the middle of the organic aura from which to launch ballistic missiles...” he wrote, “I sure don’t have the money.”

Byrne replied,

“Well, I suggest we work on the money (for all of us) first and quickly! I’ve proposed to Val [Giddings, former vice president of BIO, the biotech industry trade association] that he and I meet while I’m in DC next week so we can (not via e-mail) get a clear picture of options for taking the Academic Review project and other opportunities forward. The “Center for Consumer Freedom” (ActivistCash.com) has cashed in on this to the extreme.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom is directed by Rick Berman, a lobbyist who has been called “Dr. Evil“ and the “king of corporate front groups and propaganda“ for his work to promote the tobacco industry and other corporate interests under the cover of neutral-sounding groups.

“I think we have a much better concept,” Byrne told Chassy.

Byrne shared an “opportunities” list of targets comprised of people, groups and content critical of GMOs and Monsanto: Vandana Shiva, Andrew Kimbrell, Ronnie Cummins, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food,” the movies “Food, Inc” and “The World According to Monsanto,” and “topic cross-over on all the risk areas of ag-biotech (out crossing/ contamination, bees, butterflies, human safety, etc...).”

“All of these individuals, organizations, content items and topic areas mean money for a range of well heeled corporations, Byrne wrote, adding:

“I believe Val and I can identify and serve as the appropriate (non-academic) commercial vehicles by which we can connect these entities with the project in a manner which helps to ensure the credibility and independence (and thus value) of the primary contributors/owners... I believe our kitchen cabinet here can serve as gatekeepers (in some cases toll takers) for effective, credible responses, inoculation and proactive activities using this project platform...”

“Sounds good to me,” Chassy replied. “I’m sure that you will let me know what you discuss.”

In an email exchange with Chassy dated November 30, 2010, Eric Sachs, a senior public relations operative for Monsanto, discussed finding corporate support for Academics Review while “keeping Monsanto in the background.”

Sachs wrote to Chassy:

“You and I need to talk more about the “academics review” site and concept. I believe that there is a path to a process that would better respond to scientific concerns and allegations. I shared with Val yesterday. From my perspective the problem is one of expert engagement and that could be solved by paying experts to provide responses. You and I have discussed this in the past. Val explained that step one is establishing 501(c)3 not-for-profit status to facilitate fund raising. That makes sense but there is more. I discussed with Jerry Steiner today (Monsanto Executive Team) and can help motivate CLI/BIO/CBI and other organizations to support. The key will be keeping Monsanto in the background so as not to harm the credibility of the information.”

CLI/BIO/CBI refers to three industry trade groups — Crop Life International, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and the Council for Biotechnology Information — that represent agrichemical corporations.

Chassy responded to Sachs, “Yes we should talk about Academics Review. I think we are on the same page.”

When asked directly about funding, Chassy replied via email: “Academics Review does not solicit or accept funds from any source for specific research or any other activities associated with any products, services or industry. Academics Review only accepts unrestricted donations from non-corporate sources to support our work.”

He said that Academics Review incorporated and reported no income in 2012 and he provided the IRS form 990s for 2013 and 2014 (now also posted on the website). Those documents report $419,830 in revenues but include no information about contributors. Chassy did not respond to requests to provide that information.

Press Covers “Independent” Attack on Organic

Academics Review released its organic marketing study in April 2014 to a robust round of trade press coverage describing the findings of “independent researchers”:

• “The Organic Food Industry Has Been Engaged in ‘Multi-Decade Public Disinformation Campaign’ claims report” (Food Navigator)

• “Report: Organic Industry Achieved 25 Years of Fast Growth Through Fear and Deception” (Food Safety News)

• “A Scathing Indictment of Organic Food Marketing” (Hoard’s Dairyman)

• “Using Fear as a Sales Tactic” (Food Business News)

In the New York Post, Naomi Schaffer Riley built a case against “tyranny of the organic mommy mafia” who are duped by disingenuous marketing tactics of the organic industry. Her sources included the Academics Review report and Julie Gunlock, author of a book about the “culture of alarmism.”

Riley didn’t mention that Gunlock, and also Riley herself, are both senior fellows at the Independent Women’s Forum, a group heavily funded by Donors Trust, which has bankrolled corporate attacks on unions, public schools and climate scientists.

In the Des Moines Register, John R. Block, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture who now works for a law firm that lobbies for agribusiness interests, reported on the “blockbuster report” by Academics Review and its findings that the organic industry’s secret to success is “black marketing.”

The corporate front group American Council on Science and Health, which receives funding from the agrichemical industry and where Chassy serves as a scientific advisor, pushed the “black marketing” theme in articles by ACSH president Hank Campbell and Henry I. Miller, MD, a Hoover Institute fellow who served as the spokesmodel in commercials for the effort to kill GMO labeling in California, for which Monsanto was the lead funder.

Miller, who has a long history of making inaccurate scientific claims in support of corporate interests, also used the Academics Review report as a source for organic attacks in Newsweek and the National Review, and claimed in the Wall Street Journal that organic farming is not sustainable.

Similar anti-organic themes run through other agrichemical industry PR channels.

GMO Answers, a marketing website funded by the Big Six agrichemical companies (and where Chassy and Tribe serve as “independent experts”), promotes the ideas that organics are no healthier, no better for the environment and just a marketing program — although, ironically, the PR firm that runs GMO Answers has launched a specialty group in San Francisco to try to cash in on the organic market.

Monsanto’s top spokesperson, Robb Fraley, also repeatedly trashes the organic industry on his Twitter feed.

Money Flow Goes Public; Academics Review Goes Silent

In March 2016, Monica Eng reported for WBEZ on documents showing that Monsanto paid Professor Bruce Chassy more than $57,000 over a 23-month period to travel, write and speak about GMOs — money that was not disclosed to the public.

According to Eng’s investigation, the money was part of at least $5.1 million in undisclosed money Monsanto sent through the University of Illinois Foundation to university employees and programs between 2005 and 2015. “Chassy did not disclose his financial relationship with Monsanto on state or university forms aimed at detecting potential conflicts of interest,” Eng reported. “Documents further show that Chassy and the university directed Monsanto to deposit the payments through the University of Illinois Foundation, a body whose records are shielded from public scrutiny. The foundation also has the ability to take in private money and disburse it to an individual as a ‘university payment’ — exempt from disclosure.”

In January 2016, Carey Gillam, research director of U.S. Right to Know, reported on emails showing that hundreds of thousands of dollars had flowed from Monsanto to the University of Illinois “as Chassy collaborated on multiple projects with Monsanto to counter public concerns about genetically modified crops (GMOs) - all while representing himself as an independent academic for a public institution.” “What you find when reading through the email chains is an arrangement that allowed industry players to cloak pro-GMO messaging within a veil of independent expertise, and little, if any, public disclosure of the behind-the-scenes connections,” Gillam wrote.

The last post on the Academics Review site, dated Sept. 2, 2015, is a blog by Chassy explaining that some of his emails would be made public due to the FOIA requests of U.S. Right to Know, which he characterized as an assault on his 40 years of public science, research and teaching.

Financial support from the private sector for public sector research and outreach is “appropriate, commonplace and needed to further the public interest,” Chassy wrote. “Such support should be, and in all my experiences has been, transparent and done under the strict ethical guidelines of the public institutions that are benefiting from private sector or individual financial contributions.”

Three days later, some of Chassy’s emails were first made public in a front-page New York Times article by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eric Lipton. Lipton reported that Monsanto gave Chassy a grant for an undisclosed sum in 2011 for “biotechnology outreach and education activities.” Chassy told Lipton that the money he received from Monsanto “helped to elevate his voice through travel, a website he created and other means.”

Still Getting Press as an Independent Source

Despite the revelations in the emails and the disclosure of Chassy’s financial ties to Monsanto, the Academics Review website and its report attacking the organic industry are still posted online with all the descriptions claiming independence.

And Chassy still enjoys press coverage as an “independent” expert on GMOs. In May 2016, two separate Associated Press stories quoted Chassy on that topic. Neither story mentioned Chassy’s now-public financial ties to Monsanto.

Source: Huffington Post.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:10 am 
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US approves 2 types of genetically engineered potatoes
By KEITH RIDLER
October 31, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of two types of potatoes that are genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine.

The approval announced Friday covers Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.'s Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of the company's second generation of Innate potatoes. The company says the potatoes will also have reduced bruising and black spots, enhanced storage capacity, and a reduced amount of a chemical created when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures that's a potential carcinogen. "We obviously are very proud of these," said company spokesman Doug Cole.

The potatoes next must clear a voluntary review process through the Food and Drug Administration as well as get the OK from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company says it expects those approvals in January with the potatoes entering the market next spring.

The two varieties join a third variety with the same traits called the Russet Burbank that has already attained approval from the Agriculture Department and FDA, with EPA approval also expected in January.

The company said the potatoes contain only potato genes, and that the resistance to late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine, comes from an Argentinian variety of potato that naturally produced a defense. Late blight continues to be a major problem for potato growers around the world, especially in wetter regions. Company officials say the new types of potatoes will bring 24-hour protections to farmers' fields and reduce the use of pesticide spray up to 45 percent.

The reduction in bruising, Cole said, could reduce waste and increase by 15 percent the top-quality potatoes coming out of fields, which sell for more than bruised potatoes. Cole said the new varieties of potatoes can be kept in cold storage longer. Conventional potatoes can turn a dark color when cooked after they were kept cold for too long. The enhanced cold storage could have significant ramifications for the potato chip industry by reducing trucking costs, Cole said.

The company's second generation of Innate potatoes follows the first generation that has been selling to consumers for more than a year. Those potatoes, marketed under the White Russet label, have reduced bruising and reduced potential carcinogens when cooked, but not resistance to late blight or enhanced cold storage.

Cole said about 40 million pounds of the first generation potatoes have been sold to consumers in more than 35 states. He said that's about 1 percent of all potato sales. Of the 40 million pounds, he said about two-thirds went to produce sections of stores.

There is no evidence that genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs, are unsafe to eat, but for some people, altering the genetic code of foods presents an ethical issue. McDonald's has rejected using Simplot's first generation of Innate potatoes for its French fries.

The food industry has also faced pressure from retailers as consumer awareness of genetically modified foods has increased. Retailer Whole Foods has said it plans to label GMO products in all its U.S. and Canadian stores by 2018. A company spokeswoman declined to comment over the phone on Monday, and the company didn't immediately respond to an emailed question from the Associated Press about whether it would consider selling the potatoes in its stores.

Simplot has been fighting back with a public relations campaign this year and two female athletes. Kristin Armstrong, a Boise resident and three-time Olympic gold medalist in cycling, touts the nutritional values of the White Russet potatoes. To demonstrate resistance to bruising, mixed martial artist and former UFC women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm recently used her skills on a hanging bag of White Russets. The company said the potatoes survived and proved hard to bruise.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:43 pm 
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European court sides with Italian farmer pushing GM crops
By VANESSA GERA
13 September 2017

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union court ruled Wednesday in favor of an Italian activist farmer who has defied his nation's laws by planting genetically modified corn.

Italy has prosecuted Giorgio Fidenato for cultivating the corn on his land, citing concerns the crops could endanger human health. But the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that a member state such as Italy does not have the right to ban GM crops given that there is no scientific reason for doing so. It noted the European Commission in 1998 authorized the use of the specific maize seeds Fidenato planted, finding "no reason to believe that that product would have any adverse effects on human health or the environment."

Fidenato, whose fields lie in Pordenone, northeastern Italy, became persuaded of the benefits of genetically altered crops during a visit to the United States in the 1990s, seeing that they require fewer chemicals than traditional crops and produce higher yields and profits. But he has faced huge opposition in Italy, where many are fearful that genetically altered foods are less natural than traditional crops and could be dangerous. He has faced both fines from the government and the wrath of anti-GM activists who have destroyed his crops.

The current case dates to 2013, when Italy asked the European Commission to adopt emergency measures prohibiting the planting of the seeds, which are produced by U.S. company Monsanto, on the basis of Italian scientific studies. But the Commission disputed the Italian studies, citing a scientific opinion by the European Food Safety Authority that there was "no new science-based evidence" that the seeds could be dangerous.

The Italian government nonetheless went ahead with a decree prohibiting the cultivation of the corn, and prosecuted Fidenato and other farmers who planted their fields with the corn in defiance. After the ruling Fidenato expressed satisfaction with the decision, saying he and the other farmers involved in the suit finally feel as if "justice is on our side."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:22 pm 
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More than 1.3 million demand EU weedkiller ban
23 October 2017

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Activists on Monday handed the EU a petition signed by more than 1.3 million people calling for a European ban on the weedkiller glyphosate, produced by chemicals giant Monsanto and others, over fears it causes cancer.

The petition was given to the European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation EU which has recommended the license for the herbicide be renewed for ten years in mid-December. "The first action is for the European Commission not to reauthorise glyphosate," Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss told reporters after handing the petition to commissioners. "This would mean a de facto ban of glyphosate in Europe," Riss added.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news conference that commissioners invited the activists to explain "their ideas in more depth" while the European Parliament will hold public hearings in the next few weeks. Experts from the 28 member states are due to vote on the commission recommendation on Wednesday, but Greenpeace said it is unclear whether Brussels will get the majority support needed for it to pass.

Greenpeace and other activists said they had attained the signature threshold to require a formal response from the European Commission -- one million names from at least seven countries -- in a record time of five months. The citizens initiative also called on the EU only to base decisions using peer-reviewed research and stop allowing chemical companies to decide which research labs carry out studies. "The system in Europe is neither transparent nor independent," Riss said.

The weedkiller deadlock in the EU has dragged on since June 2016, when its previous 15-year licence expired, and an 18-month extension was granted. The commission earlier this year recommended renewing the license after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ruled that glyphosate should not be classified as a carcinogen. But the ruling has failed to ease concerns among member states and among the public.

Opponents of glyphosate, led by Greenpeace, point to research from the World Health Organization that concludes it may be carcinogenic, and are calling for an outright ban.

A 2016 review carried out by other WHO experts and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet". Monsanto maintains glyphosate "meets or exceeds all requirements for full renewal under European law and regulation" and charged that the renewal procedure has in "many respects been hijacked by populism."

Source: AFP

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