IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED: To Stop the U.S. Senate from Destroying GMO Labeling

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED: To Stop the U.S. Senate from Destroying GMO Labeling

 By Nick Lasky

Last year, the so-called DARK Act that would destroy GMO labeling was voted down in the United States Senate.

Now, the same U.S. Senator who introduced the DARK Act, along with some Senatorial help, has introduced the Roberts-Stabenow Bill or Senate Bill 764. 

Instead of explaining all of the technical aspects, Senate Bill 764 is best summarized by the following quote from the Center for Food Safety :

“This is not a labeling bill; it is a non-labeling bill. We are appalled that our elected officials would support keeping Americans in the dark about what is in our food and even more appalled that they would do it on behalf of Big Chemical and food corporations.”

(The Center For Food Safety link above has a great copy and past sample email or letter to send on this issue)

Label-It

Or as Cary Gilliam writes in the Huffington Post,

“For GMO Labeling Advocates, It Doesn’t Get Much Darker Than This”

The ROBERTS-STABENOW BILL OR SENATE BILL 764 requires labeling products with genetically engineered ingredients, but would give companies several options of how to do this:

  • Text on food packaging
  • Provide a QR Code (which must be scanned with a smartphone)
  • List a website or a phone number to call for the information
  • Use a symbol created by the USDA

It gets worse. Here is what happens if  the ROBERTS-STABENOW BILL OR SENATE BILL 764 is passed:

  • It would permanently outlaw states from passing their own GMO labeling laws
  • It lets companies NOT LABEL for up to two years until the USDA decides on labeling requirements
  • It does NOT require labeling for meat or dairy products from animals raised on GM feed
  • It imposes NO PENALTIES AT ALL for violating the labeling requirements
  • It allows the USDA to decide the percentage of GMO ingredients in a food product that require it to be labeled. (There is no set limit)
  • New genetically engineered technologies are excluded (such as RNAi and CRISPR 

CAN YOU HELP BY TAKING ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS?

  • CALL YOUR UNITED STATES SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO KILL ROBERTS-STABENOW BILL OR SENATE BILL 764:

Here is a CONTACT LIST OF  United States Senators and how to contact them.

If you can’t speak to your Senator, then ask to speak to the Agriculture Liaison or the Senator’s Chief of Staff.  Even if you call, PLEASE send an email to the applicable email address on the U.S. Senate contact list link above.

IN VIRGINIA: here are our 2 U.S. Senators Contacts:

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine – 202-224-4024. Chief of Staff: Mike Henry, Agriculture Liaison: Nick Barbash.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner – 202-224-2023. Chief of Staff: David Hallock, Agriculture Liaison: Caitlin Runyan.

  • Sign this Food Democracy Now! Petition and pass it along to your friends:

Ellwood Thompson’s supports transparent printed labeling of GMO foods on all packaging. Everyone should have the right to know what is in the food that they purchase.

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT AND ACT NOW. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP.

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WATER ALONE DOES NOT MAKE ORGANIC

ellwood thompson's, food advocate, kirk schroder, richmond virginiaOn of the alarming challenges faced by the natural food movement is the assault on the terminology and standards for “organic” labeling. There is a tremendous value to marketing products labeled as “organic”.  According to industry surveys, organic food and non-food product sales grew from $1 billion in 1990 to $31.5 billion in 2011 and continues to steadily grow.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) operates the National Organic Program whose stated mission is to ensure “the integrity of USDA organic products in the U.S. and throughout the world.” Most everything you would want to know about the National Organics Program (NOP) can be found here.  The USDA agents that operate the NOP are advised by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), whose job is to make recommendations on the standards for labeling products as “organic.”

One can imagine the lobbying efforts, due to the value of the marketing that occurs in Washington to affect the standards for “organic” labeling. Currently, there is an interesting irony of organic labeling when it comes to hydroponic farming. Hydroponic farming, as the name suggests, does not involve the use of any soil (soil being an inherent ingredient of organic farming). Essentially, hydroponics involves soaking the plant roots in water containing nutrients and fertilizers – soil is never involved in the process.

According to Barbara Damrosch, in a piece written last year in The Washington Post, hydroponic farmers want to get their food products labeled as “organic” because according to one supplier of hydroponic equipment, such growers can “market their produce as being organic because that will command a premium price.”

In 2010, the NOSB recommended that hydroponic food products be excluded from being labeled “organic”.  The NOP has not acted on the NOSB recommendations (five years having passed) and as such, hydroponic food products continue to be labeled as “organic” without consumer knowledge.

The irony goes further in that, according to one organic advocacy group, “the vast majority of the “hydroponic organic” produce sold in this country are grown in either Mexico, Canada, or Holland. ALL THREE OF THESE COUNTRIES PROHIBIT HYDROPONICALLY PRODUCED VEGETABLES TO BE SOLD AS ORGANIC IN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES. Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and 24 European countries, (including Holland, England, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, and Spain) all prohibit hydroponic vegetable production to be sold as organic in their own countries.” http://www.keepthesoilinorganic.org/#!about_us/csgz

To share your views with the USDA on this topic, you can visit their website.

soil

THE HOLIDAY SEASON & FOOD WASTE

ellwood thompson's, food advocate, kirk schroder, richmond virginia
In 2004, a study from the University of Arizona estimated that almost half of the food harvested in the United States goes to waste.
 
Earlier this year, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a study that the estimated total value of food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States was $161.6 billion in 2010. The top three food groups in terms of share of total value of food loss were meat, poultry, and fish (30 percent, $48 billion); vegetables (19 percent, $30 billion); and dairyproducts (17 percent, $27 billion).
 
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council the average American family of four ends up throwing away the equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food. See
 
According to the USDA:
  • More than 14 percent of U.S. households struggle to put enough food on the table — more than 48 million Americans including 16.2 million children.
  • More than one in five children is at risk of hunger.  Among African-American and Latinos, nearly one in three children is is at risk of hunger.
In 2013, the USDA released the following statistics about households that report indicators of food insecurity.
 foodinsecurity
 

 Thanksgiving is the official start of the winter holiday season. Sharing food and dining with friends and family is a wonderful part of the many holiday celebrations in store this time of year.

This holiday season you may want challenge yourself to lower your food waste and help those who are hungry.  AZ Solutions has produced this great graphic on 8 steps to reduce your food waste.
 
reducewaste
 Please take a moment to review these easy steps.  Finally, if you want to do more to end hunger in your community and around the nation, go to the Society of St. Andrew. Their national headquarters is based in Big Island, Virginia. To learn how you can help visit their website.

Here’s to a blessed and less wasteful holiday season for all of us. 

New "Country-of-Origin" Labels or "COOL" Things for Meat

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New “Country-of-Origin” Labels or “COOL” Things for Meat

New regulations come into effect this Saturday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding labeling meat. Specifically, the new federal labeling rules require meat processors to list the details of where livestock was born, raised and slaughtered. The new regulations update a certain law known as the “country-of-origin” labeling or also known as “COOL.” To review the new federal COOL rules and USDA’s fact sheet, go to: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/COOL and to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/country-of-origin-labeling-for-meat-and-chicken/country-of-origin-labeling-for-meat-and-chicken  Food products contained in the law include muscle cut and ground meats: beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng. The law was enacted by Congress in 2002. Much of its political support drew from concerns over the safety of imported meats and in particular, mad-cow disease. Many consumer advocacy groups that support transparency in labeling praise the new law as an important step in allowing consumers to make informed choices.

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The "Natural" Myth

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The “Natural” Myth

Consumers who buy food or products labeled “natural” may be surprised to know that the “natural” label does not have any particular meaning to it. That is to say if you assume that something labeled “natural” in a grocery store does not, for example, contain growth hormones, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), synthetic substances or is processed lightly or in a kind and gentle way, you’re wrong. The sad truth is the“‘natural” label is a marketing device to make consumers believe that purchasing the item is a healthier choice when that is usually not the case. Continue reading

Organic is as Organic Says?

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Organic is as Organic Says?

Today the United States and Japan announced an agreement between our two countries to make it easier to import each other’s organic food. See http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/09/26/business/japan-u-s-agree-to-ease-trade-in-organic-products/#.UkRMlLzuCJg According to this news report:

While most of the two countries’ organic standards are the same, Japan has not allowed its organics to be produced with ligonum sulfonate, a substance used in post-harvest fruit production, or alkali-extracted humic acid, a fertilizer used to help grow a variety of organic crops. The United States allows both substances. Continue reading

Americans Continue to Drink Less Dairy Milk

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Americans Continue to Drink Less Dairy Milk

Here is something that on second thought comes as no surprise:  Americans continue to drink less and less of dairy milk.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), since 1970, per capita consumption of fluid milk has fallen from almost 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) to 0.6 cups per day. The chart on the left is from the USDA and spells out the bad news for cow’s milk. While yogurt sales continue to rise in recent years, the so-called “milk cliff”, according to dairy industry analysts, is soon coming and the dairy industry hopes the current Farm Bill before Congress may come to the rescue of milk producers. Continue reading

One Simple Change in Diet Changes so Much More

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One Simple Change in Diet Changes so Much More

In just over thirty days from now the current federal “farm bill” which addresses agriculture programs and more importantly, farm subsidies is set to expire.  The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed its version of the farm bill last month by a close vote margin of 216 to 208.  The new House version of the farm bill contains some new controversial provisions: 1) eliminated the food stamp program as part of this historic legislation (whether there will be subsequent food stamp legislation remains to be seen) and 2) a requirement of more scientific and economic studies before a 2010 food safety law goes into effect.  Continue reading