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Stop the Spread of GMOS!

February 19, 2011

GMOs – A One, Two, Three Punch

From the USDA, The White House & Monsanto

As time is of the essence and quick action must be taken in order to stop the release of Monsanto’s genetic pollution on 21 million plus acres that once released into the environment can not be stuffed back into the bottle – our timeline is measured in weeks. This issue requires immediate media attention, we are calling for an immediate moratorium on the release of newly approved GMO crops and transparent labeling laws and we need your help.

Are you connected to someone who shares these concerns and who can help to get the message out to the mainstream public? Are there media outlets you are connected to? Please contact them, at this point, we need as much exposure and outreach as we can possibly get. One might say that’s simplistic – and they would be right – but all other avenues have been exhausted. You are welcome to use any portion of this for those purposes and/or for Letters to the Editor.

The Issue

USDA and White House have approved 1.) non-regulated GMO Alfalfa, 2.) partially regulated release of Sugar Beets and most recently, 3.) biofuel corn which can contaminate food grade corn, with approval of more GMO crops and possibly animal life forms this year, including a salmon-like creature that grows at such an abnormal rate that it is referred to as ‘Frankenfish’ and then, of course, the engineered Enviropig TM. These approvals fly in the face of several state level Supreme Court decisions and a 2010 Federal SCOTUS decision, which was later overturned.

Background

Briefly, as the fourth largest crop in the US, the implications of GMO alfalfa approval include the contamination of 21 million acres, not just with genetic pollution but also with the increased use of the herbicide glyphosate (see Who Wins?), which has already created an explosion of resistant super weeds, much as MRSA is antibiotic resistant as a result of overuse of antibiotics in production agriculture. More so than soy, corn and canola, bees play a major role in alfalfa pollination (seed production crops) and GMO’s and their partner pesticides have been implicated in global colony collapses. The often quoted justification for approval of the first ever a GMO perennial crop, is a reduced need for pesticides. According to Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, 80% of alfalfa currently cultivated does not require any chemical maintenance whatsoever. So, this could also be called “How to Fabricate a Problem That Doesn’t Exist and Sell More Round Up.”

Global Alliance for Global Justice, based in Washington State is tracking the Gates Foundation’s activities with Monsanto in Sub Saharan Africa and is also a leader in the anti-GMO battle in the US. A related organization GEAN has great tools and support for local action chapters. The strategy is the same in Africa as it is here, to make genetic contamination so pervasive that resistance is futile. Alfalfa is key to that end because it is such a ‘promiscuous pollinator’, a perennial crop that has root systems that are 10-15 feet deep, penetrating the soils with genetic contamination, making it impossible to eradicate.

If a crop is contaminated by Monsanto’s engineered genetics you can be sued for patent infringement and they don’t care how small or how large a grower you are. Percy Schmeiser is a conventional canola grower in Canada who was persecuted by Monsanto lawsuits for years but who fought back and eventually ‘won’. The Center For Food Safety (CFS) has done the heavy lifting on the legal front (2010 SCOTUS victory and will sue again, please support them if you can), as well as an in depth and heart breaking survey of farmers that Monsanto has gone after. There is a growing phenomenon in India called ‘GM Suicide’ that has claimed the lives of more than 125,000 farmers who find themselves in an endless cycle of debt to seed and pesticide dealers who peddle Monsanto’s seeds with a plethora of promises and lies, as well as the pesticides the farmers use to end their lives. Prince Charles has called the GM induced Indian farmer suicides a ‘global moral question’.

Conventional and Organic as Allies?

Currently the only guarantee that food is not genetically contaminated is 100% organic certification of all ingredients, which can still legally contain up to 5% genetic contamination. Biotech has long pushed for organic certification of GMOs, which they will probably achieve after GMO alfalfa cascades through the as yet uncontaminated portion of the food supply that will also include your favorite local honey. The demand for pasture raised, organic and humanely treated livestock has exploded in recent years as the public searches for safer and more normal dairy, meat, poultry and egg products. If farmers choose best practices for their families, animals and the environment and raise their animals primarily on pasture, they rely heavily on alfalfa as an important source of protein. For conventional farmers who sell to markets that require ‘clean’ product, both foreign and domestic, including Japan, the EU, their incomes are at risk, creating yet another financial hardship for our farmers. Non-GMO conventional and organic farmers could find themselves on the same side of this issue, united against a common foe. There is important common ground to be explored here.

An Unholy Trinity: The White House, the USDA and Biotech

The news was announced while the revolution in Egypt was raging, so got little or no media attention. Of course, the good food community was stunned. They have been fighting this battle for twelve years, often on a volunteer basis, and were left without so much as a crumb from the White House. Even Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, with a long history of working with/for Monsanto – was flown around in a Monsanto jet during his gubernatorial campaign and was named Governor of the year by the Biotech industry in 2008 and is reportedly an organic eater – had decided to go the ‘regulated release’ route. It was pressure directly from Obama administration that made the non-regulated release into the environment a reality. So much for Michelle’s organic garden. President Obama is the only one who can reverse this decision at this point, unless states exert home rule and put moratoriums in place immediately.

Team Obama plans to amass $1Billion dollars for his re-election bid, record breaking for any campaign but certainly extraordinary for an incumbent. $1Billion dollars is not going to be raised by the poor who need heat assistance, small farming families on food stamps or those who have lost their homes, it is going to come from multinational corporations, banks, telecom companies, arms manufacturers and the top .5% of income earners who just got tax breaks fit for a King extended, so it seems he is ‘paying forward’ in order to secure his campaign financing.

Who is the Real “Winner’?

About 50% of Monsanto’s profits are derived from the sale of Round Up and engineered seed stock designed to survive its application. Bloomberg shows a stock price high during the biofuel bump in June, 2008 of $143, to a close on 2.16.11 of $75, that was after climbing out of a July 2010 slump of $45. The more seed they have in the ground, the more Round Up they sell, the better their stock price and stockholders do.

Sometimes less is more. In an interview with Don Huber, retired Purdue University plant pathologist who was an early GMO advocate, he describes the effects of glyphosate on soil biology.  It’s main weapon against weeds, all plants other than RR crops, is to inhibit the absorption of micronutrients and minerals critical to plant, animal and human physiology. This weakens the plants (and our) defense system so that it is susceptible to disease and pathogens. Unfortunately, the RR plants are not completely immune to this effect and are nutrient deficient as well. The glyphosate remains active in the soil creating deficiencies in subsequent plantings of crops. This effect increases with increased rates of application [translate as; more product application = more sales volume = increased deficiencies]. Huber warns specifically against recommended application rates as overdoses that will result in “increasing toxin levels (in crops), reduced nutrient values, and the direct presence of glyphosate in crops.” He instead suggests much more modest rates of application (resulting in reduced sales volume). From the European Journal of Agronomy, 2009, “ignoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any chemical, especially used as heavily as glyphosate, may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious. To do otherwise might well compromise not only agricultural sustainability, but also the health and well-being of animals and humans.” Huber and co-author G.S. Johal.

Monsanto has made it impossible for independent researchers to study the mechanics or the effects of GMOs, and this is completely legal in the US under the guise of patent protection. In 2009, 26 university entomologists signed a letter to the EPA protesting this blockade.

This is just another corporate bailout, why couldn’t we have done it ‘bank-bailout’ style and written them a billion, a trillion dollar check? In the end it would have been cheaper and caused less irreparable damage.

Labeling

The simplest solution is transparent, accurate labeling, so that consumers can make intelligent choices at the point of purchase – right? To quote a Monsanto operative, “If you put a label on genetically engineered foods, you might as well put a skull and cross bones on it.” They have fought labeling tooth and nail and won in the US, even though according to a CBS poll 87% of the public wants to know what GMOs are in their food. Those poll numbers are even higher in Europe. This enlightened policy was put in place by the food expert and scholar, then Vice President, Dan Quayle. Remember him? Potatoe.

You can register for a web based training on Thursday, February 24th at 7pm Central (8pm EST).

Where We Are

GE Alfalfa is a 12 year battle that has just been won by the wrong side. Armed with rocks and sticks to fight a deep pocketed, biotech industry that has all the privilege of personhood with none of the liabilities and the best, well placed friends money can buy – has been a Herculean task that was lost entirely – maybe. After pursuing every possible legislative, educational and policy route for many years and now having been unceremoniously thrown under the bus – we need star power, mainstream media exposure and mass action. The implications for environmental, human and animal health and food safety are rather overwhelming; there is so much at stake that it is difficult to fit into a synopsis. Again, this isn’t about saving organic, it is about democracy and who ultimately decides what happens in the communities that real people live in. Planting will begin as soon as the soil can be worked and equipment can get on the fields. Depending on where in the country you are that could be only a few weeks away, in the Northeast that is probably mid April. Instead of feeling pure joy after a long, difficult winter, the recent warming trend is laced with a slight edge of dread. We need help – twenty one million acres worth of help – and we need it now.

What Can We Do? …Lots!

Obama is the only one who can stop this now, contact the White House soon and often. I am personally also calling for Vilsack’s resignation, someone should fall on their sword for a betrayal as profound as this one. Comment Line: 202.456.1111, if busy use the main switchboard 202.456.1414, Email: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.

As all of the little people’s efforts, demands and wishes have, up to this point, been trumped by political favors to the biote

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