By Dr. Mercola
Under new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules, Monsanto and other biotech companies that create genetically modified (GM) crops will get speedier regulatory reviews of their genetically engineered food products.
The new rules will cut the time needed to approve biotech crops in half—from an average of three years, to about 13 months for new versions of already existing crop technologies, and about 16 months for brand new technologies.
The U.S. Congress is also helping out by increasing the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 2012 budget for biotech regulation from $13 million to $18 million.
One way the USDA plans to speed up approvals is by asking for public comments as soon as a petition for the deregulation of a biotech crop is filed, rather than waiting until the end of the review.
However, according to Bloombergi:
"The Center for Food Safety, a Washington-based non-profit group that has successfully challenged approvals of Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar-beet and alfalfa crops, said the rule change is aimed at preventing opponents of modified crops from voicing criticism of the agency's methods.
"They are trying to work the system so they can dismiss public comments more quickly and easily in order to speed things up," Bill Freese, a policy analyst at the group, said in a telephone interview.
"It's a rubber-stamp system. A real regulatory system will occasionally reject something.""
Monsanto Will Also Conduct Its Own Environmental Impact Studies...
As if that's not enough, let's not forget that the USDA also created a two-year long pilot program last year, which allows biotech companies like Monsanto to conduct their own environmental assessments.ii
This decision opens the door for massive conflicts of interest, because if history has shown us anything, it's that industries CANNOT police themselves. The end result is always the same—corporate vested interests win every time. This is exactly why we need independent agencies to do safety reviews.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government and our regulatory agencies are FILLED with former Monsanto employees, which is likely why all federal actions relating to genetically engineered foods are so illogical and downright foolhardy.
Take Michael Taylor for example. He was the vice president of public policy and a chief lobbyist at Monsanto, and he's now the deputy commissioner for foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)! According to Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, Taylor oversaw the creation of GMO policy, which may help explain why genetically engineered foods do not have to be labeled in the U.S.
According to Jeffrey Smith:
"If GMOs are indeed responsible for massive sickness and death, then the individual who oversaw the FDA policy that facilitated their introduction holds a uniquely infamous role in human history. That person is Michael Taylor. He had been Monsanto's attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA. Soon after, he became Monsanto's vice president and chief lobbyist."
Once you realize just how many of Monsanto's employees have shifted into positions of power within the federal government, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to understand why they appear to so callously ignore public safety and turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to any and all evidence of harm linked to Monsanto's products.
Monsanto Accused in Suit Tied to Agent Orange
Granting speedier approvals and allowing biotech companies to do their own safety reviews becomes even more ludicrous when you consider the poor safety record of companies such as Monsanto. Most recently, in the town of Nitro, West Virginia, tens of thousands of people filed a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto, accusing the company of spreading toxic substances, primarily carcinogenic dioxins, all over the city for two decadesiii. The Monsanto chemical plant in Nitro produced the herbicide 2,4,5-T; a component of Agent Orange, the extremely toxic herbicide used to defoliate jungles during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange is known to cause cancer, birth defects in children of exposed victims, leukemia, liver disease, heart disease, Parkinson's Disease, diabetes and chloracne.
The suit claims poisonous residues from the chemical have polluted the area, putting residents' health and the environment at serious risk. According to the Republic Broadcasting Networkiv:
"Monsanto is alleged to have burned dioxin waste in open pits, spewing dioxin and its ash into the air and polluting land ... The EPA recommended that Monsanto be criminally investigated for fraud in covering-up dioxin contamination in its products, including 2,4,5-T herbicide. Monsanto failed to report contamination, substituted false information to show no contamination or sent in 'doctored' samples of their products devoid of dioxin to government regulators."
Monsanto has tentatively agreed to a $93 million settlement with some of the residents. The settlement would include $21 million for medical testing, $63 million for additional screening, and $9 million for the cleanup of 4,500 homes.
Why We MUST Insist on Mandatory Labeling of GM Foods
Mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of GM foods in the U.S. It is primarily due to lack of labeling that many Americans are still unfamiliar with what GM foods are, and that they're eating them on a daily basis. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue learning more about GM foods and helping your friends and family do the same. To start, please print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store.
You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Your BEST strategy, however, is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit GM ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers.
The majority of the GMO's you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with GM ingredients. When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues. To learn more about GM foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures:
- Hidden Dangers in Kid's Meals
- Your Milk on Drugs - Just Say No!
- Everything You Have to Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.