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Monsanto Pours Millions into GMO-Labeling Fight

October 01, 2013 | 188,306 views
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By Dr. Mercola

We’re now only weeks away from the next big GMO-labeling vote in the United States; this time in Washington State, where citizens will cast their votes for the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," on November 5.

Initiative 522 will require seeds, raw agricultural commodities, and processed foods to be labeled if they’re produced using genetic engineering.1

As in last year’s California Proposition 37 GMO labeling campaign, the opposition from industry is fierce, with millions of dollars being poured into the anti-labeling campaign.

According to the Public Disclosure Commission,2 the “NO on 522” campaign has already raised more than $11 million—nearly four times the amount raised by the pro-labeling camp. Monsanto leads the charge, having donated close to $4.8 million to the anti-labeling campaign.

I want to remind you that the success of this ballot initiative is dependent on public donations, and we’re up against industry giants with very deep pockets, so please, help us win this key GMO labeling battle and continue to build momentum for GMO labeling in other states by making a donation to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today.

The Two Faces of Monsanto

According to Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Monsanto, the company backs efforts to prevent GMO labeling in Washington State “for the same reasons we opposed the California initiative.” He recently told Politico:3

“The reason people are funding campaigns for mandatory labeling is because they basically want to get rid of biotech, and they want biotech to suffer the same view as salt or sugar on the label, and the science doesn’t support it.”

Curiously enough, Monsanto is more than willing to “support” GMO labeling once they run out of options. Here’s a Monsanto ad from the UK, letting British consumers know how much the company supports the mandatory labeling of their goods—even urging Britons to seek such labels out—ostensibly because Monsanto believes “you should be aware of all the facts before making a decision.”

What’s the difference between British shoppers and American shoppers? Why does Monsanto support one nation’s right to know but not another? It’s time to put an end to this hypocritical charade and label foods in the US, as has been done in 64 other countries4 across the globe already!

GMA Sued for “Money Laundering” in Anti-GMO Labeling Scheme

In addition to Monsanto’s $4.8 million donation to the No on 522 campaign, Dupont has kicked in $3.4 million,5 and The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) $2.2 million. UPDATE: The Grocery Manufacturers Association has just kicked in another $5 million! The Grocery Manufacturers Association has now contributed over $7 million against I-522! Curiously absent from any list of donors are the big spenders from last year’s No on Prop 37 campaign. The reason for this is not likely to be due to a change of heart on these companies’ behalf. Rather we may be looking at yet another level of shifty maneuvering.

Aren’t these companies willing to tell you the truth about anything? Food Democracy Now! recently notified subscribers that the Washington State group Moms for Labeling has sued6 the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), claiming the trade association is “laundering money" from their members to “illegally” hide the donors identities.7

GMA members include popular food and beverage giants like Pepsi, Coke, Kraft, Kellogg's and General Mills. Last year, many of them faced boycotts and bad publicity once people realized the brands had spent large sums of money to keep them in the dark about genetically engineered ingredients. So this year, many of the same companies are simply trying to circumvent having to reveal their position on this issue.

Last year’s labeling campaign also made many Americans aware of the fact that some of their beloved and trusted natural/organic brands are actually owned by the very same junk food corporations that fought against GMO labeling in California. This too caused outrage, and for good reason. Essentially, you have brands that proclaim to be all natural and/or organic taking a stand against your right to know what’s in your food. It doesn’t get any more hypocritical than that. As reported by the featured article:8

“[S]tate election rules requires political committees to reveal their own donors so that voters can tell who's behind political contributions from generic-sounding groups, such as the GMA, that are helping fund initiatives.

The GMA is the lobbying group for the food industry, but that doesn't necessarily make them a 'political committee.' To be considered a political committee by the state, an organization has to specifically solicit money to influence an election or exist primarily to influence an election. But the GMA is already a membership group whose primary purpose isn't I-522.

However, in its complaint,9 the pro-522 activists contend, through whistleblower sources, that the GMA specifically appealed to members to contribute to the No campaign. The complaint states: 'The Grocery Manufacturers Association has made a special appeal to its members in the form of a voluntary special assessment, to fund the No on 522 Campaign.' According to state rules, if that's true, that would make the GMA a political committee.”

Recent polls show that 64-66 percent of likely voters in Washington State strongly support GMO labeling, which puts further pressure on companies who’d rather not disclose such ingredients. The following graphic reveals which brands support labeling, and which ones hide behind the trade lobby group, GMA, which is funding the NO on 522 campaign in its own name rather than the companies’ whose donations are being used. Essentially, that means any company maintaining membership with the GMA becomes suspect in this regard.

You CAN Make a Difference

More than 25,000 people petitioned Dr. Andrew Weil to withdraw his company, Weil Lifestyle, from the GMA for this reason. He listened, and withdrew his membership. The Organic Consumers Association is currently petitioning Aurora Organic to take a clear stand and withdraw its membership from the Grocery Manufacturers Association10 as well.

Will GMO Soil Microbes Herald Another Agricultural Disaster?

I’ve written extensively about the health hazards and environmental harm caused by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. The New York Times11 also recently addressed the issue:

“'Because glyphosate moves into the soil from the plant, it seems to affect the rhizosphere, the ecology around the root zone, which in turn can affect plant health,’ said Robert Kremer, a scientist at the United States Agriculture Department, who has studied the impact of glyphosate on soybeans for more than a decade and has warned of the herbicide’s impact on soil health.

Like the human microbiome, the plants’ roots systems rely on a complex system of bacteria, fungi and minerals in the soil. The combination, in the right balance, helps protect the crops from diseases and improves photosynthesis.

In some studies, scientists have found that a big selling point for the pesticide — that it binds tightly to minerals in the soil, like calcium, boron and manganese, thus preventing runoff — also means it competes with plants for those nutrients. Other research indicates that glyphosate can alter the mix of bacteria and fungi that interact with plant root systems, making them more susceptible to parasites and pathogens.”

Incredibly, the article actually hints at the possibility of engineering soil microbes to “make up” for the detrimental effects of Roundup! Earlier this year, Monsanto purchased “select assets” of Agradis,12 a “sustainable agricultural solutions” company founded by J. Craig Venter, a scientist who sequenced the human genome to develop various microbes and “agricultural biologicals.” Monsanto also acquired a collection of Venter’s microbes. According to Monsanto’s chief technology officer Robert Fraley, “the foray into microbes... is to improve yield and address some of the issues raised about glyphosate.” What the future might hold if they actually go so far as to tinker with genetically engineered soil microbes is anyone’s guess. But I’m betting it won’t be good...

Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day

Remember, the food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right; all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.

I-522 poster

As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.

 

If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also 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. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:

For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.

[+] Sources and References