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Story at-a-glance -

  • Thanks to the thousands of Americans who mobilized against Pat Roberts’ “DARK Act” (S.2609), the bill failed to get the 60 votes needed to move forward. However, we can expect it to resurface sometime after Easter
  • The court has ruled the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) violated Washington campaign finance disclosure laws by hiding the identities of corporate donors funding their anti-GMO labeling efforts
  • A clause inserted into the Toxic Substances Control Act reauthorization bill would grant Monsanto permanent immunity from liability for injuries caused by PCBs
 

Court Finds GMA Guilty of Unlawful Shenanigans, Monsanto Has a New Immunity Rider, and Two More Academics Outed as 'Fronts'

March 29, 2016 | 172,515 views

By Dr. Mercola

Thanks to the thousands of Americans who mobilized against the so-called "DARK" Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know Act), which specifically preempts states' rights to create their own GMO food labeling laws, the U.S. Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to move the bill forward.

Crafted by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, Senate bill S.26091 (which is similar to HR 1599, passed by the House of Representatives last July) would require the Agriculture Department to set a voluntary standard for GMO food labels, pre-empting Vermont's GMO labeling law,2 set to take effect on July 1.

The bill would also require the USDA to provide consumers with information describing the benefits of biotechnology! Needless to say, this was a major victory, and I thank you for taking a stand against this atrocious bill.3

However, it's not yet over, and we cannot afford to let our guard down. When Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell switched his vote from Yes to No, it triggered a procedural maneuver that allows the bill to be brought back up.

Accept No Compromise

We can expect the issue to resurface sometime after Easter, and this gives the agrichemical businesses and junk food manufacturers time to buy off more Senators for some sort of compromise, such as the use of QR codes, which completely fail to provide people with clear and mandatory transparency.

As noted by American Soybean Association President Richard Wilkins, this vote was only "a temporary detour in a larger effort," adding:

"We think that we're close to a solution that helps the industry stay innovative while providing consumers the information they're looking for. Once Congress returns from the Easter break, we'll get back to work with leaders in the Senate and continue on the path to a compromise."

It's become quite clear that any compromise they come up with is likely to be deeply flawed, and will go against the clear majority of Americans who want clear labeling on packages that contain genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

So please, keep the pressure on your Senators, and urge them not to accept any compromise that would jeopardize state and individual rights.

Mars, Kellogg's, ConAgra and General Mills Join Campbell's in Voluntary Labeling

In January, Campbell's announced it will label GMOs, and that it would not result in higher prices.4 Mars Inc.5 Kellogg Company,6 ConAgra,7 and General Mills8 have now followed suit, announcing they too will comply with Vermont's GMO labeling law by labeling all of their foods sold across the U.S.

General Mills has also launched an online search tool9 to help you identify products that contain GMOs.

These companies prove GMO labeling does not increase the cost of food, and because of manufacturing timelines, they can't wait for the Senate any longer. This is why it's so important to let Vermont's law stand.

There is really no reason to worry about a "patchwork" of state laws, because there are no variations for compliance — all states are asking for the exact same disclosure!

States are then given flexibility in regard to enforcement, which is how it should be. A state with the culture and size of Vermont will differ from a state like California. That's logical. So let states test and experiment.

If states can make their own decisions on issues like capital punishment, you'd think they'd have the right to, and be capable of making their own decisions on labeling!

The best democracy works closest to home, and we need to stop centralizing the power in Washington D.C., where it's most easily corrupted.

And it's not just Republicans who talk about state rights and then sell out to corporate fascist policies. Democrats from agricultural states also need to be reminded about the Obama executive order10 on standing up for consumer rights and stopping state preemption.

Court Rules: GMA Guilty of Violating Public Campaign Finance Laws

On October 16, 2013, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) on behalf of the State of Washington.

He alleged the association had violated the state's campaign disclosure laws by failing to register a political committee, and by concealing the true source of the funds used to finance its "No on 522" campaign.

Internal GMA memos and documents detail the association's systematic effort to conceal the sources of $11 million in contributions to oppose Washington's 2013 GMO labeling initiative.

The GMA even provided "media guidance" to members about how to lie when confronted about their contributions to the anti-labeling campaign.

Attorney General Ferguson recently filed a motion for summary judgment,11 asking the judge to rule in the state's favor without the need for a trial. The hearing was set for February 19 in Thurston County Superior Court.

On March 11, the court ruled12 the GMA "violated Washington campaign finance disclosure laws by shielding the identities of major corporate donors funding efforts to defeat a food labeling initiative in Washington." The case will continue to trial to determine the size of the penalty.

Trial to Determine Penalty for GMA's Unlawful Tactics

Ferguson has requested maximum penalties to be applied. As noted in his motion, "While proof of intentional concealment is not required, state law permits treble penalties if the fact-finder determines a person intentionally concealed the source of a political contribution or expenditure."

In this case, Ferguson insists such proof does exist. He also claims he has proof showing the GMA engaged in five separate acts of intentional concealment, so the penalty should therefore be tripled for each count.

The court, however, ruled there "remains a factual dispute whether GMA's violation of the law was intentional," which is why the case will now go to trial. In response to the court's ruling, Ferguson said:13

"This landmark case has been a long fight for accountability. This ruling sends an unequivocal message: Big money donors cannot evade Washington law and hide from public scrutiny. My office will hold you accountable."

The GMA and its 300+ members, which include Monsanto and several of the largest processed food manufacturers in the world, were determined to prevent you from knowing whether the products they sell contain GMOs — so much so, they decided it was worth breaking the law to do it.

These companies wanted it both ways — they wanted to hide their ingredients, but they also didn't want you to know that they wanted to hide GMOs.

That's why the GMA kept the identities of the companies contributing to the "No on 522" campaign a secret. They were afraid of the backlash from betrayed consumers.

Sadly, their ploy worked just long enough to win that ballot initiative. But now the cat's out of the proverbial bag, and if you're as offended by this unethical and unlawful behavior as I am, then take the only meaningful action there is — boycott the offenders.

Boycotting GMA Members Made Easy

For the past three years, there's been an ongoing call to boycott GMA member brands until they cancel their GMA membership, and if you haven't done so before, now would be a good time to get serious about boycotting these traitor brands and visiting The Boycott List website.

There's no two ways about it; by being members of the GMA, they are affiliated with a criminal element that destroys their reputation and severely undermines their integrity.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has created a smart phone application called Buycott, which has already been downloaded by almost half a million people, to step up the boycott against GMA member brands. The app also helps you determine ethical brands that deserve your patronage.

If you don't have a smartphone, or if you don't want to use your smart phone in the grocery store, it's even simpler. Don't buy any processed food or beverage, or any food whatsoever unless it has one or more of these labels:

  • "USDA 100% Organic"
  • "100% grassfed"
  • "Non-GMO Verified"

More 'Independent' Academics Outed as Monsanto Spokesmen

You may recall last year's conflict-of-interest scandal involving Monsanto and University of Florida professor Kevin Folta, a vocal advocate of GMOs. Now, two other university professors with links to Monsanto have been outed for writing pro-GMO material without disclosing their ties to the company. As reported by the Cornell Daily Sun last year:14

"On Aug. 8, 2013, Monsanto representative Eric Sachs emailed Prof. Anthony Shelton, Ph.D. ... about contributing to 'an important project' he had started — a series of publically geared articles on agricultural biotechnology ... Shelton agreed. Although Monsanto requested that he write the article, Shelton did not disclose his connection to the company; it was not necessary because Monsanto did not compensate him for it.

'There would be a conflict of interest if I were paid to write the article or if someone tried to proof and edit what I was writing, but that was not the case with this at all,' Shelton said."

Then, earlier this month, an investigation by Chicago WBEZ news15 discovered that Monsanto paid (the now retired) University of Illinois' professor Bruce Chassy, Ph.D. more than $57,000 over less than two years for travel, writing, and speaking expenses, yet Chassy never disclosed his financial ties to the company on state and university conflict of interest disclosure forms.

Academics Used to 'Front' Opaque Industry Lobbying Effort

Chassy even lobbied federal officials on Monsanto's behalf to prevent further regulations on GMOs. While Chassy has claimed he did this of his own volition before ever being asked to do so by Monsanto, emails16 show Eric Sachs urged Chassy to get involved.

They also reveal that this was part of an industry lobbying effort, "with academics out in front," basically pretending to be acting independently. Moreover, as in Folta's case, the monies Chassy received from Monsanto were funneled in such a way as to circumvent rules of public disclosure. In this case:

"Documents ... 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," WBEZ writes.

In December of last year, Chassy co-wrote a three-part Huffington Post series discussing the disastrous effects GMO labeling might have. Nowhere did he mention he'd received money from Monsanto for pro-GMO outreach activities. As noted in the featured article:

"To some who study transparency in science, Chassy's failure to publicly disclose his ties with a company while he was speaking and writing about GMOs crosses a line. 'That, to me, it's a disgrace,' said Sheldon Krimsky, Ph.D., a bioethicist who studies academic conflict of interest at Tufts University.

At least [Chassy] should have had the courage to say, 'Well, look, I get some funding from Monsanto.' But instead he's pretending to be a neutral, independent scientist."

As U.S. senators consider two bills on GMO labeling ... they'll weigh the value of expert advice. But recent cases involving Chassy and other industry-funded scholars, including one who accepted money from GMO opponents, raise questions about how neutral that expert advice may be."

University Rules Aid and Abet Conflicts of Interest

WBEZ's investigation also delved into the disclosure policies of the University of Illinois — a public land grant university — and found that not only does its policies fail to prevent conflicts of interest between academia and private companies like Monsanto, but they actually make such arrangements easier.

Moreover, in this case the records show that Chassy (just like Folta) specifically instructed his Monsanto contacts to funnel the payments through the University of Illinois Foundation.

University Foundations such as these were originally created to accept private fundraising donations, including anonymous ones, and the Foundation's financial records are exempt from any and all public scrutiny, including Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. According to WBEZ:

"Neither Chassy nor U of I officials would comment on why the money was sent through the foundation. But Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said in a statement, 'That's how the University asked to receive these unrestricted gifts for biotechnology outreach.'

Government Paid for Monsanto Propaganda

While Monsanto and the academics that work for them want you to think that this kind of behavior is no big deal, the truth is, it is a very big deal indeed. Investigations such as this one reveal they're all well aware that what they're doing falls within underhanded propaganda parameters, and they all agree on keeping the relationship low profile for that reason. This is clearly demonstrated in the following email excavated by WBEZ: 

"Sachs also raises the prospect of 'paying experts to provide responses' to anti-GMO studies without revealing Monsanto's involvement. 'From my perspective the problem is one of expert engagement and that could be solved by paying experts to provide responses … The key will be keeping Monsanto in the background so as not to harm the credibility of the information.'" [Emphasis mine]

Chassy also received money from the U.S. State Department to make some informational videos on GMOs, and he turned to Monsanto for help on the content. So, an "independent" professor at a public university takes money from the government to produce propaganda for a private company! In one email, Chassy writes:

"I think it is important that these YouTubes will come from [the food science department] at U of Illinois and will credit the State Dept for support. I would like to see more of them with those credits but State's resources are limited.

I am talking to State about funding for additional videos and am also seeking other sources of support for doing more of them ... It would be very useful to me to have a list of videos that all of you think would be helpful. I will put them in my proposals."

'Monsanto Rider' Provides Legal Shield Against PCB Lawsuits

The deeper you dig, the more you come to realize that Monsanto, probably to a far greater degree than most other international companies, is masterfully bending the U.S. government to its own will. Not only is the State Department paying for Monsanto propaganda, but a long string of proposed laws have all been written with the express purpose of shielding Monsanto from regulatory restrictions and/or legal repercussions.

The DARK Act is just one instance where Monsanto profits would be shielded, without regard for basic human rights. Then there's the "Monsanto rider" to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reauthorization bill. At present, seven U.S. cities have sued Monsanto over PCB contamination: Seattle, Spokane, Berkley, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland and, most recently, Portland.17 According to city attorney Tracy Reeve:

"Portland's elected officials are committed to holding Monsanto accountable for its apparent decision to favor profits over ecological and human health. Monsanto profited from selling PCBs for decades and needs to take responsibility for cleaning up after the mess it created."

Two private citizens have also sued over PCB damage, claiming they developed cancer as a result of eating PCB-contaminated food.18 And, wouldn't you know it, a current House bill would grant Monsanto permanent immunity from liability for injuries caused by PCBs!19 This heinous "Monsanto immunity clause" has been deftly inserted into the TSCA reauthorization bill by Congressional Republicans.

Litigation Confirms Monsanto's 'Sickeningly Corrupt Corporate Culture'

Addressing this TSCA "Monsanto Rider," Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. an environmental lawyer who has litigated PCB cases for over three decades, writes:20

"PCBs manufactured by Monsanto ... have contaminated 200 miles of the Hudson ... [and] poisoned 80,000 river miles elsewhere in our nation from Washington state's Duwamish River to Connecticut's Housatonic ... Seattle and six other cities are currently in litigation with Monsanto to force the company to clean up local rivers and bays.

The GOP's TSCA's shield provision would dismiss all those lawsuits. Congress would have the public, not the polluters pay to clean up Monsanto's monumental mess. Of even greater concern is the burgeoning issue of PCBs in our public schools.

Monsanto marketed PCB-based caulking to schools and other municipal buildings throughout the US beginning in 1950 ... About 27 to 54 percent of all these schools — 12,000 to 25,000 nationwide — may contain PCBs ... The costs of mitigation and remediation ranges from $750,000 to $3.1 million per building.

The total costs to school districts across the nation could be upwards of $80 billion. As the exclusive manufacturer of PCBs in the US, Monsanto is responsible for these damages ...

GOP's new shield provision is designed to abolish Monsanto's liability as a favor to the company, which has donated $39 million to politicians over 30 years. Documents uncovered during our litigation have confirmed Monsanto's sickeningly corrupt corporate culture. Instead of being a good corporate citizen, Monsanto's decision-making matrix puts greed before public health and welfare." [Emphasis mine]

Demand Mandatory Labeling

So what happens next? Over the next few weeks or months the Senate and the White House will either respect consumer choice and state's rights to legislate on food safety and food labels, and allow the Vermont law go into effect, or they can slap millions of health- and environmental-minded consumers in the face by passing a law or a rider that preempts Vermont's law and keeps consumers in the dark.

Please sign the petition to Congress, asking them to respect your right to know whether your food has been laced with GMOs and the toxic chemicals that go along with them.

Five Useful Tips to Help You in the Fight Against GMOs

No matter what Congress does, organic and natural health consumers need to get prepared if we are to protect our health, the health of our families, and the health of the environment, soil, and climate. Here are five things you can do to take back control over your health, your food, and our currently out-of-control political system.

  1. Boycott GMO and factory-farmed food, clothing, and body care products. Hit the GMO and Junk Food giants where it hurts: their bottom line.
  2. If Monsanto and the 300 large food and agribusiness corporations in the GMA and their minions in Congress continue to deny our right to know what's in our food, we must boycott all of their thousands of brands and products, today and every day. OCA's smartphone application, Buycott , makes it easy. Alternatively, don't buy anything unless it's labeled "organic," "100% grass-fed," or "non-GMO."

  3. Stop eating in restaurants or fast food outlets that serve GMO-tainted foods. Choose fast food outlets like Chipotle's or Panera, which have transitioned into organic, and/or non-GMO fare, local foods-based "farm-to-table" restaurants, or organic and grass-fed establishments instead. Better yet, buy organic, local, and grass-fed ingredients and cook at home.
  4. Keep in mind that most GMOs go into factory farmed meat, dairy and poultry products, in the form of corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed-based animal feed. So boycott factory farmed meat, dairy, and poultry products, today and every day.
  5. Stop supporting politicians who are in bed with Monsanto and the Big Food/Junk Food pushers. Don't support any of the 275 members of the House of Representatives who voted for H.R. 1599,21 a bill to keep consumers in the dark about GMOs.
  6. Don't vote for any Senator who votes to preempt the Vermont law in favor of a bogus scheme such as voluntary labeling or QR codes. Don't vote for a Presidential candidate who doesn't support your right to know. Currently only one major candidate for President, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has come out publicly in support of mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

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