Congress may block GMO labeling

SUBHEAD: The SAFE Act sounds like it promises accurate labeling of GMOs. But it guarantees that it will ever happen.

By Timothy Wise on 11 September 2015 for Alternet -

Image above: poster for labeling GMOs. From (

As the vitriol intensifies in what passes for debate over the safety of genetically modified foods, scientific inquiry, thankfully, continues. A Tufts researcher, Sheldon Krimsky, recently published his assessment of the last seven years of peer-reviewed evidence, finding 26 studies that "reported adverse effects or uncertainties of GMOs fed to animals."

If recent history is any indication, Sheldon Krimsky should expect to be slammed as a “science denier.”

The current vehemence is the product of a well-funded campaign to “depolarize” the GMO debate through “improved agricultural biotechnology communication,” in the words of the Gates Foundation-funded Cornell Alliance for Science. And it is reaching a crescendo because of the march of the Orwellian “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015” (code-named “SAFE” for easy and confusing reference) through the U.S. House of Representatives on July 23 on its way to a Senate showdown in the fall.

In an April New York Timesop-ed, Alliance for Science affiliate Mark Lynas follows the party line, accusing environmentalists of “undermining public understanding of science,” even more than climate deniers and vaccine opponents. Slate’s William Saletan goes further in his July feature, calling those who want GM labeling “an army of quacks and pseudo-environmentalists waging a leftist war on science.”

Who would have known that depolarization could feel so polarizing — and so stifling of scientific inquiry.

Precaution and the Public’s Right to Know What We Eat
The SAFE law sounds like it promises what polls suggest 99 percent of Americans want, accurate labeling of foods with GM ingredients. It likely guarantees that no such thing will ever happen.
Backed by biotech and food industry associations, SAFE would make it illegal for states to enact mandatory GM labeling laws. It would instead establish a “voluntary” GM labeling program that pretty well eviscerates the demand for the right to know what’s in our food. It would undercut the many state level efforts.

Vermont now has a labeling law that survived industry opposition, threats, and a court challenge, which may explain why the industry got busy in Congress. If you can’t beat democracy, change it. The Senate is expected to take up the bill after its August recess.

As written, SAFE is truly the labeling law to end all labeling laws.

The biotech industry is acting desperate for a reason. It’s seen Europe and most of the world close its regulatory doors to GM crops, for now, insisting on the same “precautionary principle” enshrined in the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. That principle calls for a relatively high level of precaution before the introduction of a new technology, to avoid the kinds of unintended consequences that have caused such harm in the past: tobacco, thalidomide, DDT, PCBs, and other cases of industry-backed claims of safety that, in retrospect, proved deadly.

Not SAFE for Science
In a sane world that respects scientific inquiry, we would be engaged in a debate about the appropriate levels of precaution that we as a society want for a technology as novel as genetic engineering. That would be constructive, not to mention depolarizing.

Instead, we get pundits like Lynas and Saletan tarring anyone who dares call for precaution with the stain of being another science-denying zealot who ignores the scientific evidence that no one has been harmed by all the GM foods consumed in the United States.

To reinforce how duped or dumb the American public is, they point to a Pew Institute poll indicating that 88 percent of scientists think GM foods are safe, while just 37 percent of the public thinks so. The gap is repeatedly cited as a measure of how science-deniers are winning the public relations battle, and how ignorant the U.S. people are on the issue.

Maybe not. Is it really a surprise that nearly nine in ten scientists think a new invention is good for society? Not really. As Joel Achenbach explained in his otherwise good piece on science denial in National Geographic, we all suffer from “confirmation bias,” the tendency to interpret information in ways that confirm our existing beliefs. True enough, and guess what group scores high for confirmation bias in favor of new technology? Scientists. Honestly, I’m shocked that 12 percent of scientists think GM food isn’t safe.

What about that skeptical public? Are they really just ignorant and brainwashed? Or is their confirmation bias perhaps informed by their repeated experiences with big corporations telling them something is safe or good for them and finding out it’s deadly. Who in the United States has not lost a family member or friend to smoking-related disease? Given the negligence of U.S. regulatory authorities in accepting industry claims of safety, is the public really so foolish to be skeptical, of both industry and government?

Washington University’s Glenn Stone drove the scientific point home nicely about how long the process of scientific discovery of hazards can be. He documents how DDT was suspected as a cause of breast cancer but studies kept failing to find a link.

This is, until 2007, when an intrepid researcher thought to ask if girls exposed to DDT during puberty had a higher risk of breast cancer. More than half a century after they were exposed, she found what no one else had: a five times greater risk in such girls, and a significant additional risk in their female children.

On GMOs and labeling, Stone asks if all the evidence is really in just 20 years into this experiment. Are there comparable studies of GM effects on pregnant or lactating women and developing infants and children? No, there are not.

No Consensus on Food Safety
For those still willing to look past the campaign slogans and slurs, science is still happening. My colleague at Tufts University, Sheldon Krimsky, examined peer-reviewed journal articles from 2008-2014. Contrary to the claims of consensus, he found 26 studies that showed significant cause for concern in animal studies, among many studies that showed no harm.

He identified clear evidence that proteins transferred into the genome of another plant species can generate allergic reactions even when the original transgene did not, a scientific finding that undermines industry claims that the transgenic process creates no instability in the genome. (Scientists even have a name for such a gene: an “intrinsically disordered protein.”)

Krimsky found eight reviews of the literature and they showed anything but consensus. Three cited cause for concern from existing animal studies. Two found inadequate evidence of harm that could affect humans, justifying the U.S. government’s principle that if GM crops are "substantially equivalent" to their non-GM counterparts, this is adequate to guarantee safety.

Three reviews suggested that the evidence base is limited, the types of studies that have been done are inadequate to guarantee safety even if they show no harm, and further study and improved testing is warranted.

What about the much-cited consensus among medical and scientific associations? Krimsky found no such agreement, just the same kind of wide variation in opinion, which he usefully ascribes to differing standards, methods, and goals, not ignorance or brainwashing.

Krimsky goes out of his way, however, to document the industry-backed campaigns to discredit two scientific studies that found cause for concern, and he warns of the anti-science impact such campaigns can have. "When there is a controversy about the risk of a consumer product, instead of denying the existence of certain studies, the negative results should be replicated to see if they hold up to rigorous testing.”

That would have been a refreshing, and depolarizing, industry response to the recent World Health Organization finding that Roundup Ready herbicides are a “probable human carcinogen.” Instead of calling for further study to determine safe exposure levels, the industry called out its attack dogs to discredit the study.

Who here is really anti-science?

Sanders the only one for State GMO labels
SUBHEAD:  On May 22rd, after the article below was written, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders came out in support of state right's to require GMO food labeling.

By Sander's Staff on 22 May 2015 for Sanders.senate 

Image above: LabelGMOs allowed by Congress in 2013 for voluntary GMO food labeling. From (

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today proposed an amendment to the farm bill that would let Vermont and other states require clear labels on any food or beverage containing ingredients that have been genetically modified.

“All over this country, people are becoming more conscious about the foods they are eating and the foods they are serving to their kids and this is certainly true for genetically engineered foods,” Sanders said. “I believe that when a mother goes to the store and purchases food for her child, she has the right to know what she is feeding her child.”

The Vermont House on May 10 voted 99-42 for legislation calling for labeling food products that contain genetically modified organisms. Opponents raised concerns that the state could be sued by bio-technology or food industries. Sanders’ proposal would make it clear that states have the authority to require the labeling of foods produced using genetically modified organisms or derived from organisms that have been genetically engineered.

“Vermont and other states must be allowed to label GMO foods,” Sanders said. “My provision would protect states from threatened lawsuits.”

Sanders’ measure also would require the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to report to Congress within two years on the percentage of food and beverages in the United States that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Sixty-four countries around the world already require the labeling of genetically modified foods, including all of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, labels must list more than 3,000 ingredients but the Food and Drug Administration has resisted labels for genetically altered foods.

The Sanders Amendment would make it clear that states may require clear labels that let consumers know what they're eating.  “Monsanto and other major corporations should not get to decide this, the people and their elected representatives should,” Sanders said.

The medical community has raised serious health concerns about genetically engineered food. The American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association have passed resolutions that support labeling foods with genetically engineered ingredients.

Presidential candidate don't support labels
SUBHEAD: No presidential candidates, at tje time of this writing, publicly supported GMO food labels by states.

By Wes Anic on 8 May 1015 for Culture of Awareness -

It’s no secret that our ruling bodies and the figureheads we’re led to believe are ‘for the people’ actually play for the mega corporations that are destroying our planet, and when it comes to the crucial subject of GMO labeling, there’s almost nobody we can trust in government to do something.

Our elected leaders won’t help us on this issue, and it becomes clearer and clearer by the day that we have to do something as informed citizens.

We have to rely on ourselves and each other to raise awareness of the importance of things like GMO labeling, because anyone who is or could be in a high enough position in government to do something about it seems to be bought and paid for by Monsanto or other biotech corporations.

Now, we’re learning that nearly every major presidential candidate for 2016 sides with big biotech and opposes GMO labeling.

If you’re unfamiliar, the widely accepted yet completely flawed stance against labeling GMOs is that the very idea is an insult to big biotech’s science and the phony revolutionary ‘feed the world’ rhetoric they use to push their scientific atrocities down our throats.

Anthony Gucciardi at Natural Society explains.

“As the 2015 presidential race continues to usher in debates over social policy and fiscal responsibility, no one is talking about another key issue: all of the major candidates are in completely opposition to GMO labeling — and many are directly supporting Monsanto’s biotech aspirations.

“Last month I shared with you Hillary Clinton’s close support of Monsanto and GMO crops in a piece posted just hours after her campaign announcement, but many readers were writing in wondering about the rest of the front running political figures.

“That’s when I began reading reports on the Iowa Agricultural Summit, an event in which the Republican presidential candidates were asked to speak on alternative energy, the state of the nation’s agricultural system, and their stance on GMO labeling initiatives at large.” (1)

As he tells us, Anthony found that these candidates were asked about GMO labeling, and they gave the usual expected responses.

“Hidden in reports on the event that received very little coverage and almost no traffic, we find a concerning piece of information: all of the candidates who attended completely oppose GMO labeling in every way. In fact, they directly attack it as ‘anti-science,’ and go on to talk about how safe Roundup-filled GMO crops are for your health.” (2)

Senator Ted Cruz had this to say about the issue:

“People who decide that’s what they want, they can pay for it already. But, we shouldn’t let anti-science zealotry shut down the ability to produce low cost, quality food for billions across the globe.” (3)

Anthony also shared this quote from Jeb Bush.

“We should not try to make it harder for that kind of innovation to exist. We should celebrate it … I think that’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.” (4)

Sadly, it probably won’t surprise any GMO activists to learn that none of the major candidates seem to support GMO labeling, and I’m sure none of them will say a thing about it until they’re asked by the media, at which point they’ll continue to be mouthpieces for Monsanto.

The only real discussion about it so far has been against it, which further affirms that we can’t count on these figureheads, who are claimed to want to represent us, to label a dangerous, widespread and fairly new change to our food supply.

This all goes to show that we should be in charge of our own food.

Perhaps the manipulation of our food supply, which big biotech uses media and even presidential candidates to convince us is for the greater good, has resulted from our complacent willingness to relinquish control of our food to these corporate entities.

We’ve effectively dug our own grave, but instead of lying in it, let’s cover it back up and plant some organic fruits and veggies in the soil. We can sustain ourselves like people have done for thousands of years, and we don’t have to rely on these corporations or their manipulative science to feed us.

It’s time for liberation and self-empowerment, and the more power we give to these corporations or ‘elected leaders’, the angrier and more disappointed we’ll be. Let’s starve Monsanto and the countless food companies who use their GMOs by becoming completely self-sufficient, however much sacrifice it could require.

Like I’ve said before, we feed these oppressive entities by letting them feed us, and we have a choice as to what we put in our bodies. The choice would be a lot easier if we could either label GMOs or, as others have said, label every food that’s absent of GMOs so we can make conscious, informed decisions.

We should keep pushing for GMO and non-GMO labeling, but honestly, I don’t think we can rely on the system to inform us about what we’re eating. This is why self-sustainability is important, and it’d be easier if we all came together and started growing our own food, preferably organic, in a community setting.

While I think we should learn to grow our own food as individuals too, I’ll admit that I don’t know the first thing about it.

Like some of you, I also enjoy eating out sometimes and doing other things that expose us all to big biotech’s ‘food’, and avoiding GMOs would be easier if more people were aware of them and willing to request/demand non-GMO alternatives in grocery stores and restaurants.

Our freedom and our health depend on our activism and, of course, the inner changes we can make, which the outer changes will reflect.

If we want the controllers to stop controlling us, one thing we have to do is starve them by demanding an end to big biotech’s domination of the food supply. It all depends on what we purchase and put into our bodies, so let’s recognize the crucial position we’re in and do something with it.


  1. “Virtually All Major 2016 Presidential Candidates Oppose GMO Labeling” by Anthony Gucciardi, Natural Society, May 7, 2015 –
  2. Loc. cit.
  3. Anthony’s source for the quotes from Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush is an article at KCCI.com
  4. Loc. cit.

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