Thursday, July 12, 2012
House panel advances bill that accelerates biotech crop reviews
By Jack Kaskey
July 12, 2012
A U.S. House committee advanced a bill today that would accelerate approval of genetically modified crops from Monsanto Co. and other seed makers by limiting environmental reviews and setting decision time limits.
The provisions, part of a farm-policy overhaul approved 35-11 by the House Agriculture Committee, would limit the ability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider most environmental laws in determining the safety of new biotech crops. The crops would be approved automatically if no decision is made within 18 months.
Grain and food providers are concerned the bill ignores the threat of “premature commercialization” of biotech crops, which may affect domestic and export markets, according to the National Grain and Feed Association, which represents more than 1,000 companies. Environmental groups also objected.
The bill “weakens the already woefully inadequate federal oversight of genetically engineered crops, livestock and food,” Anna Ghosh, a spokeswoman for Washington-based Food & Water Watch, said today in a statement.
Monday, July 2, 2012
Congress’ big gift to Monsanto
By Tom Philpott
July 2, 2012
Big Ag’s big bucks get results on GMO labeling
If you want your crops to bear fruit, you have to feed the soil. Few industries understand that old farming truism better than ag-biotech—the few companies that dominate the market for genetically modified seeds and other novel farming technologies. And they realize that the same wisdom applies to getting what you want in Washington, DC.
According to this 2010 analysis  from Food & Water Watch, the ag-biotech industry spent $547.5 million between 1999 and 2009. It employed more than 100 lobbying firms in 2010 alone, FWW reports, in addition to their own in-house lobbying teams.
The gusher continues. The most famous ag-biotech firm of all, Monsanto, spent $1.4 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2012, after shelling out $6.3 million total last year, “more than any other agribusiness firm except the tobacco company Altria,” reports  the money-in-politics tracker OpenSecrets.org. Industry trade groups like the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Croplife America have weighed in with $1.8 million and $524,000, respectively.
What fruits have been borne by such generous fertilizing of the legislative terrain? It’s impossible to tie the fate of any bit of legislation directly to an industry’s lobbying power, but here are two unambiguous legislative victories won on the Hill this month by Monsanto and its peers.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Senate rejects Sanders’ food labeling amendment
For immediate release
Sen. Bernie Sanders office
June 21, 2012
WASHINGTON, June 21 – The Senate today rejected an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to let states require clear labels on any food or beverage containing genetically engineered ingredients.
The vote on the amendment to the farm bill was 26 to 73.
“This is the very first time a bill on labeling genetically engineered food has been brought before the Senate. It was opposed by virtually every major food corporation in the country. While we wish we could have gotten more votes, this is a good step forward and something we are going to continue to work on. The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what’s in the food that they eat.”
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Farm groups and public interest advocates join forces to oust dangerous ‘Biotech Provision’ from agriculture spending bill
The True Food Network
June 19, 2012
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and a coalition of farm, food safety, environmental and consumer advocacy groups today formally submitted a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations voicing strong and immediate opposition to the so-called “farmer assurance provision” (Section 733) that was quietly inserted in the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of U.S. courts, jettisons the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.
Flying under the radar as committee debate starts today, the “farmer assurance provision” is engineered to strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of illegal, potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses potential hazards. It also would inexplicably force USDA to allow continued planting of a GE crop even if a court of law identifies previously unrecognized risks. In addition, Section 733 targets vital judiciary oversight over USDA approvals by barring courts from compelling USDA to take action against agriculture policies that may harm farmers and the environment.
The coalition letter identifies the rider as a deliberately designed attempt to exchange long-established policies of good governance and lawful, impartial public review for the guarantee of control and profitability by a handful of biotech companies.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Sanders calls for labeling genetically-engineered food
Sen. Bernie Sanders office
June 14, 2012
WASHINGTON, June 14 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today proposed an amendment to the farm bill that would let states require that any food or beverage containing genetically-engineered ingredients be clearly labeled.
The Vermont Legislature earlier this year considered a bill that would have required labels on foods that contain genetically-engineered ingredients. The House Agriculture Committee heard testimony from 111 citizens and hundreds more crowded the Statehouse to show their support. Despite passing by a lopsided 9-1 vote in committee, the bill languished after Monsanto threatened to sue the state.
Similar strong-arm tactics by one of the world’s leading producers of genetically-engineered foods and herbicides have been employed elsewhere by Monsanto, the multi-national company that posted $1.6 billion in profits last year. “It’s no mystery why Monsanto would fight people’s right to know,” Sanders said “Business is booming for the chemical company. Clearly, they have a lot to protect.”
The Sanders Amendment, cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), acknowledges that states have the authority to require the labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering or derived from organisms that have been genetically engineered.