September 19, 2013

GMO Foods battle rages in IL, problems in NY

September 19, 2013. Chicago. The fight to force food manufacturers to label their genetically engineered foods (GMO) raged in Chicago Tuesday. While supporters insist they simply want to know which foods are genetically altered so they can make their own informed buying decisions, corporation representatives claim that if GMO foods are labeled in the US, millions of people in Africa will die.

A shot from Tuesday's Illinois Senate Subcommittee hearing on labeling GMO foods in the state. Image courtesy of NaturalNews.com.

That’s a pretty strong accusation made by multi-national chemical corporations like Monsanto and DuPont. But dishonest statistics, outright lies and plain old bribery have been the staples of the pro-GMO movement for years. Using terror tactics like the above claim, these corporations and their hired PR agencies now insist genocide will happen on a global scale with millions of innocents dead – if companies like General Mills, McDonalds and a hundred others are forced to include a GMO warning along with their products’ other health and nutrition information.



Public hearing in Chicago

Two days ago, the state of Illinois convened a rare public debate over two Bills pending in the Illinois legislature. A blessing to poor, grassroots consumer advocates and watchdogs who don’t have the funds to travel the hundreds of miles to the state capitol in Springfield like their corporate counterparts, the official hearing and public debate was held at a satellite capitol building in Chicago.

Hundreds of supporters of Illinois’ SB 1666, along with anti-GMO activists from across the state, joined together to voice their support for the Senate Bill that would require food manufacturers to include a note on their products’ packaging warning consumers that the contents are genetically engineered organisms.

“Today’s tremendous turnout demonstrates that consumers and farmers alike are infuriated that biotech companies are not held to the same safety standards as other food producers in delivering products we can trust,” said Jessica Fujan, Midwest organizer at Food & Water Watch, “The overwhelming consensus from today’s hearing is that the demand to know what’s in our food has never been greater – it’s time to label genetically modified organisms.”

Michael Hansen, Ph.D. and a Senior Scientist at Consumers Union, testified before the Illinois Agriculture and Conservation Committee special hearing held in Chicago Tuesday. “One big problem with safety assessments of GE plants is that there have been very few long-term animal feeding studies, with most feeding studies being of 90 days or shorter,” he told state Senators.

Hansen also informed legislators that of 94 studies on GMO products being pushed by the chemical giants, the overwhelming trend showed that the studies’ outcomes often changed in direct correlation with the amount of money Monsanto, DuPont and other corporations paid the researchers. “There is a lot of industry bias in much of the feeding and nutritional studies involving GE foods and more independent testing is clearly needed,” the publisher of Consumer Reports testified.

Illinois University Professor Ann Reisner also added her expert testimony in support of GMO labeling. She warned of unknown dangers due to the lack of oversight by the FDA and the industry’s obsession with not allowing consumers in the US to know which of their grocery store foods are genetically engineered and which aren’t. “Research on the long-term effect of a substance on human health depends on our ability to identify populations that do not use that substance, a process that would be greatly enhanced by labeling foods containing genetically engineered material,” she told the gathered legislators.

Adding additional testimony to the debate, Food and Water Watch’s Patty Lovera took issue with the chemical giants’ unproven threat that labeling GMO products would cause the prices of those products to skyrocket in the store. Lovera assured the gathered members of the Illinois Senate Subcommittee on food labeling, “There is no evidence that food costs have increased due to GMO labeling in countries that require it.”

Chemical and biotech corporations like Monsanto and DuPont must be getting a little nervous in Illinois these days. After defeating California’s ballot initiative mandating GMO labeling in that state last year, the corporate giants already have the deck stacked against them in the Land of Lincoln.

Not only is the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) a supporter of GMO labeling, he’s also SB 1666’s sponsor. In the Illinois House, supporters of labeling also have some powerful backers. The House’s version of the Bill was sponsored by Rep. Deborah Mell (D-Chicago), the daughter of powerful, half-century serving Machine Ward boss Dick Mell. Alderman Dick Mell is also the father-in-law of jailed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Taken together, Monsanto and DuPont have tremendous pull in downstate Illinois farm communities. But in Chicago and Cook County, which control the state legislature, there is no love for genetically engineered foods.



A quick Google search this morning revealed the not-surprising revelation that none of Chicago’s media outlets reported on the GMO legislative hearings in Chicago Tuesday, even with the presence of hundreds of passionate demonstrators. The only press report on the packed house meeting was compliments of the little publication from Alton, Illinois – the Alton Daily News. Hats off to you Alton.

It was the Alton Daily News account that reported the outrageous claim that labeling GMO products will result in millions of people starving to death. The publication quoted David Miller, President of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization. The corporate-funded lobbyist described what would happen if companies are forced to label their genetically engineered products just like many other countries in Europe and around the world require. “If they haven’t killed people already, they almost assuredly will kill millions in the years to come,” Miller told the Alton, Illinois news outlet.

For more information, read a hearing recap published by Food and Water Watch.

New York postpones again

For the second time in recent weeks, a major grassroots event in New York was postponed or cancelled. First, the annual Liberty Fest NYC was forced to cancel this year’s festival because a larger one – United We Stand Fest – was scheduled for the exact same day at UCLA, Oct. 12th. Now, New York organizers of a much-anticipated Non-GMO manufacturers trade show have postponed their convention as well. The new problem for them – they’ve rescheduled it for Oct. 12th – the same day as United We Stand Fest in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for organizers of the NY trade show, almost every anti-GMO activist in the country will be at UCLA that day.

As this author mentioned in a column last week, the string of competing festivals, rallies and events is actually a good sign. It means that grassroots activism by average Americans is growing exponentially, to the point where our events are beginning to overlap. But the Non-GMO Expo in New York, rescheduled from Sept. 21 to Oct. 12, has bigger problems.

The idea behind the Non-GMO Expo is brilliant. It’s also right on schedule with corporations like McDonalds promising to phase out all GMO products from its Chipotle restaurants as soon as it can find food manufacturers who don’t use GMO ingredients. The biggest obstacle is corn, which the food chain uses in its tortillas. More than 90% of America’s corn is genetically engineered these days. But that only illustrates the value and importance of the Non-GMO Expo in New York next month.

Americans are slowly demanding the labeling or outright banning of genetically modified foods. Corporations like McDonalds are feeling and seeing that sentiment already. They’ve admitted as much while proclaiming their desire to abandon GMO products. But the handful of small, local mom and pop food processors and distributors that still carry non-GMO items like corn are hard to find due to their small size and non-existent marketing budgets.



A large trade show and convention in a major city like New York that brought together the small non-GMO food producers and the giant multi-national corporations that want to ditch their GMO products would be a major blow to the GMO-profiting chemical giants. It would also be a blessing to the tens of millions of American parents and consumers that want to know what products are genetically altered so they can make their own informed decision.

Unfortunately, the wheels appear to be falling off in New York. After waiting two months for the organizers of the No GMO Expo to remove the ‘Under Construction’ sign from the event’s website, this author finally went to the group’s Facebook page for more information. Surprisingly, the social media page is showing that the event was postponed from this Saturday to October 12th. The reason that’s a surprise is because the convention’s website – NoGMOExpo.com – still shows the trade show scheduled for Sept. 21st.

With this author’s ten-year history in the consumer packaged goods industry, I can almost guarantee the No GMO Expo would be a phenomenal success. The opportunity for thousands of small, honest food manufacturers to take back a portion of the billions of dollars spent annually on a handful of multi-national food corporations is an opportunity not many would pass up. And neither would the tens of millions of consumers demanding GMO labeling.

For more information on the No GMO Expo in New York, or to offer a little experienced, grassroots assistance to the convention organizers, visit the event’s Facebook page.

 

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