Katherine Paul

Trump Administration's New Orwellian GMO Labels Won't Actually Say 'GMO'

On August 1, 2016, then-President Obama signed a meaningless so-called mandatory GMO labeling law that, for all practical purposes, ended an intense four-year grassroots-led campaign for consumers' right to know if their food is genetically engineered, or contains genetically engineered ingredients.

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has unveiled its proposed version of GMO labels. Wait until you see them. All bright and cheery, with sunburst and smiley-faced images—but without "GMO" appearing anywhere on the labels. (You can see all of the proposed images here.)

According to Politico, the USDA's long-awaited 106-page proposal for how companies must disclose the presence of genetically modified ingredients in their products includes eliminating the words "genetically modified" or "genetically engineered” and replacing them with "bioengineered."

That means no more "GMO"—instead, consumers will see “BE” on the environmentally friendly looking green and yellow images.

The images are just as insulting to consumers as the law, which the chemical and junk food industry lobbyists spent $400 million to pass—under the specious name of the "Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act."

Opponents renamed the loophole-ridden bill the "Dark (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act" because its intent is clear: Keep consumers in the dark, by creating a long list of exemptions and/or by allowing companies to opt for electronic "smart labels" instead of clear, plain language that anyone can easily read.

The Dark Act preempted states from requiring labels on GMO foods, including Vermont, which had previously passed a GMO labeling law that took effect one month before Obama signed the Dark Act. Vermont's law required far more foods and ingredients to be identified than the federal law that preempted it, and also required on-package labels stating "produced with genetic engineering."

The USDA has until the July 29, 2018, deadline for completing the rulemaking process for the law that industry lobbyists and their friends in Congress claim will establish a "mandatory national standard" for GMO labeling—but will, in reality, do little or nothing to help consumers identify GMO foods.

48 Million Sickened Every Year by Tainted Meat

If you live in the U.S., you're far more likely to get hit with salmonella or some other foodborne illness, than if you live in the U.K. You can thank the factory farm industry for that.

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Et Tu, Newsweek? Another Media Outlet Caves to Monsanto's Minions

Henry Miller is at it again.

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'Big Organic' Egg Producers Poised to Feather Their Nests If USDA Scuttles Animal Welfare Rule

If nutritional quality and animal welfare issues factor into your egg-buying decisions, get ready for more bad news out of the Trump administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Costco Wants to Build the Largest Chicken Factory Farm in America - and Local Residents Are Fighting Back

A mighty band of citizen activists, along with the Nebraska Farmers Union, are taking on a city council and a corporate giant. And they need your help.

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Why Big Food's Lobbying Arm Could Be on the Brink of Defeat

At the height of the GMO labeling battle, we not so fondly referred to the Grocery Manufacturers Association as “Monsanto’s Evil Twin."

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Turkey Sold by Whole Foods Tested Positive for FDA-Prohibited Drug That's Toxic to Humans

Diestel Turkey, sold by Whole Foods and other retailers at premium prices, says on its website that its “animals are never given hormones, antibiotics or growth stimulants.”

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Ben & Jerry's Is Poisoning Vermont's Water and Ruining Its Soil

A Vermont organic dairy farmer recently wrote an op-ed in which he defended conventional (non-organic) dairy farmers.

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Big Ag's 'World Food Prize' Is Nothing but a Slick Propaganda Campaign

On Thursday, the World Food Prize will be ceremoniously bestowed on yet another cheerleader for degenerative agriculture.

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Do You Question the Value of the USDA Organic Seal? Here's What You Need to Know

A recent series of articles by a Washington Post reporter could have some consumers questioning the value of the USDA organic seal. But are a few bad eggs representative of an entire industry? 

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You May Be Eating Chicken Contaminated With a Hallucinogenic Drug

Three nonprofit groups filed suit June 22 against Laurel, Mississippi-based Sanderson Farms, Inc. for falsely advertising products that contain a wide range of unnatural and in some cases prohibited substances, as “100% Natural.”

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After the March Against Monsanto, What’s Next?

“Yes, we must absolutely go out into the streets, but our protests need to be more than generalized expressions of collective rage and grief; they must target the very functioning of the system that seeks to destroy us.... Protest alone—even militant, focused, and strategic protest—is a dead end if we don’t build an infrastructure of resistance to sustain our movements and communities in the long term.” — Micah White, Occupy activist, in an interview with NPR

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Monsanto Has Violated the Basic Human Right to a Healthy Environment and Food

"Most opinion tribunals have had a considerable impact, and it is now accepted that they contribute to the progressive development of international law." —International Monsanto Tribunal Advisory Opinion, The Hague, April 18, 2017

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Monsanto Isn't Feeding the World - It's Killing Our Children

“How could we have ever believed that it is a good idea to grow our food with poisons?” —Dr. Jane Goodall

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6 Reasons Trump's Agriculture Secretary Pick Is Bad for America

In announcing his pick for Secretary of Agriculture, Trump heaped predictable praise on Sonny Perdue, promising that the former governor of Georgia will “deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land."

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6 Reasons We Need to Be More Mindful Consumers as Trump Comes to the White House

If ever conditions were ripe for revolution, that time is now—especially for anyone who cares about their health, and the health of planet earth. 

President-elect Donald Trump’s short lists for his environment and agriculture cabinet appointments are dominated by entrenched D.C. insiders, career politicians and industry lobbyists. Not one of these proposed “leaders” supports policies that would lead to healthier food, a cleaner environment or a cooler planet.  

So much for “draining the swamp.” And so much for an easy road to forward progress on food, ag and climate policy under our future fast-food leader

On November 15, Politico said it had obtained a list of talking points that “offer a roadmap on how President-Elect Donald Trump's agriculture secretary could shape agricultural policies, including the sweeping promise to ‘defend American agriculture against its critics.'"

This “promise” directly contradicts what a Trump campaign manager told me in a phone conversation, just days before the election. In an attempt to capitalize on a negative story about Hillary Clinton’s Monsanto ties, the Trump operative tried talk us into circulating a press release claiming that Trump was anti-GMO and anti-Monsanto. Predictably, those claims proved untrue, as we explain below. 

But there’s something even more troubling about the “sweeping promise” talking point. It’s this: the use of the term “American agriculture.” The authors of this memo are referring to the industrial, chemical- and pesticide-intensive GMO monoculture-crop agriculture that dominates the U.S. landscape. By intentionally branding this system “American” agriculture, the authors (politicians) can make the case for painting those of us who oppose pesticides and degenerative agriculture as anti-American.

Not cool.

Before we get to the list of reasons we’ll need a bigger and better #ConsumerRevolution in the coming months and years, a word to our regular readers and others who consider themselves to be aligned with OCA’s mission, but who also voted for Trump. The bullet points below, based on announcements by the Trump team, signal clearly that this administration will oppose (with a few exceptions, such as the TPP deal) almost every issue OCA advocates for on behalf of consumers. It’s our job to highlight Trump’s positions on these issues, even at the risk of offending some of our supporters.

You should also know, if you haven’t already realized it, that OCA has never held back when it comes to criticizing candidates and politicians who are on the wrong side of the issues we fight for, regardless of their party affiliation. If you search our website, you’ll find plenty of instances where we have called out Hillary Clinton for being on the wrong side of public and environmental health, including her cozy relationship with Monsanto. We’ve done the same with President Obama— for pushing the corporate-friendly TPP trade agreement, and for failing to make good on his promise to label GMOs. (Instead of using his veto power, Obama signed into law the DARK Act, forever depriving consumers of the right to know what’s in their food.)

It’s our job to speak truth to power—regardless of who holds that power. And speaking of power, with the coming influx of pro-Monsanto, pro-pesticide, pro-factory farm, anti-environment, anti-health climate deniers in Congress, we predict our complaints to federal policymakers will largely fall on deaf ears. More than ever, we will need to use our buying power to hit the corporations that pollute and poison where it hurts—their bottom line.

Here are six reasons we need to ramp up the #ConsumerRevolution.

1. GMOs/Health.

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Big Ag Asked Congress to Make Taxpayers Fund Public Education About GMOs

The New York Times recently ran a piece on how the biotech industry has failed to deliver on its promises for GMO crops. The article followed less than a month after the biotech industry asked congressional leaders for $3 million in taxpayer-provided funding to “educate” the public about biotechnology and agricultural production.

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'A Five-Alarm Threat to Our Food Supply': Experts Describe Bayer-Monsanto Merger

It’s been about a week since Monsanto and Bayer confirmed their intention to say “I do”—ample time for media, lawmakers, consumer and farmer advocacy groups, and of course the happy couple themselves, to weigh in on the pros and cons.

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6 Questions Judges Will Consider in Monsanto Trial for Crimes Against Human Health and the Environment

Monsanto may not be the largest company in the world. Or the worst. But the St. Louis, Mo. biotech giant has become the poster child for all that’s wrong with our industrial food and farming system.

With 21,000 employees in 66 countries and $15 billion in revenue, Monsanto is a biotech industry heavyweight. The St. Louis, Mo.-based monopolizer of seeds is the poster child for an industry that is the source of at least one-third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and is largely responsible for the depletion of soil, water and biodiversity. Not to mention the company’s marginalization—and sometimes terrorization—of millions of small farmers.  

Since the early 20th century, Monsanto has marketed highly toxic products that have contaminated the environment and permanently sickened or killed thousands of people around the world. The most toxic of its products include:

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Nine Out of 10 Americans Tested Positive for Monsanto's Cancer-Linked Weedkiller Glyphosate

If you participated in the glyphosate test project launched last year by the Detox Project (formerly Feed The World) and Organic Consumers Association, you probably failed.

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The Media Got It Wrong About a New Report Saying GMOs Are Safe: Here Are 3 Takeaways

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine on GE crops and technology was met with cheers from the biotech industry, but little meaningful scrutiny by the mainstream media. Initial media reports boiled the message down to “GMOs Are Safe” and “healthy,” some even claiming that the study “proves” the safety of genetically modified crops.

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Why Vermont Is Now Ground Zero in the Fight to Label Genetically Modified Foods

The late, great political columnist Molly Ivins, who railed relentlessly against money in politics, would be all over the GMO labeling fight. She’d be especially keen to tackle the next battle, set to take place any day now in the U.S. Senate.

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Campbell's Decision to Label GMOs Destroys Monsanto's Main Argument Against Labeling

Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have long defended their die-hard positions against mandatory GMO labeling laws, often by feigning concern about the financial impact labeling laws would have on consumers. Labeling will be costly for manufacturers, who will pass those costs on to consumers, they argue (despite studies suggesting otherwise). As if concern for consumers’ wallets had anything to do with Big Food’s determination to deceive.

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It's Time to Stop Drugging Animals Raised in Factory Farms

We’ve all grown accustomed to the steady parade of television ads—$3 billion year worth, by some estimates— urging us to “ask our doctors” about the latest miracle drug. Pharmaceutical ads have been commonplace since the 1990s, after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the way for prescription drug companies to aggressively market their wares directly to consumers.

Wisdom and ethics aside, it’s easy to see why Big Pharma would push pills to humans, to treat human ailments. It’s big money

But a drug company that makes animal drugs, purchased not by consumers but by factory farms, advertising direct to consumers who will never actually purchase those drugs? How does that make sense?

If you’re Elanco, the $2.3-billion animal drug division of Eli Lilly, you make it seem sensible by spinning the message. In Elanco’s case, the message is this: Without our animal drugs, the world will starve.

It’s a message that paints the drug maker as an altruistic savior, instead of the profit-motivated animal abuser and public health threat it actually is.

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Dozens of Nations Back Regenerative Farming Initiative That Can Help Solve Global Warming

France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the U.K., Germany and Mexico are among more than two dozen countries that have signed on to an agreement that one day may be recognized as the most significant climate initiative in history.

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EU Gives Monsanto Mixed Message on Roundup's Cancer-Causing Potential

Last week, while we waited for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to announce whether or not it will give Monsanto’s Roundup a free pass by green-lighting the use of glyphosate for another 15 years, the EPA’s counterpart in the EU made its own big announcement.

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How Monsanto Solicited Academics to Bolster Their Pro-GMO Propaganda -  Using Taxpayer Dollars

The Monsanto public relations machine has done a stellar job in recent years of reducing the GMO debate to one that pits “pro-science advocates” against “anti-science climate-denier types” — with Monsanto portrayed as being squarely planted in the pro-science camp.

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Why Is Burt's Bees Buddies With Bee-Killing Megacorps?

On August 27, Organic Consumers Association (OCA) published an action alert urging consumers to ask Burt’s Bees to cut ties with the corporations that make neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonics are a class of pesticides implicated in the mass die-off of honeybees.

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When It Comes to Avian Flu, Which Came First: The Diseased Chicken or the Chicken Disease?

According to a recent report, this year’s avian flu outbreak has cost the state of Iowa, the country’s largest egg producer, $1.2 billion in sales, lost wages and losses for farmers. Minnesota and Nebraska also suffered heavy losses.

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Food Disaster: Republicans Stomp on GMO Labeling

With no debate and only a voice vote, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture today (July 14, 2015) passed out of committee H.R. 1599,  a bill to preempt states’ rights to label GMOs. Within hours, it was announced that the bill will go straight to the House floor, as early as next week, with no vote in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

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