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Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 09th, 2016

The European Commission has made one more attempt to convince member states that they should accept its proposal to give national governments the power to ban the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. But according to an EU source close to the Slovak presidency of the Council, where national governments meet, the file will not be discussed before the end of the year. Last week, the commission sent the council a confidential document that analysed the legal implications of the proposal, something which the member states were missing when it was tabled in April 2015The plan would give national governments the power to ban the use of GMOs as ingredients in human food and animal food, even if the European Food Safety Authority had given its stamp of approval. But when agriculture ministers discussed the plan in July 2015, they heavily criticised the proposal, calling it “not useful” and “unworkable”. In October 2015, the European Parliament flat-out rejected the proposal. Without support in both the parliament and the council, it cannot be adopted as law. Since then, the file has laid still in the legislative plumbing, waiting either for the commission to pull the plug, or the council to come to a common position.


Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 09th, 2016

Following the groundbreaking ruling from the European Court of Justice in favour of a group of NGOs who want greater access to confidential industry studies on pesticides, concerns have arisen among NGOs regarding a possible loophole for industry written into the ruling. The court’s press release (item 2 below) about the ruling says that the requirement to release data relating to chemical and pesticide emissions to the environment “does not include information relating to purely hypothetical emissions, such as, for example, data from tests to study the effects of the use of a dose of a product which is significantly above the maximum dose for which the marketing authorisation was granted and which is used in practice." In a worst case scenario, this could provide industry with a loophole that will enable them to exclude from disclosure the most important data of all – the animal toxicity studies on pesticides and other chemicals, since they almost exclusively use unrealistically high doses. Realistic doses that people and animals are routinely exposed to are not tested in these industry studies.

Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 09th, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will not move forward with the controversial release of millions of genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in the community of Key Haven in Monroe County, Florida. The release of the GE mosquitoes would have been the first-ever in the United States, but FDA failed to conduct adequate testing for potential impacts to people, threatened and endangered species, and the environment. During the November 2016 election, local citizens voted against the release of the insects. A coalition of public interest groups – including Center for Food Safety (CFS), Friends of the Earth (FOE), Foundation Earth, the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, and Food & Water Watch – yesterday received a response to their 60-day notice of intent to sue FDA under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for failing to take into account impacts to federally listed species in a fast-tracked approval of the release of the GE mosquitoes.


Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 02nd, 2016

Crops genetically-engineered to withstand certain pesticides have a short shelf-life in Boulder County, Colorado. The county’s commissioners voted Wednesday to ban growing genetically engineered crops on county open space with a 2-1 vote. The decision does not apply to privately-owned farmland. The vote puts in place a transition plan to remove GMO corn and sugar beets -- the only GMO crops grown locally on open space land -- from public land within the next 5 years. In 2015, farmers planted GMO corn and sugar beets on about 1,200 acres of the county’s leased open space, accounting for about 8 percent of the total amount of leased cropland in Boulder County. Starting in 2017, tenant farmers will have five years to remove GMO sugar beets from their crop rotations, and three years to eliminate GMO corn. That means 2021 would be the last year any GMO crop is grown on county-owned land.

Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 02nd, 2016

While Monsanto insists that Roundup is safe and "minimally toxic" to humans, independent research6 strongly suggests that glyphosate residues "enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease."  According to Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Anthony Samsel, Ph.D., a research scientist and consultant: "Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body." Samsel and Seneff have also published research tying glyphosate exposure to Celiac disease and gluten intolerance.7 While genetically engineered (GE) crops such as corn, soybeans and sugar beets tend to contain higher levels of glyphosate due to them being more heavily sprayed, conventional non-organic crops such as wheat are also routinely doused with glyphosate pre-harvest to boost yield, a practice known as dessication. In summary, studies have found that glyphosate: Inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes that catalyze the oxidation of organic substances. This, Samsel and Seneff believe, is "an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals."


Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 02nd, 2016

Food has become a flashpoint in American culture and politics. In the past generation, Americans have witnessed the introduction of genetically modified crops, the rise of the organic food industry, increasing concerns about obesity, growing awareness to food allergies and other health concerns linked with what people eat, an expanding volume of best-selling books and publications about food and the proliferation of premier chefs as superstars in popular culture. There has been a pronounced shift in Americans’ eating habits over the past 20 years with far-reaching implications for how food is created, prepared and consumed. Moreover, the way Americans eat has become a source of potential social, economic and political friction as people follow personal preferences reflecting their beliefs about how foods connect with their health and ailments, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center.

Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 01st, 2016

Do you look for meat, and poultry products that are produced humanely?  Unfortunately, foods labeled as “humanely raised” may come from factory farms with terrible conditions for animals. The Food Safety and Inspections Service (FSIS) is charged with ensuring “the labeling of meat and poultry products is truthful and not misleading.” Animal welfare and environmental stewardship claims are supposed to be verified by FSIS before they show up in grocery stores, but this isn’t always the case. In 2014, the Animal Welfare Initiative reported that FSIS was approving animal welfare labels without any sort of supporting evidence. As a result, FSIS is proposing changes to the guidelines for on-package labeling of meat and poultry products. But, these guidelines fail to address the heart of the issue – animal welfare labels can be highly deceptive.


Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 01st, 2016

Food security. Health. Environmental sustainability. Democracy. All of these things are interconnected like spokes around the hub of agriculture. Agriculture, in turn, has undergone massive changes over the past several decades. Many of them were heralded as progress that would save us from hunger and despair. Yet today, we're faced with a new set of problems, birthed from the very innovations and interventions that were meant to provide us with safety and prosperity. You don't have to go very far back in history to get to a point where "What should I eat?" was a nonexistent question. Everyone knew what "food" was. They harvested food off trees, bushes and out of the ground, and they ate it, either raw or cooked in some fashion. Our current confusion about what is healthy and what is not is basically rooted in having divorced ourselves from the actual growing of food. What's worse, this separation has led to an even greater forgetfulness about our place in the ecosystem, and our role as shepherds of the natural world. 

Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Dec 01st, 2016

A controversial weed spray has been removed from Auckland Council's gardening practice in select parts of the city as well as on Waiheke. In 2015, the World Health Organisation said glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup, "probably" has the potential to cause cancer in humans. Now five of Auckland's 21 local boards will spend funds from their own budget to use mechanical gardening equipment instead. Mike Cohen is one of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board members who voted to spend $50,000 to keep his area chemical-free.


Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Nov 30th, 2016

Today the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its decisions on whether federal and Hawaiʻi state laws preempt Hawaiʻi counties’ authority to regulate genetically engineered (GE) crops and pesticide use. Of significance to state and local communities throughout the United States, the Ninth Circuit ruled that federal law—specifically, the Plant Protection Act—does not prohibit states and counties from passing local laws to regulate and ban commercially-grown GE crops. “Today’s decision to allow states and counties to ban or regulate GE crops is an important victory for GE-free seed sanctuaries and small communities and farmers around the country,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety.

Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Nov 30th, 2016

As Americans gather with their families for Thanksgiving this week, new government data offers a potentially unappetizing assessment of the U.S. food supply—Residues of many types of bug-killing pesticides, fungicides and weed killing chemicals have been found in roughly 85 percent of thousands of foods tested. Data released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows varying levels of pesticide residues in everything from mushrooms to potatoes and grapes to green beans. One sample of strawberries contained residues of 20 pesticides, according to the Pesticide Data Program report issued this month by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. The report is the 25th annual such compilation of residue data for the agency, and covered sampling the USDA did in 2015.


Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Nov 30th, 2016

Yesterday a judge in the Northern District of California delivered a crushing blow to the nation’s beekeepers and imperiled honey bees. The judge ruled against the beekeepers and public interest advocates in a lawsuit seeking to protect honey bees and the broader environment from unregulated harms caused by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lax policies for seeds coated with certain insecticides known to cause massive die-offs of honey bees. “It is astounding that a judge, EPA or anyone with any common sense would not regulate this type of toxic pesticide use, especially when the seed-coatings are so broadly applied and there is so much at risk. Study after study has shown that seeds coated with these chemicals are a major culprit in catastrophic bee-kills. Now more than ever our country’s beekeepers, environment and food system deserve protection from agrichemical interests, and it is EPA’s job to deliver it,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Director of Center for Food Safety.

Posted By: Food Democracy Now on Nov 29th, 2016

There is a wave of revolt in the kingdom of GMOs. Driven by lower cereal prices, some US farmers are wondering if they still have an interest in growing genetically modified crops, which cost them up to twice as much to plant than conventional seeds. The debate on GMOs that is emerging in the United States is far removed from European concerns about public health and biodiversity. It’s about a completely different aspect: the return on investment. The time is not conducive to unnecessary spending: in recent years, the world has consumed less corn, soy and wheat than it produces. As a result, the price of corn has halved since its peak in 2012, dropping sharply from $8 to $4 a bushel. This is also the case for soybeans, the price of which has fallen by 46% over three years. There is little reason to think that prices will soar over the next five years, warns the Ministry of Agriculture. Farmers' incomes have been negatively affected: they have fallen by 42% in three years (2013-2016), according to the ministry.


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