Newsletter - 11/14/13 from Organic Consumers Association
ESSAY OF THE WEEK
Hollow Victories, Radical Warriors
Twelve months after narrowly (51-49 percent) defeating our organic and natural health movement in an expensive ($55 million) and bitterly fought California ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are publicly bragging that they’ve beaten us again, 52-48 percent, in a similar ballot initiative—I-522—in Washington State.
But at what cost? Just as they did in California, Big Food and Big Biotech privately acknowledged that I-522 was a hollow victory, another expensive, brand-damaging battle in a fruitless war against consumer choice, a war they will inevitably lose.
We may have narrowly lost the first preliminary battles to label GMO foods in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013. But as we step up our resistance and deliver a more radical and comprehensive message in 2014, we will win the war.
‘Defense of Brands’ Meets ‘Defense of Consumers’
In a move that may trump Monsanto’s devious plans to manipulate democracy and keep consumers in the dark, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has declared outright war on consumers’ right to know.
Documents obtained by lawyer and food writer Michele Simon reveal a bold plan by the GMA that would make it illegal for states to pass GMO labeling laws, while at the same time excluding the possibility of a federal labeling law.
As Simon explains, the GMA’s “Defense of Brand” strategy calls for the federal government to outlaw states from enacting GMO labeling laws, presumably to prevent a scenario where food makers have to comply with a checkerboard of state laws. But the GMA doesn’t want to play by the normal rules for federal preemption laws. Under the food industry’s plan, the feds would preempt state labeling laws, but without substituting a uniform federal labeling law.
The GMA represents more than 300 food companies. Companies that exist because consumers buy their products. Yet these companies are prepared to go to any lengths to hide basic information about what’s in the products they’re selling you.
With nearly 1.7 million votes counted, the YES on 522 GMO labeling initiative has gained ground. But as ofPacific time last night, we were still trailing, 48.43 percent to 51.57 percent. We have companies like Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nestlé, Kellogg’s, Pepsi and others to thank for making this battle so close.
It’s time to fight back. With a vengeance. Stay tuned as we roll out a new “Defense of Consumers” boycott aimed at exposing the ugly lies behind food companies’ pretty brands, sappy slogans and phony “customer service” programs and promises.
Thanks, Sen. Warren, but . . .
It took 42,000 petition signatures and a visit to her office. But on November 4, noted consumer advocate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) finally took a position in favor of mandatory labels on food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) when she signed on as a co-sponsor to the Boxer-DeFazio bill.
We’re grateful that Sen. Warren has come around to our side. The only problem is, she’s still also siding with Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) by asking the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize its guidance for voluntary labeling of GMOs.
How can it be that Sen. Warren is supporting both consumers and the biotech and junk food industries? At the same time?
If the FDA finalizes its 2001 guidance on voluntary labeling, it could mean the end for any state or federal mandatory GMO labeling law. And it could make it impossible for manufacturers of non-GMO products to legitimately claim their products are non-GMO.
SUPPORT THE OCA & OCF
Donald Trump? Really?
“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” – Donald Trump
OK, we know. Donald Trump has no place here. Yet somehow Trump’s words, much as we hate to admit it, resonated this week.
Following two deeply devastating, nail-bitingly close losses, of battles that were not only near and dear to our hearts, but battles that were yours, in every sense of the word, we are moving forward.
And we are already finding new ways.
It’s tempting to think that all your energy, your money, your time, was wasted. But your support for GMO labeling initiatives, in California last year, and in Washington State this year, has propelled GMO labeling onto the national stage.
You are the reason Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert, the New York Times and the Guardian, are talking and writing about GMOs.
Your commitment, your passion, have forced Monsanto and Big Food to cough up millions of dollars to fight you. You’ve dented their wallets. You’ve cracked their foundations.
Now is not the time to give up or turn back. So we are already looking for new ways, new paths to victory. We thank you for your past support. And invite you to stay in this fight. Until we win. Thank you!
Donate to the Organic Consumers Association (tax-deductible, helps support our work on behalf of organic standards, fair trade and public education)
Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund (non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our legislative efforts in Washington, Vermont and other states)
Fast Track to Disaster
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade agreement being secretly negotiated by 600 multinational corporations and industry trade groups, will affect nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives. If passed, it will undermine state, local and federal laws, including those governing food safety, environmental protection, internet freedom, worker rights, democratic sovereignty, healthcare and drug prices, and banking and finance regulation.
In short, it will be a disaster for public health and safety, future sustainability of the world’s food supply and basic democratic principles.
It’s bad enough that Congress and the public have been shut out of these negotiations, while corporations are running the show. But even worse, the Obama Administration wants to ram the TPP through Congress using a Nixon-era process called Fast Track.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Rachel Maddow: ‘Big Money Gets It Done’
When is a narrow loss good news? When the narrow loss gets national coverage. A couple of years ago, nobody was talking about GMO labeling on the national news. But last week, even though the vote on Washington State’s I-522 GMO labeling initiative turned out to be bad for the movement, the national coverage—pointing out the role of corporate cash—was good for the movement. As Maddow concludes: “Big money gets it done. Even in blue blue states, even on blue blue nights.”
The Latin word “victus” means nourishment. And that’s exactly what Victus Farm, a partnership between the University of Minnesota and the small town of Silver Bay, Minn., does. It nourishes the Silver Bay community by creating jobs, organic food and clean energy.
Victus Farm has created a closed-loop production system that provides hundreds of pounds of organically grown lettuce, basil, arugula and organically fed tilapia, to local restaurants and markets.
Here’s how it works. The farm collects rainwater and uses it to raise the fast-growing tilapia in tanks. Nutrient-rich waste water from the fish tanks then feeds the assortment of vegetables grown in the hydroponic greenhouse. Next the water flows to the algae beds, where oxygen is restored to the water before it is returned to the tilapia tanks.
Staff are testing different types of algae for optimal biofuel production. Meanwhile, biomass boilers provide the necessary heat for the greenhouses. And soon, solar panels will provide the farm’s electricity.
It’s a big project for a little town. One that provides everything from food to education, and most of all, a model that businesses can scale up and reproduce.
Essential Reading for the Week
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