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Biotech Industry Quick to Follow up on California Victory

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2012 December Issue Newsletter

by Jack Kittredge

Having generated enough skepticism about the impact of GMO labeling in California -- spending their $46 million corporate slush fund on deceptive TV ads -- to roll back what at first looked like overwhelming voter support for Proposition 37, the biotech industry is moving quickly to solidify their dominant position.
 
Appropriations Rider
Monsanto is pushing a rider to the FY 2013 Ag Appropriations Bill that would grant GMOs immunity from federal law. The rider, which they are working to pass during the lame duck session of Congress before the end of 2012, would require the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for planting or cultivating a new engineered crop even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed.
 
Apparently the biotech industry is frustrated in their rush to release new GMOs by organizations like the Center for Food Safety, which take US environmental laws seriously and have sued to enforce them – sometimes winning delays.
 
The omnibus appropriations bill, once drafted in committee, will require an up or down vote in both houses of Congress without amendment. Such measures, once they reach that stage, are very difficult to defeat.
 
Propaganda Ramped Up
To facilitate their political agenda, the industry has begun a public relations full court press. The December 3 issue of Time Magazine ran a cover story: “What To Eat Now” in which organic foods are called “elitist” and “undemocratic”. The magazine repeats assertions made this fall in a highly flawed study out of Stanford University that organic foods are not more nutritious than conventional ones. Although much evidence to the contrary refutes this claim, most organic consumers don’t even choose organic for nutritional reasons. They are concerned about avoiding residues of the pesticides and toxins used in conventional crop production, as well as supporting ecological agriculture to encourage biodiversity and clean soil and water.
 
AC21 Report Absolves Trespassers
The group called AC21, which the USDA has put together to study how engineered and natural seed can “coexist” in American farming, has issued its report. The document recommends that farmers whose crops are contaminated by GE crops be compensated for their damages by crop insurance. Of course those farmers would have had to purchase such insurance before they experienced the damage, as well as prove that their losses were caused by genetic contamination. Meanwhile, the contaminator bears no costs and has no obligation or incentive to farm in a way that minimizes such contamination.
 
Millions Mobilized
Despite these indications of the agricultural biotechnology industry’s success, however, the California ballot initiative mobilized millions of people who had never heard of GMOs before. Campaigns have started in dozens of states to pass labeling laws, the Non-GMO Project’s labeling and verification work is rapidly catching on as more and more people seek to buy non-GMO food, and pressure is mounting on Congress to take this issue seriously and on the White House to honor campaign promises to enact a national labeling bill.
 
We haven’t heard the last of this battle yet!
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