How Monsanto Rigged the System: through Politics & Propaganda

A profit-enhancing policy trumps public safety & scientific integrity
In the mid-1980s, the U.S. executive branch was persuaded that the biotechnology industry would boost the U.S. economy out of its doldrums. To accommodate this newly developing industry, the executive branch gave the industry “regulatory relief” in 1992. The US government public health safety policy shifted to facilitate the incorporation of genetically engineered (GE) new food crops without any new regulations. The new policy was announced by Vice President Dan Quayle who headed the White House Council on Competitiveness, at a meeting of agrichemical corporate executives who were anxious to apply a technological based economic model to agriculture similar to the model followed by the pharmaceutical and software industries. Technology shifted US farming to mechanized, technological methods, supported by strong long-term intellectual property rights that stifle competition:

The reforms we announce today will speed up and simplify the process of bringing better agricultural products, developed through biotech, to consumers, food processors and farmers… We will ensure that biotech products will receive the same oversight as other products, instead of being hampered by unnecessary regulation.” (Kurt Eichenwald, “Redesigning Nature: Biotechnology Food: From the Lab to a Debacle,” in The New York Times, 2001)

dan-quayle-regulationsWashington Post investigative reporters, Bob Woodward and David S. Broder, characterized Quayle’s regulatory relief task force as a “command post for a war against government regulation of American business.” They called Quayle a “zealot when it comes to deregulation.” (“Quayle’s Quest: Curb Rules, Leave ‘No Fingerprints,’” Washington Post, January 9, 1992; “Dan Quayle, Regulation Terminator.” BusinessWeek, November 3, 1991)

Dan Quayle’s most important legacy was to limit the scope of FDA’s statutory oversight authority under the US Food Additive Amendment of the Food Drug & Cosmetics Act; 21 USC Sec. 321, 1958) over biotechnology and genetically engineered (GE) or modified (GM/ GMO) food. The new policy was described as “science-based;” but far from being science based, the policy was framed and motivated by economic and political considerations. The agrichemical industry got away with self-policing of GMO product health risks.

The regulatory demolition process was described a decade later by Kurt Eichenwald, a business reporter for The New York Times:

In the weeks and months that followed, the White House complied, working behind the scenes to help Monsanto — long a political power with deep connections in Washington — get the regulations that it wanted.”

It was an outcome that would be repeated, again and again, through three administrations. What Monsanto wished for from Washington, Monsanto — and, by extension, the biotechnology industry — got. If the company’s strategy demanded regulations, rules favored by the industry were adopted. And when the company abruptly decided that it needed to throw off the regulations and speed its foods to market, the White House quickly ushered through an unusually generous policy of self-policing.

…the control this nascent industry exerted over its own regulatory destiny — through the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agriculture Department and ultimately the Food and Drug Administration — was astonishing.(“Redesigning Nature: Biotechnology Food: From the Lab to a Debacle,” in The New York Times, 2001)  

Exhibit A: Monsanto’s inordinate penetration of key government institutions — including the White House and the Supreme Court enabled the company to essentially dictate public policy to enhance its financial interests. Monsanto agents have held high level positions in key policy- setting administrative agencies; other officials received campaign contributions from Monsanto. John Ashcroft, Secretary of Justice, received contributions from Monsanto when he was re-elected, as did Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health; Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture, was director of Calgene, a Monsanto subsidiary; Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, was CEO of Searle, a Monsanto subsidiary; and Justice Clarence Thomas was a Monsanto corporate lawyer. Monsanto– the bête noire of environmentalists – has positioned itself so that it can dictate US public policy; thereby ensuring its control of global food markets.

monsanto-throughtout-government

From Ronald Reagan through Barak Obama.
Monsanto’s corrupting influence within the US government has continued seamlessly from one administration to the next; the company has continually used its vast resources to influence public policy by infiltrating every government agency that sets policy positions affecting its business interests. It also sabotages the safety reviewing process by oversight agencies, including the FDA, the USDA and EPA. (Open Secrets, 2013; US Right to Know)

Exhibit B: US food policy was rigged by Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s corporate lawyer who crafted FDA’s GMO Statement of Policy (May 1992). This official, FDA certified US policy falsely declares that technologically engineered food products are “substantially equivalent” to naturally produced food.

“The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding. For this reason, the agency does not believe that the method of development of a new plant variety (including the use of new techniques including recombinant DNA techniques) is normally material information within the meaning of 21 U.S.C. 321(n) and would not usually be required to be disclosed in labeling for the food.”

With that rationale, producers were given permission to market GE/GMO products without requiring that these products undergo safety tests or special labeling to identify them. When informed that the Council for Responsible Genetics had safety concerns, Monsanto’s corporate communications director Phil Angell, told the New York Times in 1998,Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” (cited by Wayne Barrett. The Nation, 2012)

Exhibit C: Forty thousand secret internal FDA documents dating back to 1991
The documents were uncovered during legal proceedings initiated by attorney Steven Druker on behalf of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity (1999). The documents reveal agency malfeasance; politically appointed administrators had covered up the extensive warnings of the FDA’s own scientists and lied about the facts. They bypassed the required formal testing and approval process to license novel genetically engineered products onto the market in violation of explicit mandates of federal food safety law.

But official policy declared the opposite, claiming that the FDA knew nothing of significant differences, and declared GMOs substantially equivalent. This fiction became the rationale for allowing GM foods on the market without any required safety studies whatsoever!

The documents provide a window into the corrupting corporate influence of Monsanto whose agent crafted GMO public policy. The corruption is shown to have been at the highest level government, and has continued seamlessly from one presidential administration to another: from President George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton to George W Bush to Barak Obama:

 “But the biotech industry had rigged the game so that neither science nor scientists would stand in their way. They had placed their own man in charge of FDA policy and he wasn’t going to be swayed by feeble arguments related to food safety. No, he was going to do what corporations had done for decades to get past these types of pesky concerns. He was going to lie.” (Jeffrey Smith, Huffington Post, 2011)

mike-taylor-juggler

Exhibit D: The amazing revolving door
Monsanto’s control of the US and global agriculture market was facilitated by an amazing revolving door that enabled Taylor to slide in and out of Monsanto and the powerful federal oversight agencies — the FDA and USDA. Taylor worked as a lawyer for the FDA in the 1970s, under the Nixon and Reagan Administrations. Throughout the 1980s he was a partner in the law firm King & Spalding representing Monsanto. During that period, he authored numerous articles promoting the position of Monsanto and other pesticide companies who opposed the Delaney Clause, a 1958 federal law prohibiting the introduction of known carcinogens into processed foods. (In These Times, 1999) Taylor returned to the FDA in 1991 as Deputy Commissioner for Policy – a newly created position during George H. W. Bush’s administration.

Taylor (a cousin of Tipper Gore) was the person in charge of overseeing FDA’s food policy during both the Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He facilitated the marketing of GE food without any safety studies and without any identifying labels. In 1992, Taylor signed an FDA guidance statement that milk from cows treated with bovine growth hormone (BGH) did not have to be labeled as such. BGH milk was manufactured at the time by Monsanto, American Cyanamid, and Eli Lilly. In 1994, Bill Clinton appointed Taylor Food Safety and Inspection administrator at the USDA.

FDA’s edict endorsed Monsanto’s position that biogenetically engineered food products were “substantially equivalent” to, and no different from conventionally grown food which have a centuries long record of proven safety. This sleight of hand rationale enabled biotech companies to sell any of the GE foods they were developing without having to be subjected to government approval procedures. Furthermore, the policy shielded industry from any possibility of a tort litigation.

The FDA asserts that “foods from GE plants must meet the same food safety requirements as foods derived from traditionally bred plants.” However, under the policy crafted by Taylor, there is no regulatory requirement for any safety testing for GE foods. Attorney Steven Druker who sued the FDA and is the author of the meticulously researched book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth (2015) accuses the FDA flat out: “the FDA broke the law and lied about the facts in order to get GMOs on the market.” Under the policy crafted by Taylor, the FDA does not test the safety of GE food; nor does it use its statutory authority to require safety tests by producers of GE food products. Whatever tests the biotech agriculture industry carries out is strictly voluntary.

GMOs are estimated to constitute somewhere between 75% and 80% of our food.
While the FDA  says that they are safe for consumption, most consumers argue that they have the right to know exactly what is in their food. Despite intense friction and the demand for labeling of GMOs, Monsanto and its financially rewarded allies have prevented such information from being freely available by blocking state legislative initiatives.

The FDA deviates fundamentally from a credible science-based policy
US statute requires the FDA to require scientific evidence to back up the approval of new food products. The FDA deviated from its statutory responsibility and adopted instead, a “policy-based evidence” approval process which relies on industry’s voluntary trials whose research findings are tainted by financial conflicts of interest and methodological corruption. The data is inaccessible for independent review; it is declared proprietary and is never disclosed. The Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also accepted industry’s biased safety assurance in the absence of science. [The FDA Modernization Act of 1997 similarly speeded up FDA’s prescription drug approval process.]

The US biotech policy contrasted sharply with Western European countries where concerns about unforeseen, but possible serious safety hazards were publicly debated. Europeans were especially wary in light of the decade long (1990s) disastrous epidemic of mad cow disease (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy) that had caused the death of at least 177 people. As a result, GMO food products were banned by 19 of 28 European countries. (European & American Views on GM Foods, Orsolya Ujj, The New Atlantis, 2016)

Exhibit E: Monsanto’s Multiple Revolving Doors 
From White House to Monsanto:
David Bockorny, Reagan’s legislative affairs specialist, a Monsanto tax consultant; William Cable, Carter’s Deputy Assistant for Legislative Affairs, Monsanto lobbyist; Marcia Hale, Presidential Assistant  and Director Inter-government Affairs, Monsanto’s Director International Government Affairs; Mickey Kantor, Secretary of Dept. of Commerce and US Trade Ambassador, Monsanto Board member; Josh King, Clinton’s Director of White House Production Events, Monsanto’s Director of Global Communications; Jack Watson, Carter’s Chief of Staff, Monsanto staff lawyer

From Congress to Monsanto:
Ellen Boyle, Cong. Tip O’Neill’s Press Secretary, Monsanto lobbyist; Dennis Di Concini, Arizona Democrat Senator, specialist in patenting genetically engineered food and native seed stocks in his law firm Parry, Romani & Di Concini;Toby Moffet, Democrat Congresswoman, Monsanto political strategist; John Orlando, Senator John Dingle’s Chief of Staff, Monsanto lobbyist; Catherine Porter, Chief Trade & Tax Council to Sen. John Chaffey, Monsanto tax consultant

From Federal Agencies to Monsanto & Biotech Industry
Linda Fisher, Assistant Adm EPA Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxic Substances, Monsanto V-P Government & Public Affairs; Dr. Michael Friedman, deputy Commissioner, FDA, Monsanto Chief Clinical Research; Gwendolyn King, Head SSA, Monsanto Board; Terry Medley, USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service & chair USDA Agriculture Biotech Council & FDA food advisory committee, Director of Regulatory & External Affairs; William Ruckelshaus, EPA Administrator, Monsanto Board Member; Clayton Yeutter, USDA Secretary & US Trade Rep who led the US team in negotiating US-Canada Free Trade Agreement and GATT negotiations, board member of Mycogen Corp, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical

From Monsanto & Biotech Industry to Government
David Beier, head of government affairs at Genentech – which patented rBGH and sold rights to Monsanto – Chief Domestic Policy Advisor to Vice President Gore; Carol Tucker Foreman, Monsanto Biotech lobbyist & Director of Agribusiness Industry’s Public Voice to Clinton’s Global Consultative Forum as the “consumer advocate.” Val Giddings, USDA biotech regulator & V-P for Food & Agriculture of Biotech Industry Org ABIO); Margaret Miller, Monsanto Lab Supervisor, FDA Deputy Director Human Food Safety; Lidia Watrud, Monsanto researcher, EPA senior scientist
(These are listed by Dr. Samuel Epstein in his book, What’s In Your Milk? 2006)

wikileaksExhibit F: 926 cables sent by U.S. State Department officials between 2005 and 2009
The secret cables, sent between 2005 and 2009, were released by WikiLeaks in 2010. What they reveal is that only five countries cultivate 89% of biotech crops; most of the world has rejected them. The U.S. State Department is but one among numerous government agencies that serve to accommodate biotech corporations by launching a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology, often over the opposition of the public and governments. They promote only the corporate interests of biotech industry to the near exclusion of other more sustainable, more appropriate agricultural policy alternatives.

They ignore professional assessments of experts including prestigious international agencies that have concluded that the high costs for seeds and chemicals, uncertain yields and the potential to undermine local food security make biotechnology a poor choice for the developing world. (For example, the assessment of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, 2009; National Research Council report, 2010) The cables reveal that Department officials pressured foreign governments to adopt policies favoring the objectives of the largest biotech seed companies, on often skeptical or resistant governments and public. This exemplifies thinly veiled corporate diplomacy on behalf of a few big biotechnology companies. The State Department worked especially hard to promote the interests of Monsanto. Craig Stapleton, the former ambassador to France specifically asked the US government to retaliate and cause some harm throughout the European Union for refusing to adopt Monsanto’s GMO crop. (Democracy Now, 2010)

The nonprofit organization, Food & Water Watch, provides the contextual background for the promotional pitches reflected in the cables with fact-based refutations. The cables provide evidence of bullying and retaliation tactics against Europe on behalf of Monsanto. Those bully tactics backfired, generating resentment among Europeans and Africans against both the biotech pesticide industry and the US government.  Of note, the biotech industry is a core constituency for the State Department which worked especially hard to promote the interests of Monsanto, the world’s biggest biotech seed company. The target audience for biotech diplomacy outreach was as follows: 23.9% targeted scientists / academics; 23.4% targeted industry; 11.8% targeted the media; 8.5% farmers; 6.7% legislators; 6.5% NGOs and 5.6% targeted the public.

The State Department public relations and propaganda efforts urged embassies to generate positive media coverage to influence public opinion by targeting reporters. Officials and invited experts participated in 169 public events in 52 countries promoting biotech agriculture. Embassies organized journalist roundtable discussions to garner favorable stories; in Hong Kong, the consulate sent DVDs of a pro-biotech presentation to very high school; a 2009 “strategy memo” urged embassies to advance a strategy that advanced legislation favorable biotech companies; more than two-thirds (69.9%) of cables in 2009 focused on influencing local laws / regulations governing agricultural biotechnology.

Presidents Barak Obama & George W. Bush

Presidents Barak Obama & George W. Bush

The cables are nearly identical from the Bush to the Obama administrations: promoting biotech agriculture is a non-partisan, pro-corporate foreign policy with long-term State Department support… The State Department promotes a pro-biotech message that reads right out of the biotech industry playbook. The biotech industry promises that GE crops will increase farm productivity, combat global hunger and strengthen economic development opportunities, all with a lighter environmental footprint.”

The State Department’s uncritical endorsement of biotech agriculture is more effective than the industry’s own extensive public relations efforts…The majority of European consumers opposed GE crops, according to a 2010 survey. In 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted, ‘I know that GMOs are not popular around the world.’

 “The United States has aggressively pursued foreign policies in food and agriculture that benefit the largest seed companies. The U.S. State department has launched a concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology, often over the opposition of the public and government, to the near exclusion of other more sustainable, more appropriate agricultural policy alternatives. The U.S. State department has also lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology politics and laws, operated a rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology and challenged common sense biotechnology safeguards and rules – even including opposing laws requiring the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.”

“One strategy memo even included an “advocacy toolkit” for diplomatic posts. Embassies could leverage their pro-biotech efforts by coordinating with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID, an independent agency under the State Department’s authority), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies.”  (Biotech Ambassadors, Food & Water Watch, 2013)

US embassies have attempted to burnish Monsanto’s image and to intervene with governments to negotiate seed royalty settlements. The State Department even continued to advocate on behalf of Monsanto after the company was charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 2005, Monsanto admitted that it was responsible for bribing an Indonesian official to weaken environmental oversight of GE crops and paid $1.5 million in fines to the U.S. government.101A Monsanto consultant tried to persuade an Indonesian official to relax or repeal an environmental rule governing the planting of GE crops; when the official demurred, a Monsanto official approved an illegal payment of $50,000 to “incentivize” the official to weaken GE oversight.102There were 49 cables that mentioned Monsanto interests even after the company paid the fine.

US Embassies Aggressively Opposed GE Labeling Efforts—about one out of eight biotech cables from 42 nations addressed biotech-labeling requirements. The EU requires all foods, animal feeds (but not meat from animals fed with GE feed) and processed products with biotech content to bear GE labels. Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea all require labels on GE foods, although labeling requirements vary from zero tolerance to 5 percent GE content. Some countries adopted labeling rules despite U.S. opposition. During 2008 and 2009, the embassy in South Africa lobbied parliamentarians and other opinion leaders to prevent the mandatory GE labeling law that was enacted in 2009.  (Biotech AmbassadorsFood & Water Watch, 2013)

Monsanto’s corrupting influence has continued seamlessly from one administration to the next: from President Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton to George W Bush, and Barack Obama, Mike Taylor was appointed to positions that ensured that regulatory policies would be favorable to Monsanto’s interests. He moved to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as administrator of Food Safety (1994-1996); and in 1996, he returned to Monsanto as Vice President for Public Policy. Then, in 2000, he took the position of Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Risk Management, until 2009, while also employed as research professor of Health Policy at George Washington University. In 2009, Taylor returned to government under the Obama administration, as Senior Advisor to the FDA Commissioner.

On January 13, 2010, President Obama appointed Mike Taylor to yet another newly created position at the FDA; this time, as Deputy Commissioner in charge of Food safety. By that time, Taylor had circled three times between government and industry. Consumers advocate Jeffrey Smith, the author of Seeds of Deception, and Genetic Roulette, described Taylor as: “The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history.” 

But, as CBS reported in January 2015, “the FDA staffer who wrote Taylor’s bio seems to have all-but-forgotten his decade-plus Monsanto work.”

“As a lobbyist, Taylor argued against the Delaney Clause, one of the foundations of food safety regulation that prohibits cancer-causing chemicals to be added to food. Even some of Taylor’s food safety achievements don’t look so great. HACCP, a safety system he championed while at the USDA, is essentially a program in which the industry gets to regulate itself.” (“Obama Gives Former Food Lobbyist a Second Chance at FDA,” CBS News Money Watch, 2010

A growing movement called for mandatory labeling food containing GE content: required labeling propositions were on the ballot in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. The agrichemical industry was determined to prevent labeling requirements, as these would likely reduce the cash flow. In 2012, the industry mounted a multifaceted $100 million public relations, lobbying campaign whose purpose was to defeat legislative labeling initiatives by convincing Americans that GE foods and the pesticides used concomitantly are safe; and that Monsanto is consumer friendly company: “eager to share facts and information about how your food is grown and why it is grown the way it is.” (discover. Monsanto.com)

The corporate media & corporate academia tout Monsanto’s PR Propaganda
A 65 page report by the public interest group, U.S. Right to Know, documents how the massive PR campaign “manipulated the media, public opinion and politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin” and who were the participating political “luminaries.” For example, Mitt Romney, the Republican 2012 presidential candidate, was an architect of Monsanto’s metamorphosis in the 1980s  from a chemical manufacturer to a genetic engineering and agrichemical firm. Romney was CEO of Bain & Company, and Monsanto was its largest consulting client.(“Mitt Romney, Monsanto ManThe Nation, Sept. 2012)

In 2012,  Monsanto hired the PR firms Ketchum – which promotes Russian interests in the US; and Fleishman Hillard; both have a record of engaging in deceptive tactics, including espionage on behalf of RJ Reynolds, the tobacco giant. (“Seedy Business,” 2015)

High profile foundations such as the two Bill Foundations — Gates and Clinton – joined in promoting the biotech food industry propaganda. They all broadcast the uniform message that GE foods are scientifically proven to be safe, and that the technology is providing enormous benefits to humanity. In 2013, the World Food Prize was awarded to Monsanto and Syngenta. The major sponsors of the prize are Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont.

Academics were enlisted into “an inner circle of industry consultants, lobbyists and executives who devised strategy on how to block state efforts to mandate G.M.O. labeling and, most recently, on how to get Congress to pass legislation that would pre-empt any state from taking such a step.” (“Food Industry Enlisted Academics in GMO Lobbying…” by Eric Lipton, The New York Times, 2015)

In 2013, Senate Rejected States’ Rights to label GMOs. (See list of Senators and Congressional Representatives paid by Monsanto) On March 27, 2013, President Obama signed the so-called biotech rider (S. 735), attached to the legislation for the continued funding of the U.S. government. That rider (commonly referred to as the “Monsanto Protection Act”) was designed to override successful lawsuits prohibiting the planting of a particular GE / GMO product. Senator Sanders stated:

Bernie Sanders

 Senator Bernie Sanders

Essentially, what that Monsanto Protection Act rider said is that even if a court were to determine that a particular product might be harmful to human beings or harmful to the environment, the Department of Agriculture could not stop the production of that product once it is in the ground. So you have deregulated the GMO industry from court oversight, which is really not what America is about.” (Wikipedia; New York Daily News, 2013)

In 2014, Vermont enacted a GMO labeling law that Monsanto was determined to derail. According to a report by the Environmental Working Group (2014) shows that biotech and food processor companies spent $63.6 million in 2014 alone to oppose mandatory labeling. Money flowed for campaign contributions and media advertising. The companies spending millions to keep their customers in the dark about GMOs, include those that millions of Americans have come to trust.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association spent $5.8 million in 2014, up sharply from $60,000 in 2013; PepsiCo nearly doubled the amount it spent, more than $4 million in 2014, up from 2.6 million in 2013; Kellogg ($2.1 million), General Mills ($2.6 million), and Coca-Cola spent more than $9 million – the most of any food company, according to the report.

On July 2, 2015 the White House issued a Memorandum to the heads of the FDA, EPA and USDA; its subject, Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products. The first sentence affirms that the regulatory system “must protect public health, welfare, safety and our environment....” was meant, no doubt, for public consumption.

November 2015, FDA approved a genetically engineered salmon as “fit for consumption.”  According to its commercial developer, AquaBounty, these mega-sized salmons are supposed to be raised inland in contained tanks “to lessen the chances that they will escape into the wild.”  The New York Times reported that FDA’s rationale for approval:

“the fish was safe to eat because the inserted genetic elements did not harm the fish itself [and] the company had adequately proved that the salmon grew faster.”

Note, that the FDA refrains from certifying that the genetically engineered salmon is “safe.” Indeed, the FDA does not certify that ANY GE food product is safe because it lacks scientific evidence to support such a safety claim.

“The AquAdvantage salmon contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and a genetic switch from the ocean pout, an eel-like creature, that keeps the transplanted gene continuously active, whereas the salmon’s own growth hormone gene is active only parts of the year.

The FDA approved this first genetically engineered animal despite fierce opposition from consumer advocates and environmental groups; and Republican Representative Don Young, stated,  “This harebrained decision goes to show that our federal agencies are incapable of using common sense.”

“This unfortunate, historic decision disregards the vast majority of consumers, many independent scientists, numerous members of Congress and salmon growers around the world, who have voiced strong opposition,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. 

FDA’s long awaited labeling guidelines were issued Nov. 2015, as a draft Guidance for Industry Re: GE Atlantic Salmon. FDA’s position to not require genetically engineered ingredients to be disclosed has not changed. The F.D.A. declares that such products are not materially different from their nonengineered cousins — even after a federal court of appeals overruled that specious claim. [Read A GMO Debacle: Growth Hormone Contaminated Milk]

As the Times reported, the FDA has not changed its position despite intense pressure from both sides of the issue:

major food companies [that] have have lobbied heavily against mandatory labeling… have applauded the agency’s position to not require genetically engineered ingredients to be disclosed. The F.D.A. has determined that such products are not materially different from their nonengineered cousins.”

What FDA has done, is add a bit of confusion to the mix for consumers and for those companies. FDA indicated that the commonly used term GMO (genetically modified organism) should be replaced by genetic engineered (GE);  Non-GMO labels should be replaced by Non-GE labels.

obama-dark-act

In August, 2016, President Obama signed the Dark Act that masquerades as GMO labeling

Why the GMO Labeling Bill Obama Just Signed Into Law Is a Sham—and a National Embarrassment The bill is diametrically opposed to what 90% of the American people want: full disclosure of GM food labeled in plain English.  Instead the bill allows companies to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers as the means for getting label information. It discriminates against low-income American consumers who lack smart phones and wouldn’t know how to use them.

The loopholes are enormous: Food ingredients like beet sugar and soybean oil, which can be derived from genetically-engineered crops but contain next to no genetic material by the time they are processed, may not fall under the law’s definition of a bioengineered food, critics say. GMO corn may also be excluded thanks to ambiguous language,

The DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know) was not subject to any hearings. No expert testimony was taken. Rather, it was the result of backroom dealing between a few senators and industrial food and biotech companies—primarily Monsanto.

With a few strokes of his pen Obama scratched out the laws of Vermont, Connecticut and Maine that required the labeling of genetically engineered foods. He nullified the GE seed labeling laws in Vermont and Virginia that allowed farmers to choose what seeds they wanted to buy and plant. And for good measure he preempted Alaska’s law requiring the labeling of any GE fish or fish product, passed to protect the state’s vital fisheries from contamination by recently approved genetically engineered salmon.

The White House justified the DARK Act’s massive onslaught on local democracy on the grounds that the bill would create national standards for labeling of GE foods. It does nothing of the sort. According to Obama’s own Food and Drug Administration, if enacted, the bill would exempt most current GMO foods from being labeled at all. The FDA further commented that it “may be difficult” for any GMO food to qualify for labeling under the bill. And for any GE foods that might be covered, the bill allows for food to be “labeled” through a digital system of QR codes that can only be accessed if the consumer has a smartphone and reliable internet connectivity.  (Alternet, August 4, 2016)

The bill seems to be a clear violation of the 14th Amendment, as it would allow corporations to use QR codes instead of clear plain language labels. Since nearly 100 million Americans, predominantly the elderly and low-income population, do not have smartphones, the bill is discriminatory and does not treat all citizens equally….

[Read AHRP GMO posts: A GMO Debacle: Growth Hormone Contaminated Milk
                                   GMOs containing herbicide glyphosate: UNSAFE at any plate
                                   How American Consumers became de facto Guinea Pigs
                                   Science confirms: weed killer, glyphosate is UNSAFE for humans
                                  How GMO propaganda perverted science & suppressed safety concerns

 

 
Stay tuned for additional posts on issues of: GMO Safety.]