Volatility

February 5, 2016

GMO News Summary, February 5th 2016

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*The ChemChina/Syngenta deal is near complete. “ChemChina, as the closely-held company is known, offered $465 a share in cash, according to a statement on Wednesday. The offer, endorsed by Syngenta’s board, is about 20 percent higher than the stock’s last close.” China has long been planning to build its own GMO/pesticide conglomerate and assert itself globally in competition with the US-based cartel. Syngenta’s chairman has suggested that he thinks Syngenta could become China’s primary supplier of GM technology and primary Western partner for China’s project. Bloomberg complacently comments on how China and Syngenta will nevertheless submit to US review and veto power over the deal, because “even though Syngenta isn’t based in the U.S, it does have North American operations that generated $3.6 billion in sales last year” which the US could threaten to hinder and harm in some way if the company doesn’t stay in line. Although Syngenta is more diversified across the pesticide line (which is economically prior to and more important than GM seeds) than Monsanto and therefore relatively better positioned (but over the long run the fundamentals are bad for all of industrial agriculture), Syngenta evidently is being subject to stick-ups by both China and the US.
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This is part of the intensifying Great Game for total control of agriculture and food. The agrochemical conglomerates are at the peak of their power, but their position has never been more precarious. Having been aced out of a Syngenta deal, if Monsanto doesn’t make a deal with BASF or something similar they might be in deep trouble.
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*One of my four featured yahoos who impersonate scientists is still at it. More detail on Bruce Chassy’s ongoing career as a mercenary fraud. In spite of his claims about his scientific credentials, he actually has zero credentials in agriculture, food science, medicine, biology, or genetics. Yet the FDA and the University of Illinois, and of course the media, have joined in perpetrating the fraud that he does have some kind of expertise in these areas.
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*Here’s another example of the pro-GMO activists’ standard attitude toward truth and morality. Critics of poison agriculture are accusing the Genetic Illiteracy Project of publishing personal information and changing headlines and text when reposting their pieces. More amusingly, those complaining of tampering with headlines and text include such pro-GMO activists as Keith Kloor, Anastasia Bodnar of Biofalsified, Helena Bottemiller, and Julie Kelly. Now they’re all whining about “unethical practices”, which is quite rich coming from the likes of Kloor and company. Of course the GIP’s systematic lying on behalf of cancer-causing poisons and corporate domination of agriculture and food doesn’t bother them one bit, since such Nuremburg lies are their trade as well.
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*The Indian central government is admitting in court what farmers and critics have known for over ten years, that Bt cotton is an extremely failure prone product. The admission comes in a court proceeding where the government is defending its imposition of price controls on the shoddy seeds against a challenge from Mahyco-Monsanto. The corporations especially object to the government’s placement of limits on the tax Monsanto collects on cotton seed sales. The government admits that it allowed Monsanto to attain a near-monopoly on cotton seed. (It also actively encouraged this monopoly.) But between the tax and the generally very poor performance of the crop farmers can no longer afford to plant it. This is driving the suicide epidemic among small cotton farmers in India. This price control policy, along with the latest of the many Karnataka bailouts, is just the latest in the long line of central and state government bailouts, price controls, and bans on shoddy seeds.
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*The political struggle continues over that same Indian central government’s imminent approval of Bt mustard for commercial release. The opposition to this and to GM crops in general has included several elements of the Modi government’s coalition such as farmer unions and “nationalist” types. In defiance of prior court decisions and transparency law the government is keeping secret the biosafety dossier from the field trials and any lab testing which has been done, which is proof that the evidence is very bad regarding the GM product’s agronomic behavior and health and safety implications. As far as GM contamination we don’t really need the secret data, as the crop’s lead developer Deepak Pental has freely admitted that “the crossing of the transgenic gene to other non-GM mustard varieties is expected.” It certainly is expected to happen especially broadly and rapidly with brassicas. Indeed contamination is so universally documented and economic policy is so relentless in seeking to normalize ever increasing levels of “adventitious presence”* that we have to call it a primary purpose of the GMO project. Meanwhile public health campaigner Aruna Rodrigues filed a petition with the supreme court for an injunction against the government’s plans to approve herbicide tolerant mustard, cotton, and corn. In 2013 the court-appointed Technical Expert Committee, in addition to advising strong precautions and transparency where it comes to GMOs in general, found that herbicide tolerant GMOs as such would be economically inappropriate for India.
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(It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of GM mustard is being talked about in various contexts, in particular which is the one supposedly about to be approved for commercial release. Most pieces I’ve seen called it Bt mustard, but the last few days they’ve been talking about a product which would be herbicide tolerant as well.)
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[*According to EuropaBio lobbying, TTIP negotiations, and the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association’s proposed GMO labeling standards, where it comes to GM contamination of the general agriculture, commodity stream, and food supply the regulatory threshold for “non-GMO” is supposed to increase mechanically as the contamination becomes more prevalent, in the exact same way that regulators mechanically increase the “tolerance” levels for pesticide residues in food. This is one of several reasons why it’s utopian to think the FDA could ever apply a strong GMO labeling policy: The FDA would mechanically raise the legally allowed level of contamination which would be called “adventitious” as the chronic contamination increased. Therefore the level of GM material in a product which would require it to be labeled “contains genetically engineered ingredients”, and beneath which it would not have to carry a label, would continually, automatically increase. The FDA would also preempt any state law or voluntary body like the Non-GMO Project from imposing a more rigorous standard.]
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*GMO contamination is a systematic policy goal. The USDA and Monsanto will never stop until they are stopped once and for all. Here we have documentary proof that the most far-ranging and aggressive contamination is a core part of the intended goal.
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*This interview with Marc Edwards, a scientist who helped expose the poisoning of the Flint water supply, is a case study in how normal science really works under corporate rule. He speaks to how rare it is for the scientific method, falsification and all, to actually be applied, and what happens when a scientist actually does work that way. Here’s a quote from the piece:
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Q. I keep coming back to these university researchers in Flint who said: “The state has 50 epidemiologists. They say that the water’s safe. So I’m going to focus my energy on something that’s less settled.” How do you decide when the state should be challenged?

A. That’s a great question. We are not skeptical enough about each other’s results. What’s the upside in that? You’re going to make enemies. People might start questioning your results. And that’s going to start slowing down our publication assembly line. Everyone’s invested in just cranking out more crap papers.

So when you start asking questions about people, and you approach them as a scientist, if you feel like you’re talking to an adult and they give you a rational response and are willing to share data and discuss an issue rationally, I’m out of there. I go home.

But when you reach out to them, as I did with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they do not return your phone calls, they do not share data, they do not respond to FOIA [open-records requests], y’know. … In each case I just started asking questions and turning over rocks, and I resolved to myself, The second something slimy doesn’t come out, I’m gonna go home. But every single rock you turn over, something slimy comes out.

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Unfortunately Edwards isn’t yet the kind of public health campaigner we the people need since he still thinks and talks in terms of restoring trust in the system even though he just testified to how the system is depraved beyond redemption. That’s not the first time I’ve seen the same notion coming from a partially dissident scientist, that “restoring trust in the system” as such is somehow supposed to be one of the goals. A true dissident, which by now also means anyone who has scientific integrity, must work to demolish the credibility, legitimacy, and authority of an establishment “science” system which has become completely anti-scientific under corporate directives and in furtherance of corporate rule.
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*Corporate Europe Observatory has released a new report on the corporate attempt in Europe to have the newer kinds of GMOs arbitrarily declared outside the bounds of regulation. This parallels the USDA’s campaign to exempt more and more GMOs from its own purview.
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This would include exemption from labeling requirements for all so-called “second generation” GMOs developed via gene editing and so-called “cisgenesis”* The report specifically highlights how GM apples and potatoes are supposed to be exempted from regulation including labeling. Here’s another reason why it’s impossible to get real labeling from the FDA. The agency whose primary religious dogma is that GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to true crops and which abdicated nearly all regulatory oversight will certainly follow the USDA’s lead in declaring the second generation GMOs not to be GMOs at all for purposes of labeling.
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[*A de jure and de facto fraud. Even where the main transgene is from the same species, the cisgenesis gene cassette includes several elements from other species, such as a viral promoter. And the violent, mutation-inducing insertion and tissue culture procedures are the same as for any other GMO. So nothing’s different. “Cisgenesis” is a scientifically meaningless term, a pure propaganda/marketing hoax.]
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Although we must fight these lawless attempts, we the people should fully reciprocate the mindset that GMOs and their activists are outlaws in the full medieval sense of the term, exactly as they say they want to be.
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This and the earlier point about contamination highlight not only the impossibility of any real FDA labeling, but how the idea of labeling is misguided in principle. Here we have two examples of how a very slow, clumsy, often static labeling policy would try to keep track of a fast-moving, crafty GMO target, and would try to do this within the “co-existence” framework which everyone knows is impossible. Labeling sounded good and maybe even sufficient when the idea was first broached all those years ago. By now we’ve learned enough to know that it’s insufficient and not worth being any kind of significant goal. It’s time to move beyond the concept of labeling as anything more than an organizational tool, and to full abolition as the necessary, fully conscious goal, and adapt all organizational principle, strategy, and tactics to that.
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*The people of California’s Sonoma County are working for a county-level ban on GMO cultivation. They look to join the growing list of counties in California, Oregon, and Hawaii which have passed such bans. These county-level bans have had mixed fortunes in the courts, but in the long run the courts can never be the source of the people’s health and freedom. Only our political will can do that, and if we find this will the “law” will follow.

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January 26, 2016

The USDA/Monsanto Deliberate Campaign to Contaminate All Alfalfa

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If successful, this campaign would lead to a Monsanto monopoly on alfalfa seed and render organic meat and dairy impossible under the current USDA standards. The USDA has always wanted GMOs to qualify under the organic standard, and has long seen GM alfalfa as a mode of attack to bring on this result.
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Persistence Proves Intent. If the US government and Monsanto see that this surging contamination is an inevitable direct effect of their action in deploying GM alfalfa and they continue with the deployment, that proves that this contamination is part of the intended effect. The major effects of a large-scale action are always an organic whole. It’s never true that a necessary government policy has ambivalent results. On the contrary, the major effects are always the desired effects, because if the government desired different effects, there’s always an alternative which could preserve the “good” effects without the allegedly “bad”. There’s really no such thing as “collateral damage”. That’s just a propaganda distinction to help with the lie that some effects weren’t sought by the policy-maker and are deplored by it. But if there really were major effects which the government did not anticipate and found bad, it would change the policy so as no longer to produce those effects in a major way. Persistence proves either that the effect, if truly unanticipated, is nevertheless welcome, or else that it was anticipated and consciously intended all along. Morally and practically it makes no difference. The major effects of an action comprise an organic whole, so anyone who wants one characteristic effect of an action will anticipate and want its other effects and will welcome any major effect he didn’t anticipate.
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In the case of GM alfalfa there’s no question that USDA and Monsanto had full prior knowledge of its extremely high rate of contamination. It’s a perennial pollinated by wide-ranging bees. So as soon as GM alfalfa is planted it’s off on an imperialistic campaign for the next 4-8 years. Indeed, the USDA was aware of contamination of alfalfa seed stocks just from GM field trials at least as early as 2005. There’s zero doubt that the rapid contamination was consciously anticipated.
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As for the contamination effect being desired, if the US government didn’t want to contaminate the entire alfalfa crop it would not have allowed and encouraged Monsanto to deploy the product. Some alternatives within the capitalist framework include the ante-biotech status quo, encouraging integrated weed management, government subsidies for hand-weeding labor instead of herbicide, encouraging greater organic production. Of course there’s a vastly better alternative to globalized corporate agriculture as such, but here I’m just sticking with options available to the USDA given its capitalist premises. The fact is that the government would not have set up the system the way it has in such a way as to maximize contamination, if it did not want to maximize this contamination.
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Monsanto’s own interest in total contamination is of course obvious and I assume uncontroversial. If Monsanto’s Roundup Ready gene can contaminate the rest of the alfalfa crop such as to render unattainable any of the benefits organic or non-GM conventional growers hope to gain – an organic premium, overseas markets for non-GM hay – then the company could expect farmers to take on the “if you can’t beat’em, join’em” mindset and just adopt the Roundup Ready system. There’s already ample precedent for this surrenderist attitude among farmers and academics. Monsanto often has explicitly stated its totalitarian goals.
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What about the USDA? In general, a corporate regulator is designed to second the goals and actions of the most powerful corporations. Monsanto, stupid and clumsy as it’s been in many other ways (public relations, farmer relations, attitude toward agronomy), has been particularly adept and aggressive at imposing its will on government and making regulators want to serve it. (This makes it particularly bizarre and counterproductive when people still look to regulatory agencies to put limits on corporate action and uphold any value other than corporate power. A coherent, disciplined, aggressive, ecological populist movement can sometimes pressure government agencies from outside, against their will, to do what it wants. But this is only because as a coherent cultural and political movement it possesses power, never because the regulator wants to do it or inherently feels like it should do it. On the other hand a mass of consumerist atoms, no matter how many of them come together for a superficial comment period or petition or gripefest, or for a one-off superficial political campaign, can never exert such pressure because they don’t constitute coherent, directed power. That’s part of why there’s zero chance of an FDA GMO labeling policy being anything other than a preemptive sham, and why it’s madness or treason for those who claim to oppose GMOs and pesticides to want such a thing.)
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More fundamentally for our kind of example, the ideology of regulators of agricultural poisons is based on the Poison Principle. This means that no matter what the problem, the only conceivable solution is poison, more poison is always better than less, poison doesn’t just solve problems but is actively good, all comparative study is to compare only poison with poison and never poison with an alternative to poison, and that the regulator’s job at all times is to maximize poison production, sales, and application. In Poison Spring E. Vallianatos describes working in the “Benefits and Use” division at the EPA, where these terms were religiously understood to mean “benefit” for the corporations and the biggest industrial farmers, and “use” of poisons (starting from production and marketing) always to be allowed, encouraged, and maximized. Vallianatos’s whole book is devoted to detailing the strategic and tactical execution of this ideology on the part of the EPA and the horrific real world results. He remarks that at its founding the EPA was staffed largely by former USDA cadres who imported the USDA’s poisoner ideology. Jack Kloppenburg’s First the Seed is one of several excellent books describing the USDA’s extreme culture of poison-based and crackpot high-technology “solutions”.
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But for the supply-based corporate capitalism which is the fundamental paradigm of the globalization system, and therefore for the regulators, the problem is never anything more or less than the maximized production of the corporate product, and the solution is “finding” a market for this supply-driven production, through some combination of propaganda, incentives, public subsidies, threats, extortion, legal coercion, and violence. For example, the USDA offers special financial incentives to alfalfa growers who maximize their Roundup use, provides them with legal cover for transgenic trespass while stripping the victims of all legal protection, and threatens non-compliant alfalfa growers with GM contamination and economic extinction. This is because the USDA is suffused with the poisoner mindset and poisoner ideology. The USDA wants to maximize poison deployment. Therefore to the average USDA cadre, alfalfa with maximal roundup is better than with less or none. This is ideological and is prior to any mundane “corruption”, though there’s lots of this as well.
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For a more specific case, the USDA has always wanted GMOs to be part of the official organic certification. The agency included GMOs within its original proposed standards in the 1990s, and only a massive outcry from the farmers and consumers who were forcing the agency to adopt an organic standard in the first place forced it to back down on “GMO organic”. But to this day the USDA has never relinquished this wish. When it tries to define “new” kinds of GMOs such as those which have been “gene edited” as not being GMOs at all, this is primarily to excuse them from all regulatory oversight. (In itself this is a strong manifestation of the poisoner ideology. It’s rare to see a bureaucracy seeking so ardently to lessen its own power.) But it’s also toward the hope that CRISPR and other such GMOs will become certifiable as organic. (And also of exempting them from being subject to labeling if this ever were preemptively centralized under FDA control.)
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In the specific case of alfalfa, organic meat and dairy farmers are dependent upon a reliable supply of non-GM alfalfa for hay. If this supply became too unreliable or were completely eradicated, organic meat and dairy farming as we have it might become impossible. We already know that the USDA would like to force GMOs into the organic certification, and we already know that the USDA is aggressively pushing alfalfa GM contamination policy. It follows that a primary goal of the USDA, in addition to maximizing glyphosate use on alfalfa as such, is to disrupt permanently the supply of non-GM alfalfa in order to render the existing structure of organic meat and dairy impossible. At that point either consumers will have to submit to weakening the standards to allow GM feed for organic meat and dairy, or else we’ll have to give up organic meat and dairy completely. Since the “organic” brand is so important to so many, and since consumers have a history of pliability on such things, the most likely outcome is the submission and adaptation. Let’s recall how industrial agriculture flacks and government supporters used the occasion of the Steve Marsh lawsuit in Australia to argue for the weakening of Australian organic standards to allow more GM DNA presence. In a similar context, the general attitude toward the Syngenta/China flap wasn’t to criticize Syngenta’s lies or the commodity stream’s inefficiency and inflexibility, but rather to condemn the buyer for his preferences and call upon him to abandon those preferences. This is always the attitude of corporate fundamentalism. I haven’t yet seen such specific calls in the US as a result of the alfalfa contamination scandal, but if this call is not being made yet it soon will be.
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This outcome would further three primary components of USDA ideology, to serve the big corporation, to render agriculture more “hi-tech”, and to maximize poison deployment.
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Another basic measure of USDA ideology, intention, and desired goal is its fraudulent “coexistence” policy. The agency knows coexistence is impossible and is consciously lying. Its own Environmental Impact Statement on GM alfalfa (which the agency never wanted to perform in the first place but was forced upon it by a lawsuit) concedes the inevitability of full contamination and therefore the impossibility of coexistence. All the evidence before and since has confirmed the prognostication of the EIS. Also and to say again, the agency recommends that the law place the full legal and financial burden on the victim of transgenic trespass and vandalism. This is contrary to all common sense notions of law and is contrary even to most law as it still exists in the US. It’s a radical doctrine which clearly seeks to encourage and maximize the trespass and contamination and evinces a fundamental contempt for the target. It’s crystal clear that the USDA thinks non-GM alfalfa has no right to exist at all and that it should not exist. No one who didn’t think that way would ever have concocted such a policy, allowing the deployment of GM alfalfa, in the first place. In reality “coexistence” means incremental surrender of all non-GM agriculture to the total domination of GMOs, with the pace of erosion and surrender to be as fast as possible.
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Here again we see that the agency wants only to serve the big corporation, to render agriculture more fraudulently “hi-tech”, and to maximize poison deployment.
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As for Monsanto’s own attitude toward organic agriculture and food, it would probably like to see it cease to exist. But a gradual erosion of standards and expectations with an ever higher regulatory allowance for contamination and eventually formally allowing GMOs under the standard would also be a good outcome. But the existing organic system is odious to all agrochemical companies.

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January 12, 2016

The Two Versions of the DARK Act

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1. The only solution to the great ecological crises of our time, from the cancer epidemic to the chemical poisoning of ecosystems to the decimation of natural and agricultural biodiversity to climate change, is for humanity to abolish corporate industrial agriculture and transform civilization on the basis of agroecology and food sovereignty. This is easily possible and would be in accord with science, reason, morality, and spirit. It would have every kind of benefit. In every way, except from the point of view of the greedy and power-hungry, it would be a great boon and end or greatly diminish all banes. It’s desirable and necessary. The facts are all known, the science and empirical practice fully demonstrated. All humanity needs is the will to do it.
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The starting point for this greatest human mission will have to come from the people, from the grassroots up. Centralized regulators are completely alien to the vast diversity of foodsheds and watersheds which naturally exist. By their inherent character such unaccountable bureaucracies wouldn’t be able to make rational, safe, and ecologically sound agricultural and food policy even if they wanted to. Of course their entire history proves they don’t want to.
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2. GMO labeling is worthless if it’s not inherently for the sake of public health, food safety, and democracy, and ultimately toward the Food Sovereignty goal. This has to mean real GMO labeling as aspired to by such state-level initiatives and legislation as those of Vermont, Washington, and California. It cannot mean the fraudulent standards promulgated by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), and in any event real GMO labeling can never come via central government preemption.
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Therefore we have one core, non-negotiable premise for real vs. fraudulent GMO labeling: No preemption. This is self-evidently true if labeling is supposed to be an exercise in democracy. This includes the principle of a right to know, which can be argued only on a pro-democracy basis, what Karl Popper called the open society. On the other hand if one’s willing to throw democracy in the garbage by supporting preemption, then one also disarms oneself against those who claim there’s no such thing as a “right to know”. Other than democratically, what could that even mean?
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It’s also empirically true that any preemptive federal policy, “mandatory” or otherwise, would follow closely the sham standards promulgated by the GMA. It’s pure fantasy to even talk about a “strong” mandatory federal labeling policy. We have all we can handle just in staving off the DARK Act, i.e. just in blocking extremely bad federal policy. What could be rational or constructive in daydreaming about good federal policy? Such a thing is impossible. We’re not talking about those who mean well but are weak or confused or scared. We’re talking about those who mean us harm.
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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get to what’s happening.
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3. Sometime in January 2016 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will convene a secret meeting of corporate and government “stakeholders” (that term’s always a tip-off that the goal is to gut the people) to discuss how to prevent Vermont’s GMO labeling law from going into effect.
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This is the #1 proximate goal: Prevent Vermont.
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As Vilsack has proclaimed, the longer-run goal is to lay to rest the GMO labeling controversy, and implicitly the entire controversy, once and for all.
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An implicit criterion for achieving this is the need to buy off as many labeling advocates as possible as cheaply as possible.
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Another, related need is to reach some status which would appease enough GMO critics and skeptics that it would either prevent the abolition idea from gaining ground, or at least delay it for several more years. They know humanity doesn’t have more years to give.
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4. Even though there’s legislators in Congress promising to reintroduce the so far thwarted DARK Act, it seems that some of the stakeholders think the DARK Act as so far conceived won’t attain these necessary goals even if it passes. The most pressing matter they all agree upon is to somehow prevent Vermont’s law from going into effect. That’s why Vilsack’s calling this conference now, without waiting to see if the DARK Act fares better in 2016.
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5. This is where the January Campbell’s announcement comes in. The idea of mandatory FDA-controlled labeling on a pro-corporate basis has been around for awhile. Obviously the GMA and its members preferred to preempt all mandatory labeling and offer at most a “voluntary” basis (and this too according to weak, sham standards). The DARK Act as we’ve known it so far has been written on this basis. But there was always the option of taking these same weak, fraudulent GMA standards and making them mandatory while preempting all stronger, far more truthful standards. That’s what Campbell’s proposes.
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Let’s be crystal clear:
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*Campbell’s is very strongly pro-GMO.
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*Campbell’s shares the goals of Vilsack conference: #1, Prevent Vermont. Longer run, make an end of the entire GMO controversy on the basis of a complete victory for GMOs.
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No one can dispute this, since Campbell’s explicitly pledges its support to GMOs*, explicitly condemns the state-level movement, and explicitly says its political proposal is meant to replace and obliterate the state-level movement. This automatically brings along the strong implication that the content and timing of the company’s announcement is targeted especially at Vermont’s law (which Campbell’s singles out for special mention), and that the company’s number one proximate goal is the same as that of Vilsack, to prevent Vermont’s law from going into effect and to destroy any possibility of any such laws being enacted in the future.
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For a detailed analysis of the weak and scam elements of the GMA’s labeling standards which Campbell’s wants to make mandatory, see here.
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If a labeling policy would not label the Arctic Apple and Innate Potato (any “mandatory” FDA policy would not label these nor any other “second generation” GMO, and it would forbid states to require the labeling of these), the most dangerous kind of GMOs of all for food safety, is it a policy worth supporting?
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Lest anyone mistake me, it’s possible to be glad that Campbell’s says it will voluntary label its own products, assuming they really go ahead and do it, while firmly rejecting its call for preemptive federal labeling. What’s been disturbing is to see how many self-alleged labeling advocates don’t separate the two and implicitly or even explicitly embrace preemption. This is a complete abdication and is completely irrational, assuming meaningful labeling was ever really their ideal in the first place.
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[*In addition to the standard Big Lie rhetoric, the Campbell’s announcements also contain a pure factual lie: “[T]he science indicates that foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods.” There is in fact zero science supporting this assertion (and an assertion is all it ever was: the FDA promulgated “substantial equivalence” as a purely cultist, pseudo-scientific dogma), while all the science which exists contradicts it. (At that link, cf. “The sham of substantial equivalence” and the next two sections.) Because of Roundup Ready GMOs, Campbell’s products almost certainly are loaded with cancer-causing glyphosate. So in addition to the usual political lies, we see how Campbell’s is a liar in the straight factual and scientific sense as well, including about the literal life-and-death matter of cancer. I’m sure I’m not being sufficiently “grateful”, but somehow I just can’t find my way to feel good about someone trying to sell me cancer-causing products and lying about it.]
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6. That brings us to what’s really going on here. Campbell’s and probably others have lost confidence in the GMA’s preferred “voluntary” DARK Act strategy, just as the GMA itself previously lost confidence in the scorched-earth 100% anti-labeling strategy which Monsanto prefers. We can assume Campbell’s wouldn’t have gone out on a limb alone, but that they satisfied themselves there would be more support coming for its position, probably at the Vilsack conference. It’s obvious that Campbell’s timed its announcement to mesh well with the upcoming Vilsack conference and looming Vermont deadline. They wanted to ensure that the idea of a “mandatory” version of the DARK Act, what we can now call DARK Act Plan B, would become a major topic of discussion at the Vilsack conference. Campbell’s and any like-minded “stakeholders”, and perhaps Vilsack himself (who in 2011 tried to broker a “co-existence” scam with the support of the industrial organic sector), see this as the best way to head off the Vermont challenge and preempt any further state-level policy while peeling off a sufficient number of labeling advocates. They think there’s a significant faction who oppose DARK Act Plan A but would accept or even support DARK Act Plan B.
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7. So what strategic and tactical prescription follows if all this is correct? What’s at stake is to fight a morphed version of the same old DARK Act. We should simply continue with the ongoing opposition to the DARK Act, whether in its Plan A “voluntary” or Plan B sham-“mandatory” version. If all those who ever said they were firmly against preemption would stick with that point and oppose ANY preemptive measure as the same old DARK Act and in exactly the same way, refusing to be distracted by the shiny thing “mandatory labeling” which is pure misdirection, then it would be the same fight against the DARK Act as we’ve already been fighting so effectively.
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By DARK Act Plan B I’m referring technically to whatever legislative proposal eventually arises from the Vilsack conference or any similar conclave. Campbell’s timed its announcement in order to make its proposal a major topic of discussion there. But I’m also referring to the general idea being propagated by Campbell’s.
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Opposition to preemption was one of the core reasons everyone gave for opposing the DARK Act (just as the right to know and therefore democracy is always given as a core reason to want labeling in the first place), so why should any other version of preemption be any different. Such organizations as the Organic Consumers Association and Food Democracy Now have said preemption would be a deal-breaker for them. If everyone who ever said this would simply continue to hold firm on it and continue to call a DARK Act a DARK Act, whether it be in the Plan A or Plan B version, then it would be a continuation of the same fight in the same way that people intend to oppose the new proposals for the Plan A version which various Congress types are promising for 2016.
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So the way to view it and the way politically to express it is to call it the same DARK Act in just a different shade of dark. Or if people decided it needed a special name, how about DUSK Act – Denying Us Sufficient Knowledge. But I’d stick with “It’s the same old DARK Act, since it preempts and therefore denies our real right to know.”
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And with this knowledge, state-level campaigners would also continue to fight for real labeling at the state level and not pack it in. They’d have to make the same argument to the public and potential activists and donors: The state level remains the only viable level to attain real labeling, while at the federal level there would only be the DARK Act.
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7. In the end we the people must, can, and will take back our agriculture and food and put an end to the onslaught of poison-based agriculture. What’s negative is to feel such deep doubts about this that one looks for plausible ways to give up, or to not share this great and necessary goal in the first place. A purely consumerist fad, committed only to the idea of labeling while not caring at all about the substance, was never worth having in the first place. That’s what’s negative. What’s worth having is a real democracy-committed movement which is on the vector toward the necessary abolition goal. That’s what’s positive.
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Let’s keep faith with Vermont and the fighters there who forced its GMO labeling law into being. Ironically, Vermont’s impending policy is the proximate trigger for all this – Campbell’s desperation move, the Vilsack conference, these are all being undertaken under duress. This proves the movement has been on the right course. Campbell’s desperation is evidence that everyone should want to continue on that course, not throw Vermont overboard and surrender everything.
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To say it one more time if anyone mistook me on this, the Campbell’s announcement is indeed a significant development. A major player has broken openly with the GMA’s preferred front and said DARK Act Plan A isn’t working, and that they want to move on to DARK Act Plan B.
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This is a heartening development, but the positive response is to say “Look how we have the bastards running scared! Now’s the time to redouble our efforts on the course we’re already on – keep opposing the DARK Act in both its forms and continue with the vigorous grassroots state-level movement.” This includes exposing attempts to hijack and co-opt the movement for real GMO labeling.
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January 11, 2016

The EPA and Glyphosate

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In 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed the entire scientific record on glyphosate and conservatively decided that the herbicide is a probable human carcinogen.
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This finding contradicts decades of public assurances from the US EPA and Monsanto that glyphosate is safe, and in particular that it does not cause cancer. It calls into question the integrity and the competence of the EPA, which as recently as 2013 reaffirmed its position that “glyphosate does not pose a cancer risk to humans” and licentiously raised the tolerance levels for glyphosate residues* in many foods. This is part of the well-worn regulatory path of mechanically raising tolerance levels for pesticide residues in food in accordance with whatever the manufacturer projects will be the result of a new product or use pattern. For example, let’s go back to the original Roundup Ready approvals in the mid-1990s:
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In final conclusion, Monsanto says that ‘the maximum combined glyphosate and AMPA residue level of approximately 40 ppm in soybean forage resulting from these new uses exceeds the currently established tolerance of 15 ppm. Therefore, an increase in the combined glyphosate and AMPA tolerance for residues in soybean forage will be requested.’ They know very well that adoption of herbicide tolerance crop needs higher safety standards. [Edit: “Higher” meaning allowing higher residues; the safety standard is of course lowered.] In effect, the US tolerance standard of combined glyphosate and AMPA in soybean forage was changed to 100 ppm after they approved the genetically engineered soybean.

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(I highly recommend that entire piece for its details on many kinds of corporate and regulatory “scientific” fraud.)
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[*Suffused pesticide such as glyphosate and its breakdown product AMPA in herbicide tolerant GMOs or neonicotinoid insecticide in pretty much any industrial crop these days, is a premeditated food additive which becomes part of the food by the normal procedures of the agriculture and food systems. Therefore the FDA is required by law to assess and regulate it, including requiring its listing in the ingredients. The fact that the FDA refuses to do so is a typical example of how government regulators systematically break the de jure law in addition to their general gross treachery against the public and environmental health they’re allegedly there to safeguard. Capitalist regulators really have a very different mission. This includes lying about the public health, not defending it. Suffused pesticide is also one of the primary refutations of the FDA’s “substantial equivalence” religious dogma.]
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In the same way that the EPA mechanically raises the allowed poison residue levels at the corporations’ command, so it also has a history of changing its assessments of the carcinogenicity of corporate products in response to changing corporate needs. The most notorious example is glyphosate. EPA knew since at least the early 1980s that glyphosate causes cancer. The evidence was so conclusive that, in spite of EPA’s doing all it could to interpret Monsanto’s own test results in the best possible light, it felt compelled to give the poison Classification C – “Suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential”.
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In terms of market share glyphosate wasn’t yet a major pesticide at the time of this 1985 classification. But by the early 1990s Monsanto was preparing to bring Roundup Ready crops to market. It was time to whitewash glyphosate’s cancer record more thoroughly. EPA happily complied. Without further ado, with zero new evidence, not even a new round of phony tests, EPA in 1991 changed the classification to Group E, “Not likely to be carcinogenic to humans”. In an example of a common rhetorical ploy, EPA publicists issued an even stronger, more politicized and fraudulent phrasing: “Evidence of non-carcinogenicity to humans.”
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The EPA hasn’t yet issued a position on the IARC report. But based on this history we can expect it will continue to run interference and falsify the evidence on behalf of Monsanto and glyphosate. We’ve already seen act one of the spectacle of fraud in Europe. We can expect the EPA to do the same because it has an intrinsic imperative to maximize poison manufacture and use, what I call the Poisoner imperative. It also joins other agencies in having a mandate to bolster GMOs as an important “growth” (i.e. corporate domination) sector. Then there’s the usual mundane corruption and revolving door motives. And as I mentioned above, EPA’s entire credibility and legitimacy is on the line. It must double down on its lies and stand or fall with Monsanto. To break with the corporation and admit that glyphosate causes cancer would be a tremendous loss of face.
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There is one other possibility. If specially dedicated action groups could effectively propagate the facts about glyphosate directly to the people, evading the propaganda screen of government and mainstream media, and organize pressure groups upon government bodies which have oversight and/or procurement powers with regard to glyphosate to the point that these agencies felt real political pressure, it’s possible that we could not only continue the momentum of municipalities and retailers dropping or refusing to carry various poison products, but that we could even force the EPA to lose confidence in its lies. The EPA has shown a few slight signs of weakness lately. These two first two retrenchments were the direct result of lawsuits, but this latest change of position on neonics and honeybees has been forced by many years of untiring political pressure. Public interest lawsuits as well cannot exist in a technocratic vacuum but depend for their food and oxygen on a broad and committed political consciousness. In the end political action and resolve will decide the battle. In a soon-to-come post I’ll sketch out what kind of action groups I have in mind.
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January 10, 2016

The EPA Fights For 2,4-D and Dioxin

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Since the 1970s the EPA has been an ardent booster of maximal poison spraying and the application of poisons to ever new frontiers. One of the expanded corporate welfare programs was government contracts for herbicide spraying in national forests. Private companies also receive subsidies for massive spraying of 2,4,5-T, and 2,4-D, and glyphosate. This is a direct handout to the timber companies and ultimately a laundered handout to the poison manufacturers.
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By the late 1970s EPA was aware of huge spikes in birth defects and miscarriages in the timber regions where this spraying was most intense. Alsea, Oregon was stricken with a local epidemic of miscarriages and birth defects including babies being born with fatal brain defects or being stillborn without brains. EPA investigators found dioxin in local creek sediments and accumulating in the bodies of local people. By the early 1980s EPA was tracking similar outbreaks in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma. Internal EPA memos make clear that EPA quickly zeroed in on the dioxins contained in 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D as the likely cause of the outbreaks. A 1981 memo called the dioxin TCDD “the most toxic chemical ever known”, cancer-causing and acutely lethal at “exceedingly low doses”.
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By the late 70s 2,4,5-T had such a bad reputation for its toxicity, and was relatively less important to the Poisoners than other herbicides such as 2,4-D and the triazines, that the US government decided it was expendable and banned it. EPA took the opportunity to blame the epidemics of birth defects and miscarriages on 2,4,5-T while letting 2,4-D off the hook. This was in spite of the fact that at least as early as 1983 EPA was aware that 2,4-D also contains dioxin.
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This information is from a piece by Evaggelos Vallianatos, one of many he’s written presenting information from his recent book Poison Spring. This is a whistle-blowing story based on Vallianatos’s 25 years as an EPA science analyst. Poison Spring describes the EPA’s systematic cover-ups and its lies to the people and Congress on behalf of the corporations that distribute poison. It’s a Nuremburg brief.
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Vallianatos says the information on the birth defect and miscarriage epidemics has been purged from EPA files and databases. This is part of the standard pattern of cover-ups, false science, and lies at EPA. There’s nothing new about the recent exposure of EPA’s manipulation of Dow’s own data in order to whitewash the adverse safety evidence on Enlist Duo. At least since the mid-seventies EPA has sought to cover up the systematic laboratory fraud uncovered by its own auditors.
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It’s always been an insult to common sense that regulators allow the corporations to police themselves and accept the corporation’s own product safety submissions as valid evidence. Simple rationality knows a priori that the fox can’t be allowed to guard the henhouse, and if reason’s not enough for you (ironically, it’s precisely those who exalt a cult of “Reason” who are the most contemptuous of rationality in day to day practice), we have the evidence record of history, which proves that the corporation will always lie about its own products. There are no exceptions to this. It’s as certain as that the sun will rise in the morning.
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Therefore, the fact that regulators like the EPA continue to accept corporate lies at face value and then propagate these lies whitewashed with the agencies’ own stamp of approval is an ongoing scandal and crime against humanity. There is no innocence about any of this. It’s impossible to make an honest mistake about the actions and “studies” of the likes of Monsanto and Dow.
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Then the corporate media takes up the laundered lies and gives them its own embellishment along with its own vote of confidence in the integrity of the regulators, and sometimes of the corporations as well. The goal, always, is to try to prop up “public confidence” in the technology, the poison, the corporation, and in the regulators themselves. That’s why the phrase “public confidence” has such an Orwellian ring these days. It’s a confidence game indeed, played by confidence men.
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As Vallianatos points out, even the rare times the media interrogates a regulator like the EPA, as in the recent Chicago Tribune piece exposing the EPA’s methodological fraud regarding Enlist Duo, the questioning is usually done within the framework of how well policy tallies with the establishment scientific literature. Seldom does anyone question the validity of this literature in the first place. But this literature was compiled largely under corporate direction and, as damning as it often is, still represents only what the corporations were willing to make public. It obscures the even more damning data which the corporations keep secret, and the greater range of scientific research which is never performed in the first place because the corporations and government live in terror of what such research would reveal about the health and environmental destruction wrought by their profitable and ideological products. If Dow’s own tendentious studies of Enlist found such organ toxicity and endocrine disruption, and Monsanto’s own studies (manipulated as they were) proved that glyphosate causes cancer, we can be sure that more rigorous tests would reveal even more horrific results.
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The epidemics of birth defects and miscarriages localized to US regions heavily sprayed with herbicides mirrors the vastly greater epidemics in Vietnam where the US waged vicious chemical warfare, devastating vast landscapes and whole communities with Agent Orange. Agent Orange was a 50-50 mix of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. Monsanto and Dow were its main manufacturers. Today Dow expects that “Enlist Duo” herbicide, a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate, will be shipped and sprayed on a mass basis in 2016. “Enlist” corn and soybeans, first planted on a pilot basis in 2015 but slated for general mass plantings in 2016, are engineered to be resistant to this carcinogenic tandem. So Dow and the EPA are counting on a massive escalation of the spraying and drift of this primary Agent Orange ingredient, 2,4-D, and a massive escalation in the dioxin which will suffuse the environment, including our soil and food.
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2,4-D in its own right causes cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems such as miscarriages, Parkinson’s disease and other afflictions. Just as with glyphosate, 2,4-D is genotoxic, an endocrine disruptor, and causes oxidative stress. All three of these are mechanisms which cause cancer. As an endocrine disruptor it’s carcinogenic at very low doses and therefore has no safe level of application. If we want to significantly lower the cancer rate, we have no option other than to ban glyphosate, 2,4-D, neonicotinoids, and all other endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). 2,4-D is extremely drift prone, commonly destroying other crops. Pro-poison activists often claim that the manufacture of 2,4-D doesn’t automatically produce dioxin as a byproduct the way 2,4,5-T does, but that 2,4-D will be laced with dioxin only if the manufacturer cuts corners. But as Poison Spring documents, at least since the early 1980s EPA has had strong evidence that dioxin is a common byproduct of 2,4-D’s regular manufacture.
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Dow swears up and down its Enlist brand is “clean”, and in 2015 the EPA required that the pilot programs for the Enlist maize and soy varieties use only Dow’s brand of the poison. But if the 2,4-D expansion project goes forward, we can be sure that many farmers will use cheaper, more dangerous mixes. Of course we can’t trust Dow and the EPA either where it comes to the dioxin content of Enlist Duo. 2,4-D as such threatens to turn vast swathes of US arable land into the equivalent of Times Beach.
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And to repeat, even “clean” 2,4-D causes cancer, birth defects, and many other afflictions. Dicamba, the herbicide Monsanto is banking upon for its financial future, has the same severe effects. These herbicides, the same that just yesterday Monsanto and the USDA were calling extremely toxic and fraudulently promising would be rendered obsolete by the allegedly less toxic* Roundup Ready system, must be banned. We must dedicate relentless campaigns to strangling these retrograde, luddite poison crop systems before they become entrenched.
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[*Contrary to the standard lie about glyphosate, it’s impossible to know which is “more” toxic out of glyphosate, 2,4-D, or dicamba, and it’s irrelevant. The fact is that all three are far too toxic to be used. All three must be banned completely.]
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We have the EPA to thank most for allowing 2,4-D based herbicides in the first place. The FDA punts even though 1. it’s legally required to consider these endemic herbicide residues to be food additives, 2. to recognize them as carcinogenic (the EPA also connives on this point), 3. to ban foods which contain suffused glyphosate or 2,4-D, which would mean all food ingredients which came from herbicide tolerant GMOs. The FDA in fact violates the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with this dereliction, as it has violated the law in many other ways in the course of its rubberstamping and cheerleading for GMOs. The EPA also is used to breaking the de jure law wherever the Poisoner imperative makes it necessary.
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But like I said above about the official “scientific literature”, so it is with “the law”. As the official law has been narrowed and denuded in order to legalize most corporate crimes (and in fact the main purpose of the corporate form itself is to bestow personal legal immunity on criminals by allowing their crimes legally to be laundered through “the corporation”), so the scope of the crimes explodes massively beyond the bounds of the de jure law. As I mentioned at the start of this piece, we’re in the kind of criminal territory where only a Nuremburg-style proceeding would be equal to the character and magnitude of the crimes.
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What to do? The EPA and other regulatory bureaucracies are inherently anti-democratic and inherently secretive. That’s why, even leaving aside mundane corruption motives, all bureaucracies automatically have a close affinity and empathy with Monsanto and its projects, including such notions as the corporation policing itself, “secret science”, and the corporate science paradigm in general.
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We who oppose the poisoning of our food, water, soil, and bodies by dioxin, 2,4-D and glyphosate must not only directly counterattack Monsanto and Dow, but analyze and critique regulatory bureaucracies like the EPA and systematically propagate this analysis and criticism in weaponized form toward the goal of demolishing their credibility and legitimacy. Just as we must do against mercenary establishment “science”.
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January 9, 2016

Scambell (Real GMO Labeling vs. Preemption)

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We in the GMO labeling movement have good cause for pride today as we see how our educational, publicity, and grassroots efforts are driving one faction among the corporate food system, the manufacturers and retailers, to a partial split with the GMO cartel. Namely, there’s increasing momentum among manufacturers and retailers toward support for what they call a “mandatory” federal labeling policy. The most symbolic public step yet is the Campbell’s announcement that in theory it wants a mandatory federal standard. In fact the only thing Campbell’s is really promising to do is “seek guidance from the FDA and approval by USDA.”
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Let’s start with two clarifications. First, let’s clearly state the Campbell position. Campbell’s is openly and strongly pro-GMO. It wants the normalization of GMOs. It wants any significant controversy over them to end once and for all. It believes that a weak, watered-down, and in many ways fraudulent “mandatory” label policy at the federal level is the best way to attain these goals. It has decided to gamble and make this announcement, long on flash and light on substance, to push the sham preemption plan while getting a PR boost for its “transparency”.
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Campbell’s opposes real GMO labeling and openly implies this. The company is part of the same anti-labeling coalition which has always opposed state-level policy, and Campbell’s openly says it has not changed its mind on that. (Its announcement that it will no longer participate in campaigns against labeling is ambiguous. Does this apply only to federal-level policy, or to state-level campaigns as well?) The only difference is that since 2013 the manufacturers have been moving toward accepting a very weak but “mandatory” central government policy whose main feature would be to preempt state-level policy such as in Vermont. The only thing special Campbell’s has done is make a bold propaganda statement, and they’re doing it only because Vermont’s policy is a few months away from going into effect.
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Now, it may be possible to argue that Campbell’s is misguided in this and that its strategy will be harmful to the GMO project in the long run. (It may be possible to argue this, though I haven’t actually seen anyone argue it. I’ve seen only assertions.) But it’s not possible rationally to dispute that Campbell’s intends a pro-GMO plan.
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This leads to the second clarification. GMO labeling of course is not a two-position Yes or No issue. There are at least three positions on GMO labeling. The main three are: 1. One can completely oppose labeling. 2. One can support a strong mandatory labeling policy. This can be accomplished only at the state level. The state level is also the most workable level for democracy to function where it comes to this policy issue. 3. Finally, one can support sham, weak, watered-down labeling controlled at the federal level, whether in a nominally “voluntary” or “mandatory” form, which would preempt any stronger state-level policy and be anti-democratic in principle and in the particulars.
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We can call these latter two positions the strong, democratic labeling position, and the weak, technocratic labeling position.
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In order firmly to establish these points, let’s review the history.
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From the Campbell’s announcement.
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Today, consistent with our Purpose, we announced our support for mandatory national labeling of products that may contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) and proposed that the federal government provide a national standard for non-GMO claims made on food packaging.

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These two planks reflect the two main concerns of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The GMA promulgated a set of labeling standards hoping these could be enshrined as the basis for a “voluntary” policy, which would also preempt mandatory state policy and set restrictive standards for all voluntary labeling. Today Campbell’s is among those who have decided it’ll be politically necessary to take this as the framework for a mandatory FDA policy. But it would still include all the same sham and restrictive provisions, the same exemptions, and preempt stronger state policy.
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So let’s review the GMA’s “summary of discussion draft” for an FDA labeling policy, keeping in mind that any mandatory policy hammered out among the likes of the FDA, USDA, Campbell’s and other industry “stakeholders” will closely follow this blueprint. Ask yourself: Is this what you want in a mandatory label at all? Let alone one which would preempt much better state-level labels.
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Title I purports to describe “Bioengineered Food”. Section 101 defines this to exclude all food which includes genetic engineering as part of the processing, but which does not actually include a GMO as an ingredient. So anything which used GE enzymes, yeast, etc. – a vast array of foods – would be excluded from the purview of this policy, and no one could ever apply any label voluntarily (e.g., “this bread was made without genetically engineered yeast”) or make it mandatory (“made with genetically engineered yeast”). All this would be preempted by the FDA.
(The lethal Showa Denko epidemic was caused by contaminants in an over-the-counter supplement which used genetic engineering in the processing. The contaminants were produced by the GE process.)
Although it doesn’t explicitly say so here, this would also apply to the gaping void in GMO awareness, meat and dairy from GMO-fed animals. It would probably also forestall BGH labeling once and for all. Here’s a particularly deceptive part from <a href="“>the Campbell’s communication: “However, [Vermont’s] legislation does not include products with meat or poultry, because they are regulated by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Under Vermont law, SpaghettiO’s original variety, guided by the FDA, will be labeled for the presence of GMOs, but SpaghettiO’s meatballs, guided by the USDA, will not. Yet these two varieties sit next to each other on a store shelf, which is bound to create consumer confusion”.
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This is deceptive in every way. Under Vermont’s policy all varieties would be labeled for the FDA-purview GM ingredients. On the other hand, any “mandatory” FDA policy which could possibly be enacted would exclude meat and dairy from GM-fed animals as well. So on that score, nothing Campbell’s is proposing would change anything from the Vermont policy or from any other proposed state policy. It’s ironic how unctuous Campbell’s is about “consumer confusion”, even as it’s doing all it can to confuse consumers as much as possible. In reality any conceivable FDA policy would apply only to GM crops and directly engineered animals like the Aquabounty salmon.
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It’s a foregone conclusion that the “second generation” GMOs which the USDA claims it has no authority to regulate, CRISPR and the like, would not be included in this labeling.
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Section 102 changes existing FDA notification policy. As things are, GMO developers don’t have to have any contact at all with the FDA. They deal only with the USDA, and the USDA grants commercialization approval. But the corporation may send a voluntary notification letter to the FDA. This letter says nothing more than, “we think this GMO product is safe”, and the FDA replies, “we understand that you think this product is safe”. That’s the entirety of FDA “oversight”. The Clinton administration had wanted to make this farce mandatory, but the cartel resisted even that, and the Bush administration encoded the voluntary status quo.
Now the GMA is willing to revert to the Clinton mandatory notification. The reason for this is that one of the “principles” listed in the GMA draft is that the policy will “Mandate FDA Safety Reviews”. Of course there won’t really be any safety review whatsoever. But the GMA hopes that if the sham letter exchange is made mandatory, they’ll then be able to depict this in GMO propaganda as a mandatory safety review. Indeed, this may turn out to be the entirety of what’s “mandatory” about any policy which is enacted. It may be that the label can and will say only, “passed by a mandatory FDA review” or something like that.
In the course of boilerplate about the FDA’s mandate to “protect the health and safety”, the draft reaffirms the FDA’s ideological dogma of “substantial equivalence”: “The use of bioengineering does not, by itself, constitute a material difference.”
So the FDA will pretend it’s on the lookout for “material differences”, when in fact it ideologically defines all material differences out of existence. (GMOs are self-evidently radically different in principle from the true crops from which they’re derived, as well as materially different in many unpredictable secondary ways.) The real teeth of this part are found here: “..or to prevent the label of the bioengineered food from being false and misleading.” This means that the FDA will severely regulate the content of voluntary, privately certified non-GMO labels and force them to include pro-GM dogma like, “The FDA has determined that there is no material difference between genetically engineered food and other foods.” I’d bet money this would be part of the quid pro quo for any “mandatory” labeling policy.
Section 103 describes how the GMA would want the actual GMO labeling, whether voluntary or “mandatory”, to work. Corporations will be able to apply “non-GMO” labels to anything with a so-called “adventitious presence” of GM material. This means collateral contamination will be let through under non-GM labeling policy. Voluntary outfits like the Non-GMO Project will be encouraged or if necessary forced to allow their certification to be applied to whatever the FDA considers “low level” contamination. No one will be allowed to institute a more rigorous voluntary non-GM certification process. The goal here is to co-opt and discredit non-GMO labeling as such, and to help normalize the increasing contamination of food and agriculture with collateral GM contamination. (Indeed, with the mandatory FDA policy, there would be at least strong propaganda pressure for the likes of the Non-GMO Project to shut down the shop, since their services would allegedly no longer be necessary.)
It explicitly says that GM-fed dairy, as well as food which used GE processing aids like yeast, could be labeled “non-GMO”. Labels cannot say or imply that “non-GMO” is better, or that GMOs are potentially harmful. Instead, the FDA will place restraints on voluntary non-GMO labeling as I described above.
The draft does include a vague passage which seems to give corporate producers free rein to make the label say anything they want, including touting an alleged GMO benefit or even the benefit of something being non-GMO. The FDA’s oversight is clearly to apply only to the organic and non-GM sector.
Section 104 is explicit on preemption: “This section would preempt any state laws that are not identical to the Federal program.”
That, of course, is the #1 goal of the whole corporate endeavor here. Under the guidance of Monsanto, the GMA originally wanted there to be no labeling policy at all.
Title II is on so-called “Natural Foods”. Here the GMA merely wants the FDA to encode the scam which allows the term “natural” to be applied to foods containing GMOs and almost any other kind of poison. As things are now, “natural” can be slapped on anything except for foods containing anything from a short list of specific additives. It’s therefore basically a scam term. There are retailers and manufacturers whose whole business model is to produce and sell conventional GMO-based food as some kind of “natural” higher quality food.
One of the goals of some labeling campaigns, California’s in particular, was to put an end to this consumer fraud by banning the use of the term “natural” for any food which contains GMOs. With this part of the proposal the GMA wants the FDA to preempt such a derogation of this terminological scam. Here too its call for preemption is explicit (section 203).
That concludes the GMA’s commentary on the legislative proposal. The rest of the draft is a combination of blather and straight lies, meant to provide talking points to supportive lawmakers and bureaucrats. It concludes with the list of “principles” which the policy will allegedly embody. “Mandate FDA Safety Reviews” refers to the scam I described above. “Require Federal GMO Labeling for Safety” refers to the part about “material difference”; you can rest assured that the GMO labels will be mandatory in any case where the ever-vigilant FDA considers it necessary. If the FDA says it’s not necessary, you can rest easy and go back to sleep, since the food is safe. “Create a National Standard for Voluntary Labels” refers to the Gleichschaltung of all voluntary certification programs such as the Non-GMO Project, like I described above.
It concludes with the two Orwellian and anti-democratic expressions of contempt for the people, “Increase Transparency” when it will do the opposite, and the hoary lie about “Preventing Consumer Confusion”.
Consumers, in fact, to the extent the information has been readily available to them, have been far less confused about GMOs than any other group. Unlike most others, consumers have rightfully been suspicious of such a counterintuitive product. Sure enough, 100% of the evidence to date has supported this consumer unease.
Monsanto’s default has been to oppose all labeling. But the fact that the GMA, under pressure from such members as Walmart and Coca-Cola, is now promulgating this proposal for FDA preemption is proof of how fearful the corporations are of the GMO labeling movement. There’s a growing consensus among manufacturers and retailers that FDA preemption is preferable to continuing to fight a scorched earth war against labeling at the state level. Monsanto itself supports the FDA’s existing draft guidance on voluntary labeling, which is hostile to labeling and would like to censor it in the way I described above.
Part of the point of the GMA’s promulgation of this preemptive “voluntary” scheme is to position a sham mandatory FDA preemptive policy as the middle position, in case this sham-voluntary and preemptive policy is politically rejected as being too lax. So far this is what has happened with the DARK Act.
The GMA will continue to do all it can to get the “voluntary” FDA preemption policy enshrined in law. Several pro-GMO activists in Congress are promising to introduce new versions of the DARK Act. But failing this, the GMA and the manufacturers and retailers will settle for a sham “mandatory” policy. In any event it wants to strangle the rising local and state movement, especially since the idea of outright bans on GMO cultivation is gaining ground as more and more citizens come to realize that labeling would not be sufficient.
I’ll add that although some people may have forgotten about the TPP and TTIP, Campbell’s certainly hasn’t. These would rule out even a watered-down mandatory labeling policy. In general, if these globalization pacts are forced upon us, the only recourse left will be defiance radiating up from the grassroots. The same grassroots so many people are implying such contempt for today, to the extent they’re willing to accept any kind of central government preemption. The fact is that in principle and practice the FDA is incapable and unwilling to effectively regulate GMOs. Nothing but a democratic movement of the people, taking direct action, putting direct pressure on manufacturers and retailers, and putting direct pressure on the lower levels of government, will be sufficient to defeat the GMO enemy.
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So the “mandatory” labeling Campbell’s claims to want is just the GMA’s plan B, to be resorted to if the DARK Act-type plan A for “voluntary” labeling doesn’t work out. It’s axiomatic that any FDA standard, which is what Campbell’s says it wants, will be so weak as to be a sham but will preempt state level policy, which is the only place where real policy could possibly be enacted. That’s what the upcoming Vilsack conference is supposed to be about. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (a Biotechnology Industry Organization “Governor of the Year” awardee) is convening a conference meant to get enough politicians and corporate “stakeholders” on board with some version of the GMA plan, whether this be another DARK Act version or the Campbell’s-advocated fake-mandatory-preemptive version. It’s the culmination of the process retailers and manufacturers such as Walmart and Coca-Cola first set in motion in 2013, wanting a weak federal policy to forestall any real policy at the state level. Federal preemption is always the death of grassroots movements which seek to create real policy by direct citizen vote or pressure. And the “patchwork”, to use the Frank Luntz propaganda term which everyone seems to love so much when applied to GMO labeling, is a good thing. Those who want real labeling and believe in freedom and democracy want the patchwork in all its diverse glory.
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Technocrats, by definition, despise democracy and think unaccountable secretive “experts” should devise and execute policy. Today Campbell’s is trying to muster enthusiasm among labeling advocates to have FDA and industry bureaucrats take complete control of labeling from the very people who forced it into being as a mainstream controversy in the first place.
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Indeed, it’s unanimously agreed, and Campbell’s concedes, that Campbell’s is doing this only under the duress of the state-level agitation. So why, when the state-level campaigning is making such progress and is such a fine display of democracy at its finest, would labeling advocates be eager to join with industry in quashing this democratic movement? Only anti-democratic ideology could explain it. And this fits well with the consumerist ideology within which the establishment has wanted to corral the labeling and anti-GMO movement. It’s a textbook example of trying to co-opt a movement which threatens corporate interests and lay it to rest.
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Campbell has opposed this state-by-state patchwork approach, and has worked with GMA to defeat several state ballot initiatives. Put simply, although we believe that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food, we also believe that a state-by-state piecemeal approach is incomplete, impractical and costly to implement for food makers. More importantly, it’s confusing to consumers.

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I know that when I’m looking for a company I can trust, the fact that they say consumers are idiots is always high on my list!
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Michelle Simon summed it up with her warning on preemption: “The junk food lobby’s “federal solution” is to make it illegal for states to pass laws requiring GMO labeling. Period. End of story.” She says that in the context of discussing the GMA’s plan A, the DARK Act-type policy. But plan B is to do the exact same thing as the DARK Act, just making the sham voluntary labeling guidelines “mandatory”.
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Here’s what Simon and others said when she wrote about the gambit early in 2013.
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However, any federal standard must set a floor and not a ceiling, and not hand preemption over to industry. The role of the federal government is to set minimum standards, while still allowing states to go further. This, however, is not the end-game that Walmart et al. have in mind.

I asked Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now! and leader of the grassroots GMO labeling efforts about this issue. He told me it was a huge concern among movement leaders: “Ultimately the conversation represents a seismic shift in where we were four years ago on GMO labeling. But we know that anything coming out of Washington D.C. will be a weaker standard, which would not be good for either farmers or consumers. The goal is to make sure that a federal law doesn’t undermine state efforts.”

As Cummins noted about the meeting: “We should be wary of any compromise deal at the federal level, one that would preempt the passage of meaningful state GMO labeling laws that have real teeth.”

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So for years there’s been a strong awareness against the specter of preemption in the context of a DARK Act-style sham-voluntary labeling policy. But as we see, to take the same weak and phony standards and render them mandatory is hardly an improvement, and absolutely is not worth waffling on preemption.
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So if we’re anti-GMO, what’s the right initial default here? Let’s see.
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1. Campbell’s is openly and unabashedly pro-GMO.
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2. Therefore, they believe the steps they’re taking are good for the future of GMOs in food. They’re doing this for the sake of preserving the GMO food regime.
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3. So it follows that this is a pro-GM ploy. Therefore it also follows that anti-GMO campaigners, writers, and anyone from the public who opposes or is skeptical of GMOs, glyphosate, etc. should look askance at this. Even if one thinks this can have beneficial effects, the right attitude is still to be dispassionate and skeptical toward any part of the corporate system.
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4. Most of all, we mustn’t waver for a moment in our primary support for state-level campaigns for strong labeling and food sovereignty measures and our strong opposition to any preemption of these. Any FDA policy has to be a floor which does not preempt the states. This has to be non-negotiable.
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Which grassroots movements fell far short of what it was possible for them to achieve, or failed completely? Those which let themselves be preempted, those among whom industry was able to peel off the less committed and more technocratic. less democratic element. Which movement has attained great successes? The smoke-free public space movement, in large part because it resisted all preemption attempts.
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The GMO labeling fight was always likely to come down to decisions. Labeling has long had a latent divide between centralization and its grassroots, laboratory of democracy aspect. Many labeling advocates have followed the lead of the semi-industry group “Just Label It” (JLI). JLI’s ideology is that labeling is about nothing but “transparency”, a vague term. They explicitly reject the contention that GMOs (or pesticides) are harmful to health, explicitly call for “co-existence” with Monsanto, and have nothing to say about the malign agronomic and socioeconomic aspects of corporate agriculture. It’s a purely consumerist ideology, and they say GMOs are a purely consumerist matter which should be dealt with on a purely consumerist level. As we see today, that also means it has nothing to do with democracy, and is in fact anti-democracy since it exalts preemptive central government power over lower-level power, and especially over the ability of the people directly to vote policy, as the ballot initiatives in California and Washington represented opportunities to do.
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Beyond that, agriculture and food production and distribution are naturally and rationally local/regional economic and ecological sectors. The more centralized and alien a governmental structure is, the less rational its agricultural and food policies could be, and the less legitimacy it inherently has.
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With these facts, it’s hard to understand what some of the labeling advocates ever wanted. If they agree with Campbell’s and JLI that GMOs are safe for human health, and agree that this has nothing to do with political democracy and rebuilding a safe, rational food system, but on the contrary are eager to side with the same illegitimate, malign, and stupid central government power which forced GMOs and Roundup upon us in the first place and will continue to do so, then why did they ever get started? “Transparency” in itself is not an ideal or a goal, but would have to be in the service of something intrinsically valuable. But what’s being exalted here isn’t even transparency toward the goal of greater democracy. On the contrary, more democracy means keeping this on the state level. But we know how anti-democratic the preemption advocates are. We see the kind of technocratic policy they prefer. And to say it again, any real, strong policy could be enacted only at the state level, while any federal policy will be very weak at best. So it turns out some people just like the idea of labeling, and in practice would settle for “labeling, any labeling”, rather than good labeling.
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This goes back to my original analysis of why the people of California and Washington, after initially expressing strong support for labeling, ended up failing to vote for it. They recognized that labeling as envisioned by the labeling movement is at best a pointless exercise lacking any comprehensive political and strategic concept and from which no further step follows. At worst, and as we see today far more likely, its a scam intended to misdirect away from any kind of meaningful action. Today the misdirection is proximately away from the relatively stronger labeling policy set to be put into effect in Vermont, or which would have been effected in California or Washington.
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The much bigger misdirection is to put the whole controversy to sleep and prevent the rise of the necessary abolition movement. As we see today, they’re off to a great start with that.
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The struggle over GMOs, pesticides, and other evils of corporate agriculture is about our core human values, the physical and spiritual integrity of nature and our place within it, and also about our bodily health and the health of the ecology in the most direct physical sense. No element of these can be encompassed within consumerism or technocracy. On the contrary, the moment we set out the entire efflorescence bursts completely and gloriously free of such picayune and conservative bounds, bounds which are conservative in the most profound political sense of the term. These bounds are also insufficient for all the needs of humanity and the Earth. The necessary goal, and therefore the only ultimately meaningful goal, is the abolition of poison-based agriculture and humanity’s transformation to agroecology. Strong state-level GMO labeling policy, and even more important, the grassroots campaigns for it, can be steps toward this great and necessary goal. But a technocratic, preemptive, and intrinsically weak federal labeling policy, however “mandatory”, can only be counterproductive, can be only another barrier, weight, hindrance, and waste of time we do not have. In itself this is no goal, and is indeed a malign misdirection and weapon of Monsanto against the necessary grassroots human movement and this movement’s necessary goal.
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July 25, 2015

If the DARK Act Passes, What Then?

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See here and here for more on what the DARK Act is about; it seeks to enshrine the “voluntary” labeling sham, along with ferocious pre-emption as I described here.
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1. What would the preemption of labeling mean in itself? Labeling is certainly not sufficient, and is conceptually flawed if envisioned as a worthwhile goal in itself. It implies the continuation of industrial agriculture and food commodification, and globalization as such. It merely seeks Better Consumerism within that framework.
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If people saw labeling as a temporary measure within the framework of an ongoing movement to abolish industrial agriculture and build Food Sovereignty, that could be good. If people saw the campaign for labeling as primarily a movement-building action, an occasion for public education, for democratic participation in a grassroots action, and to help build a permanent grassroots organization, that would be good. POE as I call it – Participation, Education, Organization.
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But many of the advocates seem to see it as a panacea. They at least claim to expect miracles from it: Labeling = the end of Monsanto. This is highly doubtful. Just because a labeling initiative or law is passed doesn’t mean it will be enforced with any alacrity. It’s still the same old pro-Monsanto government which would be in charge of enforcement. That’s why getting an initiative or law passed would be just the first and easiest step. Then the real work of vigilance, forcing the enforcers to follow through, would begin. That, too, was a reason why the campaign needs to be, even more than just an intrinsic campaign, the building ground of a permanent grassroots organization.
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Then there’s the fact that most if not all of these initiatives and laws are riddled with loopholes, categories of food which don’t need to be labeled. That almost always includes GMO-fed meat and dairy. Actually, labeling would apply mostly to the same corporate-manufactured processed foods we ought to be getting out of our diets and economies regardless.
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When we combine the picayune content of these labeling proposals with the fact that their advocates do often call them a self-sufficient panacea, and with the fact that the efforts have often been designed like one-off electoral campaigns rather than as processes of building permanent grassroots organizations, we can see the some of the inherent political limits of labeling campaigns.
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2. The people consistently indicate that they don’t really want labeling. That is, they don’t want it as a stand-alone consumerist feature, sundered from the context of a complete affirmative (Food Sovereignty) and negative (abolitionist) movement.
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It’s clear that although the people overwhelmingly support the idea of GMO labeling in theory, their commitment to it is skin deep. As soon as the money starts flying and the propaganda noise starts booming, people are easily thrown off balance. They focus pre-existing feelings of dread on the controversy and recoil from such a picayune thing as labeling, which seems to offer only a greater sense of helplessness.
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A survey done in California in September 2012 prior to the vote found that even the mention of an increase in food prices would “slightly diminish support”. This was prior to the big propaganda surge which hammered away with this lie. This musters every kind of inchoate fear. Since these days people are fearful and conservative, they shy from stimulation and don’t want anything to change. They’re easily convinced that any change will only make things worse. At any rate, they’re disinclined to undertake any change themselves. It’s clear that to undertake a one-off political campaign, which is prone to muster such elemental anxieties – about poison in our food and the food we’re feeding to our children, about our ever more beleaguered personal financial position, about corporate power over us – and which becomes the scene of a media firestorm, where people are asked, as consumers, to do nothing but vote a certain way and then implicitly to lapse back into their usual passivity, with the only payoff for having had all these fears aroused is to gain even greater knowledge of what there is to fear, but with no greater sense of what to do about any of it – is it any wonder that so many people choose to believe the lies and vote No?
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People don’t really believe the propaganda, but are numbed into passivity by the volume and omnipresence of it. This is part of the job of the corporate media, to instill a sense of hopelessness in the individual, and a false sense that she’s all alone with whatever objections she has, alone with whatever dissent and activism for change she’d like to undertake. The labeling campaign also instills fear about the safety of the food, but doesn’t offer a productive context and course of action for this fear, but implicitly wants to leave you alone with your Yes vote and your new information.
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This is why many consumers don’t want to exercise their right to know. They’re settled in certain habits, have so many other stresses, they already know their food is poisoned and try to exist in a precarious psychological complacency about that. So they’d rather not hear about GMOs on top of everything. This supposition fits the data, that as the No propaganda surges and the noise level of the whole fight escalates, the weakly committed Yeses and the Undecided move toward No. If you’re going to stay within the bounds of passive consumerism, then does a GMO label really give you much of a new choice? Especially if you suspect, in most cases correctly, that the only result will be to discover that all your available choices have GMO labels, so that you really didn’t get more choice anyway, merely more stress.
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Labeling advocates point out that there is an individual, consumerist course of action available – change your eating habits, shun GMO products, petition manufacturers to purge them, retailers not to carry them. (Here we’re talking about doing these in an individual consumer context, not as part of a movement context.)
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But is this the likely result? What about the opposite possibility – that if labeling is enacted, people will just shrug and not change their buying and eating habits? Indeed, it might even help normalize GMOs.
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Since consumerism is inherently passive and not active, since “choice” is a pseudo-ideal that few people really want (their political and economic actions prove it), and since fear-itself induces conservatism in the choices people make, the campaign to label GMOs is bound to be at a disadvantage as soon as it becomes embroiled in a struggle. People naturally support the idea, but not enough so that they don’t abandon it as a kind of “rocking the boat” the moment they’re given a reason to fix their fears upon it.
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In itself labeling is a meager, insufficient measure. Most importantly, it’s conceptually wrong, as it frames this critical political, socioeconomic, environmental, agronomic, and scientific issue as a matter of consumerist choice. Finally, the labeling idea is ripe to be hijacked by corporate interests or preempted by the central government, as we’re now seeing with this latest attempt in Congress.
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We can’t expect people to rouse themselves and go against the grain of their mass consciousness in any kind of ad hoc way, let alone in a way which they’ll have strong psychological reasons to resist. In order to get organic change, we first need to build an organic movement. We need to take the time and put in the work to build a movement culture where individuals find themselves as citizens, community members, members of a movement. We need to build a movement where people develop the individual self-respect to know that their action which seeks change will bring them a better world, and where they develop the political self-confidence to know that their collective action will work to bring about this bountiful change.
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We need to build a true grassroots movement, this movement has to be affirmative, and it has to seek the stark goal of total abolition. If we can offer people the opportunity to fight to abolish GMOs, or to support this abolition movement with money, a vote, etc., and to do so toward affirmative goals like food freedom, food sovereignty, this offers vastly more on a psychological level than labeling by itself, which is more like yet another annoying consumer “choice”.
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3. Consumerist labeling is really part of the “co-existence” notion. A core part of campaign rhetoric lauds “choice”, thereby echoing a standard pro-GM lie and implying that GMO agriculture can co-exist with any other kind of agricultural practice. But co-existence is impossible, politically as well as physically. Corporate agriculture envisions its own total domination of agriculture and food, and all its actions are dedicated to this goal. GMOs were developed as a classical public-private partnership and are aggressively supported by governments because they’re designed to attain the twin goals of physical (genetic) and economic (commodification and patents) domination. Therefore the only possible outcomes for humanity are complete abolition of GMOs or complete surrender to them. Given this circumstance, the constructive place of a labeling campaign or policy, or just the idea of labeling as such, is as a tactical element of the abolition movement. Anything outside of this movement context is at best a misdirection and waste of effort and time we don’t have to spare.
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4. We know the history of corporate lobbying for an FDA preemption policy, the central government’s complete support for GMO domination, its disdain for and hostility toward any meaningful labeling, the Monsanto Protection Act, and now the yearlong attempt to pass the DARK Act. We have clear proof that the central government will not allow political life and democracy to prevail on this, including at the state level, let alone the regional. Even if the DARK Act is forestalled in the Senate, the US government won’t give up. In the end, the only thing which will work will be defiance of the central government power, by whatever means, at lower government levels and especially through political action of the people from the ground up. This includes organized renunciation and replacement of the corporate industrial food system.
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If this is right, then our time requires a far more comprehensive goal.
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5. Abolitionists must use this crisis to reinforce the Community Food movement and goal. Just “buying organic” won’t suffice. Anyway much of organic is the industrial organic sector which is part of the overall corporate problem, and which has previously indicated its own desire to bring “organic” under Monsanto’s domination. We do have the Right to Know, but we’ll know little and have little until we rebuild the Community Food sector and protect it, toward the great affirmative goal of Food Sovereignty.
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We must lift our vision and expand our goal. We need the will to renew political life from the ground up, where necessary in defiance of the central government and corporate rule. We must use the government’s assaults as a political/moral lever to change the political consciousness from an individual consumerist consciousness (uncontexted labeling) to the abolitionist movement commitment, and the broader consciousness aspiring to freedom and demolishing the corporate-imposed bottlenecks against our prosperity.
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The corporate state’s goal is all-encompassing of the political and economic realms, from globalized corporate rule to strangling the rising Community Food movement in its youth. We can see how the DARK Act is not only anti-labeling but, with measures like preemption of local and state pro-democracy, anti-corporate laws, it’s also designed to provide more government power against the Community Food sector and movement as such. It will seek to do this in tandem with the Orwellianly named “Food Safety Modernization Act”, really a pro-big ag Food Control Act. But with the right kind of education campaign about how the government is trying to make it impossible for the people to know how toxic the industrial food supply is, we might be able to turn these assaults to our advantage. Certainly the one and only way to really KNOW what’s in our food and be citizens of agriculture and food production is to support local/regional retail agriculture, visit and know our farmers and processors, build up that sector. The central government and corporations are doing all they can to prove this.
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6. In the past I’ve sometimes been fatalistic about what the system “will do”, and how possible it is for political action to stop it. I’ve said things like, “the system will extract all the economically viable fossil fuels”, acknowledging various impersonal natural/physical/economic constraints on extraction while discounting political action as potentially such a natural force.
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Where it comes to fossil fuel extraction this is no doubt true for the low-hanging fruit, the reserves easiest and least expensive to extract. But as extraction proceeds along the line of deteriorating cost effectiveness, increasing complexity costs, and mounting physical difficulties, political action against it becomes more potent in proportion to the increasing overextension of its opponent. This can happen in the same way that various technical alternatives to fossil fuels become economically viable as oil prices rise.
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So it follows that as corporate agriculture finds its own position ever more costly and physically difficult to maintain, as costs increase, as natural (pest and weed) resistance mounts, as each new set of GMOs is more dubious, its economic rationale less coherent, its lies less viable, the legitimacy of establishment “science” and mainstream media more eroded, while public fear, skepticism, and opposition continues to rise, our action shall become more effective, and our ability to propagate all-encompassing ideas and desires more potent. There will be an ever greater will on the part of the people to organize against this enemy and to realize our affirmatives.
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In making these criticisms, I’m not disputing the basic truths of the pro-labeling argument. On the contrary, I avow these myself. I’m pointing out why, where labeling is presented as a typical ad hoc consumerist electoral campaign, rather than from within a movement context, the labeling campaigns are ineffective politics.
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At the moment the labeling campaigns comprise the main anti-GMO vehicle, and they can serve as good occasions for participation, organization, education – POE. In principle and in action abolitionists should support and join the campaigns. But we insist that labeling is insufficient, is no panacea, and that the fight for labeling is just one step toward building the consciousness toward building what’s great and necessary, a true abolition movement.
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For the moment, what’s a good proximate strategy?
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1. It’s important to defeat the DARK Act through whatever conventional within-the-system means, if possible. This is the system’s attempt to kneecap our movement through legalistic preemption. If this fails, they’ll try again, or else try for a more subtle “mandatory” scam. Anti-GMO people must reject any subsequent “softer” FDA scam. The same for the TTIP, though here it looks like our only chance is for European Parliament and/or member countries to reject it.
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If the DARK Act is passed, our campaigns must pressure the states and localities to go ahead anyway on democratic moral-political and constitutional grounds, including legal challenges (though we shouldn’t hold our breath in expectation of the court route succeeding). The central government’s ability to enforce its tyrannical policy will be a direct measure of the people’s willingness to crumble and obey, or our determination to stand tall and fight.
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2. Nevertheless, labeling in itself could never suffice. What we must have, what is necessary, is to drive out GMOs completely. Indeed, the worst aspect of the DARK Act is the legal assault it would make on county-level GMO bans.
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3. So in addition to POE, the main purpose of labeling campaigns is to provide an occasion to pressure manufacturers and retailers, and to supplement campaigns directly pressuring them.
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4. In this connection, a primary publicity component is to continue hammering away, not just at Monsanto, and not at the GMA, as for example who is providing the funding for the lawsuit against Vermont. Rather, it is Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, General Mills, General Foods, who are most responsible for inflicting these physical and political assaults upon us. The campaigns have often done a good job of this and should escalate. Combine this brand-condemning publicity campaigning and boycott organizing against these manufacturers with targeted pressure on retailers. These kinds of actions have the best track record, among reform campaigns.
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5. As I described in the strategy posts I linked here, both direct pressure and labeling advocacy must be enfolded within a comprehensive abolition movement and serve the abolition goal. Once we have a movement whose members and sympathizers see the world with the eyes of active citizens of a community, rather than with the eyes of atomized passive consumers among an unfathomable mass, then we’ll have the social foundation from which to launch any kind of political campaign. The campaigns will be organic, they’ll be part of an ongoing social and political context, and they’ll be waged and supported by citizens speaking to potential citizens who can see the living reality of the movement before them, rather than just a seemingly disposable campaign and stand-alone ad hoc policy proposal with no context for systemic change or human hope.
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If we want to do what’s necessary and do it right, in the process inspiring people to join a movement or support it (and this is what’s needed, rather than any quick fix electoral solution), we need to build a true movement toward a goal that’s necessary and great. The great goals available to us are the complete abolition of GMOs and breaking the power of corporations over our agriculture and food, in the process putting an end to their onslaught poisoning our food, water, soil, and air. The companion goal is to rebuild our community food economies on the basis of agroecology and food sovereignty, thus combining the best of freedom, health, democracy, and science. There’s no substitute for the patience and hard work required to build this new anti-corporate movement from outside the system. Along the way this movement can absorb whatever existing forces are available, so long as they’re compatible with the stark and non-negotiable goal of the abolition of corporations. But its inception and the main thrust of its action must always be toward building a new human world.
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If the DARK Act passes and the TTIP/TPP globalization compacts are forced upon us, raising our sights and escalating our demands upon fate is one of our options. Giving up is another. But it seems that the status quo will no longer be an option.

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April 10, 2015

GMO News Report April 10th, 2015

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*Unlike comparable organizations in the West, Brazil’s National Cancer Institute (INCA) is capable of connecting simple dots. Even the WHO now acknowledges that glyphosate causes cancer. INCA reiterates this and the many other health afflictions caused by glyphosate and other poisons, and goes on to state the obvious, that it’s herbicide tolerant GMOs which are by far the main driver of this great surge of glyphosate use, and therefore of the cancer caused by it.
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As if in direct contradiction of the Cancer Institute, Brazil’s “regulator” CTNBio issued cultivation approvals for soybeans and corn engineered to be tolerant to another cancer-causing herbicide, 2,4-D, as well as water-guzzling, deforestation-driving GM eucalyptus, whose prolific pollen spread promises to quickly contaminate all related trees across the environment.
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*Chinese citizens are suing the government trying to force it to disclose the secret information it has on Roundup and the process by which it approved Roundup. We see how the Chinese government is at one with those of the US and EU in wanting to help Monsanto and other corporations keep the actual evidence about the effects of chemicals like Roundup secret from the people. The escalating democracy campaign to force disclosure of how much the corporations and governments really know about how deadly these agricultural poisons really are becomes all the more critical as we learn more and more about the health and environmental devastation being wrought by Roundup, including the gathering avalanche of knowledge about how it causes cancer.
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The fact is that by definition there cannot be secret scientific evidence. By definition evidence has to be publicized, so we can assume that the secrecy is in fact a cover-up. We must assume that whatever evidence does exist condemns glyphosate (and GMOs) as harmful to health and the environment, which is the reason why corporations and governments want to keep this evidence secret. Meanwhile the public assurances are nothing but propaganda and lies. No legitimate model of science or democracy can come to any other conclusion.
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*Food and Water Watch filed a pair of petitions with the FDA calling upon the agency to follow the law and regulate GMO salmon as the food containing a new additive it clearly is, rather than as an “animal drug”, the way the FDA has been preferring to do. The food additive review process is, in theory, more rigorous and more strongly applies the precautionary principle.
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*In a court filing forced out of it, Monsanto now admits it bankrolled the legal defense of the contract GMO “farmer” who trespassed upon and contaminated West Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh’s land, causing him to lose his certification and costing him his livelihood. It’s no surprise that Monsanto would see the outcome of this case as important for its future revenue and power, since one of the basic elements of government assistance it depends upon is the “co-existence” lie in general and in particular the de facto legal doctrine that where it comes to transgenic trespass and vandalism, the law is presumptively on the side of the aggressor, while it’s the legal and financial responsibility of the target to avoid being assaulted, or simply to submit to it and plant the herbicide tolerant GMOs himself. So among other things it’s a protection racket. In this case, the 2014 trial decision admitted that “co-existence” is impossible even as it reaffirmed the pro-polluter, pro-trespasser, pro-vandal, pro-aggressor doctrine. Since then the legal dispute has been over the trial judge’s order that March pay the Monsanto contractor’s legal fees. It was in that context that Marsh’s legal team was able to force Monsanto’s divulgence, since legal costs can be awarded only for a principal’s out of pocket expenses.
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*Most of the attention to the EU’s revamped “subsidiarity” policy for GMO approvals has focused on GMO cultivation. Now the Commission is about to release its new rules for approval of imported GMOs in food and feed. The main loophole in the EU’s GMO labeling policy is that meat and dairy from animals which were fed GMOs doesn’t have to be labeled, although many supermarket chains eschew GM feed for their own meat and dairy brands. Member states opposed to GM importations have generally been unable to prevent imported feed from entering their own supply chains, but have instead focused on blocking import approval in the first place. Although the details are unclear right now, both the Commission and civil society campaigners are expecting that the new rules, generally dedicated to “streamlining” regulation (i.e. making it more pro-corporate), will make it harder for member states to block EFSA import approval at the outset. There will be fig-leaf “opt out” provisions, but as a practical matter for a member state to opt out of allowing an imported processed product, which will easily cross the border in any number of ways, will be more difficult than opting out of allowing cultivation of a GMO.
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*In its desperation to claim some kind, any kind of support for the TPP and TTIP globalization assaults, the Obama administration released a set of quotes from the always reliable corporate environmentalist front groups the WWF and the Nature Conservancy, along with some other bogus NGOs, which expressed these groups’ “environmentalist” support for the pacts. Although the cowards are now trying to backpedal by claiming they have not technically endorsed these corporate anti-constitutions, the pieces and submissions are loaded with the sycophancy, lies, and neoliberal propaganda we’d expect from the the WWF and their treacherous like.

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March 21, 2015

The FDA “Review” Process As Part of the Poisoner Campaign

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I’ve often written about how the FDA has no review process for GMOs. All the FDA has is a voluntary letter dance: If it chooses, the developer sends the FDA a letter saying it performed this or that bogus test on its own product and is satisfied that the product is safe. The FDA then replies, to paraphrase, “We understand that you consider this product to be safe.” And that’s it. That’s the whole alleged review. That’s the quicksand upon which all the liars, including in government and media, build their lie that GMOs are ever tested or reviewed for safety at all.
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The historical and ideological fact is that in the 1980s, under cartel tutelage, the FDA adopted the “substantial equivalence” of GMOs and true crops as its doctrine. This was in spite of the fact that there was never any evidence for substantial equivalence, that GMOs which express Bt toxins and/or are suffused with herbicide residues are self-evidently VERY different from their non-GM counterparts*, and that a large amount of evidence has subsequently accumulated that GMOs are substantially different from non-GM crops in many other compositional ways (here’s just one example). Reason rejected “substantial equivalence” from the start, and since then science has completely trounced it. But none of that matters to the FDA, for whom substantial equivalence is nothing more or less than fundamentalist religious dogma.
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To see the latest example of your government regulators in action, check out the FDA’s press release concluding its “review” of the botox apple and the “Innate” potato. At the bottom of the release are links to the two FDA letters to the respective developers, where it says “we understand…” Note that neither letter contains a shred of information, but is pure bureaucrat-speak which adds up to trust in the fox guarding the henhouse.
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No sane person thinks the profit-seeking developers of GMOs or other agricultural poisons can be trusted to judge the safety of their own products. Reason and common sense would reject such an absurd notion out of hand, and then we have the evidence record of the entire industrial era which proves that profit-seekers will ALWAYS lie about their own products.
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There’s no doubt and no debate: The corporate state is dedicated to the aggrandizement of the corporate rackets. In this case, the government system is set up intentionally to help the poison corporations lie about the health harms of their products. The FDA, EPA, and USDA are conscious, willful, systematic liars on behalf of the wholesale poisoning of people, livestock, and the environment. (This is in addition to the government’s role as corporate welfare purveyor and creator of supply-driven markets for these products, which usually have no natural market.) As always, I challenge anyone to try to refute this, or to defend the system on any level. It would be very amusing to hear someone explain how the fox can be trusted with the henhouse, and therefore the FDA’s process makes any sense at all.
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And so again, for the thousandth time, we have refutation of the lie that GMOs are tested for safety. Never have been, never will be, by this government or any other. And so we also have, again for the thousandth time, refutation of the delusion that we the people can look to government regulators for defense of our well-being. On the contrary, nothing could be more clear than that these regulators systematically lie to we the people on behalf of those who are poisoning us. At the New Nuremburg we’ll be putting the FDA and EPA cadres in the dock right alongside their partners from Monsanto and Dow.
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*I propose this demonstration, in thought or with physical props, to make clear what the FDA and the bodies which have adopted its doctrine are claiming when they say “substantial equivalence”. I’m holding two ears of corn. I say “All the kernels on this ear are loaded with Bt toxins. This other ear is free of Bt. But they’re physically the same thing.” Does that make sense? Similarly, I hold two handfuls of soybeans. I say “These soybeans are full of Roundup. These other soybeans have no Roundup residues. But they’re physically the same thing.” Agree? And to say again, GMOs are often found to be compositionally different in other significant, completely unpredictable, ways.
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The bad faith and intellectual idiocy of the whole endeavor are on display with the fact that “substantial equivalence” has always really meant, “equivalent except for the major poison inherent in the GMO.” But, needless to say, that’s not how the FDA or its corporate media flunkeys portray the concept when propagating it for the public’s edification.
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Substantial Equivalence, upon which the US government’s entire pro-GMO propaganda edifice is built, is a classic Big Lie.

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May 2, 2014

GMO News Summary May 2nd, 2014

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*Congratulations to Vermont for becoming the first state in the country to pass a law requiring labeling of GMOs in our food, without any political stipulations about when it goes into effect. While Connecticut and Maine have also passed labeling laws, these won’t go into effect until several other states also enact such policies. Maine’s specifically requires that New Hampshire adopt the same policy, which its legislature recently refused to do. (Maine’s government has also expressed hostility to its own law.)
 
This is the latest example of Vermont’s pioneer spirit, where it comes to policy which makes sense morally and practically. Vermont was the first state in the union to abolish slavery, and more recently it was the first to ban fracking.
 
*The FDA is weakening its already threadbare process for regulation of genetically engineered animals by disbanding its Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee, a group of outside academics supposed to provide peer review of FDA regulatory procedures, and which has provided adverse commentary on the looming approval of GM salmon, which the FDA badly wants to approve. So far it’s been scared of the potential political repercussions, in part because its advisory committee has been so unsupportive.
 
Obviously the FDA is disbanding the committee because this committee has not shown sufficient coordination on behalf of the corporate imperative.
 
Pressed for an answer by public interest groups and a member of Congress, the FDA has lied, claiming that maintaining the group is too costly. But records obtained by Food and Water Watch through FOI requests confirm that the FDA spent $0 on the group in 2013, so it’s certainly not breaking the budget.
 
But of course we already knew that the claim about cost was a lie, since government invariably lies whenever it claims it can’t afford a program which might actually help people. The proof of this is that it always believes it has infinite money for corporate welfare, corporate bailouts, weapons and war, the police state, prisons, and the rest of the worthless, predatory, obscenely expensive corporate state. In the FDA’s case there’s no budgetary problem for paramilitary-style assaults on small farmers and co-ops and for the plan to “regulate” produce on behalf of Big Ag’s imperatives. This is the goal and purpose of the Food Control Act, aka the “Food Safety Modernization Act”, as Orwell named it. (I should note here that FWW, along with almost all the NGOs who are intermittently good on GMOs and some other aspects of corporate agriculture, supports the Food Control Act and the increase of FDA power which will be used to attempt to suppress the Community Food sector. That’s an example of the typical schizophrenia among system NGOs, and why we can benefit from their reportage but must never trust their political prescriptions. Perhaps someone can explain to me how the same FDA which is gutting this committee and which has always been so gung ho for GMOs is a good bet for having control over who’s allowed to produce and distribute vegetables. Policy like the FSMA is obviously a weapon for economic warfare and repression, not public interest regulation as described by those who hold delusions of “good government”.) Nor will there be a budgetary issue with enforcement of the preemptive GMO anti-labeling policy being pushed in Congress by the cartel’s Grocery Manufacturers Association, if this bill is ever passed.
 
It’s always true that government can always spend as much as it wants on the public interest. It simply does not want to spend on this, but only for the corporate interest, and only against the public. So it is with the FDA.
 
*I’ve often written about the perfidy of the industrial organic sector and the ongoing plan of the USDA to erode organic standards. Members of the Organic Consumers Association and other citizen groups have been protesting a significant erosion of the National Organic Standards pushed through in secret and behind closed doors last autumn. Previously, dubious ingredients allowed on the “organic” list would automatically be retired after five years unless a 2/3 majority of the organic standards board voted to maintain them on the list. The new policy reverses this; they’ll automatically be kept on the list unless voted off.
 
Since the NOS board is stacked with corporate cadres, any such vote is unlikely. So not only will such toxic ingredients as carrageenan, factory farm sausage casings, synthetic vitamins, and DHA still be allowed to be included under the “certified organic” rubric, but it’ll become easier to add such things to the list and keep them there. This is the general plan of the industrial organic sector’s Organic Trade Association, which is a corporatist outfit just like any other Big Ag trade group. I’ve written before about how industrial organic shares with the USDA the nightmare of eventually allowing GMOs under the “organic” certification.
 
Once again we have confirmation that the organic certification is a stopgap at best, and is no kind of sufficient substitute for restoring our naturally local/regional agricultural and food economies on the basis of agroecology and food sovereignty.
 
*An Italian court has upheld the country’s ban on cultivation of MON810. The decision upholds the precautionary principle as a key element of rational, science-based public interest policy. Italy is one of ten European countries which have banned this, the only GMO approved for cultivation in the EU. The product is widely grown only in Spain.
 
*The Scottish government is claiming to be surprised and upset that British Environment Minster Owen Paterson failed to represent Scotland properly at a recent EC meeting on the future of GMO policy in Europe. Scotland is GM free and its government claims to want to continue this policy. The UK government, by contrast, acts as the poodle of the US on this even though no British corporations are GMO leaders. The Big 6 of the cartel are from the US and continental Europe.
 
I find it hard to believe anyone in Scotland could be so foolish as to be surprised by this. Paterson has made it crystal clear that he’s a liar with zero scruples or integrity, and that under any circumstance he’ll act as a flunkey of the US government and the GMO cartel. So why is the Scottish minister pretending to be surprised? It has to be what he expected. Who lets someone represent them at a meeting when they know for a fact they can’t trust that person?
 
People of Scotland beware. Your government’s hardly looking like a vigorous, enthusiastic representative of your interests on this.
 
*Recently the problem of Roundup’s harmful health effects on livestock has been getting significant mainstream attention in Denmark.
 
*The Benton County Community Rights Coalition announces that it has been cleared to begin collecting signatures toward putting a Local Food Sovereignty initiative on the November 2014 ballot.
 
The bill is designed to protect community rights and autonomy by forestalling corporate assaults on those rights. It would ban GMO cultivation and the enforcement of seed patents, toward the goal of rejuvenating the county’s local food production and distribution. In this way it will help rebuild the local/regional economy of food and the broader economy, while politically it will help repulse invasive corporate tyranny and restore community self-determination.

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