DARK Act Failed in Senate!


Great News!  We have successfully blocked the Roberts Bill/DARK Act in the Senate on 16 March.  This doesn’t mean its over, but this was an important victory.  Both Washington Senators, Murray and Cantwell supported our cause by voting NAY!  U.S. Senate: Roll Call Vote

Details below from OTA’s General Counsel Marni Karlin.  Our calls and efforts were successful.  Thank you all!

From: mkarlin@ota.com <usgovernmentaffairs@list.ota.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 9:34 AM
Subject: [usgovernmentaffairs] Senate declines to move Roberts GMO labeling bill to a vote on the merits
To: US Government Affairs <usgovernmentaffairs@list.ota.com>

Today, the Senate did not reach cloture on Chairman Pat Roberts’ GMO labeling bill – a bill that would create inconsistencies with the USDA certified organic seal, and does not meet the requirements for meaningful disclosure that would be necessary to preempt the states.  Sixty votes are needed to attain cloture, and the bill received only 48 votes.  49 Senators opposed cloture; and 3 Senators were not present.  This means Chairman Roberts’ bill will not proceed to a vote on the merits.

In debate on the floor of the Senate, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow noted the importance of meaningfully responding to consumer demands for choice in their foods, and her desire to pass a bill that does not infringe on that choice in areas such as organic.  She noted that organic is a bright light in American agriculture, and one of the fastest growing sectors of American agriculture.  Ranking Member Stabenow also indicated her desire to continue to work with Chairman Roberts toward a meaningful solution.

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also spoke against cloture on the Roberts bill.

Procedurally, this means that Chairman Roberts’ bill does not have the requisite number of votes to proceed to a vote on the merits – and discussions are likely to continue to work toward a meaningful bipartisan solution.  The Senate remains in session for the rest of this week, and then goes on its Easter recess until April 4.

OTA has advocated for and continues to advocate for a federal mandatory GMO labeling solution that ensures consistency with the organic laws and regulations.  Please reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns.
Marni Karlin
Vice President of Government Affairs / General Counsel
Organic Trade Association (OTA) | www.ota.com
Direct: (202) 403-8511

Stop The DARK Act Now!

This just in from “Oregon Right To Know Team”

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted 14-6 to pass the DARK Act (S. 2609), and now we’re hearing that this devastating legislation could reach the Senate floor between now and early April.
Monsanto’s dream bill already passed the House, so this Senate floor vote is critical if we want to stop the DARK Act from becoming law.

We need EVERY food activist to pick up the phone right away and dial 1-877-796-1949 to urge your Senators to VOTE NO on S. 2609.

We all know what’s at stake here: Under the DARK Act, it would be illegal for states to require GMO labeling, even though polls show that 93% of Americans support labeling efforts.
This law would not only prevent future GMO labeling requirements, but would actually kill laws previously passed by voters, including the first-of-its-kind Vermont law set to take effect in July, which would require labels on GMO food.  AS written Initiative 2012-4 that was passed in San Juan County prohibiting the growing of GM crops could be overturned.
This is our chance to protect our right to know what’s in our food and stop the DARK Act from becoming law. Please call 1-877-796-1949 to tell your Senators to OPPOSE S. 2609.

Below is a message GMO-Free SJC received from the Just Label It campaign…Gary Hirschberg, Chairman, Stonyfield Farm and Chairman, Just Label It:

Hi Colleagues, once again forgive the anonymous email, but I am sending this with urgency to my personal list of pro-labeling CEO’s and Business Leaders.

The moment for all of us to communicate to key Senators about your strong opposition to the Roberts Bill, to Donnelly’s QR code labeling “alternative” and your support for Senator Merkley’s mandatory labeling bill has now arrived.  Please call a select group of key senators, it could make a huge difference in the outcome of this fight.

UPDATE: Here is where things stand. As you know, earlier last week, it appeared that Senator Roberts had at least 52 votes in favor of the DARK Act, so we have been focused on preventing 8 additional Democrats from backing it, as well as to potentially convince a few of those 52 to reconsider their support before the likely floor vote in April.   As of Friday, it appeared that Senator Roberts now does not have the 60 votes necessary to end debate and pass his bill, as is.  This is of course very good news.  However, because a number of the farm state Democrats are under huge pressure from mainstream Ag and Food interests in their states to support some kind of effort that delays or blocks the VT law (VT 120) from taking effect on July 1st, Senator Donnelly has put forward a compromise amendment to Roberts’ bill that might enable enough Dems to join the bill to get it passed.  His proposal is essentially to give companies the choice to either adopt an on-pack label or to choose instead to use a very explicitly designed QR code that would make it easy for consumers to know whether GMOs are in their foods.  JLI remains adamantly opposed to the substitution of a QR code because we feel that it is still an attempt by big food companies to keep consumers in the dark, and so it is critical that we communicate to a specific list of Senators who we fear could support Donnelly’s compromise.

Also last week, Senator Merkley introduced a separate bill  that would in fact seek to replace VT 120 with a stronger mandatory national labeling bill.  While our first priority remains stopping the Roberts bill and allowing VT 120 to take effect, it is important that you understand that there are some real flaws in the VT 120 law which the Merkley bill addresses. VT 120 contains a safe harbor such that no enforcement will happen until January 1, 2017, which functionally gives food companies an extra 6 months to become compliant.  Moreover, VT 120 also exempts 42% of the food consumed by consumers (including foods served in restaurants, fast food chains, take-out sections in grocery stores, schools, nursing homes, jails and other institutions), and exempts dairy products from rBGH-treated cows.  While VT 120 is still a step in the right direction, it is important for you to know that the Merkley bill does not contain either the safe harbor nor the exemptions, so it is in fact stronger legislation when it comes to protecting our right to know.  So while we all try to stop the Roberts bill, we also are supporting the Merkley bill as it would get us nationwide mandatory labeling.

SUMMARY:  It is essential that the key Senators listed below hear from people like you that we are opposed to the Roberts Bill, even with the Donnelly amendment, and that we support Merkley’s bill.

KEY SENATE TARGETS (along with their office phone numbers):
Casey (D-PA) – 202-224-6324
Bennet (D-CO) – 202-224-5852
Durbin (D-IL) – 202-224-2152
Carper (D-DE) – 202-2242441
Warner (D-VA) – 202-224-2023
Franken (D-MN) – 202-2245641
Klobuchar (D-MN) – 202-224-3244
Kaine (D-VA) – 202-224-4024
Koons (D-DE) – 202-224-5042
Collins (R-ME) – 202-224-2523
King (I-ME) – 202-224-5344
Heitkamp (D-ND) – 202-224 2043
Ayotte (R-NH)– 202-224-3324
Donnelly (D-IN) – 202-224-4814
Brown (D-OH) – 202-224-2315
Menendez (D-NJ) – 202-224-4744
Hirono (D-HI) – 202-224-6361
Nelson (D-FL) – 202-224-5274

There are also three Republican Senators who may object on states’ rights grounds:
Lee (R-UT) – 202-224-5444
Paul (R-KY) – 202-224-4343
Gardner (R-CO)


Please note that you do NOT have to have a factory, farm, store or employees in a state for your voice to be important to the Senators you reach. It is good enough that your products sell in their states and you are therefore contributing to commerce there.

Top line talking points:

* Millions of consumers support your company because of your commitment to full transparency and disclosure
* Regardless of whether or not the Senator supports GMO’s, there is no question that average citizens have the right to know and                 choose whether to buy foods containing GMO’s, but they cannot know without a label on the package.
* Polls show 90% of Americans, regardless of age, income or party affiliation, support labeling of GMO food on food packages
* 64 nations already require labeling including Russia, China, the EU, and important trading partners in Asia.
* Hundreds of food companies urged President Obama to honor his pledge to require GMO labeling.
* The DARK Act (S. 2609) would not only block state and federal GMO labeling, it would make it harder for companies like Campbell Soup to voluntarily label GMOs on their package.
* Even with some of the fixes in the Donnelly bill, polls show that Americans will not accept the QR Code as an alternative to on-pack labeling. This is simply another way to keep consumers in the dark.

Dispelling GMO Labeling Myths:

–        GMO labeling will not increase food prices. As a CEO I can tell you that companies frequently change labels to highlight new innovations or to make new claims. The world’s second largest producer of GMO crops – Brazil – implemented mandatory GMO labeling in 2003 yet claims that a mandatory disclosure would disrupt GMO expansion or cause food price increases were disproved by actual marketplace experience.

–        Labeling will not result in massive numbers of consumers suddenly seeking to switch to non GMO foods,  with resultant supply shortages.   A recent five-year study of consumer data confirmed that American consumers will not view a GMO disclosure as a warning. ( Reidel, John C. 2015. New Study: Consumers Don’t View GMO Labels as Negative ‘Warnings.’ University Commons)

–        Voluntary GMO labeling will not work. Companies have been allowed to make voluntary non-GMO disclosures since 2001, but consumers are more confused than ever.

–        There is no “patchwork quilt.” Current state GMO labeling laws are virtually identical, so there will be no “patchwork quilt” of different state laws. However, the responsible solution to concerns over a possible future patchwork would be the establishment of a uniform, national mandatory labeling standard.

–        A responsible alternative exists. Last week, an alternative proposal was introduced by Senators Merkley, Tester, Leahy and Feinstein that would provide companies with a menu of options to label GMOs on their package while eliminating the concern of a potential patchwork. This alternative is supported by both Campbell’s Soup and the Just Label It coalition.

So it all comes down to this.   Years of our work to promote GMO transparency will either succeed or fail in the next month.  Your calls now could make a big difference.

GMO Salmon Approved by FDA

The FDA declared that GE-salmon is as safe to eat as non-GE salmon and has given its approval for it to be sold to consumers.

Despite the fact that:

csiro_scienceimage_7478_atlantic_salmon– Over 400,000 comments were submitted demanding that genetically-engineered salmon be rejected.

– More than 300 environmental, consumer, health and animal welfare organizations, salmon and fishing groups and associations, food companies, chefs, and restaurants filed joint statements with the FDA opposing approval.

– More than 40 members of the U.S. Congress have repeatedly urged the FDA to conduct more rigorous reviews of environmental and health safety, and halt any approval process until concerns over risks, transparency and oversight have been fully satisfied.

……….the FDA refused to listen to consumer opinion and environmental concerns, and it completely placated the well-funded biotech industry.

Not only is this the first GE-fish approved, but it is the first GE-animal approved for human consumption. (This “FrankenFish” is injected with a gene from the Pacific Chinook salmon and can reach adult size in 16 to 18 months instead of 30 months for normal Atlantic salmon.)

Read the entire article:


We are a GMO-Free County


I would like to thank all of the people who helped make this a reality; financial contributors, signature gatherers, event sponsors, our calling team, our Facebook and website teams, GMO Actions in San Juan County, each and everyone of you who voted and all of the people willing to start the dialog with your friends and neighbors about what this initiative is really about.

This is about protecting our futures, protecting our farmers and protecting our environment. This is about standing up to corporate bullying. This is about preserving the integrity of our food and the freedom to grow it, but most important this is about our community getting together, educating ourselves and standing up for our rights as farmers and citizens. One small step against GMO domination, but a very important one.

Now for the next step. Label it Washington ( http://www.labelitwa.org/ ) needs our help. They are still gathering signatures in an effort to require mandatory GMO labeling in Washington State. We need to keep at it, not just for the political victories, but for the dialog and to help our country reach the tipping point in GMO awareness and rejection.

Ken Akopiantz
Chair GMO-Free San Juans

Bill Gates’ support of GM crops is wrong approach for Africa

By Glenn Ashton
Special to The Times

Bill Gates’ support of genetically modified (GM) crops as a solution for world hunger is of concern to those of us involved in promoting sustainable, equitable and effective agricultural policies in Africa.

There are two primary shortcomings to Gates’ approach.

First, his technocratic ideology runs counter to the best informed science. The World Bank and United Nations funded 900 scientists over three years in order to create an International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Its conclusions were diametrically opposed, at both philosophical and practical levels, to those espoused by Gates and clearly state that the use of GM crops is not a meaningful solution to the complex situation of world hunger.

The IAASTD suggests that rather than pursuing industrial farming models, “agro-ecological” methods provide the most viable means to enhance global food security, especially in light of climate change. These include implementing practical scientific research based on traditional seed varieties and local farming practices adapted to the local ecology over millennia.

Agro-ecology has consistently proven capable of sustainably increasing productivity. Conversely, the present GM crops generally have not increased yields over the long run, despite their increased costs and dependence on agricultural chemicals, as highlighted in the 2009 Union of Concerned Scientists report, “Failure to Yield.”

For example, experimental “drought-resistant” corn, supported by Gates and Monsanto, is far less robust than natural maize varieties and farming methods requiring less water. Thus, Gates’ GM “solutions” depend on higher-cost inputs — such as fertilizers, pest controls and the special seeds themselves — distracting attention from proven, lower-cost approaches.

Secondly, Gates sponsors compliant African organizations whose work with multinational agricultural corporations like Monsanto undermines existing grass-roots efforts to improve local production methods. He has become a stalking horse for corporate proponents of industrial agriculture which perceive African hunger simply as a business opportunity. His Gates Foundation has referred to the world’s poor as the “BOP” (bottom of pyramid), presenting ” … a fast growing consumer market.”

Olivier De Shutter, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the right to food, reinforces the IAASTD research. He, too, concludes that agro-ecological farming has far greater potential for fighting hunger, particularly during economic and climatically uncertain times.

Poverty is the result of a dominant global economic system that considers traditional farmers, who produce mainly for local consumption, not export, as not contributing to the gross domestic product. To force these “BOPs” into the industrial agriculture system ignores their requirements. Gates’ philanthropy is undemocratic at both ideological and practical levels. It ignores democratically derived African solutions to our food security problems. Further, it runs counter to the traditional methodology of bi- and multilateral foreign aid, which is obliged to consider local policies and sensitivities.

Africa suffers from well-intended but poorly considered agricultural policies imposed by external “experts.” For one of the world’s wealthiest men to presume he can provide all of the solutions is arrogant. His “near-religious faith in technology” (as described in a recent business journal) conflicts with the practical work of the IAASTD, De Shutter and grass-roots democratic agronomic movements.

While successful in his chosen field, Gates has no expertise in the farm field. This is not to say that he and his fellow philanthropists cannot contribute — they certainly can. However, some circumspection and humility would go a long way to heal the rifts they have opened. Beating Africans with the big stick of high-input proprietary technology has never been requested; it will perpetuate neo-imperialism and repetition of foreign-imposed African “failure.” Africans urge Bill Gates to engage with us in a more-broadly consultative, agro-ecological approach.

Glenn Ashton is a South African agricultural consultant and researcher who has worked with grass-roots organizations across a broad range of social interests in the region. He may be reached at ekogaia@iafrica.com

for original article please click here.