Bad GMO Labeling Bill Expected Soon

gmo labeling

A new bill to let food producers decide whether to label GMOs could prevent states from passing mandatory labeling laws. It’s expected to be introduced in the next few weeks—so we need to dissuade potential co-sponsors now! Action Alert! [1]

At the behest of the Monsantos and Cargills of the world, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is expected to reintroduce his Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act in the next week or two. If passed, it would nullify the efforts of ten states that are currently considering bills to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

A bill to do the same thing was introduced in 2014. If the language is the same as before, this bill would give the FDA full authority to label GMOs,and the agency favors a voluntary approach [2]. With a federal framework in place, states would be precluded from setting up their own labeling standards.

The rationale offered by Rep. Pompeo for the bill is that it would avoid a “patchwork quilt of [state] food labeling requirements” across the country that would make it difficult for companies to operate. But if this is the sole reason, then why not introduce a mandatory label on the federal level so there is one cohesive standard?  The real reason for the bill is that the food industry and biotech firms are afraid to tell the public what is actually in their products.

We understand the bill will also contain a new section to create a government-sponsored voluntary certification program for GMO-free foods. Of course, this puts the onus on organic and non-GMO producers to label their products, when it should be the responsibility of those who are introducing new technologies into food production to label their GM products.

The fact is, we essentially already have a voluntary labeling system, and not a single company has elected to label its products that contain GMOs. If Congress passes this bill, Big Food can continue to keep consumers in the dark about what we’re eating.

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New GMO Wine Makes Promises Of No More Hangovers, But At What Cost?

three-wine-bottles

Scientists at the University of Illinois have engineered a genetically modified yeast to enhance fermentation and eliminate byproducts that cause hangovers. The question is, how will altering natural yeast in fermentation processes affect the chemical constituents in wine once metabolized?

Food scientists have been looking to incorporate additives consisting of a series of chelation compounds to wine to prevent it from looking, smelling and tasting funky after oxidation. The problem is, many of them are toxic to living cells. A new method of modifying yeast may bypass additives altogether.

“Fermented foods–such as beer, wine, and bread–are made with polyploid strains of yeast, which means they contain multiple copies of genes in the genome. Until now, it’s been very difficult to do genetic engineering in polyploid strains because if you altered a gene in one copy of the genome, an unaltered copy would correct the one that had been changed,” said Yong-Su Jin, a U of I associate professor of microbial genomics and principal investigator in the Energy Biosciences Institute.

Recently scientists have developed a “genome knife” that cuts across multiple copies of a target gene in the genome. Jin’s group has now used this enzyme, RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease, to do precise metabolic engineering of polyploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains that have been widely used in the wine, beer, and fermentation industries.

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GMO Labeling Will Not Increase Food Prices

gmo labeling

Tomorrow morning, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the impact of GMO labeling on food prices.

Several witnesses will raise their hands and give sworn testimony that a simple disclosure on the back of a package that food made with genetically modified ingredients will raise food prices.

All of them will be wrong.

Here’s the truth: changing labels has no impact on the price of food. Food companies change their labels all the time to highlight innovations or make new claims. Remember when General Mills changed the Cheerios box to share the good news that its iconic cereal was GMO-free? Did the price change? No.

Here’s another dose of reality:  Shoppers do not read everything on the box, can or bottle. As my colleague Mike Lavender recently noted, shoppers tend to look for certain attributes – like calories or the presence of fiber – and disregard the rest.  So while some consumers will look for the GMO disclosure, many more will not.

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93 Percent of the World’s Seeds Have Been Lost in the Last 80 Years

seed library

Seeds represent the foundation of life. We depend on them for food, for medicine and for our very survival. In many ways, you can trace the underpinnings of any given culture through the heritage of their crops and seeds.

It wasn’t long ago when seeds were mostly the concern of farmers who, as the Worldwatch Institute put it, “were the seed producers and the guardians of societies’ crop heritage.” But this is no longer the case.

Once considered to be the property of all, like water or even air, seeds have become largely privatized, such that only a handful of companies now control the global food supply.

Agriculture has been around for 10,000 years, but the privatization of seeds has only occurred very recently. In that short time, seed diversity has been decimated, farmers have been put out of business due to rising seed costs… and the pesticide companies [2] that control most seeds today have flourished.

According to Worldwatch:

“…by the early 1900s, the U.S. and Canadian governments began promoting the development of large export-oriented agriculture industries based on only a few crops and livestock species.

To maximize uniformity and yields, seed breeding moved off the farm and into centralized public research centers, such as U.S. land grant universities. Variety development became commodity-oriented.

Scientific advances in the 1970s and ’80s heralded a new era in agriculture. To boost flat sales, Monsanto and other agrichemical companies ventured into genetic engineering and transformed themselves into the biotechnology industry.

They bought out traditional seed companies and engineered their herbicide-resistant genes into the newly acquired seed lines.”

It’s been all downhill from there…

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