10 May 2018 — Organic Consumers Association
ESSAY OF THE WEEK
Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller may be even worse for human health than we thought.
As reported this week in the Guardian, new tests show that when Roundup’s key active ingredient, glyphosate, is combined with other chemicals to create the final product, the herbicide is more toxic to human cells than glyphosate alone.
U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam reported on the first-ever testing, conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), of glyphosate-based formulations. Previous testing focused exclusively on glyphosate in isolation.
NTP’s acting chief of the National Toxicology Program Laboratory, Mike DeVito, told the Guardian the agency’s work is ongoing but its early findings are clear on one key point. “We see the formulations are much more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells. The glyphosate really didn’t do it.”
That’s bad for farmers who spray Roundup, for people who eat Roundup-contaminated food, and for the millions of us who are exposed to Roundup because it runs off into our waterways or is sprayed on parks, playgrounds and neighborhood lawns. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest figures, $9 billion worth of glyphosate-based herbicides were sold in the U.S. in 2012.
Monsanto continues to claim that its product is safe, including the formulation it sells direct to consumers for their lawns and gardens. Beyond Pesticides (BP) and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) sued Monsanto for misleading consumers about the safety of its flagship herbicide. Monsanto tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but a federal judge recently ruled in favor of BP and OCA.
MILLIONS AGAINST MONSANTO
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled its proposed version of GMO labels. Wait ‘till you see them. All bright and cheery, with sunburst and smiley-faced images—but without “GMO” appearing anywhere on the labels.
According to Politico, the USDA’s long-awaited 106-page proposal for how companies must let consumers know about genetically modified ingredients in their products includes eliminating the words “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered” and replacing them with “bioengineered.”
That means no “GMO”—instead we’ll see “BE” on the environmentally friendly looking green and yellow images, supposedly there to “inform” us.
The images are just as insulting to consumers as the law, which the chemical and junk food industry lobbyists spent $400 million to pass—under the specious name of the “Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act.”
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service told Politico that it “considered using alternative phrases, such as ‘genetically modified’ or ‘genetically engineered’ but ultimately decided ‘bioengineering’ adequately describes food of the technology that Congress intended to be within the scope of the [national GMO labeling standard.]”
Right. Just one more way the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act will keep consumers in the dark.
Are your local farmers getting the support they need?
Not from the current U.S. Farm Bill, which provides billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies to the largest, wealthiest growers of GMO monocultures, but doles out precious little support for your local farmer.
Despite growing demand for locally produced foods, millions of Americans live in rural areas where they have little or no access to any kind of healthy, nutrient-dense food, much less food produced in their own community.
That’s not healthy for residents of those communities. And it’s not healthy for the communities. According to a report from the American Planning Association:
Disparities in food access are influenced by geographic, economic and social factors, but also by a community’s food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste recovery policies and practices. Food access is not simply a health issue but also a community development and equity issue. For this reason, access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food is a key component not only in a healthy, sustainable local food system, but also in a healthy, sustainable community.
There’s a bill before Congress—the Local Food and Regional Market Supply (Local FARMS Act)—that would support the building of local markets and infrastructure necessary for healthy local farmers and food systems. But the bill needs more co-sponsors, and more support from Congress.
SUPPORT OCA & CRL
OCA’s mission is fairly straightforward: Educate consumers, defend organic standards, advocate for better food and farming policies that protect consumer and environmental health.
Sometimes, like it or not, our only option for protecting you from corporations that employ deceptive labeling and advertising tactics to sell their products, is to take those corporations to court.
Once we file a lawsuit against a company, the company’s first move is to try to get the case dismissed. Fortunately, in most cases, after reviewing the facts, the courts rule in our favor and the lawsuit moves forward.
We’re always pleased when this happens. It often leads to a favorable settlement, where a company agrees to stop misleading consumers with false labeling and advertising claims.
That’s what happened recently with Post Shredded Wheat—no longer will the product be labeled “natural.”
Now, we wait to see what happens with Monsanto.
Last year, we sued Monsanto for misleading the public by labeling its popular weedkiller as “target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” We believe this statement is false, deceptive and misleading because the enzyme targeted by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup is, in fact, found in people and pets.
Monsanto immediately filed to dismiss—and lost.
Ultimately, we believe Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, should be banned. That’s why we participated in a “Ban Roundup” protest last week in Washington, D.C.
But until Congress stops serving the chemical industry and starts serving us, we’ll have to find other avenues to protect consumers. And one of those is to force Monsanto to at least be honest about how toxic Roundup is—by removing false claims from product labels.
We don’t love having to divert precious resources to battling it out with chemical and food companies in the halls of justice.
But you deserve the truth. It matters.
Support Citizens Regeneration Lobby (CRL), OCA’s sister lobbying organizationDonations to CRL, a 501(c) (4) nonprofit, are not tax-deductible
MYTH OF NATURAL
Curb Your Confusion
If you’re still confused by the words “natural,” “all natural” and “100% natural” on food packaging, you’re not alone. Many consumers equate the word “natural” with “organic” and some even mistakenly believe that “100% Natural” is better than certified organic.
A 2014 Consumer Reports poll found that 66 percent of consumers believe a product labeled “natural” has no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms, and 86 percent believe that it should mean those things.
There’s a big difference between a certified “organic” product and a “natural”product. Food products can be labeled “organic” only if they’re independently certified as meeting U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program standards.
But with the exception of meat and poultry, there is no legal definition of “natural” as it applies to food.
That means food companies can slap the words “natural” on products containing all kinds of ingredients you wouldn’t think of as natural—including chemicals like glyphosatein Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. And they do—because they know consumers seek out “natural” foods, believing them to be healthier.
It’s arguably the biggest labeling scam in the food industry. That’s why we’ve been using a combination of product testing and lawsuits to expose companies for misleading consumers with deceptive labels and/or advertising.
We recently settled one of those lawsuits: You’ll no longer see the word “natural” on a box of Post Shredded Wheat.
Lawsuits aren’t the perfect solution. We’d rather companies go organic and regenerative. But until they do, we’ll keep pressuring them to stop deceiving consumers.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Robert Reich wants you to know about the biggest economic problem you’ve heard almost nothing about—the Monopolization of America—and how it affects what you pay for food and other consumer products.
In his latest video on Facebook, released Sunday and already seen by more than 500,000 viewers, Reich says America’s monopoly problem stems from the “hidden upward redistribution of money and power from the majority of Americans to corporate executives and wealthy shareholders.”
The only way to fix it? Revive antitrust enforcement.
Reich recently visited with Missouri farmers, whose profits have been disappearing. He explains:
Monsanto alone owns the key genetic traits to more than 90 percent of the soybeans planted by farmers in the U.S. and 80 percent of the corn, which means Monsanto can charge farmers much higher prices. And farmers are getting squeezed from the other side too, because the food processors they sell their products to are also consolidating into mega companies that have so much market power they can cut the prices they pay to farmers. This doesn’t mean lower food prices to you, it means more profits to the monopolists.
Reich also takes his viewers to a grocery store, to illustrate how it looks as if you have a lot of choices as you cruise the aisles. But when you take a closer look, you see monopolies everywhere.
Food and Mood
There are multiple factors, including some we have little control over, that can trigger mental illness. But a new study suggests that one of those mental illness triggers may be the food we eat—and that’s something we do have control over.
Scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand surveyed 422 adults between the ages of 18 and 25, collecting data on raw versus cooked produce consumption. The study took into account other variables including the participant’s weight, exercise habits, overall diet and socioeconomic status.
Researchers observed a link between the consumption of raw fruits and veggies and improved mental well-being—a correlation scientists say could be a result of higher nutrient levels in raw produce versus those in processed and cooked produce.