GMO labelling fight resurrects in America's farming heartland

1. Indiana proposes yet another GMO labeling bill for food freedoms: Expects vigorous backlash from mega-food companies
2. Nonprofits and local farmers win right to defend Jackson County [Oregon] against corporate bullies
3. Minnesota’s new GMO labeling bill could change everything for Monsanto

1. Indiana proposes yet another GMO labeling bill for food freedoms: Expects vigorous backlash from mega-food companies

Christina Sarich
Natural Society, February 9, 2015

As Oregon, Washington, California, Maui, and Vermont have all struggled against the biotech behemoths to get GMO labeling laws to pass, each with varying success, a surprising advocate for the cause has turned up in Indiana. Here is yet another state that may soon represent the people who want to know what they’re eating.

Under the newly proposed legislation, which was introduced by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, companies would be required to label foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients. The senator has included verbiage in his bill that would also prohibit companies from using the term "natural" to define its genetically altered food. Anyone who violated the law, should it pass, would be subject to penalties.

Kruse states that he realizes the bill will face “vigorous lobbying against it by big companies”, and considering that Republicans often side with Big Business, his stance is original for his party’s usual political agenda. The bill is very similar to others that recently failed to win sufficient votes to be passed in other liberal Western states.

Kruse has tried to champion other unpopular bills in the past, including the teaching of creationism in schools and requiring that children in Indiana schools recite the Lord’s Prayer, but this food initiative actually has some wide-spread backing with non-GMO activists. He says that consumers deserve to know where their food comes from – and polls show that millions of Americans, regardless of religious affiliation, agree.

Kruse explains:

“I still like people knowing what they’re eating. If I choose to eat it, that’s my choice, I’ll go ahead and eat it, but I’d like to know that this has been genetically modified.”

Agribusiness obviously won’t agree with Kruse’s edict, continuing to spout misinformation about the safety of GMOs and the "rise in food prices" that labeling would cause. But it costs pennies to change labels, and food manufacturers do it all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with GMO labeling.

One of Kruse’s biggest opponents is the powerful Farm Bureau, with an arm in Indiana that supports GMOs with powerful lobbying.

Justin Schneider, Indiana Farm Bureau’s senior policy adviser and counsel, says this about toxic GMOs:

“It’s a valuable tool, and there’s a lot of benefits in efficiency and using the technology. It’s been good for ag. It really has, and I think it’s been good for the consumer, being able to produce and grow products more efficiently in a shrinking pool of land.”

No mention is made by Schneider, of the fact that shrinking land is attributable to devalued soil and mono-cropping methods, both of which are linked to heavy pesticide and herbicide use.

Voters in Oregon, California, Colorado, and Washington recently have blocked GMO labeling initiatives, but hopefully voters in Indiana will successfully defeat the million-dollar ad campaigns that helped biotech win those states.

Maine and Connecticut also have pending GMO labeling laws, but require a ‘trigger’ whereby a neighboring state passes a law before their laws would go into effect.

Kruse is certainly an anomaly, since Congressional Republicans usually seek to push federal legislation that would override state laws mandating labels, stating concerns that individual states’ requirements could create burdens for food companies. But really – they are just bought out by Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and other Big Food corps. The evidence abounds that they aren’t looking after anyone but themselves.

2. Nonprofits and local farmers win right to defend Jackson County [Oregon] against corporate bullies

Centre for Food Safety, February 6, 2015

* Center for Food Safety, Our Family Farms Coalition, and local farmers Oshala Farm and Chris Hardy to Defend Countywide Ban on Genetically Engineered Crops

Federal Court Magistrate Mark Clarke today issued an 8-page Order granting the motion by Center for Food Safety (CFS), Our Family Farms Coalition (OFFC), Oshala Farm and Chris Hardy  to intervene as defendants in a pending lawsuit challenging Jackson County's Ordinance 635, which was approved by voters as Measure 15-119. The ordinance, passed in May 2014, creates a genetically engineered crop free zone to protect local farmers from transgenic contamination.

The decision means that CFS, OFFC, as well as Jackson County farmers Oshala Farm and Chris Hardy will be able to help Jackson County’s lawyers "vigorously defend the legality of protecting family farmers from genetically engineered crops in Jackson County." The Court found that “[CFS, OFFC, Oshala Farm and Chris Hardy] have alleged concrete agricultural and economic interests that will be just as impacted by this litigation as the interests claimed by the Plaintiffs in this case.” When defending those “concrete agricultural and economic interests” the coalition will be jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School.

“Farmers in Jackson County growing traditional crops are being threatened by crops genetically engineered to survive heavy pesticides. Monsanto and the chemical giants have created a product they can't control. After the people expressed their will through the democratic process, they turned to the courts to protect their profits. They intimidate and bully with high-priced law firms, but we won't back down,” said Jackson County farmer and director of Our Family Farms Coalition, Elise Higley.

In May 2014, voters in Jackson County overwhelmingly approved measure 15-119 by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin. The bi-partisan victory came despite a wave of opposition funding from the chemical industry, topping out at nearly $1 million. These same biotechnology interests challenged the Ordinance in court.

“This is big win for family farmers. The court has correctly recognized local farmers' right to protect the ordinance, farmers that championed the ordinance and are directly threatened by the lawsuit. We're proud to stand with them and represent them,” said George Kimbrell, CFS’s senior attorney, based in Portland.

Tom Buchele, with the Earthrise Law Center, said, "This is a good start to the case, but its not really surprising given the compelling agricultural and economic interests that farmers growing traditional crops have in seeing the ban on genetically engineered crops upheld and legally enforced."

Transgenic contamination, the transfer of genetically engineered crops to conventional, organic or wild plants, can happen through cross-pollination, seed mixing or other means throughout agricultural production. When it does happen, traditional farmers lose GE-sensitive domestic and export markets and customers, and contamination episodes in corn, wheat, rice, alfalfa, sugar beets, and other crops have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade. A state-sanctioned Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) of the ban, conducted prior to the election, concluded that farms in Jackson County are at “serious” risk of contamination by GE crops. The review also concluded that the initiative would not incur significant enforcement costs.

Over the past decade, numerous counties across the country have passed similar GE crop regulation ordinances including Josephine County, OR; Santa Cruz County, CA; Trinity County, CA; Marin County, CA; Mendocino County, CA; Humboldt County, CA; San Juan County, WA; Maui County, HI; Hawaii County, HI; and numerous cities.

3. Minnesota’s new GMO labeling bill could change everything for Monsanto

by Anthony Gucciardi, February 3, 2015

* Midwestern state may change GMO labeling game

When you think of GMO labeling initiatives, you probably don’t immediately think about the tucked away Midwestern state of Minnesota. But in a move that could very well beat out states like California and New York in finally achieving a full-fledged GMO labeling law system, Minnesota legislatures have introduced brand new highly-backed GMO labeling legislation that is shaping up to be quite promising.

Never before would you think that the battleground for GMO awareness and legislative overhaul would in fact take place at a St. Paul, Minneapolis court house, but that is exactly the current epicenter for the future decision that could impact states as far away as Florida and Texas.

Even with the introduction of SB 335 back in April of 2014, which would require the disclosure (through labeling) of genetically modified ingredients before or on January of 2017, it has sent GMO-based food manufacturers and biotech corporations into a frenzy. One that is full of the same old arguments we have heard (and proven to be lies) in the past, such as their ridiculous claims that:

“GMO labeling is so hard that it will drastically increase your grocery bill!”

“The average consumer is so dumb that we can’t let them know which products contain GMOs!”

“GMOs are exactly the same as natural foods!”

You know, the ones that Monsanto-backed "campaign organizations" spew out in their flyers to voters, such as the flyers in which they were caught falsely using an FDA seal and official quote (similar things have landed some in prison).

But the good news, and the real news, here is that there is an abundance of support for the new bill. So much so that the local news appears to be freaking out, covering the number of individuals coming to the court house to share their support and voice their desire to see GMOs finally labeled in their state and beyond. One news outlet writes:

“Dozens of people packed a Capitol hearing Thursday for a first hearing on a bill that would mandate disclosure of genetic engineering in food and food ingredients.”

Before going on to mention how even local store owners are being pushed to label GMOs in their products:

“In the past six months, I’ve received numerous written and verbal requests to label GMO (Genetically-modified organisms) containing ingredients in our stores or discontinue a possibly GMO containing product,” said Liz McMann, consumer affairs manager at Mississippi Market in St. Paul. “My response is always the same. My hands are tied. Without mandatory labeling, it’s impossible to know if a non-organic product contains genetically modified organisms or not.”

As the bill heads to the state legislature’s Commerce Committee, it’s clear in virtually all polls that over 97% of the United States population wants to know what they’re eating — and Minnesota is no different.