Thursday, January 21, 2010

Biotech mint necessary, researcher says

'Super' plant could dramatically increase yields, help growers compete with China
Capital Press

The thought in mint circles these days is it's only a matter of time before mint joins corn and soybeans as being produced largely from genetically modified plants.
Rob Croteau, a Washington State University biologist, said that's the only way mint growers can compete with producers in China and India, where labor and land costs are a pittance compared to costs in the U.S.
With funding from mint grower associations, Croteau has used genetic modification to develop what he calls a "super mint" plant that yields twice as much oil as current commercial varieties.
Croteau believes breeders easily could stack another gene onto the mix to boost yields another 25 percent.
If grower groups decide they want to pursue the higher-yielding genetically modified lines, Croteau said researchers could have mint lines ready for growers in a year or two.
"We have a good 10 years' experience of doing this," he said of the genetic breeding work, "so it should go pretty fast if grower groups decide they want to develop these lines commercially."
Regulatory hurdles could slow the release of the plants, he said. But in three to five years, Croteau believes growers could have access to the genetically modified plants.
Growers are debating whether to incorporate resistance to verticillium wilt into the mix, he said.
Verticillium fungi are extremely destructive to mint plants, are next to impossible to control and can survive in soil without a host for 10 years, he said.
The disease ran the mint industry out of the Midwest in the last century and has reduced ground available to mint in the Northwest, Croteau said.
Scientists have isolated genes that show resistance to verticillium in potatoes and strawberries. Croteau believes the verticillium resistance also could be incorporated into mint.
Tim Butler, chairman of the Oregon Essential Oil Growers League, said growers are concerned about consumer backlash to genetically modified mint.
But toothpaste and other products that use mint oil already contain sweetener from genetically modified corn plants, Butler said.
And, Croteau said, potential concerns over ingestion of genetically modified mint oil would be misplaced given that mint oil produced from genetically modified mint plants contains no biotech gene.
Only the plant contains the biotech gene, Croteau said.
Researchers are working to develop a marker gene to include in all genetically modified mint, Croteau said.
That would enable companies to use only mint from non-genetically modified mint plants if they so desire, he said.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Scientist Discusses Negative Impacts of Roundup Ready GM Crops

Robert Kremer is a microbiologist with the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and an adjunct professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri. He is co-author of one of five papers published in the October 2009 issue of The European Journal of Agronomy that found negative impacts of Roundup herbicide, which is used extensively with Roundup Ready genetically modified crops. Kremer has been studying the impacts of glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, since 1997.

The Organic & Non-GMO Report interviewed Mr. Kremer about his research and the reluctance of the USDA to publicize the findings of the five papers.

Please give me an overview of your research RK: We started in 1997 wanting to see if this new system, Roundup Ready, would change the production of nematodes in soybean. We started looking at organisms in soybean roots and saw microorganisms colonizing the roots. We suspected that glyphosate was having an impact. There was a root fungi problem that seemed to be encouraging sudden death syndrome (SDS). We saw the increase of these fungi in the Roundup Ready (genetically modified) system, both soybeans and corn.

What types of things are you seeing in the Roundup Ready system? RK: This system is altering the whole soil biology. We are seeing differences in bacteria in plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Glyphosate is very systemic in the plant and is being released through the roots into the soil. Many studies show that glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Other researchers are showing that glyphosate can immobilize manganese, an essential plant micronutrient.

What are glyphosate's impacts on beneficial soil bacteria? RK: The most obvious impact is on rhizobia, a bacterium that fixes nitrogen. It has been shown that glyphosate can be toxic to rhizobia. (Nitrogen fixing bacteria are important to soils because nitrogen is the most commonly deficient nutrient in many soils.)

What about research showing increased incidence of Fusarium in Roundup Ready GM crops? RK: We've taken field surveys and seen an increase in Fusarium with the use of glyphosate. Some Roundup Ready varieties even without using glyphosate tend to be more susceptible to being impacted by Fusarium. It could be an unintended consequence of genetic manipulation that could make it more susceptible.

Your paper also mentioned the potential of glyphosate to contaminate groundwater. RK: Yes, under certain circumstances. The big assumption for claims that glyphosate is benign is that it isn't immediately absorbed by the soil. But research is showing that isn't necessarily true; that it is still available in the soil. If soil is full of phosphorous, glyphosate could leach into ground water. For example, farmers may use manure from confined animal feeding operations as a fertilizer. The soil will then contain high amounts of phosphorus, which overwhelms the soil. Any glyphosate that hits the soil will be a potential contaminant. It can stay in the soil or it might run off into streams or waterways.

What about glyphosate resistant weeds? RK: We have eight different species of glyphosate resistant weeds in Missouri. Some species of Johnson Grass are found in fields where Roundup is used year after year. It is a very aggressive weed. To solve the problem of weed resistance, genetic engineers are developing soybeans that tolerate Roundup and Dicamba, another herbicide. They are incorporating another gene resistant to another herbicide. When resistance happens again, will they then develop a plant resistant to five or six herbicides? It's an illogical circle.

With so much glyphosate being used, what types of long-term impacts do you think could occur? RK: We are already seeing glyphosate-resistant weeds. If we continue to use glyphosate in the same fields year after year, it's a matter of time until microbial communities in the soil will shift to more detrimental species. The use of glyphosate stimulates detrimental pathogens in the growing season but they go back down after the growing season. Eventually, they may build up in the soil and not go back down.

Are many researchers looking at the possibly negative impacts of glyphosate or Roundup Ready crops? RK: There are a handful of researchers. There is more research looking at the production of these crops.

The papers published in the European Journal of Agronomy received no publicity in the United States. Why is that? RK: I was working with USDA-ARS to publish a news release about these studies. I've gone all the way to the administrators, but they are reluctant to put something out. Their thinking is that if farmers are using this (Roundup Ready) technology, USDA doesn't want negative information being released about it. This is how it is. I think the news release is still sitting on someone's desk.

What about your future research? RK: We're looking at some methods that could be used to overcome negative effects if we continue to use Roundup Ready crops, such as supplementation of nutrients by foliar application. I'm more interested in sustainable agriculture. More farmers are interested in using cover cropping to maintain soil quality and other organic amendments. But it's a steep learning curve for them.

APHIS Seeks Comment on GE Corn Deregulation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking public comment on a petition submitted by Syngenta Biotech Inc. to deregulate its insect-resistant genetically engineered (GE) corn.
APHIS has regulated this variety of corn through its notification and permitting process since 1999. If APHIS grants the petition for deregulation, the GE corn and its progeny can be planted freely without the requirement of permits. An Environmental Assessment draft has been prepared by the agency to determine whether deregulating the GM corn would have a significant impact on the environment.
Visit for information on how to submit comments.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hegelian Principles at Work in the Obama Administration

8 Jan 2010 11:50 AM
by David Gumpert in Grist
These are heady times for foodies—you know, the people who love farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSAs), and hate Big Ag. They’ve turned the documentary movies “Food Inc.” and “Fresh!” into big hits. And they’ve turned “Slow food” into a generic term (there actually is an organization   by that name that boasts more than 100,000 members in 132 countries).

A seeming army of foodie bloggers (of which I am one) sees the hand of Big Ag’s pesticides and feedlot practices (Monsanto, Con Ag, Tyson, etc.) in the explosive growth of chronic disease, and genetically modified food. It’s a neat good-guy/bad-guy scenario, with only one wild card: Is the U.S. government with or against the foodies?

The movement is about more than symbolism. After years of decline during the last century, the number of small farms (those with less than $250,000 annual sales) increased about one percent between 2002 and 2007. Many of these farms have adopted innovations in farming practices popularized by farmers like Eliot Coleman and Joel Salatin—using compost and seaweed rather than commercial fertilizers to build up soil, putting chickens onto pasture so they eat bugs and grass, using pigs as low-maintenance rototillers, and substituting mineralization and homeopathic programs for antibiotics and vaccinations to improve animal health.

Increasingly, the heroes in this ongoing food drama are President and Michelle Obama, along with the president’s appointees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Michelle Obama has received much acclaim for planting an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn. A popular blog, Obama Foodorama, even chronicles the Obamas’ food and eating experiences, including menus at state dinners, and Michelle Obama’s guest appearance on Sesame Street, promoting fresh vegetables.

Subordinates are trying to get with the program. Over the summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set up a farmers market in a parking lot outside its massive Washington headquarters. And to the accolades of foodie bloggers everywhere, it launched an initiative, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” to encourage expansion of the local food boomlet.

It’s tempting to view all these developments as part of a shift in long-time official priorities, to encourage small farms practicing sustainability, at the expense of Big Ag. Unfortunately, this view is more mirage than reality.

In a classic example of the government speaking out of both sides of its mouth, the Obama administration is actively supporting another movement—one that really does favor Big Ag at the expense of the budding local food movement. It’s the Congressional push for sweeping food safety legislation, which has passed the U.S. House, and is pending a vote by the full Senate. It’s overlooked by the foodies because it’s endorsed by a wide range of consumer organizations, and besides, who wouldn’t want to counter the high profile cases of serious illness, and even a number of deaths, from contaminated spinach, hamburger, peppers, and peanut butter, among others, over the last three years?

But in their 119-page House and 133-page Senate versions, these bills do much more than increase the FDA’s army of food inspectors. They take a sledgehammer to a problem that may well benefit more from highly targeted, and less invasive approaches.

Both bills require all food producers, including even the smallest makers of specialized cheeses and jams, to put together highly detailed production plans (known as HACCP plans, for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), at a cost of many thousands of dollars requiring dozens and sometimes even hundreds of hours of specialized input designed to identify potential “hazards” in the food production process; this despite the fact that nearly all cases of food-borne illness have come from products made and distributed by mid-size and large concerns.

Moreover, it allows FDA inspectors complete discretion in approving or disapproving such plans. Working within such an arbitrary system isn’t a big problem for multimillion dollar corporations, which can afford fines of possibly $10,000 a day (under the House legislation) and expensive consultants to work through any problems.

It was a USDA requirement in the late 1990s that slaughterhouses have HACCP plans that led to the demise of hundreds of small local and regional slaughterhouses. Today’s small farms raising cattle and pigs bear a heavy burden as a result—they must often schedule slaughtering months in advance and send their animals hundreds of miles away, only to be shipped back for local distribution, adding substantial costs and energy consumption.

The pending legislation actually thrusts not only the federal government, but also possibly the United Nations, right into the middle of the food production process currently experiencing so much innovation in the U.S. The Senate bill requires within one year the development of “updated good agricultural practices”—a seemingly benign term that is used by the Farming and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (GAP, in its lingo) to describe its establishment of standards covering use of fertilizers, crop rotation, animal grazing practices, and other such fundamentals of farming. The U.N. organization has been active working with farmers in places like Egypt, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, and Burkina Faso.

How will the U.N.’s standards mesh with those of Eliot Coleman, Joel Salatin, and other American farming innovators developing sustainable techniques for rejuvenating soil or aging cheeses or bringing back old varieties of vegetables and fruits? The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund worries that the FDA “will adopt regulations that treat small farms growing a diversity of crops organically (whether certified or not) the same as a facility growing thousands of acres of a single crop conventionally.” Farms that fail to measure up—perhaps fail to follow government standards for making compost or for crop rotation—would have their products considered “adulterated,” according to the FTCLDF, and thus be subject to huge fines.

In allowing for the establishment of “science-based minimum standards for the safe production and harvesting of those types of fruits and vegetables that are raw agricultural commodities,” the Senate bill provides an opening for the FDA to embark on a big foodie no-no: the irradiation of leafy green vegetables. The FDA gave irradiation its stamp of approval last year.

On and on it goes. The legislation thrusts the FDA, which has been limited to regulating food and drugs involved in interstate commerce, into the intrastate sphere, allowing it to regulate businesses that are truly local. “The bottom line is that local jam-makers, cheese-makers, and bread-makers have to register with the FDA, and if (the Senate bill) passes, they will buried in federal red tape,” says Judith McGeary, head of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, and a lawyer.

The real impact of the pending food legislation is difficult to fully gauge, partly because the language in the two bills is in many places vague and obtuse. For example, the distinction between farmers and food producers is up for grabs. “If a farm processes food—which could be as simple as sun drying tomatoes or making jams from their own fruits—it will be treated as a processor” under the Senate bill, says McGeary.

As admirable as this legislative push is for trying to fix flaws in existing food safety regulations, and thus reduce serious outbreaks of illness, it is equally onerous for going way beyond the business of safety. The legislation would do better to focus on identifying and going after repeat offenders and large producers that are the most frequent food-borne-illness culprits rather than placing unreasonable burdens on the budding local-food movement. Otherwise, there could well be many fewer smaller farms and food producers turning out the locally-produced items so prized by foodies.

New FDA deputy to lead food-safety mandate

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 14, 2010

A year ago, Michael Taylor was sitting in his office at George Washington University, considering a basic mission of the federal government: making sure food is safe. He'd devoted his career to food safety, working in and out of government, and he was finally in academia where he could think deeply about what was wrong and how to fix it.
And then the call came.

The Obama administration wanted Taylor to implement the solutions he had been designing. A string of food poisoning outbreaks nationally had sickened thousands and killed dozens. Both parties in Congress were calling for tough new laws. The president promised the public that he would strengthen food safety.

In July, Taylor became an adviser to Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and last Wednesday, he was named deputy commissioner for foods, a new position that elevates food in an agency long criticized for placing greater emphasis on drugs and medical devices.

Congress is moving ahead with legislation to grant vast new authority to the FDA to ensure food safety -- the House passed a bill last year and the Senate is expected to take up its version soon -- and Taylor will be responsible for implementing new laws aimed at preventing outbreaks instead of merely reacting after they occur.

"We are at an historic tipping point -- a moment when the forces have aligned like never before; the president, Congress, industry and the public have stepped up their support for our mission," Taylor told a gathering of FDA staff members last month.

Taylor is a familiar figure at the FDA. He began his career as a staff attorney at the agency in 1976. Then he worked for a decade at King & Spaulding, which represented Monsanto Corp., the agribusiness giant that developed genetically engineered corn, soybeans and bovine growth hormone.

He returned to the FDA in 1991 as deputy commissioner for policy and pushed through requirements that producers of seafood and juices adopt measures to prevent bacterial contamination. During the same period, the FDA approved Monsanto's bovine growth hormone, and Taylor was partly responsible for a controversial policy that said milk from BGH-treated cows did not have to be labeled as such.

In 1994, Taylor went to the U.S. Agriculture Department to run its food-safety program. He required meat and poultry producers to take measures to prevent bacterial contamination, despite strong opposition from those industries. Observers expect Taylor to impose those same kinds of preventive controls on all the foods regulated by the FDA.

After the USDA, Taylor went to work for Monsanto as a vice president for public policy. He moved on to a think tank and then a teaching stint at GWU.

"He is the quintessential revolving door," said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Taylor's support for BGH and Monsanto's other genetically modified products at the FDA was "questionable," she said. "On the other hand, when he went to USDA, what he did there was absolutely heroic. He's been very strong on food safety."

It's one thing to recognize the weak spots and craft a strategy for change; it's another to make it happen and persuade 3,000 FDA employees who work on food issues to follow suit.

"This is really about building a new system," he said. "It's about rethinking how we do everything -- from inspections to rulemaking -- so that we're acting in real time in a way that is preventive."

To that end, Taylor has been bringing together divisions to make the agency more nimble. Food regulation is split among the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, where much of the scientific research takes place; the Center for Veterinary Medicine, which regulates the manufacture and sale of food additives and drugs for animals; and the Office of Regulatory Affairs, which handles inspections of domestic and imported products and works with state and local officials.

Traditionally, the three sections were managed separately. Any proposed policy change had to be approved by each division and then was sent for review by the general counsel in the commissioner's office. It took years to get anything done, Taylor said.

Now, Taylor has pulled together a senior leadership team that cuts across the three divisions and has created similar cross-sectional teams to work on core issues. "The idea is to get the best thinking on the table early," he said.

Taylor has already taken some steps that suggest a new, more muscular approach to regulation. The agency has been cracking down on nutrition claims on processed foods, saying that some food makers have overstated the health benefits of their products.

In the first real political test of the new leadership, Taylor tried to ban the sale of raw oysters harvested from the Gulf Coast between April and October unless they are treated to kill a potentially lethal bacterium. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and others vigorously protested the move. The FDA agreed to put off action to study the issue. Taylor said the agency is not backing down, just regrouping.

New Official Named With Portfolio to Unite Agencies and Improve Food Safety

Published: January 13, 2010 New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, moving to address the nation’s fractured food safety system, on Wednesday appointed Michael R. Taylor, a veteran food expert, as deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration. The newly created position is the first to oversee all the agency’s many food and nutrition programs.

The federal government’s oversight of the nation’s food supply has for decades been split among 13 disparate and sometimes feuding agencies. The result has been a growing menu of food recalls, including contaminated peanut butter, spinach and cookie dough, and the annual sickening of about 70 million people.

With new powers and extensive Washington experience, Mr. Taylor is supposed to fix this mess. But he is likely to be on a short leash.

Some powerful legislators in Congress had proposed creating a new agency combining the government’s many food functions. The compromise legislation headed for passage by spring will instead invest more food authority and money in the F.D.A. functions Mr. Taylor will oversee.

But if Mr. Taylor proves unable to prevent or quickly resolve the growing number of food scares, the idea of a separate food agency is likely to be revisited.

In an interview at a Washington coffee shop, Mr. Taylor said his biggest task was readying the F.D.A. to handle the new powers that Congress will soon give it. The legislation is expected to grant the agency the power to recall suspect foods, require manufacturers to establish plans to prevent contamination, and increase food inspections.

“Unless we work in a more unified way, we won’t be able to implement the law effectively,” Mr. Taylor said.

Setting safety standards for produce — a source of a growing number of food scares in recent years — is a top priority, although the task is enormously complicated, Mr. Taylor said. Even more difficult will be enforcing the rules, since there are more than two million farms in the nation, he said.

Mr. Taylor started his career in 1976 as an F.D.A. staff lawyer and over the next three decades migrated among government, industry and academia. He returned to the F.D.A. in 1991 as deputy commissioner for policy and moved in 1994 to head the Department of Agriculture’s meat inspection service.

Since July, he has served as a senior adviser to Commissioner Margaret Hamburg of the F.D.A. He once worked for Monsanto, the agribusiness giant, leading some in the organic movement to oppose his appointment.

Mr. Taylor is popular among many food-safety and nutrition advocates, who call him intelligent and courageous. But he stumbled in his first major policy initiative since returning to the agency in July, and his considerable experience may have been his undoing.
Fifteen years ago, Mr. Taylor took the top job at the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the unit within the Agriculture Department that oversees meat inspections. Within weeks, he told a gathering of meat industry executives that the government would soon insist on tougher safety standards. An uproar ensued, but Mr. Taylor prevailed.

Then in November, a few months after rejoining the F.D.A., Mr. Taylor told a conclave of oyster industry officials that voluntary efforts to eliminate deaths associated with consumption of live Gulf Coast oysters harvested in warm months had not worked, and that the agency would soon ban their sale. Same speech, different audience.

But after members of Congress protested, the agency indefinitely delayed the new rules. (Mr. Taylor said that the agency was still committed to its goal of reducing oyster-related deaths.)
Dr. David Acheson, who was until last year the F.D.A.’s top food official, said the oyster reversal was the result of an alarming naïveté on Mr. Taylor’s part that seriously damaged the agency’s credibility. Dr. Acheson criticized Mr. Taylor for failing to live up to President Obama’s promise to increase significantly the safety of the nation’s food supply.
“We’re nearly a year into this new administration, and what have they done to move the ball forward?” Dr. Acheson asked. “I think the answer is a big fat zero.”

At a food-safety conference in Washington last year, Dr. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, stood in the hallway and debated Mr. Taylor’s qualities with Russell Libby, the executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “He’s extremely knowledgeable and public-health oriented,” Dr. Jacobson said in a later interview.

Mr. Libby responded that Mr. Taylor reflects the view “that everybody’s going to eat food from large corporations and we need someone from that world to solve these problems.”

At the interview, Mr. Taylor got coffee, but no pastry. He said that he was trying to avoid gaining the usual 15 pounds that top F.D.A. officials often pack on, but that candy corn was a problem.

“We want accountability at the F.D.A., so check back with me on the weight thing,” Mr. Taylor said.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Safety of GM Sugar Beets Subject of Hearing

Could a federal judge in San Francisco who has already found the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lacking when it comes to making sure genetically modified sugar beets are safe end up blocking planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets this spring?

The schedule for ongoing litigation between Monsanto, Forbes Magazine's Company of the Year and the maker of Roundup Ready sugar beet, and a list of opponents that includes the sugar-beet-harvest.jpgCenter for Food Safety, the Organic Seed Alliance, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the Sierra Club makes its less likely.

The parties, who have until Feb. 4 to hold a settlement conference on their own, are scheduled for a hearing on June 11th, well after most Roundup Ready sugar beets will be in the ground in the western and upper Midwestern states that grow them.

The collection of plaintiffs are hoping that discovery information the court expects to receive in March will convince Judge Jeffery White to halt planting of the next crop of GM sugar beets, expected to begin in April.

It was Judge White, appointed to the federal bench by former President George W. Bush, who last September ordered USDA to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the safety of Roundup Ready sugar beets.

That decision was seen as a "procedural win" for the plaintiff groups.  The Sugar Industry Biotech Council found no issue with the safety of the Roundup Ready sugar beets, which are now favored by 95 percent of the acreage dedicated to sugar beets.

USDA deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2006, and the plaintiff groups filed their lawsuit in January 2008.  The case was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.  Since the EIS decision, both sides have been shoring up their evidence and gathering evidence.

Judge White's order for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is being reviewed by the agency, according to Suzanne Bond, the service's assistant director of public affairs.

Beets are among the most labor-intensive of crops and Roundup Ready sugar beets dramatically reduce the need for weeding and fuel, as well as water, said Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugar Beet Growers Association.

Introduced into the market in 2008, farmers apparently agreed and Roundup Ready sugar beets saw the fastest adoption rate by farmers of any genetically modified crop. Sugar beets account for more than half of the United States' sugar production, and since the GM beets were deregulated nearly four years ago, nearly 95 percent of sugar beets produced in the US are genetically modified.

For organic seed growers like Frank Morton of Philomath, Ore., however, it's only made matters more complicated. Philomath is situated in Oregon's Willamette Valley where nearly all the country's sugar beet seeds--both conventional and organic--are produced.

"I was concerned that contamination events would begin to occur that would make my seed worthless," Morton told Capital Press, an agricultural newspaper, last December. Morton approached the Center for Food Safety in December, 2007 and they filed suit against the USDA the following month. 

Sugar beets, along with chard and table beets, are members of the Beta vulgaris family, and the three groups easily cross pollinate, a fact acknowledged by both Morton and Monsanto. In addition to the potential that genetically modified beets could cross pollinate with organic crops thereby destroying the organics' value, there is considerable worry about other dangers from genetically modified food crops. 

"For both organic and conventional consumers, they should be concerned because there are insufficient claims that say those products are safe," said Zelig Kevin Golden, staff attorney for CFS in San Francisco. Monsanto bases those claims on very short term studies, he said, and those studies were conducted over periods of time too short to really determine whether the sugar beets are truly safe Monsanto officials consider the plaintiffs' concerns overwrought.

"Activists are making some pretty dramatic claims, but that's why there are stewardship agreements," said Garrett Kasper, public affairs manager for Monsanto in St. Louis. "There's a lot of stewardship and training. Growing is by very well trained seed partners."

Activists' concerns go well beyond contamination of organic fields, however. 

"There are new studies coming out primarily in Europe that demonstrate genetically engineered corn varieties are toxic to organic functions," said CFS's attorney Golden. Genetically engineered soybeans have been shown to be toxic, he said.

"I wouldn't say they'll kill, no one actually knows that," said Golden. "We're being experimented upon because no one actually knows that."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lundberg Products ‘Non-GMO Verified’

RICHVALE, Calif.–Sixty-six of Lundberg Family Farms’ products are among the first to be officially “Non-GMO Verified” by the Non-GMO Project. The “Non-GMO Verified” seal means that verified Lundberg products have been produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, which includes testing of risk ingredients.
“It is very important for the consumer to have an educated choice between food containing GMO's and those that are non-GMO,” says Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms. “It has been my pleasure to work with the Non-GMO Project and like-minded members of the natural foods community to draft the first comprehensive non-GMO standards in the United States.”
Grant Lundberg serves as one of 11 governing members of the Non-GMO Project's board of directors that has been involved in initiating, funding, and writing standards for the Non-GMO Project since its inception. The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization, created by leaders representing all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the United States and Canada, to offer consumers a consistent non-GMO choice for organic and natural products that are produced without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies. As the Project evolved, it became clear that in order for the initial vision of standardized labeling to be possible, a third-party verification program was needed that would identify products compliant with a uniform, consensus-based definition of non-GMO. With the help of technical consultants FoodChain Global Advisors, the Non-GMO Project created a collaborative non-GMO verification program that began enrolling products in fall 2008.
 While many products make claims regarding their GMO status (e.g. “GMO free”), these are not legally or scientifically defensible, and are not verified by a third party. The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the United States and Canada. Enrollment in the program is close to 3,000 products from more than 50 brands.