Saturday, January 29, 2011

The OrganicGate Scandal

Forbes
Jan. 29 2011 - 4:30 pm
          Transferred from en.wikipedia.org http://en.wi...
Frankencrop? Monsanto's alfalfa is genetically engineered.
Whole Foods has been nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” for years, given its perceived high prices on organic products. But it’s in danger of earning a new nickname, “Whole Traitor,” by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and others.

Whole Food Markets (WFM), Stonyfield Farms, and Organic Valley, three of the largest brands in the the natural foods sector, have joined forces to cut a deal with Monsanto. The rest of the organic industry is up in arms about it. That’s no surprise, given those folks view Monsanto on a par with the worst of the worst corporate citizens for behavior and ethics. Is Big Organic defecting from the organic movement to join forces with Big Ag?

At the source of the conflict is Medicago Sativa, known to you and me as common alfalfa. Monsanto’s version is no common crop. This is a genetically engineered (GE) wonder that works in concert with its favored pesticide, RoundUp. What’s the fuss about? Farmers and scientists alike are concerned about a GE perennial crop, particularly one tied to a pesticide that the Swedes have recently shown to double the cancer rate in both farm workers and nearby town folks.

OCA is leading a public cry of outrage, suggesting collusion at the CEO level among Stonyfield, WFM, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and the acceptance of “hush money.” The target? The largest clients of Big Organic, who are giants themselves and have valuable green halos from their own CSR efforts to protect. Brands like Wal-Mart, Kroger, Publix and Safeway.

Move over Wiki Leaks, the OrganicGate scandal is about to break.

Team Organic will Never Surrender to Monsanto: Now We Continue the Fight, Together

 From the Non-GMO Project:

By Megan Westgate                                                                                
I am no stranger to the rush of radical activism, to the satisfaction of identifying an enemy and throwing heart and soul into righteous indignation. In this complicated world, it’s tempting to reduce shades of gray to simple black and white. Sometimes that’s the only way to achieve a reassuring sense that we know where we stand (and therefore who we are). As a college student a decade ago, I devoted endless hours organizing protests against the Keck Graduate Institute, the first university in the world dedicated solely to biotechnology. When we successfully shut down their inaugural celebration, I wrote about it in the Earth First! Journal. In 2001 I attended the Ruckus Society’s “Biojustice” Action Camp, where I learned about the threats posed by the new science of genetic engineering, and how to scale a building or lock myself to the axle of a car if an action called for those skills.

It was all incredibly exhilarating, and my friends and I did accomplish some things of lasting value, including the protection of what remains one of the largest plots of endangered Coastal Sage Scrub habitat in Los Angeles County. As time passes, though, what I cherish most from my early activist days is not the rush of combat, but the satisfaction I experienced in collaborating with like-minded allies. The true power behind everything we accomplished came from our ability to work together as a team. In the wake of the USDA’s recent decision to deregulate genetically modified alfalfa, it is that power—the power of unification with like-minded allies—that we must seek. The understandable (and completely justified) feelings of anger, frustration and helplessness that the organic community is experiencing must be directed constructively. We are too small and up against too much for there to be any other way forward.

Leading up to the ruling, a broad coalition of organic organizations and companies were working around the clock in an attempt to influence the USDA’s decision. The USDA had already made it clear that alfalfa would be deregulated, but hope remained that there might be some way to soften the blow. Organic Valley, Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farm, along with many others in the organic community, were doing everything in their power to secure protections for organic farmers so that if their fields were contaminated once the GMO alfalfa was released, biotechnology companies for the first time would be held accountable for their pollution and would be forced to pay for the damages. These groups were also pushing for measures to protect seed purity so that non-GMO alfalfa supplies could be maintained. Unfathomably, these tireless organic organizations are now being criticized for their efforts. In total denial of the incontrovertible fact that the USDA was never even remotely considering a full ban on GMO alfalfa, some are suggesting that these group’s efforts to make the most of a bad situation *somehow* (though no one is very specific on how, exactly) signals corruption, and are even calling for boycotts. HOW ON EARTH is taking this out on 1200 organic family farmers going to help anything?!  This is divisiveness we cannot afford.

Of the whole circular firing squad that’s been exploding in recent days, most shocking to me personally was a statement by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association that the Non-GMO Project “is basically a greenwashing effort.” Say what?! Cummins goes on to say that the Project is unnecessary for organic products, since they are already “basically free from GMOs,” while “failing to focus on so-called ‘natural’ foods.” Totally wrong on both counts!

First of all, the hard truth is that organic foods are not necessarily “free” of GMOs. While the National Organic Program (NOP) identifies genetic modification as an excluded method, GMOs are not a prohibited substance. This means that although GMO seeds are not supposed to be planted, and GMO ingredients are not supposed to be used, no testing is required under the NOP. With the majority of key crops like soy and corn being planted with GM varieties in North America, contamination of seeds and ingredients is a real risk, even for certified organic products. It is critical to understand that the ONLY way to identify (and control) GMO contamination is through testing, in combination with other best practices. The organic standards do not require testing; the Non-GMO Project Standard does. Over half of the companies participating in the Non-GMO Project produce certified organic products. These companies have chosen Non-GMO Project Verification in addition to their organic certification because they are committed to keeping their products non-GMO, and are concerned that organic certification is not adequate. Many organic companies joined the Project after their internal GMO testing indicated a growing risk of contamination.


With regard to natural products, there are literally thousands of them enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, so I fail to see how we are “failing to focus” on them. As an example, Whole Foods has their entire 365 product line, organic AND natural enrolled in the Non-GMO Project. This commitment means that they are requiring testing of every single GMO risk ingredient used in every single one of their house brand products, both organic and natural. As a founding member of the Non-GMO Project, Whole Foods made a point from the very beginning of ensuring that this program would be available for not only their organic products, but their natural ones, too. Their commitment is exemplary. In fact, it is exactly the sort of positive action step that Cummins called for in his recent article.

Okay, so I’ll admit it—this is where I got really confused. After talking trash about the Non-GMO Project and its founders, Cummins, whose support is important to me, says “We’ve got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products.” Oh hey, good idea! Let’s do that! I know: we can create a non-profit to oversee standards, third party verification, and consistent labeling so that consumers can have full transparency about companies’ non-GMO practices. We can call it the Non-GMO Project, and it can be the most effective tool in North America for stopping the unchecked flow of GMOs into natural and organic products.

Oh, wait a minute…
Yes, that’s right, how wonderful for everyone—all of that work has already been done. Yay! As a founding board member of the Non-GMO Project, and its first (and only) Executive Director, I have been working on exactly this strategy virtually non-stop for the last four years, along with a huge group of passionate, determined, and highly-principled people and organizations, and I have to admit I feel pretty darn good about what we are accomplishing. I am loath to even dignify the “greenwashing” accusation with a response, but I guess I should.

So please consider this: Since being handed my first article about the deadly impact of GMO corn pollen on monarch larvae in 1999, when I was 19 years old, I have been moved to action on the GMO issue. Following my activism in college, I worked as the Outreach Coordinator at the Food Conspiracy Co-op in Tucson, AZ, where I saw firsthand how much confusion there was in the public about GMOs, and how bad the situation was getting. With the government consistently ignoring consumer calls for labeling, and organic products increasingly at risk, a group of small retailers decided it was time to take matters into our own hands. That was the beginning of the Non-GMO Project, and those of who started it were motivated by one thing: the desire to make sure that Americans did not lose the right to eat non-GMO food. Our efforts are finally starting to pay off, though the battle is far from over. Because of the Non-GMO Project, hundreds of farmers, processors and manufacturers across North America are learning how to control GMO contamination as much as is possible, and consumers are finally being given an informed choice in the form of the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. It’s just barely not too late.

I do this work because when I start having children in a few years, I want to make sure that they can eat non-GMO food for their whole lives. I am also doing this because I am a person of exceptional moral integrity who believes it is my duty to do what I can to serve the greater good, and food and health are my passion. This is not an easy undertaking, and it will not succeed without the full support of everyone who cares about stopping GMOs. Since Thursday’s ruling, far too much anger and blame has been directed in entirely the wrong direction. It’s time to take a step back, remember that we are all on the same team, and get smart about our next steps. For my part, I am going to make a donation to the Center for Food Safety, so that they can get the USDA back into court ASAP, and them I’m going to spend the weekend catching up on running the Non-GMO Project. I hope I don’t get waylaid by any more baseless criticism; none of us can afford it. The health of our children, our grandchildren, and our environment is at stake, so let’s take good care of each other and give this our best.

The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: What Now?

"The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must."   -  Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011

In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto's Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation's 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America's organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it's time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto's controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for "coexistence" with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.

In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and "seed purity," gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the "conditional deregulation" of Monsanto's genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa.  Beyond the regulatory euphemism of "conditional deregulation," this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.

In exchange for allowing Monsanto's premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants "compensation." In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers' and rural residents' risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soil's crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants the Biotech Bully of St. Louis to agree to pay "compensation" (i.e. hush money) to farmers "for any losses related to the contamination of his crop."

In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for "public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry," even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government "oversight" of Frankencrops such as Monsanto's sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: "The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well  True coexistence is a must."

Why Is Organic Inc. Surrendering?

According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack's previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as "Governor of the Year" in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.'s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it's time to reach for the consolation prize.  The consolation prize they seek is a so-called "coexistence" between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto's unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.

WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called "natural" foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI's sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.

From their "business as usual" perspective, successful lawsuits against GMOs filed by public interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety; or noisy attacks on Monsanto by groups like the Organic Consumers Association, create bad publicity, rattle their big customers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Supervalu, Publix and Safeway; and remind consumers that organic crops and foods such as corn, soybeans, and canola are slowly but surely becoming contaminated by Monsanto's GMOs.

Whole Food's Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called "Natural" Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs

The main reason, however, why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that 2/3 of WFM's $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called "natural" processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs. We and our allies have tested their so-called "natural" products (no doubt WFM's lab has too) containing non-organic corn and soy, and guess what: they're all contaminated with GMOs, in contrast to their certified organic products, which are basically free of GMOs, or else contain barely detectable trace amounts.

Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as "natural."

Unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much so-called "natural" food as certified organic food, coupled with the takeover of many organic companies by multinational food corporations such as Dean Foods, threatens the growth of the organic movement.

Covering Up GMO Contamination: Perpetrating "Natural" Fraud

Many well-meaning consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as "natural," and those nutritionally/environmentally superior and climate-friendly products that are "certified organic."

Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed "natural" foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a "natural" supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

A troubling trend in organics today is the calculated shift on the part of certain large formerly organic brands from certified organic ingredients and products to so-called "natural" ingredients. With the exception of the "grass-fed and grass-finished" meat sector, most "natural" meat, dairy, and eggs are coming from animals reared on GMO grains and drugs, and confined, entirely, or for a good portion of their lives, in CAFOs.

Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to "natural" imposters. It's no wonder that less than 1% of American farmland is certified organic, while well-intentioned but misled consumers have boosted organic and "natural" purchases to $80 billion annually-approximately 12% of all grocery store sales.

The Solution: Truth-in-Labeling Will Enable Consumers to Drive So-Called "Natural" GMO and CAFO-Tainted Foods Off the Market

There can be no such thing as "coexistence" with a reckless industry that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world's 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers.  There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union. Why? Because in the EU there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor GM consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Because under EU law, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GMOs; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are safety-tested and labeled. Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to purchase or consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald's and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by a Monsanto executive when GMOs first came on the market: "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

The biotech industry and Organic Inc. are supremely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don't want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont - the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress.

Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don't hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers' right to know what's in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called "Citizens United" case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent. Perfectly dramatizing the "Revolving Door" between Monsanto and the Federal Government, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto and other biotech bullies the right to buy the votes it needs in the U.S. Congress.

With big money controlling Congress and the media, we have little choice but to shift our focus and go local. We've got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products; while on the legislative front we must organize a broad coalition to pass mandatory GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.

The Organic Consumers Association, joined by our consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor allies, has just launched a nationwide Truth-in-Labeling campaign to stop Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans.

Utilizing scientific data, legal precedent, and consumer power the OCA and our local coalitions will educate and mobilize at the grassroots level to pressure giant supermarket chains (Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, Supervalu, and Publix) and natural food retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's to voluntarily implement "truth-in-labeling" practices for GMOs and CAFO products; while simultaneously organizing a critical mass to pass mandatory local and state truth-in-labeling ordinances - similar to labeling laws already in effect for country of origin, irradiated food, allergens, and carcinogens. If local and state government bodies refuse to take action, wherever possible we must attempt to gather sufficient petition signatures and place these truth-in-labeling initiatives directly on the ballot in 2011 or 2012. If you're interesting in helping organize or coordinate a Millions Against Monsanto and Factory Farms Truth-in-Labeling campaign in your local community, sign up here: http://organicconsumers.org/oca-volunteer/

To pressure Whole Foods Market and the nation's largest supermarket chains to voluntarily adopt truth-in-labeling practices sign here, and circulate this petition widely: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22309.cfm

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The New GMO Swine Flu CornFlakes

AMES, IOWA — Iowa State University researchers are putting flu vaccines into the genetic makeup of corn, which may someday allow pigs and humans to get a flu vaccination simply by eating corn or corn products.

“We’re trying to figure out which genes from the swine influenza virus to incorporate into corn so those genes, when expressed, would produce protein,” said Hank Harris, professor in animal science and one of the researchers on the project. “When the pig consumes that corn, it would serve as a vaccine.”

This collaborative effort project involves Mr. Harris and Brad Bosworth, an affiliate associate professor of animal science working with pigs, and Kan Wang, a professor in agronomy, who is developing the vaccine traits in the corn. 

According to the researchers, the corn vaccine would also work in humans when they eat corn or even corn flakes, corn chips, tortillas or anything that contains corn, Mr. Harris said. The research is funded by a grant from Iowa State University’s Plant Sciences Institute, and is their Biopharmaceuticals and Bioindustrials Research Initiative.

If the research goes well, the corn vaccine may be possible in five to seven years. In the meantime, the team is trying to expedite the process. “While we’re waiting for Wang to produce the corn, we are starting initial experiments in mice to show that the vaccine might induce an immune response,” Mr. Bosworth said.

Mr. Harris said the team still needs more answers. “The big question is whether or not these genes will work when given orally through corn,” he added. “That is the thing we’ve still got to determine.”

Stability and safety are several advantages to the corn vaccine. Once the corn with the vaccine is grown, it can be stored for long-term without losing its potency, researchers claim. If a swine flu virus breaks out, the corn could be shipped to the location to try to vaccinate animals and humans in the area quickly. Because corn grain is used as food and feed, there is no need for extensive vaccine purification, which can be an expensive process.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Food Safety Bill Advocates Expect Funding Fight

President Obama is expected to sign a sweeping food safety bill into law today, marking the end of a lengthy legislative drama and turning the focus to whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will get the additional funding needed to implement the bill.

On the heels of a Tea Party-fueled midterm election, House Republicans have pledged to use their new majority to rein in federal spending and decrease the size of the bureaucracy--a tough environment for any government agency seeking greater resources.  Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), a fiscal conservative who will chair the subcommittee that oversees FDA's budget, recently raised serious questions about the justification for the new food safety bill's price tag.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates the new provisions will cost $1.4 billion over five years.

"I would not identify it as something that will necessarily be zeroed out, but it is quite possible it will be scaled back if it is significant overreach," Kingston told the Washington Post in late December.  "We still have a food supply that's 99.99 percent safe. No one wants anybody to get sick, and we should always strive to make sure food is safe. But the case for a $1.4 billion expenditure isn't there."

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters on a White House media call Monday that she remains "optimistic" that the agency will be able to move forward and implement the bill, but declined to say whether the entire CBO estimate would be critical to carrying out all of the new responsibilities.  Those tasks include mandatory recall authority, increased inspection frequencies of high-risk facilities, and enforcing new requirements that growers and food facilities have food safety plans and that foreign facilities importing food to the U.S. must meet the same standards.

Shifting the federal food safety system, which haphazardly oversees a now global food system, from a reactive to a preventive system that enforces food safety regulations and inspects food facilities more than once a decade is no small feat.

"This is a major, historic piece of legislation ... and it's really Congress asking us to build a whole new system for food safety with all of the elements that you've been hearing about, some of those elements we've already been working on and will be able to put in place fairly quickly with existing resources.  Other components will require additional resources, dollar and human resources," said Hamburg.   "We will be working closely with Congress and key stakeholders to try to really specify some of those needs."

"Obviously the money that we have available in the annual budget cycle ... ultimately impacts the way we are able to implement the bill," said Hamburg, adding that FDA has been "very fortunate" to receive recent budget increases in recent years despite tough budgetary conditions.

When asked about Kingston's comments about justifying the cost of implementing the bill,  Hamburg said that shifting the food safety system toward being preventive was "the appropriate way to go" and that the cost of not implementing the reforms would be "simply unacceptable."

"We are very fortunate that we do have one of the safest food supplies in the world, however, every day we see preventable illness.   We see unnecessary hospitalization and too many people have died from foodborne disease that could have been prevented," said Hamburg. "We are committed to taking on these new responsibilities and mandates given to us by Congress and we will work closely with Congress to implement this as efficiently and effectively as possible."

Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius, also on the media briefing, called on Congress to fund the bill.

"The change won't happen overnight and it's still essential that Congress provide sufficient funding for these improvements to take shape," she said.  "Thanks to the legislation, we can seriously begin building the 21st century food safety system that we desperately need."

Advocates for the new law, including consumer lobbyists and the leading food industry groups, are gearing up to fight for the funding.

"FDA is going to need the resources to enable this landmark new law to fulfill its promise.  The costs of not implementing this new law are staggering," said Erik Olson, director of food initiatives for the Pew Health Group, citing a study last year that estimates the total health care costs for foodborne illness at $152 billion annually.

"Those costs dwarf any costs of implementing costs for this legislation," added Olson. "That doesn't even consider the costs to industry of these recalls.  A single company announced, back in 2009, that the peanut recall alone cost them $60-70 million.  This will save a great deal of money for consumers and industry."

Olson said consumer, industry, public health, and foodborne illness victim lobbying groups are all set to "vigorously" make the case for funding the new provisions.  "This is money that is extremely well spent.  It's wise to spend money in order to save money in the long run.  We will be seeking to make the case to Congress that it is important to public health."

Pam Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a strong supporter of the bill, said the food industry "has long recognized that strong government oversight is a critical and necessary part of our nation's food safety net" and pledged GMA's continued support for successfully implementing the new law.

Bailey said that the food sector expects the reforms will prevent contamination and "raise the bar for the entire industry."

President Obama is expected to sign the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act into law today when he returns from a family vacation in Hawaii.  The signing will likely be low key.  As of publication time, the signing was not on the president's official schedule and White House aides have indicated there will not be a formal bill signing ceremony.