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'Big org’ slams ‘big ag’ for raising too much money


GMO labeling advocates eagerly bash organic businesses that disagree with their viewpoint.

The Cornucopia Institute, outraged at the audacity of some organic businesses who oppose an initiative on the Nov. 5 ballot in Washington state that would mandate labeling of genetically engineered ingredients on food packages, has resorted to exaggeration and name calling.

Apparently, its expectation is that all businesses producing, branding or selling organic products should fall in lock-step with its ongoing GMO labeling campaign. When a few decided to think independently of that dogma, they were presented as part of an evil empire lurking in the night.

That’s how the Institute sees Washington’s Proposition I-522 initiative to label GMO products – a war between good and evil – “pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar agribusiness corporations,” they said in a recent news release.

In my view, it’s people who take the time to look at science before they act  against people who can’t read a label on a rubber ducky without hyperventilating.

The fuss started when the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a national business lobbying organization against labeling disclosed its donor list after a Washington’s state attorney general filed a lawsuit.

The Cornucopia Institute, organic industry apologists till the end, strutted out a silly, convoluted “infographic” detailing who contributed to the anti-labeling campaign, all the while claiming they had “outed” several organic groups contributing to GMA.

A headline on a Cornucopia news release said, “Unveiled: GMO labeling opponents come out of the shadows.”

Cornucopia’s codirector, Mark Kastel said, “Consumers might be surprised to find out that some of their favorite organic and natural brands, hiding behind their lobbyist, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, are contributing bushel baskets of cash towards thwarting their right to make informed choices in the supermarket.”

I would refer Kastel to an Oct. 14 article from Forbesmagazine, which reads in part, “Every major international science body in the world has reviewed multiple independent studies – in some cases numbering in the hundreds – in coming to the conclusion that GMO crops are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods.”

The article also referred to “a team of Italian scientists who summarized 1,783 studies about the safety and environmental impacts of GMO foods – a staggering number.”

The Forbes article noted that researchers “couldn’t find a single credible example demonstrating that GM foods pose any harm to humans or animals.”

Kastel and other organic groups appear shocked that some organic companies aren’t toeing the line on GMO labeling. But what really concerns them is the fact that those against mandatory GMO labeling have raised five times more than those in favor of GMO labeling.

I wonder if it ever occurred to Mr. Kastel that they just might know something he doesn’t – that it makes no sense to put two different labels on two products that have been proven by science to be essentially the same.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Nov 9, 2013

To the editor,

Your vociferous attack on our organization and its work to educate consumers on where the money was really coming from to oppose GMO labeling in Washington state ("consumer choice") was over the top and factually misleading.

To my knowledge, there were no "organic businesses" that opposed the citizen initiative in support of labeling in Washington. Companies principally engaged in organic commerce almost universally supported the labeling campaign in Washington.

The agribusinesses that illegally colluded with the Grocery Manufacturers Association to hide their contributions in opposition to the measure are all large, multinational corporations that have invested, representing a small percentage of their business, in organic brands. It should be noted that few of these brands carry the name of their owners (Kellogg's, Dean Foods, General Mills, etc.).

I won't take the space here to debate the propriety of genetically modified seed and its impact on the bottom line for farmers. But I will dispute your representation that there are no peer-reviewed, published studies that point to serious health and environmental concerns relating to GMOs.

Although companies like Monsanto have legally prevented many independent scientists from performing research, studies that have been done show abnormal organ development and other metabolic problems in lab animals and livestock.

Mark A. Kastel
Codirector and Senior Farm Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute
Cornucopia, Wisconsin

on Mar 6, 2014

As a farmer with 200 acres in diverse crops, from vegetables to livestock, I was at the first conference in our county where a pioneer seed saleswoman introduced GMO soybeans, back in 1996. The row-crop farmers asked excellent questions, including questions about herbicide resistance by weeds. The saleswoman said, “we’re working on that.”
I felt sorry for my row-crop neighbors then, and I pity them even more now. Today, we know that industry’s only solutions to herbicide resistance of the weeds in their fields is more herbicides. Farmers are dealing with pigweed that grows a stalk as big as a baseball bat in one season, strong enough to pierce tractor tires. These weeds are the work of real agriculture scientists.
My neighbors are under tremendous loads of debt. One very successful man, with thousands of acres and a crew of sons, daughters and grandkids to take care of, used to run a seed cleaning business. He told me it “went to zero” when patented seeds came in. Now he scrambles for income sources for his farms, including building a pit for the refuse from porta-potties. This is a heartbreaking outcome for a pillar of our community.
So, my neighbors are spraying 2,4D and dicamba before they plant. Last summer, my grapevines were knocked back by a neighbor’s spray from several hundred feet away. Other food-raising farmers have reported the same losses. And, still, industry doesn’t solve the problems. They are introducing seeds resistant to 2,4D and dicamba, which will soon become ineffective, of course. How sad.

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