Saturday, October 26, 2013

Huge GMO News

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on October 19, 2013.

It hasn't been a good week for Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry.
Just three days ago, Mexico banned genetically engineered corn. Citing the risk
of imminent harm to the environment, a Mexican judge ruled that, effective
immediately, no genetically engineered corn can be planted in the country. This
means that companies like Monsanto will no longer be allowed to plant or sell
their corn within the country's borders.
At the same time, the County Council for the island of Kauai passed a law that
mandates farms to disclose pesticide use and the presence of genetically
modified crops. The bill also requires a 500-foot buffer zone near medical
facilities, schools and homes -- among other locations.
And the big island of Hawaii County Council gave preliminary approval to a bill
that prohibits open air cultivation, propagation, development or testing of
genetically engineered crops or plants. The bill, which still needs further
confirmation to become law, would also prohibit biotech companies from operating
on the Big Island.
But perhaps the biggest bombshell of all is now unfolding in Washington state.
The mail-in ballot state's voters are already weighing in on Initiative 522,
which would mandate the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Knowing full well that 93 percent of the American public supports GMO labeling,
and that if one state passes it, many others are likely to follow, entrenched
agribusiness interests are pulling out all the stops to try to squelch yet
another state labeling effort.
This time, however, things aren't going quite as planned. On Wednesday,
Washington state Attorney General Bob Feguson filed a lawsuit against the
Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The GMA, a lobby for the junk food
industry, has been by far the largest donor to efforts to defeat the labeling
initiative. The lawsuit alleges that the GMA illegally collected and spent more
than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors.
The source of the money has now been exposed, and it turns out to be Pepsico,
Coca-Cola, NestleUSA, General Mills and a few other junk food companies. The
lawsuit reveals that GMA leadership held a series of secret meetings to plot how
to perpetrate a money laundering scheme and illegally hide member donations from
Washington state voters, in direct violation of campaign disclosure laws.
Unlike the junk food companies that feared consumer backlash, Monsanto hasn't
even bothered to hide the more than $4 million the company has given to the "no"
campaign. In fact, GMA, Monsanto and a handful of other corporate donors have
now broken a state record by pouring more than $17 million into their effort to
stop Washington's GMO labeling ballot initiative.
Voting is already underway in Washington, and the final ballots will be cast on
November 5. The "yes" side is ahead in the most recent polls, but supporters of
the right to know fear that a barrage of heavily funded and misleading ads could
sour voters to the initiative.
They remember that just last year, California's Proposition 37 was well ahead in
the polls until Monsanto and its allies spent more than $46 million on their
campaign in the Golden State.
All this label fighting and money laundering leads to some very significant
questions. Why are Monsanto and the junk food industry willing to spend many
tens of millions of dollars every year trying to keep you in the dark about your
food? What doesn't big food want you to know? And what are they afraid might
happen if you did?
Monsanto tells us that their products are about the best thing to come along
since sliced bread. For years they've been promising that GMOs would reduce
pesticide use, increase yields, reduce water consumption, and offer foods that
are more tasty and more nutritious.
I wish they were right.
But in the 20 years since GMO crops first came on the market, studies have found
that they have led to higher pesticide use, and no meaningful improvement in
flavor, nutrition, yield or water requirements. Instead, what they've created
are plants that are engineered to withstand massive dosing of toxic herbicides,
and plants that function as living pesticide factories. Monsanto's Bt. corn, for
example, is actually registered with the EPA as a pesticide.
With concern about GMOs growing fast, and with the public being pummeled with
vast amounts of misinformation, there is a tremendous need for clear, accurate
and reliable information about GMOs. In response, the 100,000+ member Food
Revolution Network and the Institute for Responsible Technology are
co-sponsoring a free online GMO Mini-Summit. From October 25-27, some of the top
GMO experts on the planet will be providing insights and clear calls to action
in this teleseminar that is also being broadcast without charge on the Internet.
Monsanto probably isn't too happy about the prospect of tens of thousands of
people getting informed and mobilized. But if you love life, safe food, and the
truth, then you might want to check it out.
And if you want to lend a hand to getting out the vote in the state of
Washington, you can sign up to volunteer here.
Nobody knows what's going to happen in Washington between now and November 5.
But from Mexico, to Hawaii and to the 64 nations that already have GMO labeling,
this tide just might be turning.
Maybe we, the people, do get a say in what we know, and what we eat, after all.
Ocean Robbins is co-author of Voices of the Food Revolution, and serves as
adjunct professor for Chapman University and CEO and co-host (with best-selling
author John Robbins) of the 100,000+ member Food Revolution Network. The GMO
Mini-Summit starts October 25. Find out more here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reducing Food Waste During the Holiday Season

10 simple steps we all can take to help make this season less wasteful and more plentiful

The holiday season is a time for gifts, decorations, and lots and lots of food. As a result, it's also a time of spectacular amounts of waste. In the United States, we generate an extra 5 million tons of household waste each year between Thanksgiving and New Year's, including three times as much food waste as at other times of the year. When our total food waste adds up to 34 million tons each year, that equals a lot of food. With the holidays now upon us, the Worldwatch Institute offers 10 simple steps we all can take to help make this season less wasteful and more plentiful.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption----approximately 1.3 billion tons----is lost or wasted each year. Consumers in developed countries such as the United States are responsible for 222 million tons of this waste, or nearly the same quantity of food as is produced in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

As Americans prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, here are 10 tips to help reduce the amount of food we waste:

Before the meal: Plan your menu and exactly how much food you'll need.

1. Be realistic: The fear of not providing enough to eat often causes hosts to cook too much. Instead, plan out how much food you and your guests will realistically need, and stock up accordingly. The Love Food Hate Waste organization, which focuses on sharing convenient tips for reducing food waste, provides a handy "Perfect portions" planner to calculate meal sizes for parties as well as everyday meals.

2. Plan ahead: Create a shopping list before heading to the Co-op. Sticking to this list will reduce the risk of impulse buys or buying unnecessary quantities. During the meal: Control the amount on your plate to reduce the amount in the garbage.

3. Go small: The season of indulgence often promotes plates piled high with more food than can be eaten. Simple tricks of using smaller serving utensils or plates can encourage smaller portions, reducing the amount left on plates. Guests can always take second (or third!) servings if still hungry, and it is much easier to use leftovers from serving platters for future meals.

4. Encourage self-serve: Allow guests to serve themselves, choosing what, and how much, they would like to eat. This helps to make meals feel more familiar and also reduces the amount of unwanted food left on guests' plates.

5. Store leftovers safely: Properly storing our leftovers will preserve them safely for future meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that hot foods be left out for no more than two hours. Store leftovers in smaller, individually sized containers, making them more convenient to grab for a quick meal rather than being passed over and eventually wasted.

6. Compost food scraps: Instead of throwing out the vegetable peels, eggshells, and other food scraps from making your meal, consider composting them. Individual composting systems can be relatively easy and inexpensive, and provide quality inputs for garden soils. In 2010, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to pass legislation encouraging city-wide composting, and similar broader-scale food composting approaches have been spreading since.

7. Create new meals: If composting is not an option for you, look for creative recipes to see if your food scraps can be used for new meals. Vegetable scraps can be easily boiled down for stock and soups, and bread crusts and ends can be used to make tasty homemade croutons.

8. Donate excess: Food banks and shelters gladly welcome donations of canned and dried foods, especially during the holiday season and colder months. At People’s, there is a food drive box that you can donate to, and we have it set up ready for donations year ‘round.

9. Support food-recovery programs: In some cases, food-recovery systems will come to you to collect your excess. In New York City, City Harvest, the world's first food-rescue organization, collects approximately 28 million pounds of food each year that would otherwise go to waste, providing groceries and meals for over 300,000 people.

10. Give gifts with thought: When giving food as a gift, avoid highly perishable items and make an effort to select foods that you know the recipient will enjoy rather than waste. The Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit, works with farmers and producers in tropical areas to ensure they are practicing environmentally sustainable and socially just methods. The group's certified chocolates, coffee, and teas are great gifts that have with long shelf-lives, and buying them helps support businesses and individuals across the world.

As we sit down this week to give thanks for the people and things around us, we must also recognize those who may not be so fortunate. The food wasted in the United States each year is enough to satisfy the hunger of the approximately 1 billion malnourished people worldwide, according to Tristram Stuart, a food waste expert and contributing author to “State of the World 2011”. As we prepare for upcoming holiday celebrations, the simple changes we make, such as using food responsibly and donating excess to the hungry, can help make the holiday season more plentiful and hunger-free for all.