Category Archives: genetic engineering

Monsanto Roundup “probably” causes cancer

FRANCE-BEE-FLOWERMonsanto doesn’t have many fans in the community. The corporation forever connected by name to genetically modified crops made resistant to the pesticides they produce is back in the news.

One of the world’s most widely used herbicides – and the most commonly used one in the United States – can “potentially” trigger cancer, based on health chiefs of the United Nations. The WHO (World Health Organization) cancer division has revealed that popular ‘Roundup’, created by Monsanto, contains a toxic ingredient “categorized as potentially carcinogenic to human beings”.

Amateur garden enthusiasts and professional farmers have been advised to “think it thoroughly” about using the most popular herbicide after the report was released in the Lancet Oncology Medical Journal on Friday. The report exposed glyphosate was “categorized as potentially carcinogenic to human beings”.

The report also announced there is “certain evidence” that the carcinogenic ingredient can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The largest seed company in the world, Monsanto, replied clinical data doesn’t support these conclusions and called the WHO to hold an immediate conference that describe the findings.

The report was published on the official website of IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), the France-based division of WHO. Global regularity affairs’ Vice-President of Monsanto, Philip Miller, said: “We have no idea how the IARC might reach a conclusion with such a dramatic departure from all conclusions reached by supervisory agencies across the world.”

This is certainly not the word to which any company wants their name attached. But let’s face it, the name Monsanto isn’t connected to much that’s good. knows that this latest information won’t come as much of a surprise for many consumers. We’re sure we’ll hear more about this one. In the meantime, it’s another nail in a very overdue coffin for the company most famous for bringing us genetically modified seed.

Food manufacturers quietly making the move away from GMO ingredients

GMO signWhile many states are attempting to adopt initiatives like the Vermont’s recently passed GMO labeling legislation, it appears that many food manufacturers are quietly attempting to make changes to their ingredients to meet consumer demands.

There have been other companies that haven’t been quiet about their non-GMO intentions. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream publicly pledged to remove GMO ingredients from their products over a year ago and has worked hard to keep that pledge.

In fact, in the face of complaints from some of their customers, the much-loved Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch has been reworked to become Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch. That flavor reformulation was a direct result of the company’s very public pledge. Heath Bars, manufactured by Hershey, DO contain GMO ingredients. Ben & Jerry’s couldn’t leave the Heath Bars in the ice cream if they were going to remove all GMO ingredients.

Ben & Jerry’s has taken a vocal stand in recent years in support of states looking at legislation that would require manufacturers to disclose food that is made with genetic engineering. And Vermont recently passed law will require labeling starting in 2015. Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield launched a campaign to help fill the coffers of Vermont’s crowd-sourced defense fund set up to combat lawsuits over its labeling law.
The news that Ben & Jerry’s is taking a stand on a controversial issue is no surprise; it’s part of the company’s calling card. But some other mainstream companies are carefully — and much more quietly — calibrating their non-GMO strategies.

General Mills’ original plain Cheerios are now GMO-free, but the only announcement was in a company blog post in January. And you won’t see any label on the box highlighting the change. Grape Nuts, another cereal aisle staple, made by Post, is also non-GMO. And Target has about 80 of its own brand items certified GMO-free.

Megan Westgate runs the Non-GMO Project, which acts as an independent third-party verifier of GMO-free products, including Target’s. She says her organization knows about “a lot of exciting cool things that are happening that for whatever strategic reasons get kept pretty quiet.”

The Non-GMO Project has certified more than 20,000 products since it launched in 2007, and Westgate says this is one of the fastest growing sectors of the natural food industry, representing $6 billion in annual sales. But just because they’re testing the water doesn’t mean most mainstream companies are ready to start publicizing their changes.

Nathan Hendricks, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University, says big food producers are trying to gauge what direction consumers are headed in. “Ultimately,” he says, “these big companies aren’t just friends with Monsanto or something. They want to make a profit, and they want to be able to do what’s going to make them money.” So they’d better have a product line in the works if consumer sentiment starts to shift more heavily toward GMO-free food.

But even as they create GMO-free products, many of these corporations are fighting state initiatives that would require them to give consumers more information about their ingredients.

They often fight those battles through the powerful Grocery Manufacturers Association, or GMA, a trade group with hundreds of members. It has just filed suit against Vermont over the state’s GMO labeling law.

Even Ben & Jerry’s, so vocal in its anti-GMO stance, has a conflict, of sorts. It may have eliminated GMOs, but it’s still owned by Unilever, which put a lot of money toward fighting labeling legislation in California and belongs to the GMA. That might make things sticky for Ben & Jerry’s CEO Solheim.

But he equivocates. “You know,” he shrugs, “in big companies a lot of things happen behind closed doors. I think we’ll leave that conversation behind closed doors.” But Solheim says a unique agreement between the ice cream maker and Unilever allows Ben & Jerry’s to continue its social mission independent of its parent’s choices.

One reason these large companies might be quietly working to make GMO-free food now is because finding ingredients can be a major challenge. More than 90 percent of all the soybeans and corn grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered. Most of those GMO crops go to producers of eggs, milk and meat who feed their animals with them, but GMO soy oil and cornstarch are used in a lot of food manufacturing, too.

To ensure non-GMO ingredients, the supply chain has to remain separate and pristine. Crops need to be grown far enough away from genetically engineered seeds to prevent cross-contamination. Harvesting equipment needs to be either used only for non-GMO crops or cleaned extensively before switching. The same is true for processing and manufacturing facilities and transport receptacles like shipping containers.

That’s why Westgate says a natural foods brand like Kashi, owned by Kellogg’s, is transitioning more slowly than many fans would like. She points out that Kashi told consumers it would take a couple of years to switch over all of its ingredients. It’s a matter of changing contracts with growers, finding farmland where non-GMOs can be grown successfully, and reworking recipes so the flavors that customers have grown used to aren’t drastically changed, like what has happened with Ben & Jerry’s new toffee.
Right now, non-GMO food fetches a premium. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says that premium is likely to come down if this part of the agricultural sector gains more traction and an efficiency of scale can kick in.

Ultimately, the consumer is king. And the question of whether or not consumers will want non-GMO products is still up in the air.

Not every company is Ben & Jerry’s. Their agreement with Unilever is the exception and not the rule in food manufacturing. We do get that. And we do understand that the removal of GMO ingredients from product lines is expensive and complicated. It’s a long process and one that isn’t easy for food manufacturers to undertake. is pleased to learn that there are mainstream manufacturers taking the necessary steps towards the removal of GMO ingredients even though they aren’t making announcements. Is the “consumer king” though? While it is true that consumer voices are motivating changes in food manufacturing, we have to believe that if all of us matter so much to food companies, many of the problems inherent in our food supply probably wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Congratulations Connecticut! wants to extend our congratulations to the state of Connecticut for becoming the first state in the U.S. to officially pass a law requiring the labeling of all genetically modified ingredients on food products sold in their state! Great job Connecticut legislature!

Unfortunately, when we read further we discovered that, in fact, passing the law for Connecticut is only just the beginning. Those transparent labels we’re all so adamant about won’t be on food product’s on the state’s grocery store shelves just yet. Connecticut needs the company of its neighbors before it can actively enforce the law.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s office issued a press release explaining both the law and what’s required for it to go into effect:

House Bill 6527 – An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food, will require producers to label genetically-engineered food in Connecticut as long as four states from the New England region with an aggregate population of 20 million also adopt a labeling provision.

So neighboring states will need to pass similar legislation in order for Connecticut to realize the benefits of this newly passed law.

Health and nutrition-conscious consumers nationwide have been standing up for the consumers right to know if ingredients in the products they are purchasing are genetically modified. We are looking for the transparency that will allow us to determine for ourselves whether or not we want to consume GMOs.

Opponents of the Connecticut bill (and others like it) continue to point out there is very little scientific evidence that GMOs are dangerous to our health. They say that available information points to the idea that genetically modified crops are “generally safe” for human consumption and are not associated with any serious health problems.

While Connecticut is the first state to official pass a GMO labeling law (whether or not it can currently be acted upon), it’s not the first to propose one. California is still working on it after the defeat of Proposition 37. Vermont is halfway there. And New Hampshire, Maine, Massachussetts and Rhode Island are in discussions about similar bills.

While we’ll have to wait for Connecticut’s neighbors to take similar actions in order to see the results of their leadership, wants to applaud the groundbreaking actions taken by its legislature. Passing the GMO Labeling initiative in Connecticut took real initiative, courage and leadership. It required the state’s lawmakers to disregard possible backlash from food manufacturers and put the rights of its citizens ahead of other voices. We’re hopeful that the actions of these lawmakers will encourage others nationwide to do the right thing for consumers all over the country.

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GMO apples are getting closer to grocery stores

When it comes to GMOs in our food supply, has always been firmly in the “anti” camp. We’re thrilled that so much is being done in different states to fight for transparency in the labeling of products that contain GMO ingredients. Even though that will be a major win for consumers who have the right to know and understand what’s in the food they’re eating, sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough. This is one of those times.

Today we learned that by the end of 2013, two varieties of genetically modified apples may be sitting in produce sections across the country. The Arctic Granny Smith apple and the Arctic Golden Delicious apple may become the second genetically modified fruits to enter our food supply. Currently, the Hawaiian papaya (Rainbow and SunUp) is the only GM fruit available.

Arctic apples were created by Okanagan Specialty Fruits in British Columbia, Canada. The purpose of their genetic modification was to prevent the browning of their flesh when cut. Browning in apples and potatoes is the result of polyphenol oxidase which is an enzyme that produces melanin that gives the cells a brownish color. A man-made gene was inserted into these seeds and as a result, Arctic apples produce less than 10 percent of the enzyme than conventional apples do. They do not brown when sliced.

The apples have been nicknamed “Botox apples” by the Center for Food Safety, since they have only been genetically modified for cosmetic reasons. Their manufacturer claims that the benefits of Arctic apples go further than cosmetics. They claim that the apples have the potential to reduce food waste and that apples resistant to browning have a better taste and texture than their counterparts. They also claim that the apples are more likely to retain their vitamin C and antioxidants which are eliminated in the browning process.

Some supporters feel that Arctic apples can increase apple sales and consumption of the fruit here in the U.S. In addition, their use by sliced packaged apple producers would result in a healthier product at the grocery store. Most sliced apples have to be sprayed with an anti-oxidant that alters flavor prior to packaging. In addition, grocery stores stocking Arctic apples would cut down on losses because of apple bruising, which leaves the fruit in an unattractive condition and not fit for sale.

Critics focus on the unknown health issues of Arctic apples as well as other genetically modified foods. This has been the problem all along with the issue of GMOs in our food supply. We don’t know enough to proclaim their safety. And studies that have been conducted aren’t exactly encouraging. In addition, apple growers are concerned about genetic drift, where pollen from Arctic apple trees would drift and contaminate nearby organic and conventional orchards. This could prevent some crops from obtaining organic certification and others from exportation to the European Union.

Okanagan is currently seeking “deregulated status” from the USDA for both varieties of Arctic apples. They need to prove that the apple crops aren’t weaker against plant pests and won’t endanger other nearby crops. The Arctic Granny Smith has shown increased incidences of a leaf-eating but, that’s it. The other pests and diseases test for thus far on both varieties of apples have performed the same or better than their conventional counterparts. They are now expecting a second public comment period of 30 days and are anticipating full deregulation later on in 2013.

There are other genetically modified fruit manufacturers that are watching Arctic apples very closely as they prepare their own bids for the entry of other genetically modified fruits into our food supply. Okanagan is already developing genetically modified peaches, pears and cherries.

Kind of a slippery slope, isn’t it? Here at, we can’t help thinking that apples turn brown because that’s how nature intended it. Fresh food reacts with its environment. And we know what’s in fresh food. And we know how it works for our bodies and our health. We can’t say that we know the same for Arctic apples – or any other genetically modified food or ingredient. And, frankly, none of us asked for them to begin with.

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Way to go Vermont! House passes GMO Bill is excited to inform our community that Vermont is coming close to being the first state in the nation to require labeling of genetically modified foods!

The Vermont House passed the bill by an incredible 107-37 vote! While the measure wouldn’t go into effect for two years if passed by the senate and signed by the governor, this is a groundbreaking moment for all of us who support the labeling of GMO ingredients in our food supply.

A little more on the bill – if passed, it would not affect the labeling of meat, milk or eggs from animals that were fed or treated with genetically engineered substances. But it would require that any food product that contains a GMO ingredient (think corn, soy and sugar) would need to clearly state it on its labeling.

It was interesting to learn that there was no argument against the idea of transparent labeling for GMO ingredients in food. Those that voiced opposition to the bill stated concerns of likely lawsuits from the biotech and food industries. This appears to be the state’s biggest concern as it would be an exceptionally costly proposition. Many believe that the state would lose such a lawsuit, as the new law could possibly contradict the First Amendment by compelling speech and pre-empting federal authority (since the FDA has not made the labeling of GMO ingredients a federal requirement).

A ballot initiative that would have required the labeling of GMO ingredients in California was defeated last year. There was a lot of money spent accomplishing the defeat of that proposition. Since that time though, many states have been considering a bill like the one that just passed the house in Vermont. The legislation of GMO ingredient labeling isn’t dying. Most of the corn, soy, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified. These ingredients are used commonly in the processed foods on our grocery shelves. But consumers can’t know that since they aren’t labeled as such. The labeling requirement would allow consumers a much-needed choice in the products they purchase.

64 different countries – the European Union nations, China and Russia included – have GMO-labeling laws. If this bill passes in Vermont and is signed into law, a new trend may begin here in America. is excited to see that new trend begin! We’ll keep following this news and bring you the results as soon as we have them!

Stay involved in the fight against GMOs … tell grocery stores to say NO to genetically modified seafood! loves a good petition! We’re always encouraged by the impact of consumer voices on the food industry. Today we found information that we wanted to share with our community so that we all can stay involved in the fight against GMOs.

This comes from Friends of the Earth and their new petition that will tell supermarkets, food companies and restaurants to keep genetically modified seafood out of our food supply. Their new campaign has launched and we can all get involved.

Research indicates that over 90% of consumers are against the FDA allowing genetically modified fish in our food supply. The FDA, however is close to approving AquAdvantage – a salmon that’s been genetically engineered to grow faster. If they do approve this, it will be the first genetically modified animal to enter our food system. As it stands now, the fish will probably not be labeled and we won’t know what we’re actually consuming.

About 35 different species of genetically modified fish are currently in development. If the GM salmon is approved it will open the door for other genetically engineered fish and meats to enter the food supply.

This important information has spurred Friends of the Earth to ask grocery stores, seafood restaurants, chefs and seafood companies to commit to NOT source or sell GMO seafood if it comes to market. And they’re asking all of us to get involved in their efforts. Sign their petition asking companies to make this commitment and help keep genetically engineered fish out of our grocery stores and restaurants.

To date, almost a dozen major food retailers with stores nationwide have taken the Pledge for GE-Free Seafood or have otherwise stated their commitment not to knowingly purchase or sell genetically engineered salmon or seafood. These include:

Abundance Co-Op Market
Berkshire Co-Op Market
Bi-Rite Market
Davis Food Co-Op
Marsh Supermarket
Merc Co-Op
PCC Natural Markets
Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative
Three Rivers Market
Trader Joe’s
Whole Foods
Whole Foods Co-Op

Let’s help make this list longer! encourages our community to get involved with Friends of the Earth and tell companies to say NO to genetically engineered seafood. You can find the petition here at Friends of the Earth. Let’s stay active and involved in the fight against GMOs!

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GMO Inside needs our help getting GMOs properly labeled or completely out of our breakfast cereals is aware of our community’s strong feelings regarding the genetically modified ingredients in our food supply. We know how important to is to you to educate yourself, shop carefully, and stay aware of the latest developments in the GMO controversy. When we saw this information today, we knew our community needed to know the details of how they can lend a hand in the ongoing battle over GMO labeling.

GMO Inside is a group devoted to the rights of food consumers to know if the foods they are purchasing contain genetically modified ingredients. They have announced that they are calling on Kellogg’s and General Mills regarding the GMO ingredients in their breakfast cereals and effectively start over with consumers by labeling or removing those ingredients from their products. It’s called the “Fresh Start” action and you can help to move these breakfast cereal giants in the right direction.

During the month of January at , GMO Inside needs all of us to to sign petitions, phone both of these companies to request non-GMO products, and comment accordingly on the Facebook profiles of each company and their brands. For Kellogg’s, the brands include Corn Flakes, POPS, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Special K. They are also the manufacturer of MorningStar Farms products and Keebler. General Mills boasts Lucky Charms, Cheerios, Chex and Kix as well as the Pillsbury and Betty Crocker brands. There are plenty more, these are just examples for both companies.

In addition to the effort to get the brands to label or remove GMO ingredients, GMO inside is also asking both brands to withhold funding from any opposition to the new Washington State ballot initiative for labeling GMO ingredients. This will come up for a vote during the next election season. It is important to note that both Kellogg’s and General Mills are selling their products in Europe, WITHOUT GMO ingredients.

The GMO Inside “Fresh Start” initiative has already gained over 5,000 signatures on their petition. and GMO Inside share the same philosophies on the controversial topic of GMO ingredients. GMOs have never been proven to be safe for consumers. We find new studies constantly that raise serious issues about health issues that may be linked to genetically modified foods. And in addition, we are aware that the planting of GMO crops has actually increased the use of the pesticides and herbicides, proving harmful for farmers worldwide.

We urge our community to take action and visit the GMO Inside link to support this very important initiative.
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Genetically Modified Salmon could hit supermarkets quicker than first thought … Frankenfish gets initial FDA Approval learned today that it’s quite possible that GMO salmon may soon be coming to a seafood section near you – but you might not know it when it gets there. Nicknamed “Frankenfish” due to its abnormally large size in comparison to natural salmon, genetically modified Atlantic salmon was given initial approval. This was the last step in the process to market.

The genetically engineered salmon was developed by AquaBounty and uses DNA from a Chinook salmon and something called an ocean pout (which is an eel-like fish). This genetic combination caused the fish to grow twice as fast as wild salmon. This makes the production of the fish more cost effective for the manufacturer. While we’re all aware of the copious amounts of genetically engineered products in our food supply, the FDA’s approval for the new salmon is actually the first time a genetically engineered animal product would be available to consumers anywhere in the world. Of course, consumers won’t know which salmon they’re buying – the larger sized, faster growing genetically engineered fish or the wild product that only contains its own genes.

There is plenty of opposition to the genetically engineered salmon. Obviously, for consumers the big issue is the labeling. But, others are perturbed by possible effects on the fishing industry in this country as well as the impact the GMO salmon could have on the wild salmon population.

The approval process is to be followed by a 60-day public comment period regarding the genetically engineered salmon. After that time comments will be reviewed and final approval can be given in early 2013. AquaBounty insists that its methods of raising the new salmon circumvent any possible problems being brought to light by the fishes’ opponents. will monitor the FDA site to locate the public comment area for genetically modified salmon, so that we can alert you to it. In the meantime, there is certainly a lot of reading you can do on this controversial subject. We’ve shared the links below in hopes that you will educate yourself further on the many and varied potential issues that may be moving in to your grocery store in the very near future.

The power of social media … Saying no to GMOs on the Cheerios Facebook page definitely considers this story food for thought. It appears that consumers who are staunchly against GMOs and avidly for GMO labeling on food products have paid more than a bit of attention to the Facebook Cheerios page. They are expressing their extreme disapproval for the non-labeling of GMO ingredients in the popular General Mills’ product.

The General Mills’ Cheerios Facebook page was intended to be a social media outlet for consumers to share their childhood memories of Cheerios. Let’s remember that regardless of ingredients, Cheerios were and still are the first “finger food” that most pediatricians recommend for babies/toddlers. They’re actually included in evaluations for the Pincer Grasp (the incredibly important physical achievement for young toddlers that involves being able to pick up a small object between the thumb and index finger). Do a search in Google images for Pincer Grasp. Most of the images that turn up in the search will, in fact, involve Cheerios. Combine all that with the heart-healthy marketing campaigns and the little cartoon bees for the “Honey Nut” variety and it really isn’t so unusual that Cheerios is an incredibly popular brand here in the U.S.

But the power of social media can show its force on even the most popular of brands. It appears that late in November anti-GMO posters hijacked the Cheerios Facebook page. It seems that GMOInside – a coalition of organizations was somehow behind the efforts to inundate the Cheerios Facebook page with comments from Anti-GMO consumers.

General Mills contributed $1.1 million to the efforts to defeat Proposition 37 in California – the proposed bill to require the labeling of GMO ingredients in California’s food supply. While General Mills’ contribution was less than those of many other companies.

The floodgates opened when General Mills promoted a smartphone app that asked users to tell them what the Cheerios brand meant to them. They printed the comments in the classic Cheerios typeface and put them up on the Facebook page. But GMOInside asked its followers to send messages to General Mills via that same app.

So if you visit the Cheerios Facebook page right now, you’ll see posts from consumers telling General Mills they aren’t buying Cheerios anymore because General Mills isn’t labeling the product appropriately.

The power of social media is a huge and all-encompassing force. is hopeful that General Mills will take note of the plethora of messages on the Cheerios Facebook page. Consumers are simply asking for transparency and honesty. The request is not for them to remove ingredients from Cheerios, but to let consumers decide for themselves whether or not to include GMO ingredients in their diets. The only way a Cheerios consumer can do that is for General Mills to label Cheerios accordingly. We like the idea. We hope they do too.

Sad news to report: Proposition 37 fails in California … GMO ingredients are not required to be labeled on food products in the state that fought for it is reporting a sad story tonight. Proposition 37 was on the ballot yesterday in California and was defeated. We’ve been following this story and we’re definitely feeling sadness tonight bringing you the details on how the vote played out.

For anyone who’s not familiar with Proposition 37, it put forth the necessity of food companies labeling any genetically modified ingredients included in their products. Certainly doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? Especially when you consider that consistent polling indicates that 90% of all U.S. citizens support the labeling of genetically modified ingredients. Sadly, though, yesterday, this proposition failed in the state of California. has found some details as to why this simple ballot failed, and we’re sure that our community won’t like the information. It appears that in the final days prior to voting there was a $45-$48 million dollar advertising push by several food corporations that encouraged the California population to vote NO on the proposition. As of today, Wednesday, November 7, just about 47% of Californians voted YES to Proposition 37, while about 53% voted NO.

It does appear that there are votes that are still outstanding for the Proposition, but frankly, the margin is now too wide for any sort of last-minute turn around. is rather amazed that this historic proposition was put down by about 6 points in the voting procedure. We then found this very detailed write up, that you should certainly read more about. While the passage of Prop 37 held about a 67% support level about 9 days prior to the election, just five days later, it had dropped to 42%. That’s a very steep drop. It doesn’t make sense, until you look more closely at the massive effort put forth by the “NO” community that was worth millions of ad dollars in that short time period.

The “NO” vote campaign appears to have been tremendous … with reports regarding the ads that were run that term them as misleading, at best. The list of companies contributing to this ad campaign is extensive and includes:

E.I. Dupont De Nemours & Co.
Grocery Manufacturers Association
Dow Agrosciences LLC
Kraft Foods
Nestle USA
Coca-Cola, North America
General Mills
ConAgra Foods
Kellogg Company
Smithfield Foods
Del Monte Foods
Campbell Soup Company

While proponents of Proposition 37 have filed a complaint against their opponents, it does appear to have fallen upon deaf ears. An accusation regarding misleading advertising has been misconstrued and revised somehow … becoming a complaint accusing the campaign of misusing the FDA seal in its television commercials.

There’s more information that encourages you to read up on here:

We encourage our community to understand that this fight is only in its beginning stages. Please let your voice be heard. Get involved. Stay involved. While we are saddened by this news, it only strengthens our resolve to do more for the incredibly important issue of labeling genetically modified ingredients in our food supply. Let’s all recommit to this significant problem for food consumers everywhere.