Russia Rejects GMOs, Will Grow Organic Food Instead

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Russia will not import GMO products, the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, adding that the nation has enough space and resources to produce organic food.

Moscow has no reason to encourage the production of genetically modified products or import them into the country, Medvedev told a congress of deputies from rural settlements on Saturday.

“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” he said.

The prime minister said he ordered widespread monitoring of the agricultural sector. He added that despite rather strict restrictions, a certain amount of GMO products and seeds have made it to the Russian market.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks at a meeting of United Russia deputies from Russian rural villages in Volgograd on April 5, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Ekaterina Shtukina)

Earlier, agriculture minister Nikolay Fyodorov also stated that Russia should remain free of genetically modified products.

At the end of February, the Russian parliament asked the government to impose a temporary ban on all genetically altered products in Russia.

The State Duma’s Agriculture Committee supported a ban on the registration and trade of genetically modified organisms. It was suggested that until specialists develop a working system of control over the effects of GMOs on humans and the natural environment, the government should impose a moratorium on the breeding and growth of genetically modified plants, animals, and microorganisms.

Earlier this month, MPs of the parliamentary majority United Russia party, together with the ‘For Sovereignty’ parliamentary group, suggested an amendment of the existing law On Safety and Quality of Alimentary Products, with a norm set for the maximum allowed content of transgenic and genetically modified components.

There is currently no limitation on the trade or production of GMO-containing food in Russia. However, when the percentage of GMO exceeds 0.9 percent, the producer must label such goods and warn consumers. Last autumn, the government passed a resolution allowing the listing of genetically modified plants in the Unified State Register. The resolution will come into force in July.

Article Source RT.com | Image source: RIA Novosti / Maksim Bogodvid

CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY SUES THE USDA FOR RELEASE OF MISSING DOCUMENTS TO EXPLAIN SUSPICIOUS GMO ALFALFA APPROVAL

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by Shicana Allen

On March 13, 2014, the nonprofit Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit against the USDA, demanding the release of nearly 1200 federal documents from its Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The official pages would detail the agency’s decision-making process in a very puzzling change of heart on genetically engineered alfalfa. For several years, the Center has sought to uncover the true reasons for the USDA’s abrupt, unexplained abandonment of its negative position regarding this fourth most widely grown crop in the United States, third in terms of value, and key feedstock for the dairy industry. Alfalfa is also widely used in nutritional and herbal supplements and medicines for humans.

Back in January 2011, APHIS suddenly granted biotech giant Monsanto a full unrestricted approval to sell Roundup Ready seeds. Although CFS originally filed a Freedom of Information Act request that same month for release of said documents, the government agency has for years now ignored and illegally withheld the printed pages from public view, without explanation. The recent filing acts as yet another attempt to compel APHIS to fulfill its court-ordered obligation.

Although the USDA originally granted permission for Monsanto’s alfalfa in 2005, a vocal coalition of public interest groups and farmers challenged the agency’s approval in court, and won. The crop’s planting, sale and use was halted, and APHIS was ordered to prepare a robust analysis of its impact on farmers and the environment. The report acknowledged that transgenic alfalfa posed significant economic, agricultural, and ecological dangers, including genetic drift, and recommended the placement of severe restrictions to minimize this potential contamination. Just one month after this initial determination of extreme risk, the USDA turned on its heels and unexpectedly went in the complete opposite direction. Even members of the media questioned the puzzling reversal. The looming suspicion is that undue political or corporate pressure influenced the government agency’s decision to approve the crop.

In the past, more than 90% of alfalfa planted by U.S. farmers has been grown successfully without any herbicide application. Unfortunately, the cultivation of massive amounts of GM alfalfa has not only genetically contaminated both organic and conventional crops, but is responsible for 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides used each year, according to USDA data.

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Shicana Allen has been a health, environmental, and food safety advocate, writer, and public speaker for over 20 years.

Crop Contamination Takes its Toll on non-GM and Organic Farmers

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by Shicana Allen

Genetic drift, or the spread of genetically modified DNA into the environment, is now reaching near epidemic proportions. In addition, the advent of herbicide-resistant plants like Roundup Ready soy and corn has guaranteed that there are also multiple amounts of poisons to go around, as chemical drift from conventional GMO crops to neighboring organic fields is also spreading by leaps and bounds.

From the start, contamination of organic and non-transgenic crops has been of utmost concern, hence the sentiment that the unpredictable offspring of biotechnology—once released—cannot be recalled into the laboratory.  Now these fears are being realized. According to a new survey and subsequent report (conducted by Food & Water Watch

and OFARM, the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing):

One-third of organic farmers in the United States have been adversely impacted, experiencing problems in their fields due to the nearby use of genetically modified crops.

Consequently, more than half of these growers have experienced loads of grain being rejected due to unwitting contamination.

Of those who participated in the survey, 80% of farmers expressed concern over the situation, with 60% admitting they were “very concerned.”

What’s more, nearly 50% of farmers polled stated they did not believe it was possible for GM and non-GM crops to coexist.

Two-thirds denied that “good stewardship” was sufficient to address the issue of contamination.

The lengths that organic growers must go to in order to avoid genetic contamination are both extensive and expensive. In practice, substantial outlays of both time and money are necessary to safeguard their crops, with virtually no corresponding responsibility on the part of farmers utilizing GM seeds. Rarely are these significant costs considered or acknowledged when biotech advocates are promoting its so-called economic benefits. Farmers answering the survey reported suffering between $2,500 to $20,000 per year in lost income due to the required safety “buffer zone.” Averaging around five acres, this belt surrounding a non-GMO or organic field is mandated to guard against the drifting of genetic materials, chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides. Another strategy to which farmers resort is delaying their own planting activity so that their crops are timed not to cross pollinate with their neighbors’ GMOs. This, too, imposes a financial burden of several thousand dollars annually on those farmers who refuse to plant genetically modified seeds.

Incidents of detected contamination amongst traded food and feed has also been steadily increasing, with a jump in cases between 2009 and 2012. Food shipments originating from the U.S., Canada, and China caused the largest number of rejections. This was the conclusion of an FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) survey, the first of its kind, in which 75 out of 193 member countries responded to questions on low levels of GM crops in international food and animal feed trade. The accidental combining of transgenic crops with non-GMO varieties can easily occur during field production, processing, packing, storage and/or transportation. This has led to trade disruptions between countries, with imported shipments of grain, cereal, and other crops being blocked, destroyed, or returned to the country of origin after traces of GMOs were discovered. Although the interpretation of “low-level contamination” varies from country to country, at least 25 have refused such imports.

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Read more about the FAO study:

Shicana Allen has been a health, environmental, and food safety advocate, writer, and public speaker for over 20 years.

Supermarkets Safeway, Kroger don’t take the bait over GMO Salmon

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by Shicana Allen

AquaAdvantage salmon, the new genetically engineered fish developed by Canadian company AquaBounty, is poised to become the first biotech animal allowed for human consumption. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still weighing whether to offer its official approval, the nation’s two largest grocery chains—Kroger and Safeway—have already made up their minds not to carry it.  This pair joins 9,000 other food suppliers countrywide—including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Meijer, and Aldi— who have reportedly made similar pledges to shun the “Frankenfish,” as it has been dubbed by vocal GMO opponents.

What influenced this decision by mainstream retailers?  Fierce consumer opposition. During an open comment period in 2013, the FDA received over one million letters from concerned Americans calling for the agency to reject the AquaAdvantage swimmers. It seems that producing a genetically engineered animal is more troubling to many than imposing the very same technology on plants. In any case, the dissenting voices of consumers have been heard loud and clear by many retailers and restaurants.

One could argue that rejecting GMO salmon allows supermarket chains to capitalize on anti-GMO sentiment, while continuing to carry many more common foods (soy, sugar beets, corn) chock full of dangerous biotech ingredients. Should the FDA green-light AquaAdvantage, scores of no-GMO activists and organizations aim to block the salmon’s channels to the market.

The Kroger/Safeway announcement indicates a major win for both consumers and several organizations working to stop the salmon, including the Institute for Responsible Technology, which initiated the petitions to supermarkets and contacts with their executives. It is critical that the FDA deny the current application for transgenic salmon in order to set a precedent, thereby preventing other genetically modified animals from entering the global food marketplace, including at least 35 other species of GMO fish currently under development.

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Shicana Allen has been a health, environmental, and food safety advocate, writer, and public speaker for over 20 years.