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Politics, Pseudoscience and Corporate Cash: The Defeat of Oregon


Politics, Pseudoscience and Corporate Cash: The Defeat of Oregon's Measure 27 ... Irony that the U.S., home to many GE firms, has rates of child poverty and ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Politics, Pseudoscience and Corporate Cash: The Defeat of Oregon

Politics, Pseudoscience and Corporate Cash The
Defeat of Oregons Measure 27 (Requiring Labeling
of Genetically-Modified Foods)
  • Martin Donohoe, MD, FACP
  • Old Town Clinic
  • Portland State University
  • Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Measure 27
  • November, 2002 Oregon ballot
  • Required labeling of genetically-engineered foods
    sold or distributed in the state
  • Wholesale and retail, e.g., supermarkets
  • Not cafeterias, restaurants, prisons, bake sales,

Measure 27
  • Defeated 73 to 27
  • Surprising, since multiple polls conducted by the
    news media, government and industry show from
    85-95 of US citizens favor labeling
  • 2008 NY Times/CBS News poll 53 of Americans
    would not eat GM foods

Measure 27
  • Opponents outspent proponents 5.3 million to
  • Vast majority of opposition funding from
    corporations headquartered outside state
  • Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenia, Dow Agro Sciences,
    BASF, Aventis, Hoechst, and Bayer Crop Science

Measure 27
  • Aided by PR and political professionals
  • Hid behind scientific-sounding advocacy groups
    e.g., The Council for Biotechnology Information

Corporate Opposition to Measure 27
  • Vested interest in spreading deliberate
    misinformation about the initiative to keep the
    public ignorant of the adverse consequences of
    their profit-driven manipulation of the worlds
    food supply

Measure 27 Opponents Other Activities
  • Chemical weapons
  • Hoechst (mustard gas), Monsanto (Agent Orange),
    Dow (napalm)
  • Pesticides
  • Monsanto (DDT)
  • Ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons
  • Dupont and Hoechst major producers
  • Agricultural Antibiotics
  • Many companies

Opposition Tactics
  • Claimed measure would unfairly hurt Oregon
    farmers, grocers, restaurants, schools and
    non-profit groups
  • No commercial GE crops grown in Oregon
  • Grocers, restaurants, schools and non-profit
    groups not affected

Opposition Tactics
  • Funded commercial diatribes describing increased,
    onerous and complicated government oversight
  • Frightened public with unfounded fears of tax
    increases of up to 1500 per family
  • Realistic estimates 4 - 10/person/year

Opposition Tactics
  • Accused Measures supporters of being against
    national policy and scientific consensus
  • Argued that labels would provide unreliable,
    useless information that would unnecessarily
    confuse, mislead and alarm consumers

Opposition Tactics
  • Claimed USDA, EPA and FDA evaluate safety of GE
    products from inception to final approval
  • USDA deals with field testing, EPA with
    environmental concerns, FDA considers GE foods
    equivalent to non-GE foods
  • FDA (1992) Declared GM foods substantially
    equivalent to regular foods

Opposition Tactics
  • All rely on safety tests done by companies making
    GE products
  • Corporations are not required to report results
    to government

Corporations Dominate Oregon Politics
  • Second lowest corporate taxes of all US states
  • Oregon corporate income taxes have decreased by
    40 over the past 12 years
  • Large cuts in public services
  • Corporations outspend labor unions 5-1 and
    massively outspend all other progressive groups
    and causes put together
  • Oregon is one of only six states to allow
    unlimited corporate campaign contributions

Post-Measure 27 Activities
  • Ongoing vigorous lobbying campaign to pass bill
    pre-empting any locality in Oregon from passing a
    labeling bill
  • Nationwide lawsuits against farmers
  • Supported by 75 employee, 10 million legal
    division at Monsanto
  • Most farmers settle settlement terms often sealed

Food Labeling in the U.S.
  • Vitamin, mineral, caloric and fat content
  • Sulfites (allergies)
  • Source of proteins (vegetarians)
  • No labeling required for GM foods, products from
    animals fed GM foods

GE Food Labeling Worldwide
  • Most processed foods available in the U.S. today
    come from GM crops
  • European Union has required labeling since 1998
  • European Court of Justice rules public must have
    access to information re the location of GM crops

GE Food Labeling Worldwide
  • Japan, China, Australia, South Africa, and many
    other countries also require labels
  • Yet Japan allows 5 GMO contamination, loopholes
    exempt 90 of Australian foods from labeling,
  • Many countries ban the planting and/or import of
    GE foods from the U.S. and elsewhere
  • EU considering lifting ban U.S. suing E.U.
    through WTO

Benefits of Labeling GE Foods
  • Prevent allergic reactions
  • Soybeans modified with Brazil nut genes
  • Allow vegetarians to avoid animal genes
  • Tomatoes with flounder genes
  • Permit concerned individuals to avoid milk from
    rBGH-treated cattle
  • Risks to humans, cattle and the environment

Benefits of Labeling GE Foods
  • Heighten public awareness of genetic engineering
  • Millions of Americans eat GM foods every day
    without knowing it
  • Only 24 of Americans believe they have eaten GM

Benefits of Labeling GE Foods
  • Grant people freedom to choose what they eat
    based on individual willingness to confront risk
  • Ensure healthy public debate over the merits of
    genetic modification of foodstuffs

Health and Environmental Risks of GE Foods
  • Allergies and toxicities from new proteins
    entering the food supply
  • EMS from GE-L-tryptophan supplements in 1980s
  • FDA covered up
  • Bt corn increases sensitivity of mammals to other
  • GM peas cause lung inflammation in mice trial
  • New, allergenic proteins in GE soy in South Korea
  • Soy allergies jumped 50 after introduction of GE
    soy into UK

Health and Environmental Risks of GE Foods
  • Secret Monsanto report found that rats fed a diet
    rich in GM corn had smaller kidneys and unusually
    high white blood cell counts
  • Monsanto UK employee cafeteria GM-free
  • Monsanto CEO eats organics
  • Russian Academy of Sciences report found up to
    six-fold increase in death and severe underweight
    in infants of mothers fed GM soy

Health and Environmental Risks of GE Foods
  • Altered nutritional value of foodstuffs
  • Transfer of antibiotic resistance genes into
    intestinal bacteria or other organisms,
    contributing to antibiotic resistance in human

Health and Environmental Risks of GE Foods
  • Increased pesticide use when pests inevitably
    develop resistance to GE food toxins
  • Reproductive and neurotoxic effects
  • Greater herbicide use confirmed by multiple
  • Glyphosphate and Roundup toxic to placenta

GM crops and Pesticide Use
  • Overall pesticide use up 4.1 (122 million pound
    increase since 1996)
  • Pesticide use down in Bt crops, herbicide use up
    in herbicide-tolerant (e.g., Roundup Ready) crops

Bt Plants
  • Bt cotton destroyed by mealy bug harvests in
    India decline dramatically, leading to rash of
    suicides among farmers
  • Bt corn more susceptible to aphids
  • Monsanto pays fines for bribing Indonesian and
    Turkish officials to accept Bt plants

Health and Environmental Risks of GE Foods
  • Acrylamide released from polyacrylamide (added to
    commercial herbicide mixtures to reduce spray
    drift) neurotoxin, reproductive toxin, and
  • Non-target insects dying from exposure to
    pesticide-resistant crops
  • Ripple effects on other organisms
  • Bt crops may contribute to colony collapse
    disorder among honeybees

Health and Environmental Risks of GE Foods
  • Genes, initially designed to protect crops from
    herbicides, being transferred to native weeds
  • Create herbicide-resistant superweeds (8
    species identified by 2005, 5 in the U.S.)
  • Herbicide-resistant oilseed rape has transferred
    gene to charlock weeks in U.K.
  • Glyphosate (Roundup)-resistant pigweed in MO and
    GA, ryegrass in CA, maretail in multiple states

Health and Environmental Risks of GE Foods
  • GE plants and animals interbreeding with wild
  • Spread novel genes into wild populations
  • Herbicide-resistant oilseed rape genes found in
  • 21 of U.S. farmers in violation of EPA rule
    requiring GE fields to contain at least 20
    non-GE crop
  • ¼ to 1/3 of Mexican corn samples contaminated
    Columbian coca plants

Failure of Regulatory Oversight
  • The Department of Agriculture has failed to
    regulate field trials of GE crops adequately
  • Department of Agricultures Office of Inspector
    General, 1/06

(No Transcript)
2007 GM Crop Incidents
  • 39 contamination incidents
  • 11 illegal releases

GE Crop Failures
  • Bt cotton in India, leading to epidemic of
  • Three varieties of Monsantos GM maize failed to
    produce crops in 2008/9 in South Africa
  • Commercial farmers compensated, but barred from
    speaking to media or public
  • Others

  • The engineering of plants to produce
    pharmaceuticals such as enzymes, antibiotics,
    contraceptives, abortifacients, antibodies,
    chemotherapeutic agents, other medications, and
  • Other organisms
  • Fish tilapia/clotting factor VII
  • Cattle biopharming via milk

  • 400 products under development
  • Over 300 open-air tests
  • USDA conceals crop locations from public and
    neighboring farmers, in most cases hides identity
    of drug or chemical being tested, citing trade

  • Even state agriculture regulators often unaware
    of info re drug or chemical involved
  • HI judge ordered USDA to disclose location of
    biopharmed crops as part of lawsuit

  • 10 states Puerto Rico others soon
  • Hawaii most tests most fragile ecosystem
  • Cases of food crop contamination reported

Famine and GE Foods
  • Food dictators who control GE seeds and plants
    attempted, through the UNFAO and the WHO, to use
    the famines in Zambia and Angola to market GE
    foods through aid programs, even though
  • More than 45 African (and other) countries
    expressed a willingness to supply local, non-GE

Famine and GE Foods
  • Zambia and Angola did not wish to pollute its
    crops with GE foods, which would have prevented
    it from exporting home-grown crops to many other
    countries which do not accept GE imports (further
    weakening its already fragile economy)
  • Zimbabwe and Malawi have also refused GM food aid

GE Foods and World Hunger
  • GE foods promoted as the solution to world hunger
  • No commercially available GE crop that is
    drought-resistant, salt- or flood-tolerant, or
    which increases yields (USDA)

GE Foods and World Hunger
  • UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural
    Rights (2008) Poverty exacerbated by GM seeds
  • UN International Assessment of Agricultural
    Knowledge, Science, and Technology for
    Development (2008) GE crops are unlikely to
    achieve the goal of feeding a hungry world

GE Foods and World Hunger
  • GE crops undermine food and nutritional security,
    food sovereignty and food democracy
  • Increasing reliance on GE food
  • Consolidates corporate control of agriculture
  • Transmogrifies farmers into bioserfs

GE Foods and World Hunger
  • World food prices rising dramatically
  • US food bank demand up, supplies down
  • Future wars
  • World hunger will not be solved through
    large-scale molecular manipulation of food crops
    whose cultivation has been carefully perfected
    over 10,000 years

GE Foods and World Hunger
  • There is already enough food to feed the planet
  • UN FAO Enough food to provide over 2700
    calories/day to every person
  • Feeding everyone requires political and social
  • Irony that the U.S., home to many GE firms, has
    rates of child poverty and hunger among the
    highest in the industrialized world

2008 US Farm Bill
  • Cost 289 billion over 5 yrs.
  • Most goes to large agribusiness
  • Crop subsidies (43 billion) allow land to lie
    fallow, artificially inflate prices

2008 US Farm Bill
  • Crop insurance (23 billion)
  • Foreign food aid lt 200 million
  • US total just over 2 billion (half of all
    international food aid)

Monetization and Food Aid
  • US food aid purchased from already-subsidized US
  • US shipping lines transport food to aid
    organizations in developing countries
  • Undermines local farmers and destabilizes local

Monetization and Food Aid
  • EU has almost entirely phased out monetization
  • UN World Food Programme (the worlds largest
    distributor of food aid) has rejected
    monetization and refuses monetized food aid

  • Outlaw GM crops
  • Labeling laws
  • Allow informed consumer choice
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinichs House bills to require
    labeling, expand FDA oversight, increase
    regulations re biopharming, and expand research
    to help developing nations feed themselves

  • Expose and oppose industry attempts to pre-empt
    labeling initiatives/laws
  • New ballot initiatives and legislation
  • Marin, Mendocino and Trinity Counties (CA) ban
    GMO crops
  • Vermont now requires manufacturers of GM seeds to
    label and register their products
  • ME enacts moratorium on outdoor planting of
    biopharmed crops (2009)

  • New ballot initiatives and legislation
  • Ireland pledges to go GM-free 2007
  • Scotland, Austria and Greece prohibit planting of
    GM organisms
  • Moscow now requires labeling of GM foods
  • Hawaii County Council moratorium on GE taro and

  • USDA is considering blocking imports of GMOs into
    US (even though many are the same products of US
    and multinational corporations already planted in
    the US)
  • Reasons
  • Foreign GMOs would threaten US agriculture
  • They may affect the health of US citizens
  • The may affect the environment

  • Campaign finance reform
  • Public education
  • Sound environmental education to counter
    corporate-sponsored curricula and greenwash
  • Activism
  • e.g., Oregon PSRs Campaign for Safe Foods
    Biopharm Bill, rBGH Campaign
  • Religious opposition e.g., GM one of seven
    modern deadly sins per Catholic Church

  • Support local, organic agriculture and patronize
    farmers markets
  • Consumer-supported agriculture co-ops
  • Consumers willing to pay substantial premiums to
    avoid GE foods

  • Oppose IMF, World Bank, and WTO structural
    adjustment programs which exacerbate hunger in
    the developing world by forcing debtor nations to
    restructure their agricultural base toward export
    crops and away from nutritional foodstuffs for
    local consumption

  • Support increased research and subsidies for
    alternative agriculture
  • Support equitable distribution of agricultural
    resources among populations worldwide
  • Support increased, non-GM agricultural aid to
    developing nations

  • Donohoe MT. Genetically-Modified Foods Health
    and Environmental Risks and the Corporate
    Agribusiness Agenda. Z Magazine 2006
    (December)35-40. Available at http//zmagsite.zma
  • Campaign for Safe Food, Oregon Physicians for
    Social Responsibility http//www.oregonpsr.org/pr
  • See also slide show entitled GMOs, biopharming,
    and rBGH for a more comprehensive review

Contact Information
  • Public Health and Social Justice Website
  • http//www.phsj.org
  • martindonohoe_at_phsj.org
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