News for Foodies – April 2013

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 On Wednesday, April 24, 2013, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced Bills to the Senate and House of Representatives that would require food manufacturers to clearly label any product containing genetically engineered ingredients. Boxer and DeFazio have both previously sponsored bills that would have mandated GMO labeling. However, this new Bill is the first genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling bill to be introduced with both bicameral and bipartisan support. The bill has nine co-sponsors in the Senate and 22 co-sponsors in the House.

 According to a new study, heavy use of the world’s most popular herbicide, Roundup, could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers. This peer-reviewed study was published on April 18, 2013 in the scientific journal, Entropy. The study found evidence that indicates residues of “glyphosate,” the main ingredient in Roundup weed killer, which is sprayed over millions of acres of crops, has been found in food. Those residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease according to this study. The report authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant from Arthur D. Little, Inc. Samsel is a former private environmental government contractor as well as a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

 The European Union will enforce the world’s first continent-wide, two-year ban on three widely used insecticides alleged to cause serious harm to bees. The insecticides, imidacloprid and clothianidin produced by German Bayer, and thiamethoxam, made by Switzerland’s Syngenta, are used to treat seeds, and applied to soil or sprayed on bee-attractive plants and cereals.  The suspension is a landmark victory for many environmental campaigners, backed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who are concerned about a dramatic decline in the bee population.

 Friday, April 26, 2013, marked the close of a 120-day comment period on a revised draft environmental assessment for the GE Salmon. The Center for Food Safety reported that over 1.8 million people sent comments vehemently opposing the approval of a genetically engineered salmon by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The effort was driven by a broad coalition organized over three years ago by the Center for Food Safety and consisting of public interest, consumer, environmental and animal protection groups, along with commercial and recreational fisheries associations and food businesses and retailers. The FDA first announced that it was considering the approval of a GE salmon in August 2010.  If approved, it would be the first-ever GE animal permitted for human consumption in the U.S.  The Center for Food Safety further reports that the market has already started to reject GE salmon. Supermarket chains with more than 2,500 grocery stores across the country have committed not to sell GE seafood should it come to market and 260 chefs across the country have signed on to a letter by Chefs Collaborative objecting to the transgenic fish. The Center for Food Safety reports that a new bill, the PEGASUS Act, has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Don Young that would prohibit the shipment, sale, transportation, purchase, possession, or release in the wild of GE salmon unless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service complete a full environmental impact statement and find that it will result in no significant impact to the environment.

 Last Friday, April 26, 2013, Abbott Laboratories’ shareholders voted to reject a proposal to remove genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from its natural products, which includes its Similac baby formula. As You Sow, a non-profit corporation that promotes corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, filed a resolution which prompted the shareholder vote.  As You Sow contends that Abbott Laboratories uses GMO soy and corn in their popular Similac baby formula. They requested that GMO products be removed from Abbott’s natural products, which includes Similac, until further long-term studies have been completed. Abbott is expected to report its final results of its shareholder vote to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) later this week.

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