Daily Archive: November 7, 2013

Genetically Modified Organisms Part II

Monsanto Wins Again: Voters Reject Washington GMO Labeling Initiative

By Mike Ludwig, Truthout

Thursday, 07 November 2013 13:27

Voters in Washington on Tuesday rejected Initiative 522, a ballot measure to label groceries containing genetically engineered ingredients that was leading in the polls for weeks before big biotech and processed food companies injected millions of dollars into the campaign, including more than $7 million in allegedly illegal donations from a trade group that concealed its corporate donors.

Some mail-in votes still need to be counted, and the Yes on 522 group had yet to concede as of Thursday morning, but Washington state officials reported that 54 percent of voters opposed Initiative 522 and 45.9 percent supported labeling. The No on 522 campaign had already claimed victory.



The campaign was the most expensive in the state’s history, drawing national attention and millions of dollars in out-of-state campaign cash. The No on 522 campaign raised an unprecedented $22 million, largely from big biotech firms and junk food companies. The Yes on 522 raised almost $8 million from GMO opponents and natural foods and products companies.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America donated $11 million from its member companies to No on 522 and was sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in October for concealing donors. The trade group then voluntarily revealed that members such as Pepsico ($2.4 million), Coca-Cola ($1.5 million) and Nestle ($1.5 million) gave hefty donations to defeat the labeling initiative.

The trade group began planning for the campaign about a year ago after it joined Monsanto and other labeling opponents in raising a whopping $46 million to defeat a similar GMO labeling initiative in California last year. At the time, the Grocery Manufacturers Association directed its employees to “scope out a funding mechanism to address the GMO issue . . . while better shielding individual companies from attack for providing funding,” according to evidence cited in the attorney general’s complaint.

With its record-breaking war chest, the No on 522 campaign beat back labeling proponents in the polls with flashy mailers and ad blitzes on radio and television. Labeling, opponents argued, would raise food prices, confuse consumers and hurt farmers. The campaign looked a lot like the “no” campaign in California and shared many of the same corporate donors, including biotech companies such as Monsanto, which spent $8 million in California and more than $5 million in Washington.



Despite victories for labeling opponents in Washington and California, a number of polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support GMO labeling. Most recently, a New York Times poll in July showed that 93 percent of American voters support labeling food with GMO ingredients.

Monsanto Calls Out the Dogs in St. Louis: New Anger, Old Crimes Point to Reparations

By Don Fitz, Barbara Chicherio and William Smith, Truthout

Thursday, 07 November 2013 09:03

The days of Monsanto greeting protesters at its World Headquarters (MWH) with balloons and pitchers of water are over. When 500 to 700 showed up for the October 12, 2013, March Against Monsanto (MAM), scores of police from half a dozen municipalities were there, several with dogs.

Also gone were police attempts to micromanage demonstrators. During a previous demonstration, police told picketers to stand on the pavement and not on Monsanto’s grass. At the next event, cops said that the pavement was too close to traffic and ordered people to stand on the grass. October 12 was noticeable by the absence of police commands concerning where to stand. At first, they seemed to have given up on controlling the increasingly large crowd.



In some ways, the protest at the MWH was similar to others involving 2 million people around the world. Food was the big issue of the day. People were outraged at Monsanto’s reckless pursuit of putting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into food with unknown effects for consumers, especially children. They unleashed their anger at the company’s attempts to manipulate the world food supply. At its attacks on farmers. At the havoc that GMOs wreak on wildlife. And at the company’s complicity with land grabs for planting GMO monocultures in Latin America, Asia and Africa.



But the St. Louis event differed from other actions around the world. Because Monsanto originated in St. Louis, many nearby areas continue to be contaminated from its chemical past. These include East St. Louis, Illinois; Carter Carburetor in north St. Louis; and the Times Beach incinerator site, which burned dioxin (and probably Monsanto’s PCBs) in the 1990s.



St. Louis is not waiting with baited breath for Monsanto to do the right thing. Exactly the opposite occurred in its official response to actions of October 12: “While we respect that people can have different points of view, we hope that St. Louisans know Monsanto people for their role in the community and know the Monsanto company for its commitment to St. Louis.” This weak response highlights that Monsanto has a crumbling global image because its lies of ending world poverty, selling safe products and using environmentally sound practices are no longer believed.



Cries for reparations will not bring joy to Monsanto. As opposition expands beyond objecting to its crimes and includes demands for compensation to all of its victims, demonstrators may see fewer Monsanto balloons with happy faces and more police dogs.

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Genetically Modified Organisms

Millions Against Monsanto: Five Lessons From the Battle Against GMOs

By Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association, Truthout

Monday, 04 November 2013 09:25

There are arguably more important issues facing us today than the battle against Frankenfoods. The climate crisis and corporate control over the government and media come to mind. But the rapidly growing anti-GMO Movement illustrates the powerful synergy that can develop from the combined use of social media, marketplace pressure and political action. Recent developments in this sector indicate that out-of-control corporations, media, politicians and the proverbial “one percent” can be outsmarted and outmaneuvered. And quite possibly defeated.

In the wake of high-stakes multi-million dollar GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California in 2012, and Washington State in 2013, an army of organic food and natural health activists have put Corporate America and the political elite on the defensive. We’ve demonstrated that aggressive populist issue-framing; unconventional “inside-outside” coalition-building; marketplace pressure; and online list-building, mobilization and fundraising – strategically channeled into local and state-based political action – can begin to even up the odds between David and Goliath.

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Forty percent of consumers believe that unlabeled genetically engineered foods and crops are unsafe. Another 40 percent are unsure. These numbers terrify large supermarket chains, biotech companies and food corporations. So does the notion that states such as Washington, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont will soon require mandatory labeling of GMOs – which will likely drive these controversial foods and crops off the market, just as labeling laws have already done in Europe.



One of the most important accomplishments of the right-to-know, anti-GMO movement has been to unite the advocacy and fundraising efforts of non-profit groups and health and green-minded for-profit businesses. After 20 years of often operating on shoestring budgets, activist groups (the “outsiders”) are now increasingly joining hands with a number of profitable organic/green/Fair Trade businesses (the “insiders”). This inside-outside strategy has managed to raise a not insignificant war chest of almost $20 million to support the state GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013, while simultaneously pressuring major brands, such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Chipotle, to embrace GMO labeling.



One important consequence of marketplace pressure and boycotts is their potential to gradually divide our opponents. In the case of the anti-GMO movement, we’ve begun to drive a wedge between the biotech/industrial agriculture corporations, and their erstwhile allies, food manufacturers and supermarket chains. In the wake of the California GMO labeling ballot initiative (Proposition 37), the Organic Consumers Association and our allies launched a nationwide boycott of Traitor Brands, the organic and natural brands whose parent corporations spent $20 million, along with the biotech industry’s $30 million, to defeat Prop 37.



Over the past 12 months groups like the Organic Consumers Association, Mercola.com, Food Democracy Now, Natural News, Alliance for Natural Health, Center for Food Safety, Just Label It, Environmental Working Group, Cornucopia, Friends of the Earth, CREDO, and MoveOn have been able to send out anti-GMO or pro-labeling messages to literally millions of consumers and voters on a regular basis, generating thousands of grassroots volunteers, organizing thousands of local events and protests, and raising over $20 million, mainly in small donations. The anti-GMO movement may not have the deep pockets or the advertising and PR clout of the biotech and Big Food lobby when it comes to the corporate media, but we are rapidly developing our own mass media on the Internet and Facebook.



The anti-GMO movement, like other social change movements, has learned the hard way that corporations and the wealthy elite control not only the mass media, but the federal government, Supreme Court, and regulatory agencies such as the FDA, USDA, and EPA. After decades of sending petitions and lobbying the White House, Congress and the FDA, to no avail, it has become clear that the political elite, including President Obama, care more about their wealthy campaign contributors than they do about their constituents, including the 93 percent who, according to a recent New York Times poll, support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

As a consequence the anti-GMO movement has moved its focus away from the unfavorable terrain of Washington D.C., and instead turned its attention to marketplace pressure, and state, county and local political campaigns, especially ballot initiatives.



Win or lose in Washington State on November 5, the anti-GMO Movement has evolved into a savvy army of grassroots activists who are committed to the ongoing battle to reclaim our food and farming systems, part of a larger battle to transform the entire political and economic system.

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On This Day In History November 7

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 7 is the 311th day of the year (312th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 54 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this dayin 1940, Only four months after its completion, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State suffers a spectacular collapse.

When it opened in 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third-longest suspension bridge in the world. Built to replace the ferry system that took commuters from Tacoma across the Tacoma Narrows to the Gig Harbor Peninsula, the bridge spanned 2,800 feet and took three years to build. To save cost, the principle engineer, Leon Moisseiff, designed the bridge with an unusually slender frame that measured 39 feet and accommodated just two vehicular lanes.

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened with great fanfare on July 1, 1940. Human traffic across the waters of the Tacoma Narrows increased dramatically, but many drivers were drawn to the toll bridge not by convenience but by an unusual characteristic of the structure. When moderate to high winds blew, as they invariably do in the Tacoma Narrows, the bridge roadway would sway from side to side and sometimes suffer excessive vertical undulations. Some drivers reported that vehicles ahead of them would disappear and reappear several times as they crossed the bridge. On a windy day, tourists treated the bridge toll as the fee paid to ride a roller-coaster ride, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge earned the nickname “Galloping Gertie.

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NSA: “Electronic Omnivore”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

“Yes, I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search.”

   –Keith B. Alexander, September 2013

Inside the “Electronic Omnivore”: New Leaks Show NSA Spying on U.N., Climate Summit, Text Messaging

The New York Times has revealed new details about how the National Security Agency is spying on targets ranging from the United Nations to foreign governments to global text messages. We are joined by New York Times reporter Scott Shane, who reports that the NSA has emerged “as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations.” The Times article reveals how the NSA intercepted the talking points of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of a meeting with President Obama in April and mounted a major eavesdropping effort focused on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007. The Times also reveals the existence of an NSA database called Dishfire that “stores years of text messages from around the world, just in case.” Another NSA program called Tracfin “accumulates gigabytes of credit card purchases.”



Transcript can be read here

As U.S. Weighs Spying Changes, Officials Say Data Sweeps Must Continue

by David E. Sanger, The New York Times

The Obama administration has told allies and lawmakers it is considering reining in a variety of National Security Agency practices overseas, including holding White House reviews of the world leaders the agency is monitoring, forging a new accord with Germany for a closer intelligence relationship and minimizing collection on some foreigners.

But for now, President Obama and his top advisers have concluded that there is no workable alternative to the bulk collection of huge quantities of “metadata,” including records of all telephone calls made inside the United States.

Instead, the administration has hinted it may hold that information for only three years instead of five while it seeks new technologies that would permit it to search the records of telephone and Internet companies, rather than collect the data in bulk in government computers. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., has told industry officials that developing the new technology would take at least three years.

NSA official cites ‘stop and frisk’ in effort to explain searches of phone records

by Ali Watkins, McClatchy Washington Bureau

The general counsel of the National Security Agency on Monday compared the agency’s telephone metadata collection program to the highly controversial “stop-and-frisk” practice used by law enforcement officers, saying the agency uses that same standard to choose which phone numbers to query in its database.

“It’s effectively the same standard as stop-and-frisk,” Rajesh De said in an attempt to explain the evidentiary use of “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to identify which phone numbers to target from the agency’s huge database of stored cellphone records.

De made the comment during a rare hearing of an obscure government body, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress created in 2004 to oversee the government’s expanded intelligence collection operations but which until Monday had never held a substantive hearing. [..]

The comparison was the latest in questionable analogies that intelligence officials have used in an effort to explain the agency’s metadata collection programs since former defense contractor Edward Snowden revealed their existence in June.

Intelligence officials, for example, have said repeatedly that the collection of hundreds of millions of phone records allows them to build a haystack in which to find a needle, apparently missing the irony that “finding a needle in a haystack” is an expression meant to convey that a task is all but impossible.

NSA’s Path to Totalitarianism

by Norman Pollack, Counterpunch

The New York Times, a recipient, along with the Guardian, of Snowden’s disclosures about the illegal activities of Obama and USG, is breaking out, as now, of its reticence about the nation’s profound disregard of constitutional principles AND its related policies of global hegemony at all costs-here Scott Shane’s lengthy article (3 Nov.), “No Morsel Too Miniscule for All-Consuming N.S.A.”  NSA to all intents and purposes appears as a “rogue” organization, extremism in the putative service of liberty, except that the designation is a way of distracting attention, and removing accountability, from its authorization and mission at the highest levels-call it, licensed roguery, official (with Obama’s eyes supposedly averted).  Or better, call it, stripped of all cosmetics, the unerring mark of a Police State, itself become identical  with Fortress America, the National-Security State.

Eavesdropping on foreign leaders speaks to an arrogance of power, in which the US claims for itself every right, unilaterally, to script both sides of the foreign dialogue as well as micromanage to its own advantage the rhythm and content of global events, from regional trade partnerships to the use of military force in shoring up alliance systems against a host of enemies, some terrorist groups to be sure, but, using that as pretext, mounting counterrevolution globally against alternative modes, notably, socialist, of modernization: autonomous national and/or radical aspirations seeking distance from US market penetration, the tarnished necklace of its worldwide military bases and CIA stations, and not least, the ideological saturation (assisted by IMF and World Bank applications of pressure) of market fundamentalism, the property right, unrestricted capital flows, and the honor of serving American industry with the lowest possible labor costs, as meanwhile we see the financialization of capitalism here and the gutting of the manufacturing base.

Eavesdropping, of course, is the polite term for control freak, which translates, in the realm of power politics, into societal desperation to employ any and all means for staying on top, cyber-strategies of disruption as well as information-gathering, campaigns of disinformation, CIA-JSOC paramilitary programs of regime change, and, upping the ante, as here, learning every move in advance of foreign leaders, the better-take no chances, take no prisoners-to orchestrate world politics in our favor.