Category Archives: Genetically Modified Foods

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Fast Track legislation

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Secret-Meeting-Business-White-HouseThe U.S. Senate has paved the way for the passage of Fast Track legislation, to give the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative almost unilateral power to negotiate and finalize secret anti-user trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yesterday a “cloture” vote was held—this was a vote to end debate on Fast Track and break any possibility for a filibuster, and it passed by the minimum votes needed—60 to 37. Today, the Senate voted to pass the legislation itself. TPP proponents only needed 51 votes, a simple majority, to actually pass the bill, and they got it in a 60 to 38 vote. Following months and months of campaigning, Congress has ultimately caved to corporate demands to hand away its own constitutional mandate over trade, and the President is expected to the sign the bill into law as early as tonight or later this week.

Despite this defeat, our fight against undemocratic, corporate-driven trade agreements should not be counted as a failure.

This campaign has reaffirmed the power of Internet users to make lawmakers more accountable to the people. We effectively threw a wrench into the mechanics of Washington, proven yesterday by TPP supporters’ razor thin victory in the Senate cloture vote, not to mention the series of stops and starts that delayed the passage of this bill for so many months. We put the White House on the defensive like never before, as President Obama scrambled to win enough support for his trade agenda to pass the bill. All of our calls, emails, tweets, and visits to our lawmakers made a big difference.

Even more stunning is how we have managed to delay the official TPP talks. During the recent kerfuffle over Fast Track, negotiations over TPP have effectively been stalled. The United States’ trading partners were not willing to continue talks and concede to worse digital regulations as long as it seemed that the U.S. Congress had the opportunity to second-guess the agreed language later. Now that Fast Track will be passed, TPP negotiations will likely resume in the coming weeks.

That means that we too must keep on fighting on. We’ll be laser-focused on building more momentum to defeat the TPP, as well as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which also contain harmful digital regulations. There’s one silver lining to the Fast Track legislation, which is that it will force the White House to release the final trade texts for 60 days before Congress votes to ratify the agreements. Those two months will be critical to convince our lawmakers not to ratify the TPP. At that point, we’ll have the official text to analyze and dissect, so we can better understand how the agreement will affect the Internet and demand that Congress reject the deal based on specific threats to users and innovators.

When the veil of secrecy is finally lifted, the President, the U.S. Trade Representative, and all other TPP proponents will no longer have anything to hide behind as they make sweeping claims about the deal’s benefit to the “free and open Internet.” We will then be able to show that international agreements negotiated in secret only lead to rotten digital policies.

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Genetically Modified Foods Uncategorized

Genetically Modified Foods

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GMO's

GMO’s

Genetically modified foods (or GM foods) are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering.  These techniques have allowed for the introduction of new traits as well as a far greater control over a food’s genetic structure than previously afforded by methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding.

Commercial sale of genetically modified crops began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed ripening tomato. To date, most genetic modification of foods have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. These have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and better nutrient profiles. GM livestock have also been experimentally developed, although as of November 2013 none are on the market.

Genetically engineered plants are generated in a laboratory by altering their genetic makeup and are tested in the laboratory for desired qualities. This is usually done by adding one or more genes to a plant’s genome using genetic engineering techniques. Most genetically modified plants can be modified in a directed way by gene addition (cloning) or gene subtraction (genes are removed or inactivated). Plants are now engineered for insect resistance, fungal resistance, viral resistance, herbicide resistance, changed nutritional content, improved taste, and improved storage.

Most developed nations do not consider GMOs “Genetically Modified Foods” to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Increasingly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.

Unfortunately, even though polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans want to know if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs, the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping this information from the public. In the absence of mandatory labeling, the Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers the informed choice they deserve.

Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture, and are developed and sold by the world’s biggest chemical companies. The long-term impacts of genetically modified foods  are unknown, and once released into the environment these novel organisms cannot be recalled.