GRASSROOTS ACTION ALERT: Organic Trade Assoc. SUPPORTS Anti-GMO Labeling & Monsanto!?

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Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner.

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL! is a blog dedicated to American independently-owned, Member-Owned & operated, community food co-ops, their Member-Owners and families.

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July 2, 2016
11:00 am

GRASSROOTS ACTION ALERT! Organic Trade Association (OTA) Supports Anti-GMO Labeling Bill in US Senate.

Brand New Vermont GMO Labeling Law Under Attack.

We food co-op people need to act!

Please call your US Senators NOW to voice your outrage and disapproval of this bill.

Please call the Organic Trade Association (OTA) food company members – whose organic food your family buys – and voice your outrage. Hit this lobby organization’s members where it hurts, in their pockets.

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“There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless GMO-driven food and farming system that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s two billion seed-saving small farmers.”

Ronnie Cummins,
Organic Consumers Association

Food Democracy Now! and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) have just issued a nation-wide, grassroots alert about threats to GMO labeling in both Vermont and the entire United States.

As you know the GMO labeling bill went into effect yesterday, in our neighboring state of Vermont. We all have been cheering Vermont for the stand this state took (the only one in the US) to require the labeling of GMO foods.

Consider, for a minute, how many food products in our our co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY, are grown and produced in Vermont – 45″ away – and sold in our storefront! This Vermont bill intimately affects us …as does the national attack upon this new Vermont law.

There is a move at the national level to not only nullify this new Vermont GMO labeling law, that went into effect yesterday, but to undermine the ability of any state to label GMOs. This bill, the Roberts-Stabenow Senate bill – renamed “The DARK Act” (Deny Americans the Right to Know about GMOs) by consumer advocates – has additional provisions which are even much, much worse than this threat.

The Organic Consumers Association states:

…On June 29, Monsanto scored a preliminary victory, winning a Senate “test vote” on a bill known as the DARK Act that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced to Deny Americans the Right to Know about GMOs…

Here is the worst part for those of us who eat organic and who buy organic: this bill is supported by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) a national trade & lobby association, which includes many of the organic companies, brand names, and wholesalers with whom you are very familiar. (Go ahead, plug in your favorite organic, or should I say “organic,” company name, test it out…)

(Don’t know who owns your favorite organic food product: BIG FOOD or not? No excuse. Go here to Dr. Phil Howard’s infographic “Who Owns Organic”, at the Cornucopia Institute’s website, or go to Dr. Howard’s website for the version updated June 2016. Drill down, get the corporate name and plug it into the list of members of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Voilà!)

Let me state this very loudly and very clearly: the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and all of its association members have joined with Monsanto in support of this bill.

This “Organic Industry” lobbying organization is claiming to speak for millions of American who buy their members’ “organic” food products. That includes you.

On June 29th, the Organic Consumers Association stated:

…Organic brands owned by large corporations who are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Whole Foods Market (WFM), UNFI, and a cabal of sell-out non-profit organizations have surrendered to Monsanto and corporate agribusiness by embracing the latest version of the DARK Act (the Robert-Stabenow Senate Bill) that if passed, will nullify the Vermont law requiring mandatory GMO labeling…

…The growing list of Organic Traitors includes the head of Whole Foods Market, Walter Robb; Gary Hirschberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farm and the pseudo-pro GMO labeling group Just Label It; the Environmental Working Group, represented by Scott Faber, former head lobbyist for the pro-biotech Grocery Manufacturers Association; UNFI, the largest wholesaler of natural and organic foods; and the OTA, led by “natural” brands such as Smuckers and White Wave, and represented by their Board Chair Melissa Hughes from Organic Valley.

These self-selected “Good Food” and “Organic” leaders have been telling Congress behind closed doors—and now publicly—that they and the organic community will accept an industry-crafted DARK Act “compromise”—the Stabenow/Roberts bill— that eliminates mandatory GMO labeling and preempts the Vermont law with a convoluted and deceptive federal regime for QR codes and 1-800 numbers that is completely voluntary, with no firm guidelines for implementation, and no provisions whatsoever for enforcement. Perhaps even more outrageous, the legal definition of “bioengineered” foods under the new DARK Act means that 95 percent of the current GMO-tainted foods on the market, including foods made from Roundup-resistant and BT-spliced corn and soy, would never have to be identified…

Food Democracy Now! states:

…Thanks to Monsanto and this corrupt cabal of organic executives all the provisions of the new bill are optional and would exempt 85% of GMOs planted today, including those from all of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO seeds. This bill is essentially a “Non-labeling” bill, but provides Monsanto and America’s most corrupt food companies the chance to continue to avoid GMO labels, while keeping the doors open for a flood of campaign cash from the likes of Monsanto, DuPont, Pepsi, Smucker’s and General Mills…

Here is an example of the PR American farmers are being fed about “how wonderful” the Roberts-Stabenow Senate bill (the “DARK ACT”) is, posted on June 26th, at Successful Farming at AGRICULTURE.com:

…Both the definition and the option for digital codes rather than on-package labeling represent major victories for farm interests, biotech developers, and food companies that have long resisted mandatory GMO labeling out of fear that it would stigmatize the technology.

The legislation, which will need 60 votes to pass the Senate, would nullify Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law, which takes effect July 1 and would bar any other state from enacting labeling requirements that differ from the federal standards…

And here is what the July 1, 2016 issue of Washington D.C.’s The Hill has to say about this, as echoed on the Cornucopia Institute’s website, FDA Concerned With GMO Labeling ‘Compromise’:

…’The FDA critique makes it very clear that this is really a non-labeling bill disguised as a labeling bill,’ Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. ‘Its very definition excludes vast numbers of, and potentially all, GMO products from labeling.’

The legislation excludes food derived from an animal from being considered a bioengineered food solely because the animal ate feed from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered substance…

WHAT TO DO

        Congress returns to session after the July 4th recess, on July 5th. There needs to be consumer pressure placed upon both Members of the US Senate and the individual, corporate “organic” business members of the “Organic” Trade Association (OTA), the lobby organization which is selling organic down the road …and benefiting large “organic” corporations which are its members …not American families & small, family organic farmers.

HWFC MEMBER-OWNERS, SHAREHOLDERS AND SHOPPERS, HERE ARE YOUR ACTION STEPS RE. THE ROBERTS-STABENOW SENATE BILL – AKA “The DARK Act:”

  1. Become informed with facts: read the Action Alerts at the Organic Consumers Association and Food Democracy Now!, here and here;
  2. Call your Senators at 888-897-0174. Calls are the fastest, and most effective way to get your message through to Congress. NY Senators Gillibrand and Schumer both voted “no.” Call them anyway. See the rest of the US Senate votes here;
  3. Email your friends and family in other states and have them call their Senators;
  4. Go to your pantry & ‘fridge. Cross-check the brand names of the organic food you buy with this list of members of the Organic Trade Association (OTA);
  5. Call or email each and every “organic” company which is both represented in your pantry/’fridge and represented on the “Organic” Trade Association’s (OTA) list of members.
    1. Tell them to publicly drop support of this bill.
    2. Ask them what they plan to do.
    3. Tell them you expect a written email response informing your family that they have removed support for this bill.
    4. Tell them you expect to see an announcement on their website showing they have removed support for this bill.
    5. Tell them to put pressure on the Organic Trade Association to drop support of this bill and to state so publicly on the OTA website.
    6. They won’t comply? Tell them, in writing, that your family will park its organic food money elsewhere.
    7. Visit the Facebook pages of these Organic Trade Association “organic” corporations and give them a piece of your mind …every single one of them.
  6. Make sure your local organic farmers get the true story. Go visit their farms & your local farmers’ markets with the information from Food Democracy Now and the Organic Consumers Association. Tell them your family wants to buy “real” organic foods. GMO foods will not be on your food table; you will put your family’s food money with real organic farmers like them. However, you want your organic farming neighbors to know they are also under attack with this bill.
    1. This bill will negatively affect all US “real” organic farmers and their businesses, by ruining the use of the term “organic.” The “real” organic farm families, small family farms and small organic producers will have the use of the term “organic” rendered useless.
    2. How will you, the consumer, be able to tell which is “real, non-GMO organic” from the fake, poisonous, pesticide-ridden stuff, which would be marketed as “organic?”

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Do you want to allow these “organic” companies, which are members of the “Organic” Trade Association to get away with this? Allow them to speak to Congress – allegedly – on your behalf?

If this bill passes – if it becomes law – kiss your right to know what’s in your – organic and non-organic – food good-bye.

Kiss the label/term “organic” good-bye as having any meaning left, at all: it’ll be rendered useless.

Take action today and in the coming week. Congress comes back after recess, on July 5th. Each and every phone call to Congress counts. Each and every email / phone call you make to one of these “organic” companies makes a difference, but only if you ask them to make a written, public statement and send your family a written email confirming their position.Please feel free to post the replies you get from any of these “organic” companies, below.

I think once you start cross-checking the brand names of the food you buy with this list of members of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), you will despair. It is not happy news.

WELCOME TO “BIG ORGANIC”

        HWFC’ers, you’ve heard the term “BIG Food.” Well, welcome to the term “BIG Organic.”

Remember the PR term “astroturf,”we bumped into a while ago here at HWFC?  Something that looks and seems like grassroots, citizen, community action, when it’s actually “synthetic-grassroots” or an “astroturf lobbying” or “stealth marketing” operation?

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) defines fake grassroots or, astroturf:

Astroturf refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms.

CMD defines another term which may sound familiar, a “front group”:

A front group is an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned…

The shadowy way front groups operate makes it difficult to know whether a seemingly independent grassroots is actually representing some other entity. 

A Front Group is a PR term for big corporations out for themselves, acting in stealth, and trying to fake us (or Congress) out into believing they’re acting in our best interests as part of our grassroots …or are speaking for our grassroots …when, in fact, they are using the cover of our grassroots to move their own agendas. Usually you will find a Strategic PR firm in the mix, expertly moving the pieces behind the scenes.

It seems like the Organic Trade Association fits these bills to a “T:” big, well-funded corporations, with hidden agendas, trying to masquerade as our friends, our organic, grassroots buddies; and, at the very same time they are selling our families down the pike.

This was an introduction I planned to make gradually, in my newest blog series called My Food Comes From WHERE?! Oh, there! and its sister topic-in-arms, They Added WHAT To My Food?! No, dude!

“BIG Organic” has reared its ugly head a tad earlier here than I had hoped.

The Organic Consumers Association June 29 alert slams the actions of the OTA and their PR firm:

As the Center for Food Safety pointed out earlier today:

… by our calculation the OTA has brought along a minimum of 7-10 Senators against us that were with us before. That is their margin of victory. There is no way to sugar coat this. Should we be defeated a major force that changed from our March victory to this uphill battle is the OTA backroom deal.

In lobbying for the DARK Act, the OTA has employed the notorious Podesta Group (the same PR firm hired by Hilary Clinton and the Biotechnology Industry Association) to convince Senators to stab consumers in the back.

 Full of despair? This news is as bad as you think it is. Go join NOFA-NY, right now; and find out what they are saying about this, while you’re at it.

Despair passes. Action moves you to the positive.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: GIVE THANKS TO “REAL” ORGANIC FARMERS

        To the positive: Go thank a local, “real” organic farmer whom you buy from at Honest Weight Food Co-op or a local farmer’s market. Or, email them thanks! Thank God there are local families who are true pioneers, living among us here, locally & regionally, dedicating their lives to producing true, locally-produced, organic foods for our families’ tables.

This morning, my husband and I went to the Delmar Farmers’ Market (thank you to longtime HWFC Member-Owner Paul Tick for getting it off the ground in 2009, I think! Paul has an article in the latest HWFC Coop Scoop (Save Water in Your Gardens) and thanked Dany & Joanne Tilley from Tilldale Farms in Hoosick, NY (yes, THAT Hoosick Falls; they have filtered water on the entire farm and have maintained their Certified Organic status. D’you see what organic farmers are up against???) We also bought a chicken and a hog belly, so my husband can make his second batch of bacon (which he learned how to do at Honest Weight Food Co-op as a Member-Owner worker! Thank you HWFC and its very knowledgeable meat department staff!)

Send Tilldale Farms a note of thanks here …or park your organic food money with this organic farm family!

Tilldale Farms
Certified Organic Meat: Pasture-raised Pork & Grassfed Beef
(they also have pastured chickens, eggs, & organic beef suet)
Dany & Joanne Tilley
22 Tilley Lane
Hoosick, NY 12090

or

PO Box 77
Hoosick, NY 12089

Dan 518-338-6516
Joanne 518-222-6336

Email: tilldalefarm@gmail.com
Website: http://www.tilldalefarm.com/index.htm

MY LITTLE BIT: HOMEMADE YOGURT FROM “ORGANIC VALLEY” MILK …THAT ERA IS OVER FOR THIS FAMILY.

        Every week or so (we’re a fermenting family!), I make 1/2 gallon of organic, grass-fed, whole milk 24-hour yogurt and 1/2 gallon of organic, 100% cream 24-hour yogurt. The milk is from Organic Valley. The cream is from Evan’s Farmhouse Creamery, 5037 State Highway 23, Norwich, NY 13815, (607) 334-5339.

As of next week, I will no longer be purchasing Organic Valley grassfed milk, given that the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA)  Board Chair is Melissa Hughes from Organic Valley.

I will still purchase my gallon or so of organic cream from Evan’s Farmhouse Certified Organic Creamery in Norwich, NY, which I buy at the Honest Weight Food Co-op. Evan’s Farmhouse Creamery got a five-cow rating, the top rating! over at the Cornucopia Institute’sOrganic Dairy Report/Ratings Arranged by Cow Star Ratings,” updated June 9, 2016.

This is only one consumer’s voice and its only one-two gallons of milk per month. But, it is my voice …and my family’s food money will not go to support Organic Valley anymore. That era is over.

So, I’m off to search for a local, organic dairy where I can buy raw milk. Might as well make the change to raw milk, if I’m gonna change. Joanne Tilley at Tilldale Farms in Hoosick Falls has given me a lead. Need to take a road trip …and go visit a local organic milk farmer!

~~~

PS To the young adults who are being home-schooled and who read this blog and are learning about democracy, up close & personal through HWFC: have at it! Call your Senators’ offices on Tuesday, July 5th, and start calling those “organic” food corporations who have a space in your family’s pantry and ‘fridge and demand email statements from them (with your parents’ permission, of course!) (Hey, I’m a (music) teacher at heart; thank you for allowing me to teach you!)

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