Farm Bill Moves to the Senate: What to Know, What to Do

Unless you’re a diehard policy wonk, it may be tough to get excited about something called a Farm Bill. But consumers have a bigger stake than what many of us may think in the policies being debated this week in Washington D.C. And Big Ag’s lobbyists are out in full force to protect corporate interests, almost always at the expense of consumers.
Will the Senate repeal the infamous Monsanto Protection Act? Will your Senators support an amendment that could take away states’ rights to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Or will they approve an amendment supporting GMO labeling? Will they approve policies that support organic farmers? That finally allow U.S. farmers to grow hemp?
We've compiled some of the key amendments being considered this week, with suggestions for how to take action.

Read the essay



Could Congress Pass a Law to Preempt States’ Rights to Label GMOs?

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Congress Member: Reject the King Amendment and any other rider or amendment to the Farm Bill that would take away states’ rights to label GMOs!

On Wednesday, May 15, the House Ag Committee passed the King Amendment, a measure some say could take away states’ rights to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs). (Find out if your Representative opposed or supported the King Amendment). If passed by the Senate, the King Amendment would take away states’ rights to “pass laws governing the production or manufacture of any agricultural product, including food and animals raised for food, that is involved in interstate commerce.”

The amendment was proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), largely in response to a California law stating that by 2015, California will allow only eggs to be sold from hens housed in cages specified by California. But policy analysts emphasize that the measure, broadly and ambiguously written, might be used to prohibit or preempt any state GMO labeling or food safety law.

Will the King Amendment survive the Senate? No one can be sure, say analysts. However few doubt that Monsanto will give up. We can expect that more amendments and riders will be introduced into the Farm Bill – even if the King Amendment fails – over the next month in an attempt to stop the wave of state GMO labeling laws and initiatives moving forward in states like Washington, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and others. That’s why we’re calling on consumers to tell their Congress members to reject any rider or amendment that would preempt state’s rights to label GMOs.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Congress Member: Reject the King Amendment and any other rider or amendment to the Farm Bill that would take away states’ rights to label GMOs!



Now’s Our Chance! Help Repeal the Monsanto Protection Act!

TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Senators to Repeal the Monsanto Protection Act by Voting for the Merkley Amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill

Responding to public outrage, and good old-fashioned common sense, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the 2013 Farm Bill that would repeal the infamous Monsanto Protection Act.

The Monsanto Protection Act, co-written by Monsanto and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo), was officially named the Farmers Assurance Program and cloaked as a measure to help farmers. But it’s really just another gift to the biotech industry. The rider, slipped into last year’s emergency spending bill without debate, gives Monsanto immunity from the federal courts - even if the company grows illegally approved, potentially dangerous genetically engineered crops.

There’s no time to waste. The Senate is working on the Farm Bill this week. Please contact your senators today!

TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Senators to Repeal the Monsanto Protection Act by Voting for the Merkley Amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill



You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet, Mr. Grant

“If you doubt our power, see how it terrifies those at the top, and remember that they fight it best by convincing us it doesn’t exist.” – Rebecca Solnit

Congratulations. You’re making Monsanto’s CEO, Hugh Grant, nervous.

Four hundred protests planned in 49 countries, as the worldwide March against Monsanto date draws near. GMO labeling laws advancing through the legislatures in Vermont, Maine, Connecticut. Passage of I-522, a citizens’ initiative to label GMOs in Washington State, looking more and more certain. Multiple petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures calling on Congress to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act and reject any proposed rider or amendment to the Farm Bill that would preempt state GMO labeling laws.

What’s a biotech CEO to do? Talk to a reporter at Bloomberg. Arrogantly dismiss the protesters as “elitists” who just want the poor to go hungry. Try to convince us that our power doesn’t exist.

But it does exist. Because despite Monsanto’s political and financial clout, despite its attempt to monopolize the world’s seeds, to relentlessly drench our food and soil in poison, we are many. And together, we are powerful. Please consider a donation today so we can step up our efforts to educate, mobilize, and bring down Monsanto. Thank you!

Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund (non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our legislative efforts in Washington, Vermont and other states)

If you need your donation to be tax-deductible, you can donate to the Organic Consumers Association (tax-deductible, helps support our work on behalf of organic standards, fair trade and public education)



March Against Monsanto. May 25. Everywhere.

When Tami Canal, mom and activist, conjured up the idea of a March Against Monsanto protest, she figured that if she attracted 3,000 people on the event’s Facebook page, she could count that as a success. As of Tuesday, May 21, 93,381 people had “liked” the page. But the real success is this: Also on May 21, the number of March against Monsanto events scheduled to take place around the world hit 400 – in 49 countries. “I can’t help but smile,” she told us.

And what does Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, think about 400 protests, worldwide, against his company? Oh, those pesky protesters are just a bunch of “elitists” who want to deprive poor people of cheap food.

The big day is coming up. You can still find an event near you. Or if you act fast, you can create your own.

Join the march

Find a march near you

Organize your own march

Learn more



GMO Labeling Laws Advance in Vermont, Maine, Connecticut

Legislators in three New England states are signaling the biotech industry that they’re ready to go to battle for consumers’ right to know about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

GMO labeling bills recently cleared hurdles in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut. They still have a way to go before becoming law. But it’s a good sign that despite millions spent on lobbying, and despite threats of lawsuits against states that pass the GMO labeling laws, lawmakers are starting to take a stand.

On May 10, the Vermont House of Representatives passed H.112 by a vote of 99-42. The bill will be taken up by the Senate in January, 2014. On May 14, Maine’s L.D. 718 passed out of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee by a vote of 8-5. If passed, the law won’t go into effect until 2018, and then only after four of the nine northeastern states approve similar laws. And on May 21, the Connecticut Senate approved SB 802 by a vote of 35-1. The bill moves next to the Connecticut House.

More on Vermont

More on Maine

More on Connecticut



More Proof: Arsenic in Chicken Feed Equals Arsenic in Chicken Meat

Contrary to what the drug and poultry industries have claimed in the past, the chicken meat on your dinner plate may well contain arsenic, a known carcinogen, if the bird was fed arsenic-based drugs before it was slaughtered.

So says a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study, published this month in Environmental Health Perspective, provides more evidence that the use of arsenic-laced drugs, fed to chickens to make them grow faster and to improve their color, poses public health risks.

Arsenic in chicken waste, spread on fields as manure, has long been linked to cancer. In 2011, the U.S. Food & Drug Association (FDA) announced a "voluntary suspension" of the arsenic-laced drug Roxarsone, originally sold by Pfizer, Inc., but now owned by its spinoff, Zoetis, after the agency found small amounts of arsenic in the chicken meat it tested. The FDA, which claims that the amounts are too small to be dangerous to humans, has yet to ban the use of the drug in the U.S. But growers who stockpiled it prior to Pfizer’s voluntary suspension, continue to use it. In January of this year (2013) Maryland became the first state to ban the use of Roxarsone and other arsenic-based drugs in chicken feed. Because, well, the FDA can’t seem to get the job done.

Learn more

Read the study



Portland, Ore. Voters Say ‘No’ to Fluoride in City Water

It was a campaign that made for strange bedfellows. But it showed once again that when right, left, center, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian and Independents join forces for the common good, citizens can defeat corporate interests.

On Tuesday, May 21, voters in Portland, Ore. rejected a plan by city officials to fluoridate the city’s water, despite being outspent 3 – 1 by proponents of fluoridation. The anti-fluoridation campaign was launched last year after the City Council voted to add fluoride to the water supply, and citizens responded by gathering enough signatures to force a vote. Responding to the win, Kim Kaminsky, leader of Clean Water Portland, said: "At a very fundamental level, people understand that we don't want more chemicals in our water."

The OCA supported the Clean Water Portland campaign. Thanks to all of you in the Portland area who responded to our plea for support!

More on the victory

More on the dangers of fluoride



Deadline May 31: Win a Trip for Two to Peru!

Want to win a nine-day trip for two to Peru? Watch this video, produced by the Fair World Project. Then follow the instructions at the end on how to enter the sweepstakes. The video explains how consumers can improve the lives of millions of farmers and workers, and contribute to environmental sustainability, by purchasing fair trade products. No purchase is necessary to enter the sweepstakes.

Watch the video and enter the sweepstakes



Essential Reading for the Week

Organic Food Industry Gains Clout on Capitol Hill, Causing Tensions within Congress

Rise Up or Die

For Climate Solution, Look to the Ground

Consumer Alert: 'Natural' Skin Care Labels Often Mean Little or Nothing

How GMO Plants Harm Food Production and Your Health

Former FDA Official Complains About GMO Labeling Movement: 'Science Doesn't Always Win'


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