Friday, March 25, 2011

Met w/ Cong. Miller about genetically modifed alfalfa

I met with Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) today to request unbiased research and caution for genetically engineered food. We had a good discussion. I left feeling that he had heard my points and would have the appropriate staff member follow up on possible action. We agreed that these are technical issues, but that it is important to have good, unbiased scientific analysis before taking action that cannot be undone.

As I said during the meeting, when we found out what horrible side effects thalidomide caused, people could just stop taking it. If we find out that genetically engineered food causes horrible side effects, we may not be able to recall it from the environment. Thanks to Jill Richardson of La Vida Locavore and Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute for their help in preparing for this meeting.

Here are the points we covered:

  • People want to know what they are eating. An MSNBC poll this year shows that 96% want genetically modified food labeled so people can make informed choices. A Deloitte survey in 2010 found that 70% of Americans are concerned about eating genetically modified food.

  • Roundup Ready Alfalfa is not needed, according to a lawsuit filed by several groups against the USDA. 93% of alfalfa is currently grown without herbicides.

  • But Roundup Ready Alfalfa is now unregulated and has huge risks:

    • GE alfalfa would contaminate all alfalfa seeds in just a few years because the pollen is spread by bees. They will cross-pollinate non-GMO alfalfa and wild alfalfa miles apart.

    • It threatens organic dairy industry, a $26B a year industry growing at 20% annually, because it is the key food for dairy cows. No organic food means no organic milk, yogurt, or cheese.

    • It threatens the organic beef industry

    • It will speed up the development of Roundup-resistant super weeds. Farmers dealing with glyphosate-resistant weeds may stronger herbicides, such as 2,4-D, a chemical that has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and insulin resistance.

    • Animal miscarriages and infertility may be caused by Roundup and Roundup Ready crops, wrote Dr. Don Huber of Purdue University in a letter to Secretary Vilsack.

    • Alfalfa and other GE Crops put organic farmers at risk with through spills and uncontrolled pollination. Recovery and recertification can take years and lead to bankruptcy.

    • Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops. Scientific American says “that restriction must end.”

  • World hunger can be better addressed through safer techniques

    • A U.N. report says that “agroecological” techniques can double food production in 10 years.

    • Poster-plant Golden Rice requires eating 12 times more rice than normal27 bowls of expensive rice a day — to get enough Vitamin A. Better to plant greens and sweet potatoes.

    • Hunger stems from poor distribution, political problems, poverty, and environmental problems. Nearly 90 percent of the U.S. corn crop is used for either ethanol (40 percent) or animal feed (50 percent).

  • Requested actions:

    • Ask the USDA and President Obama to restrict Roundup Ready alfalfa until it is proven to be safe.

    • Support unbiased research through funding and regulation.

    • Support Congressman Kucinich’s bills on genetically engineered food (the Right to Know Act, the Safety Act, and the Farmer Protection Act).

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