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June 29th, 2015

Food & Water Watch Denounces Beef Imports From Brazil, Argentina

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Washington, D.C.—“Today, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it has lifted decades old restrictions on the importation of fresh beef from Brazil and Argentina, countries with a history of the deadly disease of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in their animal herds. The U.S. has not experienced a case of FMD since 1929 and has successfully kept animals and meat from countries with a history of this disease out of its food system. Today, APHIS is abandoning that policy, putting our animal herds at risk.

“APHIS is, in effect, thumbing its nose at members of Congress who requested that the U.S. Government Accountability Office conduct a study of the two proposed rules. That study has not been completed. These two rules were considered ‘significant’ by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). APHIS transmitted those rules to OMB on May 22, 2015.  They were released on June 26. OMB can take up to 90 days to review ‘significant’ rules, but it rushed through the process. Food & Water Watch met with the OMB staff on June 12, arguing against the approval of the two final rules.

“Brazil and Argentina have checkered food safety records, as USDA has been forced on several occasions to suspend imports of products currently eligible to come into the U.S. for various food safety violations and for failure to meet our inspection standards.

“What is especially repugnant about the timing of this announcement is the fact that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is scheduled to meet with President Obama tomorrow. She is going to be handed this as a welcome present, reminiscent of the time in 2006 when the Bush administration handed Chinese President Hu Jintao the equivalency determination for the importation of processed poultry from the People’s Republic of China after a truncated review of that final rule by OMB.

The lifted restrictions on imports from Brazil and Argentina follow a disturbing trend of lowering food import standards, established by the recent attempt to gut Country of Origin Labeling, in order to pander to the interests of the corporate meatpackers lobby.”

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

June 25th, 2015

Food & Water Watch Decries Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling Proposal

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Washington, D.C. — “Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the anti-consumer proposal to replace mandatory country of origin labels (COOL) with a voluntary labeling program for beef and pork products. This policy change would let meatpackers conceal the origin of the food Americans feed their families. Food & Water Watch vehemently opposes the elimination of mandatory COOL either by repealing the statute or by making these labels voluntary.

“Last month, the House of Representatives rashly repealed country of origin labeling for beef, pork, chicken and ground meat under the guise of responding to an international trade dispute. Canada and Mexico challenged mandatory country of origin labeling at the World Trade Organization and have threatened to apply billions of dollars in tariffs to U.S. exports if the United States does not overturn its own law requiring labeling of meat. But these penalty levels have never been approved by the WTO and the dispute process has not been completed.

“Today, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) offered a proposal she hoped would mollify our trading partners but it will not. Canada and Mexico are demanding unconditional repeal even in advance of the final WTO arbitration. A voluntary labeling scheme that primarily allows meatpackers to choose whether or not to affix a ‘born and raised in America’ label would present nearly identical WTO problems as a mandatory label, but with few of the benefits. The United States has been embroiled in a nearly two-decade WTO dispute over the voluntary ‘dolphin-safe tuna’ labels, so making COOL labels voluntary does not automatically eliminate trade disputes.

“The long struggle to require basic information on food labels has made it clear that we can not allow the meatpacking, food processing and grocery retail industries to determine what to disclose to consumers. More Americans are demanding to know more about what is in their food and where it comes from, but Senator Stabenow’s proposal lets Big Ag decide whether or not they will tell us what we are feeding our families.

“Voluntary COOL is indistinguishable from total repeal: meatpackers won’t use it, consumers won’t see it and U.S. farmers and ranchers won’t benefit from it. We had voluntary COOL prior to 2009, and the meatpackers refused to sell beef and pork with a ‘born and raised in America’ label.

“This week the Senate approved Fast Tracking more trade deals that give foreign trade bureaucrats the authority to trump the U.S. Congress. The Senate should not cede its authority to trade tribunals by gutting COOL. Whether it is in the form of repeal, or making this mandatory labeling requirement voluntary, changing our law on labeling before the WTO process is even finished is unacceptable.”

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

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June 16th, 2015

Groups Urge WHO to Set Safety Standards for Herbicide Glyphosate it Classified as Carcinogenic

They also call for investigation into apparent conflicts of interest on a WHO panel reviewing widely used herbicide 

WASHINGTON (June 16, 2015) – A coalition of groups are urging the World Health Organization to swiftly set new safety standards for the world’s most widely used herbicide—glyphosate, often sold as
“Roundup” – after a WHO cancer-evaluating arm recently classified it as a probable human carcinogen.

In a letter to the WHO, the coalition also raised concerns about conflicts of interest on an expert advisory panel that may review the cancer classification that could cloud its review. Researching public documents, the groups found three of eight panel members with financial and professional ties to the chemical industry, including Monsanto, the largest producer of glyphosate.

As a consequence, the WHO should conduct its own investigation and remove any panelists with conflicts of interest, said the letter signed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth US, Friends of the Earth Europe, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network of North America, Pesticide Action Network UK, Food & Water Watch and Toxic Free North Carolina.

“The WHO is highly respected for protecting public health around the world, and it should move forward immediately to safeguard people from being harmed by glyphosate,” said NRDC Health Program Director Erik Olson. “At the same time, the WHO should make absolutely sure that its expert review panel is free of conflicts of interest so it can make science-based evaluations of herbicide and pesticide residues on food and advise what levels are safe for people to be exposed to.”

Earlier this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research arm of the WHO, classified the herbicides and pesticides glyphosate, malathion and diazinon as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The next step is for that finding to be evaluated by another WHO group, the Joint FAO-WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues.

NRDC and the other groups say that’s the group with members who have conflicts of interest. “We strongly urge WHO to ensure that the panel is free from conflicts and other biases that may unduly influence the work of the panel,” they write. In addition to Olson’s comments above, the other signers offered the following comments.

Lisa Archer, Food and Technology Program Director at Friends of the Earth US: “The WHO and EU must insure IARC’s science-based classification of glyphosate and other pesticides as probable carcinogens is upheld or risk losing credibility and public trust. Monsanto and other chemical industry interests must not be allowed to infiltrate or influence our most trusted institutions and undermine science and public health in the interest of maintaining profits.”

Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director at Friends of the Earth Europe: “Industrial agricultural in Europe is propped up by the overuse of glyphosate weedkillers. As the questions marks over its environmental and human impacts grow, safety needs to be put before profit. It is time public authorities took these warnings seriously and removed this chemical from farmers’ fields.”

Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health Director at the Center for Biological Diversity: “Now that the World Health Organization has declared glyphosate to be a probable carcinogen, the JMPR needs to establish protective standards to ensure the safety of people and the environment. Glyphosate, often sold as Roundup, is the most widely used herbicide in the World. The JMPR’s analysis may have significant impacts to those with a financial interest in selling glyphosate-based products, thus we are very concerned that several members of the task force who may have conflicts of interest. We urge the JMPR to ensure that its analysis is free from biases that may improperly influence its conclusions, and ultimately, the health of millions of people worldwide.”

Emily Marquez, Staff Scientist at Pesticide Action Network of North America: “The IARC’s recent landmark decision on glyphosate, malathion, and diazinon poses a serious threat to Monsanto and other companies’ pesticide sales, so it is unsurprising that the decision has been called into question by industry. The JMPR’s recommendations for ‘acceptable’ levels of such pesticide residues on food must be made by a task force that is free of conflicts of interest. Several current members of the JMPR expert task force are not qualified to make recommendations due to conflicts of interest, namely close ties with glyphosate users and producers, including Monsanto.”

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch: “Time and time again we have seen corporate interests influence major decisions affecting the health of consumers and the environment. We will not stand by and watch WHO-IARC’s conclusion on glyphosate become watered down due to the presence of task force members tied to major biotech firms. Farmers, farmworkers and communities who live and work near farms sprayed with glyphosate are depending on a rigorous, independent review of this chemical and the WHO must provide it.”

Preston Peck, Policy Advocate, Toxic Free North Carolina: “Because of North Carolina’s $78 billion agriculture industry, glyphosate residue can be found practically all across the state affecting many, if not all, North Carolinians.  Currently, there is a conflict of interest between members of the JMPR and the WHO’s mission to provide ‘equitable and sustainable health for all’.  As long as the chemical industry, who has a vested interest in profiting from their products, continues to have a disproportionate role in the research concerning the human health effects of their products, then society can never know if the research is truly objective.  The WHO must conduct a thorough investigation of JMPR experts, remove candidates on the committee with potential conflicts of interest, and accept IARC’s research as credible, verifiable, and objective.”

The beginning text of the letter follows:

16 June 2015

Dear Dr. Chan and the Joint JMPR Secretariats,

We are writing to support the scientific review and classification of the pesticides glyphosate, malathion, and diazinon as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ (Group 2A) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer earlier this year, and to raise concerns about the steps that are planned to be taken by the JMPR in response to the IARC classifications. IARC is a research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO). The role of the Joint FAO-WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) is to conduct scientific evaluations of pesticide residues in food and provide advice on the acceptable levels of such residues. In fulfilling its role, JMPR should accept IARC’s cancer classification as issued and proceed with the task of identifying acceptable levels based on that classification and not establish a process to second-guess the recent work of IARC.

In addition, we have examined the make-up of the expert task force through publicly available documents and have identified several members with actual or apparent conflicts of interest, including ties to glyphosate users and producers including Monsanto. Therefore we are very concerned about the ability of the expert task force as currently constituted to provide an impartial review of the risks, and make unbiased recommendations. We strongly urge WHO to ensure that the panel is free from conflicts and other biases that may unduly influence the work of the panel.

Information on the panel is here: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/chemical-risks/jmpr/en/

List of experts is attached here: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/chemical-risks/list_of_experts1.pdf

The full letter is here: http://docs.nrdc.org/health/files/hea_15061501a.pdf

Contact: Jake Thompson, 202-289-2387, jthompson(at)nrdc(dot)org; Elizabeth Heyd, 202-289-2424, eheyd(at)nrdc(dot)org; Kate Fried, 202-683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

June 11th, 2015

Food & Water Watch Condemns COOL Capitulation by U.S. House

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter On House of Representatives Passage of H.R. 2393

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Wednesday’s voice vote by the House of Representatives to repeal country of origin labeling was the result of members of Congress bowing to pressure from the international meatpackers and the big business lobby. Americans overwhelmingly want to know where their food comes from and country of origin labeling (COOL) provides this commonsense information to consumers.

“For the first time in history, the House of Representatives has caved into threats from the World Trade Organization and repealed a U.S. law before the trade challenge to the law was even completed. This craven capitulation to meatpacker interests will embolden other countries to bring absurd claims to foreign trade tribunals as a way to get Congress to wipe out U.S. laws and regulations.

“The House used the excuse of the WTO dispute to gut COOL and serve the interests of the meatpackers who don’t want consumers to know what they are eating. The bill passed today in the House even repealed WTO-legal labels on ground beef and labels on chicken that were not challenged at all in the WTO case brought by Canada and Mexico.

“Canada and Mexico have threatened to impose billions of dollars in penalties over COOL, but the WTO has not authorized these penalties and that phase of the dispute has yet to begin. Members of Congress who voted to repeal COOL should be ashamed; not only have they sold out American consumers but they are encouraging foreign nations to challenge and undermine other U.S. laws at the WTO. We urge the Senate not to follow in the House’s footsteps and to stand up for U.S. consumers and farmers by defending country of origin labeling.”

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

June 10th, 2015

Artisanal Bulls**t: Antibiotic-Free Marketing

By Briana Kerensky

BlogThumb_ArtisanalBS-C1Late this spring, McDonald’s unveiled a new item on their menu: the “Artisan Grilled Chicken” sandwich. Simply seasoned with salt, garlic and parsley, the company says the grilled chicken breast contains “nothing but lovin’.”

In an effort to combat flagging sales and court more health-conscious eaters, McDonald’s recently announced plans to require its chicken suppliers to stop feeding the birds antibiotics that are used to combat human infections by March 2017. Other poultry purveyors, such as Costco and Chick-fil-A, have also publicized strategies to eventually phase out unnecessary use of some antibiotics. But once you get past the surface of these commendable plans, the truth about restaurants and other food corporations is pretty unsavory.

Let’s backtrack: why have McDonald’s and other restaurants been feeding chickens antibiotics in the first place? These companies grow and process their poultry in factory farms, which are notoriously overcrowded and filthy. In order to compensate for these deplorable conditions, many factory farms give animals low, daily doses of antibiotics.

This practice, called nontherapeutic use, creates the perfect stew for bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics to thrive and spread. These superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria bred on factory farms – end up in food and in the environment, which puts everyone at risk, regardless of where you live or what you eat.

As science continues to point out the toxic relationship between factory farms and antibiotic-resistant infections, more and more people have said they’re not “lovin’ it” and taken their business from McDonald’s and other fast food giants. Using the hot term “artisan” and limiting antibiotics in its chicken is a blatant attempt by Mickey D’s to get diners back on its side and in its drive-thrus, without enacting progressive, organization-wide change. What about the nontherapeutic antibiotics they’re feeding cows and pigs? “Artisanal” chicken nuggets might be on the value menu soon, but the factory farm status quo remains for burgers and McRibs.

McDonald’s, Costco, Chick-fil-A and other corporate restaurant chains voluntarily limiting some antibiotic use in chicken is not enough to stop the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms. The problem is too big to rely on individual companies to make the right decision. Consumers deserve a baseline of good practices when it comes to antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production, and it shouldn’t be left up to consumers to try to keep track of which brand is using which practices. We need Congress to end the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms and create enforceable standards across the industry. Tell Congress to stand up for the public, not corporations, by introducing tighter regulations that will help stop the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.

Groups Urge New York State Government, Cornell University to Notify Public About Genetically Engineered Diamondback Moth Field Trial

Washington, D.C.–Environmental, advocacy and organic farming organizations sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball along with Cornell University President David Skorton and Agricultural School Associate Dean Susan Brown, urging them to release information to the public about the field release of genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moths at Cornell’s agricultural experiment station in Geneva, New York and to stop any outdoor trials until more adequate information is available.

In September 2014 several of the organizations commented on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s environmental assessment (EA) for the proposed field release of Oxitec’s GE diamondback moths at Cornell University. The agency did not contact the organizations to address their myriad concerns, and months later, the groups found out through a separate correspondence with the USDA that the GE moth permit had been quietly approved with no press release or other public notification.

“This release of genetically engineered autocidal moths is the first of its kind in the United States and it sets a very poor precedent that they were released with minimal environmental review and transparency,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “The USDA’s irresponsible management of this genetically engineered insect is putting the environment and agriculture at risk.”

“Proposals to release GE moths in England were halted in 2012 amid concerns about the risk assessment. Many issues that would be closely studied before the moths were released in Europe have not yet been considered in the USA,” said Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. “Consumers and farmers deserve much better information about GE insects that could end up in the food chain.”

“The USDA took comments on whether this first genetically engineered insect should be released for field trials and then without responding to our comments approved the trials without public notice,” said Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst at Center for Food Safety. “The first use of GE insects in an agricultural setting should have required public consultations with potentially affected parties, as well as, trials in physically enclosed spaces before even considering open field trials. This violates one of the basic principles of biosafety for genetically engineered organisms—that they should be physically constrained in trials, not openly released.”

The mechanism for these GE moths to control population levels is for offspring to die in the larval stage. The larval moths will die on plants, including crops such as broccoli and cabbage. In its assessment, the USDA failed to recognize that if farms near the field trial sites happen to be certified organic or non-GE, their certification could be lost if these larval stage GE moths were present because genetic engineering, even for pest control, is prohibited. With no prior public information, accidental escapes and contamination would be a significant issue for proximate fields.

“The USDA has dropped the ball by approving this field trial without a thorough review and without notifying New York’s organic farmers. The loss of certification would be a major economic problem for these operations, threatening future earnings from their crops and wiping out a major investment of time and money to get the certification,” said Anne Ruflin, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. “If GE contamination occurs, it has the potential to not only permanently damage long-standing partnerships with organic buyers but also to destroy an organic farmer’s livelihood and standing in the community.”

“The maker of these moths, Oxitec, has had a long track record of conducting GE insect field trials throughout the world without proper notification of the public and now they have brought their model to the United States,” said Lisa Archer, Friends of the Earth Food & Technology Program Director. “The USDA and Cornell must put a stop to this activity and ensure that these insects have been thoroughly reviewed before they are released into the wild.”

Read the letter here: http://fwwat.ch/1FIVQid

Contact:

Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, 202-683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(at)org

Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, 202-547-9359, aseiler(at)centerforfoodsafety(dot)org

Anne Ruflin, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Anne(at)nofany(dot)org, 585-271-1979 ext. 501

Helen Wallace, GeneWatch UK, +44-7903-311584

 

 

June 8th, 2015

280+ Groups Urge Congress to Reject Effort to Repeal COOL

Washington, D.C.—Today, a coalition of 283 farm, rural, consumer, manufacturer, labor, faith and environmental groups from across the United States delivered a letter to the House of Representatives urging Congress to reject the effort to repeal the country of origin labeling (COOL) law for beef, pork and chicken. Congress enacted COOL for beef, pork, chicken, goat, lamb, seafood, and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills and expanded COOL to cover venison in the 2014 Farm Bill. Consumers overwhelmingly support these labels.

“If Congress repeals COOL, then the next time consumers go shopping for a steak or chicken for their families, they won’t be able to tell where that product came from,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “That’s completely unacceptable. Consumers want more information about their food, not less.”

In 2008, Canada and Mexico challenged COOL at the World Trade Organization (WTO), contending that these commonsense labels were a barrier to trade. Canada and Mexico have threatened an absurdly high penalty designed to frighten the U.S. Congress into rashly repealing COOL rather than allowing the WTO dispute process to be completed.

“There couldn’t be a more clear example of what is wrong with our trade policy than the attack on county of origin labeling,” said Brad Markell, Executive Director, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council. “American consumers deserve to know where their food was produced.”

Last month, the House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) introduced a bill to repeal COOL for muscle-cuts and ground beef, pork and chicken — even though the WTO ruled that the COOL labels for ground meat were WTO-legal and the dispute never considered chicken.

“In response to this convoluted and obfuscated ruling, Canada and Mexico are making premature threats of retaliation, which is feeding the desires of members of Congress who always opposed consumer disclosure and COOL and just want to reward the powerful meatpacker lobby by capitulating to these scare tactics,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA.

Although Canada and Mexico have implied that they are authorized to levy these high penalties, the WTO has not approved or even considered any penalty. That phase of the dispute has yet to begin and the United States vehemently rejects the assertions and logic of the WTO case.

“Congress should stand with American consumers, not knuckle under to the meatpackers and their big business lobby allies,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Congress should let the WTO process run its course and not let meatpackers use this trade dispute as an excuse to gut important consumer protections.”

The next phase of the WTO COOL dispute is expected to take up to six months and will consider the extent to which a simple consumer label has prevented Canada and Mexico from exporting cattle and hogs to the United States. Cattle imports are now higher than when COOL went into effect and hog imports are rapidly rising, severely undercutting the contention that COOL is a trade barrier.

“COOL is extremely important to our organizations and to the American public. We oppose any legislation that would repeal any portion of the COOL law,” the coalition letter stated. “We urge Congress to stand up for America’s consumers, farmers and ranchers by rejecting any effort to unilaterally repeal a popular food label even before the WTO process has concluded.”

A copy of the letter is available here.

Contacts:

Chris Waldrop, Consumer Federation of America: (202) 797-8551, cwaldrop(at)consumerfed(dot)org.

Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA: (406) 252-2516, billbullard(at)r-calfusa(dot)com.

Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch: (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

June 4th, 2015

You’ve Got Questions About Antibiotic Resistance; We’ve Got Answers

The original version of this blog post was published in June 2014. It has been updated to reflect recent statistics and events.

By Sydney Baldwin

Antibiotic-resistant super bugs pose one of the most threatening public health problems.You’ve heard about antibiotic-resistance: that scary scenario when someone is sick with an infection, but the medicine that’s supposed to treat it doesn’t work. Major health organizations around the world warn that antibiotics are quickly losing their effectiveness, and pharmaceutical companies aren’t acting fast enough to create new ones. What’s scary is that, according to our researchers’ analysis of Center for Disease Control and Prevention data, over 20 percent of antibiotic-resistant infections are linked to food.

Even if you don’t eat meat or live near a factory farm, you’re still susceptible. Read on to learn why we’re all at risk to contract an antibiotic-resistant infection. Then tell Congress to stand up for the public, not corporations, by introducing tighter regulations that will help stop the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.

1.    Exactly how do factory farms misuse antibiotics?

Factory farms give animals low doses of antibiotics to compensate for overcrowded, filthy conditions that lead to disease.  In fact, 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in agriculture, but not necessarily because the animals ingesting them are sick. Unfortunately, that’s making us sick.

This practice, called nontherapeutic use, creates the perfect stew for bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics to thrive and spread. These superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria bred on factory farms – end up in food and in the environment, which puts everyone at risk, regardless of where you live or what you eat. Read more…

USDA Staff Urged Foster Farms Recall Almost Nine Months Before it Took Effect

Washington, D.C.—USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) officials recommended recalling poultry products tainted with Salmonella Heidleberg, produced by California’s Foster Farms facilities as early as October 25, 2013, almost nine months before the recall went into effect, reveals documents released today by Food & Water Watch. The documents were obtained this week through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on October 17, 2013 by the national advocacy organization in response to the 2013-2014 food borne illness outbreak.

“Why it took so long for FSIS and Foster Farms to take action to prevent further illnesses is still baffling to us,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “These documents show that some staff at FSIS wanted to protect consumers from further exposure to potentially dangerous chicken, but their bosses were too timid to do so. The federal government needs to close the loophole in FSIS’s statutory authority so the agency can do its job to protect the public and finally act without ambiguity.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this particular outbreak sickened 634 consumers, of whom 38 percent were hospitalized. The strain of salmonella involved in this outbreak was resistant to multiple antibiotics, which contributed to the high rate of hospitalization.

“This outbreak is also a stark reminder that 80 percent of the antibiotics in the United States are used in agriculture, largely to compensate for filthy, crowded conditions, not medical purposes. These lifesaving drugs are losing their medical efficacy due to overuse on factory farms and now some of the bacteria consumers are exposed to through meat and poultry are resistant to antibiotics. That is why Congress needs to pass H.R. 2303, the Pathogen Reduction and Testing Reform Act of 2015 introduced by Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Louise Slaughter,” added Hauter.

Three emails written by FSIS staff in late October 2013 were of particular note. Two indicated that the staff found a “compelling link” between a sickened consumer and products from Foster Farms. An October 28, 2013 email revealed that an FSIS staffer had recommended on October 25, 2013 a recall of all poultry products produced on September 9, 2013 at FSIS Establishment P7632 – a Foster Farms facility in Fresno, Calif. Products from this plant were not recalled until July 12, 2014.

Read the FOIA documents here and here.

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

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May 28th, 2015

Canadian Risk Assessment Finds GMO Salmon Susceptible to Disease

 

 

Newly released documents conflict with FDA findings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A never-before-seen draft environmental review of AquaBounty Technologies’ (ABTX) genetically engineered (GE) salmon reveals that Canadian government scientists disagree with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on key questions related to the safety and performance of what may be the first GE animal approved for human consumption. In light of these findings, Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Consumers Union today called on the FDA to terminate its ongoing review of GE salmon.

The partially redacted, 400-page draft risk assessment from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans makes startling findings about the welfare and performance of GE salmon, including that GE salmon:

— are more susceptible to Aeromonas salmonicida, a type of disease-causing bacteria, than non-GE domesticated salmon, which indicates unique animal health problems and raises environmental and public health concerns that the FDA has never considered.

— are exhibiting dramatically diminished growth rates in AquaBounty’s commercial facilities, casting more doubt on the widely disputed claims about the accelerated growth rates of GE salmon.

— are displaying widely varied performance, including inconsistent growth rates, suggesting that the growth-hormone gene construct inserted in the fish is not operating in a predictable manner, raising questions about the durability, safety and commercial viability of GE salmon.

“The findings from the Canadian risk assessment show that FDA has based its assessment of this totally unnecessary technology on blind trust,” said Wenonah Hauter. “It’s clear that there are unique safety issues that FDA has failed to consider, which is why we are calling on the agency to terminate its review of GMO salmon.”

The contradictions found in the Canadian risk assessment follow a series of embarrassing missteps in the FDA’s ongoing regulatory review of GE salmon, including the FDA’s failure to document two major biosecurity lapses at AquaBounty, including a storm-related mechanical failure that involved “lost” salmon. Additionally, in 2014, it was discovered that AquaBounty’s production facility in Panama has been operating without legally required permits related to environmental safety.

“The modus operandi at FDA is to rubber stamp AquaBounty’s flawed and biased studies and then call its review process ‘science-based,’” said Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Food Safety.  “FDA’s inadequate risk assessment is at odds with reality, with science and with the public, which has long called on the agency to put consumers’ health and environmental safety ahead of the corporate interests of the biotechnology industry.”

The 2013 Canadian draft risk assessment recently became public through a legal battle over Canadian regulators’ approval of commercial GE salmon production, which several public-interests groups are challenging. No government anywhere in the world has ever approved GE salmon for consumption or declared it safe to eat, and commercial production has not yet begun. The FDA’s regulatory approval is still pending.

“Major grocery chains, consumers and salmon producers are all rejecting genetically engineered salmon,” said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “This new assessment adds to the body of science showing that this genetically engineered fish doesn’t offer any benefit to aquaculture, has unique health problems and presents environmental risks. Why is the FDA continuing to spend scarce tax-payer dollars reviewing this fish that offers all risk and no reward?”

The commercial salmon industry has long disputed AquaBounty’s claims that GE salmon can reach market weight in half the time as conventional salmon. A variety of sources, including new data found in the Canadian risk assessment, indicate that GE salmon probably grow slower than the highly domesticated Atlantic salmon currently in commercial production. The only benefit claim that AquaBounty submitted to the FDA for regulatory approval is fast growth.

MATERIALS

Canadian Draft Risk Assessment: http://fwwat.ch/1JUxPdr

Letter to US FDA: http://fwwat.ch/1LIYrN0

 

Expert contact:
Tim Schwab, (202) 683-2517, [email protected]

Communications contact:
Rich Bindell, 202-683-2457, [email protected] 

 

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