In my ongoing attempt to shine a light on the critical role that lawyers play in the food movement, here are just a few examples of legal victories this past year. As this list demonstrates, we need lawyers to both proactively change the law, and to defend against legal challenges. This was an especially good year for legal victories. So thank a lawyer! Continue reading →
Last month, an unusual scuffle played out between two federal agencies over a controversial proposal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase the speed of kill lines for poultry in slaughterhouses. But with testing from Consumer Reports last year revealing that 97 percent of raw chicken breasts purchased at retailers are contaminated with harmful bacteria, and with poultry workers already suffering from numerous job-related injuries, advocacy groups are vigorously opposed to the idea. The rule would also reduce the number of USDA inspectors required to ensure food safety, transferring some of that responsibility to the chicken and turkey companies themselves. But as one former inspector (who worked both for the USDA and the chicken industry) warned, plant workers are not properly trained for inspection, and they are too scared for their jobs to speak up. That’s why groups such as Food and Water Watch are taking out newspaper ads calling the proposal the “Filthy Chicken Rule.” Read rest at Al Jazeera America …
The food and beverage giant’s new sweetener causes confusion with claims of FDA approval
For years, the processed-food industry has searched in vain for a low-calorie sweetener that actually tastes good, let alone one that retains the flavor profile of the underlying product. In 2010, the food and beverage giant PepsiCo formed an agreement with the flavor company Senomyx to “focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of sweet enhancers and natural high-potency sweeteners.” That partnership appears to be paying off; there is tremendous profit potential for both companies, given the recent dips in soda sales. Which makes the deceptive nature of a recent press release that much more troubling. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …
The Other NRA: National Restaurant Association eviscerates the rights of customers, workers, and children
Food movement leaders tend to stick to their specific issues, whether it’s advocating for healthy food, fighting for workers’ rights or curbing marketing to children. For each of these issues, there are numerous food corporations that need to change. But there is one organization that conveniently provides us with one giant target for all of them: the National Restaurant Association.
In secret documents that I uncovered in November, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (aka food industry lobbyists) laid out its five-point plan for opposing the labeling of foods containing genetically-modified organisms or GMOs. First on the list: “To oppose all state efforts that would impose mandatory labels” including state legislation. With more than 20 states having introduced state bills to require GMO labeling, the junk food lobby has its work cut out for it. But they’ve wasted no time as the 2014 legislative session gets underway, starting with targeting the New Hampshire capital.
The food lobby wants a voluntary federal approach to GMO labeling, but we should let the states have their way, for now.
Those advocating for improvements to our broken food system have, of late, had little to crow about. However, in recent years, a growing movement to label foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has begun showing real promise. While the food industry continues to make unsubstantiated and deceptive claims that GMO labels would be confusing or increase food costs, polls show that more than 90 percent of Americans favor GMO labeling. And the states are listening. At least 20 states have proposed legislation requiring that genetically engineered foods be labeled. Read rest at Al Jazeera America ….
Big Food Recycles its Lies and Dirty Tricks in California to Fool Washington State Voters into Rejecting Labeling Initiative
The final result from Washington State’s ballot initiative to label genetically-engineered foods was painfully close. A mere two percentage points (38,000 voters) made the difference between yes and no. Similarly, last year in California, the Yes side lost by a narrow margin. Also in both states, early polling showed a strong lead, which was then chipped away at by a barrage of ads from the No campaign. Lying underneath this same pattern is an ugly industry play book that explains how voters can change their mind so easily.
Internal documents from the Grocery Manufacturers Association reveal height of corporate chutzpah. Industry’s solution to GMO labeling is to: “Pursue statutory federal preemption which does not include a labeling requirement.”
With the disappointing results now in from I-522, the initiative in Washington State that would have required labeling of genetically-engineered food (aka GMOs), the looming question is, what’s next? At least for the junk food lobby, that answer in painfully clear: stop this state-level movement at any cost. In today’s New York Times, Stephanie Strom reports on the dirty details contained in industry documents that I obtained from the Washington State attorney general’s office in the wake of a lawsuit brought against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for illegally concealing donors to the No on 522 campaign.
“This is the largest amount of money ever concealed in an election,” says Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, as tobacco-style tactics by likes of PepsiCo and Nestle are revealed in Washington State’s lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association over GMO labeling fight.
Just a few weeks ago, attorneys for the No on 522 campaign were feeling rather smug when a lawsuit filed against them by a group called “Moms for Labeling” was dismissed. As I wrote last week, consumer class action attorney Knoll Lowney sued the No on 522 and the Washington DC-based Grocery Manufactures Association (lobbyists for major food corporations) for not disclosing the donors behind GMA’s $7 million-plus donation to stop I-522, which would require genetically-engineered foods to be labeled. The judge threw out that case on a technicality.
But then, Big Food’s arrogance got the best of them.