(TMU) — On June 11, President Donald Trump quietly issued an executive order to “streamline” GMO regulations in the United States. The order, titled Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products, is the latest move by the Trump administration aimed at promoting the use of genetically engineered or modified crops.
In his executive order, Trump called on federal agencies to fix what he called a “regulatory maze” related to the farming and selling of GMO products.
The executive order states:
“Biotechnology can help the Nation meet its food production needs, raise the productivity of the American farmer, improve crop and animal characteristics, increase the nutritional value of crop and animal products, and enhance food safety. In order to realize these potential benefits, however, the United States must employ a science-based regulatory system that evaluates products based on human health and safety and potential benefits and risks to the environment. Such a system must both foster public confidence in biotechnology and avoid undue regulatory burdens.“
The order goes on to instruct the Secretary of Agriculture and other officials to “develop an action plan to facilitate engagement with consumers in order to build public confidence in, and acceptance of, the use of safe biotechnology in agriculture and the food system” [emphasis added].
The executive order also lays out plans for the Trump administration to work with other nations in developing GMO policies. Section 8 of the order gives the Ag Secretary and Secretary of State 180 days to develop an international communications and outreach strategy to facilitate engagement abroad with policymakers, consumers, industry, and other stakeholders.
Additionally, the order calls on the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration to design a website that contains and provides links to relevant United States Government regulatory information.
Greg Jaffe, biotechnology director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Associated Press that the impact of the order depends on how the federal government responds. “There needs to be an assurance of safety for those products,” Jaffe said.
The topic of genetically engineered food has been controversial for years. Scientists, health advocates, and concerned citizens have been raising questions about the technology over the last decade, including activists forming global marches against biotechnology giant Monsanto between 2013 and 2016.
More recently, criticism of GMOs has centered around labeling laws. To understand the current battle for labeling genetically engineered foods, one must look back to 2015. At that time, the controversial Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act passed the House in June before ultimately failing amid heavy opposition.
To critics, the bill was known as the “DARK” (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act because the law was also aimed at nullifying GMO labeling measures, such as a state labeling bill passed in Vermont. Mike Pompeo, author of the bill, criticized mandatory labeling laws as unnecessarily costly and insisted a federal standard was the answer.
In late February 2016, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts introduced another bill which attempted to create a federal voluntary standard for labeling GE food. Roberts’ Senate Bill 2609, or the Biotech Labeling Solutions Act, would have blocked mandatory labeling efforts by states.
In March 2016, the bill failed to reach the 60 votes needed during a procedural vote, with 49 votes in favor and 48 votes against. However, by July 2016 the labeling measure was added to the National Sea Grant College Program Act as the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. It was that measure which was ultimately signed into law by Obama, placing the U.S. Department of Agriculture in charge of labeling America’s genetically engineered food supply.
Under the Trump administration, the battle for labeling has died down largely due to a lack of reporting in the mainstream press and misinformation which falsely tells Americans that labeling rights have been won.
However, in July 2018, an analysis of proposed rule changes revealed that thousands of genetically engineered foods may be exempt from upcoming labeling requirements. In early May 2018, the Department of Agriculture released a draft rule describing how the labeling law is supposed to be implemented.
Between May and July 3, the USDA received 14,008 public comments. The comments indicate that some of the public is concerned about the language used in the rule. “The term bioengineered should not be used. It is both misleading and confusing to consumers. GMO, GE or Genetic Engineering should be used instead,” one commenter writes. “Please make all food items labeled correctly as GMO so consumers know exactly what they are purchasing,” another said.
The Environmental Working Group reports that if companies want to label foods which are made with genetically engineered ingredients, they must use the terms “bioengineered” or “bioengineered food ingredient,” instead of the widely known phrases “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered.”
Interestingly, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) recently conducted a survey to see how people respond to these different labels, including new symbols being tested by the USDA. The IFIC found that in every combination of label, the level of concern among consumers increased. In the survey consumers were shown bottles of canola oil without any label, with one of three symbols (plant, sun, or smile), with a symbol plus “bioengineered” on the label, and a symbol with “may be bioengineered” on the label.
As the USDA works to establish a uniform national standard for labeling foods that may be genetically engineered, critics continue to call out the dangers of putting the federal government in charge of the situation. Donald Trump’s recent executive order will only exacerbate the already confusing situation.
Americans who have concerns about the safety of GMOs will have to wrestle with the fact that these products may not be labeled and—with the latest executive order from Trump—will enter the food supply at an increasing pace in the coming years.
Jeff Bezos Thanks Amazon Workers And Customers For Paying For His Flight To Space
The billionaire space race chalked up one more ignoble milestone on July 20 when the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, boarded a reusable rocket his company Blue Origin built and funded, flew to the edge of space for a moment of weightlessness, and came back down to earth.
You can watch the flight and learn more about the journey here.
The Amazon founder has faced withering criticism for accumulating his massive fortune on the backs of an exploited workforce that is subject to harsh working conditions and low pay in warehouses or Fulfillment Centers where staffers must urinate in water bottles in order to meet their quotas.
In his press conference following the launch, Bezos thanked that same workforce for helping him to shoot himself into space in a move that many critics have described as a simple “joyride.”
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for this,” he told the crowd, which responded with laughter. “Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every employee thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”
Critics on Twitter responded with derision, noting that Bezos was able to enjoy the trip at the expense of his hard-working employees.
“Thing is, employers are supposed to pay their employees, not the other way around, but that’s basically how Amazon works,” one user tweeted.
While another tweeter asked: “Maybe they’re searching space for signs of a livable wage or a way to pay their fair share of taxes?”
On Tuesday, Bezos blasted off in the sub-orbital New Shepard rocket from Texas. The date for the launch was chosen to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Members of the crew, which included his brother mark and 82-year-old female astronaut Wally Funk, brought a number of historic items on the flight, including a piece of canvas from the conceptual plane originally flown by the Wright brothers, the goggles Amelia Earhart used to fly across the Atlantic, and a brass medal made from the first hot air balloon which flew in 1783.
Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces
Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.
And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.
The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.
The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.
At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.
When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.
Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.
The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.
The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.
“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.
“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.
“His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.
Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.
Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber
An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.
In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.
“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”
As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.
Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.
“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.
Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.
So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.
“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”
As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.
Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.
“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”