(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.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.