What IS Hillary Clinton’s Stance on GMOs?

Clinton’s long history of being pro GMO, ties to Monsanto through close associates, and failure to grasp the simplest of truths about GM science makes her semi-sorta-kinda support for the right to know and independent science a bit of a puzzle.

Jeffrey Smith was in attendance at Clinton’s town hall meeting in Fairfield, Iowa, 12/22/15.  His report:

Hillary Clinton told a town hall meeting in Fairfield, Iowa on Tuesday, December 22 that consumers have the right to know if they are eating GMOs and that more independent scientific evaluation of them is needed. She also referred to the previous week’s massive lobbying effort by GMO manufacturers and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the US Senate’s failure to vote on the labeling preemption law in 2015 by saying, “Very powerful agriculture forces were trying to pass a law, get it into the Omnibus, to prohibit states from passing laws requiring labeling.” When she acknowledged that the preemption didn’t get into the bill, the crowd erupted in applause. Clinton said, “That was a good development for Secretary Vilsack.”

She gave support to former Iowa Governor turned US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who was also in the town hall meeting. “What he’s trying to do as the Secretary of Agriculture for our country,” said Clinton, “is to get a labeling program started and try to get everybody at the table to agree on what we need to do here.”

Clinton’s biggest applause came when she said, “What [Secretary Vilsack is] trying to do is get states and advocates and agricultural interests all at the same table to say, ‘Look there’s a right to know. You should be able to have the information that you can make your judgment about.’”

 

Clinton Gets Science Wrong as She Calls for More Science

Clinton said that we needed “more science on this—independent science that we can count on that doesn’t get done by some institution, company, whatever, that has a stake in the outcome. That’s what I am supporting.”

 Ironically, she then followed up with a statement that completely bungled the science. She made the claim that “. . . there are a lot of advocates who fight hunger in Africa who are desperate for GMO seeds, because they are drought resistant and they don’t know how else they’re going to get enough yield to feed people.”

According to the USDA’s own reports, however, GMOs do not increase yield and often yield less than their non-GMO counterparts. And the drought-resistant corn variety approved by the USDA was widely criticized for yielding less than conventional, non-GMO varieties.[1]

Clinton’s proposal for independent science is in sharp contrast to the current state of US government evaluations, which rely almost entirely on the data submitted by the biotech companies.[2] These include Monsanto, who has been accused of falsifying safety data in other of their products in the past, and hiding evidence of harm.[3]

Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration allows GMO makers to decide on their own whether their foods are safe, and does not even require any safety data to be submitted.[4] This policy was crafted by the FDA’s Michael Taylor in 1992, who was formerly Monsanto’s attorney, later Monsanto’s vice president, and now back at the FDA as the US Food Czar.[5]

If Clinton’s proposal to use the best science were actually applied, the current GMOs on the market would likely be withdrawn, based on numerous adverse effects found in animal feeding studies[6]. Furthermore, over 80% are engineered with foreign genes that allow the crops to be sprayed with Roundup herbicide. This results in high residue levels of Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate, which the World Health Organization recently classified as a probable human carcinogen[7]. Most of the other GMO varieties are engineered to produce a toxic insecticide that kills bugs by breaking holes in the walls of their stomachs. Published research now shows that toxin can also create holes in human cells[8], and may also provoke immune reactions.

 

Clinton Supports GMOs and Has Monsanto Links

In 2014 Clinton was the paid keynote speaker for the world’s largest GMO trade association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)[9]. Her support for GMOs was evident throughout, and she even schooled the companies on doing better public relations. She famously expressed her distaste for the words “genetically modified” saying, “’Genetically modified’ sounds Frankenstein-ish. ‘Drought-resistant’ sounds like something you’d want.” She advised her GMO industry audience to “be more careful so you don’t raise that red flag immediately.”

Clinton also hired Iowa lawyer, lobbyist and campaign “bundler” Jerry Crawford to raise money and help support her current campaign, as well as for her 2008 bid for the White House. Crawford’s law firm became a registered lobbyist for Monsanto in 2009, to advocate on its behalf in the areas of competition/antitrust, environmental law, regulations and policies[10]. He also is a long-time friend and support of Tom Vilsack, [11] who is a longtime proponent of GMOs and a recipient of BIO’s Vilsack “Governor of the Year” award in 2001.[12]

 

What Clinton Failed to Say

I had been told by an insider that Clinton had been briefed in advance about the audience’s pro-GMO labeling position; and she certainly played to the crowd when she called for more independent science and touted the right to know. But unlike her specific proposal discussed minutes earlier, where she called for $2 billion per year to pay for research into Alzheimer’s disease, her recommendation for independent science on GMOs did not stipulate where independent money should come from or how much.

She also placed her faith in the resolution of the labeling issue with Secretary Vilsack’s meeting of stakeholders. She failed to mention the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association is trying to circumvent real labels on packages, and substitute a bar code system that requires shoppers to use smart phones to look up whether foods contain GMOs. Vilsack has also weighed in in favor of bar codes. But a recent poll showed that 88% of consumers reject bar codes and favor an actual statement written in English[13].

Will Hillary Clinton reject the bar code concept and stand with consumers? Will she propose specific funding for independent safety studies on GMOs? And will she even look at the independent science already conducted and abandon her unsupported “Feed the World” through GMOs position? Given her cozy relationship with the Biotech Industry Association and Monsanto, it is not likely. But there are many town hall meetings left where citizens can ask pointed and specific questions to her and the other candidates so we can dig deeper into her position and what we can expect her to do with GMOs, if elected.

But there’s a caveat: Barack Obama also called for labeling and more science when he campaigned in Iowa. And so far, he has not made good on these campaign promises[14].

 

References

[1] http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1282242/err162_summary.pdf

[2] http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=AGRICULTURE&contentid=BiotechnologyFAQs.xml

[3] http://www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/16521-more-monsanto-scientific-fraud-in-early-glyphosate-safety-studies

[4] http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/GEPlants/default.htm

[5] http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofFoods/ucm196721.htm

[6] http://responsibletechnology.org/resources/gmo-myths-and-truths-report/

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/business/who-report-links-ingredient-in-roundup-to-cancer.html

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22337346

[9] https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/video-hilary-clinton-endorses-gmos-solution-focused-crop-biotechnology

[10] http://www.gmwatch.org/news/archive/2009/11783-iowa-law-firm-files-as-monsanto-lobbyist

[11] http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/close-friend-of-agriculture-chief-now-a-monsanto-lobbyist/article/19855

[12] https://www.bio.org/media/press-release/iowas-vilsack-named-bio-governor-year

[13] http://www.justlabelit.org/press-room/new-poll-nearly-nine-in-10-americans-want-labels-on-gmo-food

[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqaaB6NE1TI