Thursday, August 4, 2016

News: Some Good, Some Not So

Let's start with the not-so-good.  Last Friday, July 29th, President Obama signed into law a Federal GMO labeling bill. We at the library watch GMO legislation and development closely because pollen spreads and we are adamant that we do not want to grow or eat GMO food until it's been honestly and appropriately tested.  

The bill that Obama signed is a travesty - it is the worst possible outcome of all legislation that could have been enacted.  The law, in the first place, destroys state laws for labeling - like the perfect reasonable Vermont bill.  Vermont's law held food manufacturers to place a simple line, "This item contains GMOs" on the outside of the container.  Nothing ambiguous there - and manufacturers were complying.  

A QR code.  You need a smartphone and
an internet connection. And know how to use it.
I do, but do your grandparents? 
The Federal law makes everything massively more complex and renders a foolish and idiotic result. First off, there is no labeling for two years because the Dept of Agriculture needs that time to "study" the problem.  Secondly, many GMOs already in our food supply, will not have to be labeled according to this law - things like high-fructose corn syrup. And the label will be in the form of a QR code or an 800 number to further obfuscation.  

I have heard a lawsuit against this bill is pending.  I hope we get some sanity with some legal reprieve.  If not, prepare for wholesale boycotts and other actions to show our dissatisfaction with this horribly flawed law.

On the other hand!  

The American Association of Seed Control Officials and the American Seed Trade Association are recommending that seed libraries be exempt from the laws of seed businesses as regulated by state agricultural departments.

The RUSSL (Recommended Uniform State Seed Law) amendment is a groundbreaking document that allows seed libraries to continue operating in the commons without penalty. This means no fees, no germination testing, and no expiration dates. As the name implies, the RUSSL amendment is a recommendation and must be approved legislatively state by state.

Neil Thapar at Sustainable Economies Law Center, the lone male head
in the back on the left, and Betsy Goodman, down in front,
founder of the Omaha, NB seed libraries played a very large
part in getting this through the AASCO!  
This IS good news, but keep the corks in the champagne for a minute or two more.  This is not a law - it is a RECOMMENDATION for future laws. If the law in your state excludes seed libraries from doing what seed libraries do, this changes nothing.  BUT, it does mean, when seed saving laws come up for discussion in your state legislatures, this language from the AASCO, will be the language that will be suggested as a place to start.  That is big news, but don't roll down to your county ag office with an invitation to swap seeds just yet.
There are so many awesome people to thank for their hard work opposing the distressing Federal law and they deserve to know we value the work they did for us. In CA, Boxer stood with us, while Feinstein defected. And, of course, Obama, who had campaigned FOR labeling, was the biggest let down of all. But we will work to make sure it doesn't stand. GMOs do not play well with other crops - we have seen this contamination cause financial hardship and devastation to organic farms who are held liable for the spread of the patented genes.  
We thank Neil Thapar and Betsy Goodman and others for going to the annual meeting of AASCO and asking them to consider our seed libraries.  

I did not go because I felt it would be futile.  Shows you what I know and shows you what can happen when you do show up!  I have a great deal of respect for all these folks that made this happen - it does not change California law, which is still pending, but it's due to come up sometime in August and we'll keep you posted!


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