Consumer Groups Launch National Push for Supermarkets to Label GMOs

Consumers and health advocates launched a national campaign calling on local and regional supermarket chains to label their store-brand products for ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), on the one year anniversary of Whole Foods’ announcement that it will adopt labeling for all products in its stores. 

“Whole Foods took a big step, and it’s time for other supermarkets to deliver for their customers,” said Meghan Hess, Associate Field Director with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.  “Consumers have real concerns about GMOs, including the way they lead to increased pesticide use, and they have a right to know what’s in their food.”

State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) held events in 16 states on across the country on March 7th and 8th to rally local grassroots supporters, farmers, legislators, and consumer and environmental groups around the campaign. 

As part of the events, U.S. PIRG Education Fund also released a report documenting other recent actions companies have taken in response to consumers’ desire for better information about GMO ingredients in their food.  In addition to Whole Foods’ commitment to labeling, other recent actions include:

  • Chipotle and Ben & Jerry’s announced they will label the food they sell for GMO ingredients, and eventually move towards phasing out those ingredients.
  • Both Cheerios and Grape-Nuts are going GMO-free.
  • The Non-GMO Project, which offers voluntary GMO labeling, in 2013 saw a 300% year-over-year increase in producer interest.

And just this week, Kroger and Safeway joined other grocery chains, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Target by announcing they would not sell genetically engineered salmon, even if it’s approved for sale.

“Polls consistently show more than 90% of the public supports labeling,” continued Hess.  “It’s just smart business sense for companies to give their customers what they want.”

 “Consumers expect transparency from the brands they trust to feed their families,” noted Lucia von Reusner, Shareholder Advocate at Green Century Capital Management. “Labeling GMOs is the logical step for any company hoping to win today's increasingly informed and sophisticated consumer.”

“GMO labeling is a common-sense solution that will help consumers know what’s on their plates, no matter where they do their grocery shopping,” concluded Hess. “On the anniversary of Whole Foods’ commitment, it’s time for other supermarket chains to do the same.”

President Obama Expands California Coastal Monument

President Barack Obama signed a proclamation to permanently protect California’s Stornetta Public Lands as part of the California Coastal National Monument. The move saves 1,600 acres of beach, wetlands, dunes, and waterways along Northern California’s scenic coastline.

Nathan Weaver, Preservation Advocate with Environment California, issued the following statement:

“We are thrilled that President Obama expanded the California Coastal Monument to include Stornetta Public Lands. Stornetta’s beaches, tide pools, islands, wetlands, and wildlife perfectly capture the rugged beauty of California’s northern coastline. The area is home to rare and endangered animals, including the snowy plover, the Point Arena mountain beaver, and Behren's silverspot butterfly. We are heartened that this incredible place will be protected for future generations of Californians to enjoy.

“Protecting this beautiful area of California’s northern coast would not be possible without the advocacy of our congressional leaders. I thank Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Congressmen Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson. In addition I thank Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and President Obama for their leadership on protecting this California treasure.

“This will be the first new national monument proclaimed since President Obama declared ‘I'll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations’ in his Jan. 28 State of the Union address. California is home to hundreds of thousands of pristine acres under threat and eligible for protection. We look forward to continuing to work with the President and his team to continue saving California’s mountains, deserts, lakes, and beautiful places statewide.”

President Obama's Budget Good News for Our Parks, Climate Action, Shortchanges Clean Water Program

Anna Aurilio, director of Environment America’s Washington, D.C. office, issued the following statement in response to President Obama releasing his annual budget proposal:

“We are thankful the president’s budget fulfills last year’s promise to fully fund our nation’s premier conservation fund, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, giving our parks and public lands the critical protection they need from development and pollution.

“The president’s budget also takes an important step in keeping our parks open to the public and protected this summer while investing in the National Parks Centennial Initiative. Last summer, years of budget cuts forced places like Yosemite National Park and the Florida Everglades to reduce staff, close campgrounds, and shorten the tourist season.

“We are also thankful that the president has reiterated his commitment to tackle global warming in his budget by providing the additional resources needed to implement his Climate Action Plan as well as providing increased resources to enforce laws to protect our air and water.

“However, we are very disappointed in the deep cuts to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and the Great Lakes restoration efforts, which will restrict our ability to protect our waterways and our communities from sewage overflow and runoff pollution.”

See more information on Aurillio's analysis here.

DOT Report on Infrastructure Needs Overstates Future Increases in Driving

In response to the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2013 Conditions and Performance Report Phineas Baxandall, Ph.D., Senior Analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says:  “The US DOT seems to be stuck in a bizarre time warp.  For nine years in a row Americans have decreased their average driving miles. We haven’t seen an annual increase of even one percent in total vehicle miles since 2004. Yet, US DOT forecasts that total vehicle miles will increase between 1.36 percent to 1.85 percent each year through 2030. That doesn’t make sense.

“High estimates of future driving have serious implications. They lead to excessive spending on new and wider highways to accommodate anticipated traffic increases. In the face of scarce transportation funds, overly high driving forecasts translate into too little attention paid to repairing the roads we already have and too little investment in other modes of travel.

“America has huge unmet needs for transportation investment, but we must be smart about those priorities. We shouldn’t assume a return to past travel habits when Americans are persistently driving less and using other forms of transportation more. The number of annual vehicle miles traveled has fallen by seven percent since 2004. On a per-person basis, Americans are currently driving as much as they did back in 1996.

“America needs a frank conversation about our transportation priorities. We need forecasts that take notice of present trends and help us prepare for the future. This doesn’t do that.”


Skating on Thin Ice: Global Warming and the Olympics

As the world turns its attention to the Sochi Olympic Games, Environment America revealed a summary of impacts global warming is having on Winter Olympic sports, and highlighting the need to act urgently to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming.

“When it comes to the future of winter sports, global warming has us skating on thin ice,” said Julian Boggs, global warming program director with Environment America. “There’s still time to keep from sliding off the edge by going after the biggest sources of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.”

Environment America pointed to increased rate of snow melt, shorter winters, drought, and a shrinking map of reliable winter sites, as climate impacts are threatening the Winter Olympic Games. They also warned that unchecked global warming could accelerate these changes. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, organizers trucked in and manufactured tons of extra powder. The unusually warm conditions that trigger these extreme measures could become the new normal.

U.S. PIRG Applauds the Government by the People Act

U.S. PIRG proudly endorses the Government By the People Act, legislation introduced on Feb. 5 in the U.S. House of Representatives that would put ordinary Americans back in charge of our elections.

The Government By the People Act would change the way our elections are financed through a combination of matching funds for small donations, and a “My Voice” tax credit.  Instead of relying on Wall Street executives or lobbyists, participating candidates would rely on the ones the founding fathers intended them to represent: we the people.

Here’s how it would work:

  • People would be encouraged to give small contributions through two parts of the proposal: first, contributions of under $150 would be amplified on a six to one basis by a newly created "Freedom from Influence Fund." No large contributions would be matched at all.
  • Second, the first $25 people contribute would qualify for a "My Voice" refundable tax credit

Learn more about the Government By the People Act at: www.ofby.us 

Environment America Releases "Shalefield Stories"

Environment America has joined residents living on the frontlines of fracking who recounted their stories of illness, water contamination, and damage to their livelihoods due to dirty drilling operations in a new booklet called Shalefield Stories. The new booklet was released even as President Obama touted natural gas development in his State of the Union speech and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz asserted last week that the impacts of fracking are “challenging but manageable.” 

Shalefield Stories was compiled by individual residents in Pennsylvania, who arranged for Environment America  to release it across the country.

Environment America Mobilizes Thousands Of Comments To The Coast Guard On Fracking

Before Environment America got on the case, the U.S. Coast Guard had received a few hundred comments concerning a proposal to allow barges to ship toxic fracking wastes on the nation's rivers. As of last Friday, more than 29,000 people had emailed the Coast Guard in opposition.

2012 Marked Cleanest Cars On The Road In History With Public Interest Network Groups' Help

The EPA reported on Dec. 12 that 2012 model year cars were the most fuel-efficient in American history. The milestone is due in part to the work of the PIRGs and Environment America in promoting state clean car standards, which paved the way for today's federal standard. http://grist.org/news/americas-new-cars-are-more-fuel-efficient-than-eve...

Green Corps Wins Big Changes In The Palm Oil Industry

The largest agribusiness company in Asia and the primary supplier of palm oil to American industry giant Kelloggs announced on December 5 a commitment to sweeping changes in practices that have endangered local people and wildlife, including tigers. The changes, which promise to end deforestation as well as human rights abuses, came in response to a campaign waged by Forest Heroes with help from Green Corps. The Green Corps campaign recruited hundreds of volunteers, mobilized thousands to take action, confronted Kellogg's with the message, "What Would Tony (the Tiger) Say?", and earned media coverage everywhere from TIME to Kellogg's hometown paper, the Battle Creek Enquirer: http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/article/20131120/news01/311200018/pal...

Over 13,700 Environment America Supporters Called On EPA To Close Clean Water Loophole

A Clean Water Act loophole has left 2.5 million miles of our streams, 20 million acres of wetlands, and the drinking water for 117 million Americans at risk.  Environment America organizing resulted in over 13,700 supporters backing the push to close this loophole.

112,000 Back MASSPIRG's Efforts To Update The State's Bottle Bill

MASSPIRG and its allies have gathered more than 112,000 signatures to qualify an updated Bottle Bill for the 2014 state ballot. They delivered the signatures to cities and towns throughout the state this week.

Green Century Funds Help Investors Go Fossil Fuel Free

Green Century Capital Management has been a leading voice for fossil fuel divestment in the press and in the socially responsible investing field. Green Century recently released two mini-reports on going fossil fuel free, with one titled "Five Reasons to Consider Divesting from Fossil Fuels" and the other "The Power and Limits of Shareholder Advocacy with Fossil Fuel Companies." Meanwhile, Green Century  and 350.org launched a personal divestment campaign Oct. 22nd including the release of a new guide called "Extracting Fossil Fuels from Your Portfolio: A Guide to Personal Divestment and Reinvestment." Visit greencentury.com for more.

WashPIRG Continues To Push For GMO Labeling

Following a roughly $20 million campaign by Big Ag to kill Washington's GMO labeling initiative, corporations including Monsanto, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills and NestleUSA managed to turn a 66% approval of the GMO labeling initiative into a 45% approval.  As a result, the WashPIRG backed initiative did not pass and consumers still won't know whether GMO ingredients are in the foods they are buying.

Environment Texas Backed Water Conservation Measure Overwhelmingly Approved By Voters

Nearly three quarters of Texas voters approved a $2 billion water infrastructure measure on the ballot November 5th. Environment Texas' Luke Metzger applauded the passage saying, "Proposition 6 gives us a chance to chart a direction toward a more water-efficient economy that cuts water waste, maximizes conservation, and protects our rivers."

PIRG Helps Deliver 160,000 Signatures To Keep JP Morgan From Deducting Its Fines From Its Taxes

160,000 Americans joined PIRG and Americans for Tax Fairness in calling on the Department of Justice to ensure the department's settlement with JPMorgan Chase over mortgage lending abuses is not tax-deductible.   As much as $3 billion of a $13 billion settlement for corporate wrongdoing could be written off from the company's taxes unless the Department of Justice acts. In addition, five U.S. senators have signed a letter written urging the Justice Department to not allow JPMorgan to write off its upcoming settlement as a tax deduction. The letter references U.S. PIRG’s January report on tax-deductible settlements for corporate wrongdoing. The five senators were Hirono (Hawaii), Nelson (Fla.), Warren (Mass.), Heinrich (N.M.) and Whitehouse (R.I.)

Environment America's Anna Aurillio and U.S. PIRG's Ed Mierzwinski Make The Hill's Top Grassroots Lobbyist List

Once again, Environment America's Anna Aurilio and U.S. PIRG's Ed Mierzwinski made The Hill's Top Lobbyist list, grassroots division.  The Hill reported how Anna "executes a mix of inside persuasion and outside grassroots pressure at the scrappy green group" while Ed has "proven his mettle while fighting for health and safety protections in trade deals and the strict implementation of the Dodd-Frank law."

Environment California Moves To Save Native Kit Foxes

Only 7,000 San Joaquin kit fox remain, and now the animals' habitat -- the Carrizo Plain, the largest native grassland in California -- is vulnerable to drilling and development. Environment California is mobilizing supporters to urge Congress to declare the grasslands a wilderness area, and so far more than 3,000 have taken action.

Senator John McCain Thanks AZPIRG For Work On Corporate Tax Loopholes

On October 26th at one of Senator John McCain's town hall meetings, Arizona PIRG's Serene Unrein thanked him for speaking out against corporate tax loopholes.  He responded by saying, "I want to thank you and your organizing for your leadership on this. I mean it!"

Environment America Quantifies, For First Time, Harm Done By Fracking Across The Country

According to Environment America Research & Policy Center's new report, "Fracking by the Numbers,"fracking is generating enough waste to bury Washington D.C in a 22 foot deep toxic lagoon.  This is the the first report to quantify the harm being done by fracking across the country. http://www.ohio.com/blogs/drilling/ohio-utica-shale-1.291290/new-report-...