Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Whoring around on vacation

One of the more depressing things I can imagine is how European companies that have fine labor relationships and sterling environmental reputations at home become absolute pigs when they open operations in USA.  They claim they are merely complying with the laws of the land, but as this case demonstrates, they are willing to involve themselves with making the laws of the land.

In fact, they do in USA what that cannot do at home in much the same way guys go to whorehouses to get what they cannot get at home.  Nice knowing this country has been reduced to the status of a bunch of cheap whores in the eyes of foreign-based industry.  Of course, this situation has been made possible by the destruction of domestic labor standards made in the name of "competitiveness."


German giants join GM food fight in California

16.10.2012  Michael Knigge

On November 6, California will vote whether genetically modified food should be labeled - a long-standing practice in Europe. The move has drawn fierce opposition from US corporate interests - and two German firms.

The often-used biblical account of David vs. Goliath doesn't always work when it's applied to modern-day battles between two unequal adversaries, but in the fight over labeling genetically engineered foods in California it does.

The battle pits the combined resources of a vast coalition of agribusiness, food industry and grocery manufacturers against a small group of organic farmers and stores and committed individuals.

At the center of the fight is Proposition 37, an initiative that will be on the California ballot on election day and would make it mandatory to label genetically modified food. In the US there is no national law requiring foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled.

And since an estimated 80 percent of food products sold in the US contain genetically modified ingredients, a labeling law in California would force the food industry to set up two entirely separated product streams.

Even worse for the industry is Europe's record ever since the EU made GM food labels mandatory in 1997: Even though GM foods are allowed, the law has de facto kept genetically engineered foods off the shelves in Europe because consumers are simply not buying them.

Failed attempts

In the US there have been many failed attempts to require labels for GM foods in various states. But what makes Proposition 37 so significant is not just that California would be the first state to institute GM labels, its California's unique position and history among US states.

With its 37 million residents California is not just the most populous state in the union, but as a stand-alone economy it would be the ninth-biggest country in the world by gross domestic product.

Combine that with California's record as a national and international trendsetter on health and environmental regulation - for example as the first state to ban lead from gasoline, pass anti-smoking legislation, cap green houses gas emissions from businesses - and you can imagine why the food and agribusiness community is worried.

So it's no surprise then that the industry is pulling out all the stops to prevent Proposition 37 from becoming law in California.

Under the leadership of Monsanto, the world's biggest seed producer, the campaign against GM labels has so far raised $35 million (27 million euros), according to public records.

With $7 million Monsanto alone has spent more than the supporters of Proposition 37 have raised collectively so far with $4 million.

While the anti-label donor list with households names like Pepsico, Coca Cola, Kellogg and Mars reads like the Who-is-Who of the American food industry, two German companies stand out and have spent more to defeat Proposition 37 than all of the companies mentioned above.

German firms oppose Proposition 37

BASF and Bayer have each invested $2 million so far in the campaign to block GM labels in California. Only Monsanto and Dupont, the US chemical firm, spent more.

BASF, the world's biggest chemical company, and Bayer, Germany's biggest pharmaceutical company, both have large business units focused on genetic engineering. BASF earlier this year even moved the headquarters of its GM business to the US citing a lack of support in Europe.

This explains why they our outspending most other American and international companies to stop labels for GM foods, says Michael Hansen, the senior scientist at Consumers Union, the independent consumers organization which publishes Consumer Reports magazine:

"These German firms are doing the genetic engineering. So it's their stake in the fight because it's their ultimate ingredient that would be labeled."

What makes the behavior of BASF and Bayer especially intriguing is the fact that they are investing millions to oppose the very rules that have been in place in their home markets of Germany and Europe for years.

"It's outrageous that German companies are spending so much money to defeat our right to know in California," Stacy Malkin, spokeswoman for the California Right to Know 2012 ballot initiative, told DW per e-mail.

Hansen calls this behavior "situational ethics." He says the firms simply do whatever the laws of the country they do business in allow them to do.

"I think it is really a shame that Bayer and BASF finance a counter-campaign against labeling," notes Heike Moldenhauer, the GM expert at Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) in Berlin. "Both wouldn't dare such propaganda here in Europe."

"I find it actually a little outrageous that particularly German companies meddle so massively in domestic US policy," says Martin Häusling, agricultural policy spokesman for the Greens in the European Parliament.

He adds that they certainly have the legal right to do so, but that the European and German public should know about their behavior. "I am not sure if this will help the public image of these companies." more

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