Monsanto Gets a Smackdown, Orexigen Nixes Its Diet Pill—but Frankenfish Labeling Bill Flops in California

updateWe have updates on three big action items we’ve covered in these pages—two wins, one loss.

Monsanto Loses on Sugar Beets

As we reported last February, the USDA said it would once again allow the Monsanto’s genetically engineered sugarbeet to be planted, contrary to the ruling of a district court judge who had ordered that a full environmental impact statement (EIS) needed to be done first. An EIS of the type ordered by the judge is usually thousands of pages long and takes years to conduct. That would have kept the genetically modified sugarbeets out of the hands of farmers at least through 2012.

So we launched an Action Alert, and you and thousands of other activists fought back—and won! Two weeks ago, the US Court of Appeals issued a summary order that dismissed Monsanto’s case—and said that previous court rulings in favor of organic farmers and natural health advocates will stand, including the order requiring the USDA to complete a full EIS before deciding whether to again allow their future commercial use.

An attorney for the plaintiffs said, “Because of this case, there will be public disclosure and debate on the harmful impacts of these pesticide-promoting crops, as well as legal protections for farmers threatened by contamination.”

California GE Fish Labeling Bill, AB 88, Defeated in Committee

On May 13, we emailed an emergency Action Alert to California residents about Assembly Bill 88, which would have required labeling of genetically engineered fish.

As we had previously reported, the FDA is considering approval for the genetically engineered salmon, better known as the “Frankenfish.” If approved, it will be the first genetically engineered and untested animal to be eaten by humans in the US. So when the California legislature was considering a bill to label GE fish and give residents a conscious choice about the food they buy, we strongly supported the legislation.

The bill gained more traction than many other GE state bills. It was referred to the committee on health where it actually passed. From the health committee it was sent to the appropriations committee, but there, unfortunately, it failed to win passage on May 27.

Troubled Diet Pill Contrave Pulled from Development

We recently discussed the weight-loss drug Contrave, made by Orexigen. In February, the FDA declined to approve it for the time being, expressing concern about Contrave’s cardiovascular effects when used long-term in a population of overweight and obese subjects. Officials told the manufacturer it must conduct a study “of sufficient size and duration” to demonstrate that the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other major cardiovascular events does not undermine the drug’s risk-benefit profile.

Our big concern about Contrave is that it includes an SSRI antidepressant, which most users wouldn’t even realize is there until they try to stop taking the drug and discover how incredibly addictive SSRIs are, as we noted in our recent article on them.

After the February announcement, Orexigen’s stock prices dropped 73 points; and in the four months since, prices have continued to bottom out. In response, the manufacturer said it will halt development of the drug in the US.

Bloomberg reports that the FDA is planning to ask an advisory committee to review general requirements for cardiovascular safety and diet pills, but that the meeting won’t be held until early next year. The agency told Orexigen that after that meeting, all products under development may be “measured by a different bar” for approval—which sounds to our ears like a promise that crony capitalism will be with us for some time to come.


  1. Thank you for all your endless hard work. You are appreciated.

  2. Need to take another shot at killing GE Salmon AKA Frankenfish. In fact if we are to be stuck with GE fish I would like them to make the manufacturer’s call them Frankenfish right on the label.

    1. Absolutely. Maybe eating this ridiculous excuse for “healthy” food is what is creating this insane blow to health.

    2. I will not be eating any salmon from now on unless it says wild-caught. It failed in the appropriations committe so it tells me that those who would prevent money from reaching old people and babies are the same people who do not want to label salmon.

    3. I hope when frankenfish comes out it will in fact be labled. Until then, I may just skip the salmon. I’m so sick of all of this, but I know it isn’t going away ever. The money peopel will not be happy until they have distroyed everything and even then, they will be selling you garbage they’ve made from the garbage they have already made of everything else. Until the almighty buck stops ruling, it will never stop. All we can do is fight our little fights, and win where we can. Big buiness thinks we are a joke, mainly because we don’t have enough people behind us to make a conquoring difference. I know people who laugh about GM, GE, and say, “oh well we all have to die for something, ha ha”. That’s a great mentallity in this country. I’ve met many who think like that. In the world I live in, I feel alone, because people are uncomfortable believing that the FDA or our government will ever let anything bad happen to us. I express on these boards and through the letters I write to Washington, but for the most part I find Americans think I’m an alarmist, and these problems are not so bad.

  3. I guess I really don’t get the drive to ‘play god’ with genetically modifying everything. I’m all for scientific progress and new frontiers… just not at the expense of basic standard-issue human values and principles.
    At what point does the health of our food supply and our citizens trump the greed of the mad scientists of the Big Food and Drug industries?
    …maybe when a human being pops out a third eyeball…

    1. Jill.. it’s not about playing god … it’s about making money and destroying the competition (those purist Organic folks who want to stop Monsanto from doing what it takes to make money)
      Monsanto has been very successful at destroying the Organic movement (dammit!). It’s not a complete win, but organic animals may soon be a thing of the past. Monsanto corn and soy pollen travel miles and contaminates organic soy and corn which is then fed to organic beef, chickens, hogs …… sigh….
      And, it’s not the mad scientists, but the greedy businessmen (and an occasional woman) who hire scientists to do their work. Big Business people, for the most part are selfish — and that’s being euphemistic.

      1. I agree with Jim Adams, it is simply about money. Greedy corporations trying to make big profits. Hopefully people will get smart about what they consume. If no one purchases the poisons that these large food companies produce they will have no large profit margins.

  4. Please keep up the hard work! This world is getting to be a frightening place when we are not allowed to choose which foods we feed our families and when foods we do not wish to feed our families is forced on us in subtle and hidden ways!

  5. Please see :
    Population growth will require a doubling of food production by the end of this century.
    Climate change will reduce the productivity of many existing plant and animal strains in their current growing regions.
    Other strains whose productivity was expected to increase at higher temperatures and greater CO2 levels did not perform as well as was expected.
    I have contributed to ZPG and other population organizations for many years in the face of religious leaders who promoted unlimited procreation with the promise that their deity would intervene. See how well that has worked in Africa?
    I have opined that cultures who are ruled by such superstition should be allowed to starve and have been branded callous.
    Somehow those who would prohibit genetic engineering of crop strains (which would have exactly that effect) brand themselves as enlightened.
    Do they offer a deity (perhaps Mother Nature) who will intervene?
    Is the vitalist position another religion or is it a cynical marketing ploy to enrich organic agricultural producers at the expense of mass starvation?

    1. Genetic engineering has so far not lived up to its promises and is extremely risky because of the vast number of unintended consequences that are possible, even probable. There have been famines and fatalities throughout human history; indeed, plague and famine are the ways population has been limited, brutal though they seem. The companies that are doing the engineering do not even want others to know which products they produce. This quite conveniently protects them from legal liability and other forms of accountability.
      Small, diverse farms can outproduce vast monocultures when managed by skilled and knowledgeable people. China produces 75% of the world’s food on far less than 75% of the world’s arable land, although they are far from organic and have quality problems. They are not doing this with monocultures. Genetic modification cannot respond to climate change because there are too many factors that contribute to what makes plants yield. A very large number of diversified farmers with a great deal of genetic diversity could do a better job, but the trend for the whole of the industrial era has been to dispossess them via low prices. Read The End of Food by Paul Roberts for an extensive consideration of the issue of food and the future. Accepting the doings of corporations who perform extremely flawed science requires more faith than protesting them does. Don’t marginalize us into a cult; we know what we’re talking about.

    2. I really don’t expect anything to intervene in the coming crisis, but Monsanto certainly is no deity of mine!

  6. Subj: Frankenfish labeling in CA.
    Can you sue the organization that is behind the loss in the voting on this issue ?
    Thanks for your efforts.

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