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

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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.

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