Center for Food Safety

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The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is a U.S. non-profit organization, based in Washington, D.C., that also maintains an office in San Francisco, California. The center is led by the attorney Andrew Kimbrell, and its listed goal is to protect human health and the environment, focusing on artificial food production technologies such as genetically modified plants and organisms, which according to the CFS have been scientifically proven to be harmful to the environment and to human health.[1]


The Center for Food Safety promotes organic foods and sustainable agriculture. It is a national non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization, aiming at protecting human health and the environment. The CFS also educates consumers concerning the definition of organic food and organic products.[2]

In order to achieve its goals, the Center for Food Safety established a "True Food Network", an online social network through which it provides information about its legal actions,[3] about relevant scientific and policy reports,[4] books, and other educational materials, and promotes market pressure and grass roots campaigns.

Fields of activity and legal action[edit]

The Center for Food Safety's claims it has been central and successful in several legal cases, collectively representing a landmark body of case law on food and agricultural issues:

The CFS has participated in legal challenges against various Genetically Engineered (GE) crops, such as GE alfalfa, wheat, rice, beets, and claims to have successfully stopped the commercialization of at least seven of these in the US, including the introduction of controversial Pharming plants (GE plants which produce biopharmaceuticals).[5]

The CFS has also been a key advocate for GE food labeling at both the state and federal level, pushing for new legislation and generating public support across the country for the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action.[6]

In addition to its work on GE foods, the Center for Food Safety has filed numerous legal petitions concerning the food industry, to halt the use of dangerous feed additives in industrial livestock,[7] and to protect pollinators from toxic pesticides.[8]

The organization works on: genetically modified foods animals and organisms (GMO), organic food standards, aquaculture, pesticides and pollinators, animal cloning, food irradiation, CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations - huge animal growing factories) and animal drugs, synthetic hormones (such as bovine somatropin), and mad cow disease.

The Center for Food Safety has organized a grass-roots action network dedicated to "building a socially just, democratic, and sustainable food system". The CFS has more than 375,000 members nationwide.

Executive director Andrew Kimbrell[edit]

Founded in 1997, the center's executive director is Andrew Kimbrell, a long time consumer advocate, public interest attorney, environmental activist, and author.

As Senior Attorney and Policy Director for the Foundation for Economic Trends, Kimbrell successfully challenged federal agencies in several key environmental court cases, including a U.S. Supreme Court victory, as part of a coalition of petitioning organisations, forcing the regulation of motor vehicles carbon dioxide pollution under the Clean Air Act, to safeguard the American public from ozone layer depletion and raising global climate change standards.[9][10]

Kimbrell’s accolades include a spot on Utne Reader’s list of the world's leading 100 visionaries,[11] and The Guardian recognized him in 2008 as one of the 50 people who could save the planet.[12] He is also frequent contributor to documentaries, including the 2004 film, The Future of Food.[13]

Legal cases against genetically modified crops[edit]

The Center for Food Safety was active in organising a coalition of organic food activists and environmentalists to launch important legal challenges against the planting of genetically modified crops in the US.


On 21 June 2010, the US Supreme Court issued its first ruling in regard to a GM crop in the case Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms. This was a ruling in regard to Roundup Ready alfalfa.[14] This legal challenge was coordinated by Center for Food Safety, which had won at the federal district court and appeals court levels.

The case goes back to 2006, when organic farmers, concerned about the impact of GM alfalfa on their crops, sued Monsanto. In response, the California Northern District Court ruled that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was in error when it approved the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa. According to the presiding judge, the law required the USDA to first conduct a full environmental study, which it had not done. It was the concern of the organic growers that the GM alfalfa could cross-pollinate with their organic alfalfa, making their crops unsalable in countries that forbid the growing of GM crops.

The impact of the current US Supreme Court ruling is somewhat unclear, with both sides appearing to claim victory.[15][16] While Monsanto can claim technical victory in the case, various other issues still remain open, and will likely be litigated in the future. Meanwhile, the planting of GM alfalfa remains halted in the US, and it is unclear when it may resume.

Sugar beets[edit]

In 2009-2010, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has been considering the case involving the planting of genetically modified sugar beets. This case involves Monsanto's breed of pesticide-resistant sugar beets.[17] This lawsuit was also organised by Center for Food Safety.

Earlier in 2010, Judge Jeffrey S. White allowed the planting of GM sugar beets to continue, but he also warned that this may be blocked in the future while an environmental review was taking place. Finally, on 13 August 2010, Judge White ordered the halt to the planting of the genetically modified sugar beets in the US. He indicated that "the Agriculture Department had not adequately assessed the environmental consequences before approving them for commercial cultivation."[18]

Monsanto Roundup resistant soy beans[edit]

In 2013, the supreme court unanimously decided against a farmer who had used grain from a grain elevator that included a high percentage of GE grain from Monsanto, without renewing his annual purchase from them, and thus infringing on Monsanto's patents.

Andrew Kimbrell from the CFS said about this decision: "The court chose to protect Monsanto over farmers."[19]

The herbicide and pesticide chemical arms race[edit]

In a 2012 article on the Huffington Post blog website, Kimbrell claimed that the Monsanto developed soy, corn and cotton seeds, resistant to Agent Orange and other chemicals the like of it, as well as Dow Chemical's developments, are promoting a major boost in the usage of these herbicides and pesticides some of which have been proven to be highly toxic.[20]

These developments have been made to combat newly resistant weeds and insects, immune to developed pesticides and herbicides, which became "a problem needing national attention" according to a National Academy of Sciences committee.[20]

Kimbrell's most alarming claim is that according to some, the reliance on this non-diverse type of grain, may be "a threat to global food production".[20][21]

One month later, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to reaffirm its denial of the petition, and to allow continued usage of these chemicals,[22] and in 2014 the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave a green light to allow the seeds to be used, calling the "Agent Orange scare" a 'fad', and 'demonizing', since the herbicide uses only one part of the 'agent', a part which is claimed to be non-toxic to humans.[23]

Criticism of the CFS[edit]

Anti activist website 'Activist Facts' has criticized Kimbrell and the CFS and accused them of receiving extremely large sums of money from the Foundation for Deep Ecology, and being the "high priest" of that movement. The site claims that the CFS promoted a Mad Cow disease scare, claiming it had reached the United States via deer, when in fact it had not.[24]

The Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI), a pro Genetically-Engineered food organisation, claims that in one case, Kimbrell was said to have released a baseless food poisoning scare in the Wall Street Journal, following a request to exempt Monsanto from recalling of CANOLA oil from seed with a not yet US approved gene, (although approved in Canada) found in small quantities in their oil, after deciding to concentrate on a different gene that had similar results.[25]

Pro GE crop development scientists and organisations disagree with anti GE organisations such as the CFS, and argue that the FDA and the courts are careful, scientific and truthful, and that most of the anti GE claims from organisations like CFS are based on emotion, on misrepresented facts and not on science and the scientific method.[26]


  1. ^ Andrew sss on the CFS achievements
  2. ^ About us (Center for Food Safety website)
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ No paradise for pharming, "Lawsuit seeking information on Hawaii test fields is just the beginning, activists say" (July 2003, TheScientist online magazine website)
  6. ^ Vermont gov signs law to require labels on GMO foods (May 2014, USA Today website)
  7. ^
  8. ^ Beekeepers and Public Interest Groups Sue EPA Over Bee-Toxic Pesticides, a 'Pesticide Activation Network' document promoting alternative pesticides. (University of Minnesota entomology department website)
  9. ^ The real price of gas Kimbrel's original claims (American Coalition for Ethanol website).
  10. ^ Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, Supreme court opinion, (Page 7 of PDF document, page 1 of actual report after syllabus summary)
  11. ^
  12. ^ 50 people who could save the planet (The Guardian website)
  13. ^ 'The Future of Food' movie's official website
  14. ^ Monsanto Company v. Geertson Seed Farms at ScotusWiki - Briefs and Documents, etc.
  15. ^ Hollow victory for Monsanto in alfalfa court case New Scientist, 22 June 2010 (accessed 22 June 2010)
  16. ^ Supreme Court on Modified Foods: Who Won?, by Barry Estabrook, 'The Atlantic'. June 22, 2010 (accessed June 22, 2010)
  17. ^ Supreme Court Lifts Ban on Planting GM Alfalfa by JENNIFER KOONS, NYT, June 21, 2010 (accessed June 21, 2010)
  18. ^ Judge Revokes Approval of Modified Sugar Beets, by ANDREW POLLACK, New York Times, August 13, 2010
  19. ^ Monsanto wins supreme court fight over its genetically engineered sybeans (Toronto Global News website)
  20. ^ a b c Less than One Month to Comment on Corn Resistant to Agent Orange Herbicide 2,4-D, On the chemical arms race with weeds (May 2012, Huffington Post website)
  21. ^ According to Gene amplification delivers glyphosate-resistant weed evolution, by Professor Stephen B. Powels of the University of Western Australia
  22. ^ EPA first denial of petition April 2012
  23. ^ Agent Orange GMO? After USDA backs 2,4-D seeds, Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle lead activist hype of discredited link (Forbes website)
  24. ^ Andrew Kimbrel ('Activist Facts' website) See also grant making activists (Foundation for Deep Ecology website)
  25. ^ Anti biotech group scares Wall Street Journal (CGFI Website) The FDA according to this article replied that there was no need for concern, for several detailed reasons given in the article.
  26. ^ Food Safety: Focus on Real Risks, Not Fake Ones (Academics Review)

Further reading[edit]

  • Andrew Kimbrell, The Fatal Harvest Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. (illustrated), Island Press, 2002 ISBN 1-55963-944-X
  • Andrew Kimbrell, Joseph Mendelson, Monsanto vs. U.S. farmers. Center for Food Safety (U.S.) report, 2005
  • Andrew Kimbrell. 2007. Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food. Earth Aware Editions.

External links[edit]