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GMO Feeding Study May Be Right after All

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Remember Professor Giles-Eric Seralini and his research team at the University of Caan in France? They provided pictures of rats fed Monsanto GMO corn saturated with Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer. And they almost had their reputations destroyed as a result. Well, Paul Fassa has done his homework and brings us up-to-date on the situation through his blog at REALfarmacy.com. Here’s his story:
Seralini’s study discovered that rats fed GMOs developed tumors and died prematurely. But that wasn’t the purpose of their study. It was set up to examine the long term toxicity potential of eating GMO corn along with its associated exposure to Roundup.
After Seralini’s long term toxicity study results were publicized, with displays of rats showing huge tumors, a tsunami of outrage from pro-GMO scientists and shill journalists got favorable mainstream media (MSM) press.
The hundreds of scientists who defended Seralini’s work were mostly ignored. Many fence sitters were left confused and willing to side with the barking dogs of the biotechnology industry.
This highly publicized media attack on Seralini and his team was the air and sea attack to soften the defense of the tiny GMO truther island. Then the actual landing attack against that island’s real science was embarked by surreptitiously setting up former Monsanto scientist Richard E. Goodman in a newly created biotech editorial position at the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), an Elsevier publication.
That’s the journal where Seralini’s study, “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” had been originally peer reviewed and posted. With Goodman steering the landing craft, the editor-in-chief of FCT, Wallace Hayes, removed Seralini’s paper from the journal in 2013, a full year after it was initially peer reviewed and published.
Hayes admitted the study was not fraudulent or inaccurate, but explained that it was inconclusive. Some defending scientists jumped on that one, explaining that peer reviewed published studies are often inconclusive, recommending “further studies.”
Around that same time a Brazilian study proving Monsanto’s Bt corn insecticide starter genes do not disintegrate in mammalian stomachs as claimed by Monsanto, but survive intact to harm mammals’ blood cells was also pulled from FCT.
That study has now been published in another journal. By the way, Seralini’s study was also soon re-published in 2014 by another journal far removed from Monsanto’s invaders: Environmental Sciences Europe.
And by the way again, after some serious howling from international scientists directed at the FCT journal, here’s a 26 February, 2015, update from Scientists for Global Responsibility:
Critical changes have this year been made at the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicolgy, from which the Editor-in-Chief A. Wallace Hayes retracted the important paper by the Seralini team. The Editorial Board of the journal now has a new Editor-in-Chief, José L. Domingo, who has published papers showing that safety of GM crops is not an established fact; and the Editorial Board no longer includes Richard Goodman, the ex-Monsanto employee who became Associate Editor for Biotechnology not long before the Seralini paper was retracted.
Seralini and his research team weren’t completely satisfied with getting their studies republished and defending their work to a mostly uninterested mainstream media. They formed a group called CRIIGEN, the acronym for Comité de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur le Génie Génétique, or Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering, and fought back.
Keep in mind the attacks on Seralini et al focused on the tumors, which had a high visual media impact. But Seralini and team weren’t testing for cancerous effects primarily. Their toxicity analysis focused on long term effects on liver and kidney health, where they did find indisputable evidence of gross harm.
Professor Seralini’s study was a chronic toxicity study, not a full-scale carcinogenicity study. Therefore he conservatively did not do a statistical analysis of the tumors and mortality findings. Instead he simply reported them, without drawing definitive conclusions.
This was in line with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) chronic toxicity protocol, which requires that any “lesions,” including tumors observed, are recorded.
So Seralini and CRIIGEN conspired to attack rather than just defend, which they did with support from many international scientists. They successfully challenged Marianne Magazine and its featured journalist Jean-Claude Jaillet for publicly claiming in 2012 that Seralini and his team were guilty of “scientific fraud in which the methodology served to reinforce predetermined results.”
That same article also reported “researchers around the world” had voiced “harsh words” about Seralini’s long term (two years) toxicity research on rats fed GMO Roundup-tolerant corn. Seralini and CRIIGEN, with the assistance of public attorneys, called notaires in France, Bernard Dartevelle and Cindy Gay, won their suit against Marianne Magazine.

Then after a three year investigation ending on the 25th of November 2015, the High Court of Paris indicted Marc Fellous, one of those charged in the original libel case earlier. He just happened to be the chairman of France’s Biomolecular Engineering Commission who had rubber stamped many genetically modified products for consumption.
Details haven’t been publicly revealed, but apparently Fellous has been charged with forgery and the use of forgery, using a scientist’s signature to “prove” Seralini and company were wrong about their study that concluded that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn was not safe for consumption until further study was undertaken. Final judgement and sentencing is expected by early 2017.
The court’s investigation discovered that American journalist Henry Miller via notoriously pro-GMO Forbes Magazine had initiated the libelous attacks. This Henry Miller is one of those mercenary attack hacks who has a history of working for industries that are dangerous to the health and welfare of humanity and the planet, including the tobacco industry.
Conclusion: Attacking the lying pro-GMO crowd and fraudulent biotech industry through the court system may be more effective in Europe than here in the States, but it may be the only way to go against all things considered GMO.

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ORGANIC STANDARDS TO EXCLUDE NEXT GENERATION GMO INGREDIENTS

The National Organic Standards Board has voted unanimously to update U.S. organic standards to exclude ingredients derived from next generation genetic engineering and gene editing, Friends of the Earth reports.
This recommendation to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program will ensure that ingredients derived from new genetic engineering techniques, including synthetic biology, will not be allowed in the production or final product of foods and beverages that are certified organic. Synthetic biology is a new set of genetic engineering techniques that include using synthetic DNA to re-engineer organisms to produce substances they would not normally produce or to edit DNA so as to silence the expression of certain traits.
“The Board’s hard-fought proactive stance on synthetic biology will both help preserve the integrity of organic standards and raise awareness about this virtually unregulated and unlabeled form of genetic engineering,” said Dana Perls, food and technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “It’s critical that organic standards treat new types of genetic engineering that are rapidly entering our food and consumer products as rigorously as the first generation of GMOs.”
Like “traditional” GMOs, synthetic biology ingredients are entering food and consumer products in absence of adequate health and environmental safety assessment, oversight and labeling. Many are being falsely marketed as “natural.” Products in development include synthetic stevia, saffron, coconut and cacao, meant to replace plant-based ingredients, many of which are currently produced by small farmers in the Global South. There is increasing concern that these farmers’ livelihoods may be displaced by synthetic biology ingredients. Other products include gene-silenced apples, CRISPR waxy corn, and Cibus Canola oil, engineered with gene editing techniques.
“The National Organic Standards Board has made clear that all kinds of genetic engineering are to be excluded from ‘organic.’ The public expects that government to actually assess the new foods that it is permitting on the market,” said Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst, Center for Food Safety. “Unfortunately, the government has failed to update its regulations to adequately assess these new kinds of genetic engineering. When the USDA approves that NOSB recommendations, consumers who want to avoid GMOs will be able to use the Organic Seal to know that the product is not a GMO.”
The Board’s announcement follows a growing trend of companies stating that they will not use ingredients produced via synthetic biology. The Non-GMO Project, North America’s only third party verification program for non-GMO food and products, recently updated its standards so as to include synthetic biology and new gene editing techniques. Companies such as Ben and Jerry’s (BJICA: US), Three Twins Ice Cream, Straus Family Creamery, Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, Nestlé (NSRGY: OTC US), and General Mills (NYSE: GIS) have committed to “…not source vanilla flavor produced through synthetic biology,” a product that is designed to replace natural vanillin flavoring from vanilla beans. Synthetic biology vanilla flavoring, introduced by Evolva (SWX: EVE) and International Flavors and Fragrances (NYSE: IFF) in 2014, is the first major synthetic biology ingredient to enter food and beverages, marketed as “natural vanillin.” Other companies that have pledged to avoid synthetic biology ingredients entirely include Nutiva and Dr. Bronner’s.
Synthetic biology employs a new set of genetic engineering techniques that involve artificially constructing or “editing” genetic material such as DNA in order to create new forms of life, or to attempt to “reprogram” existing organisms. Despite growing concerns about the possible impacts of synthetic biology organisms on human health and the environment and a lack of independent safety assessment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed synthetic biology vanilla, DuPont’s CRISPR waxy corn and other similarly created food and cosmetic ingredients to enter the market without regulation. Existing regulations that identify GE crops and food ingredients as “Generally Regarded As Safe” use an outdated process with minimal testing requirements that rely on companies to self-evaluate the safety of their products.

IMPROVING PLANT GROWTH BY IMPROVING PHOTOSYNTHESIS
A decade ago, The New York Times reports, agricultural scientists at the University of Illinois suggested a bold approach to improve the food supply: tinker with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction powering nearly all life on Earth.
The idea was greeted skeptically in scientific circles and ignored by funding agencies. But one outfit with deep pockets, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eventually paid attention, hoping the research might help alleviate global poverty.
Now, after several years of work funded by the foundation, the scientists are reporting a remarkable result.
Using genetic engineering techniques to alter photosynthesis, they increased the productivity of a test plant — tobacco — by as much as 20 percent, they said Thursday in a study published by the journal Science. That is a huge number, given that plant breeders struggle to eke out gains of 1 or 2 percent with more conventional approaches.

The scientists have no interest in increasing the production of tobacco; their plan is to try the same alterations in food crops, and one of the leaders of the work believes production gains of 50 percent or more may ultimately be achievable. If that prediction is borne out in further research — it could take a decade, if not longer, to know for sure — the result might be nothing less than a transformation of global agriculture.
The findings could also intensify the political struggle over genetic engineering of the food supply. Some groups oppose it, arguing that researchers are playing God by moving genes from one species to another. That argument has gained some traction with the public, in part because the benefits of gene-altered crops have so far been modest at best.
But gains of 40 or 50 percent in food production would be an entirely different matter, potentially offering enormous benefits for the world’s poorest people, many of them farmers working small plots of land in the developing world.
“We’re here because we want to alleviate poverty,” said Katherine Kahn, the officer at the Gates Foundation overseeing the grant for the Illinois research. “What is it the farmers need, and how can we help them get there?”
One of the leaders of the research, Stephen P. Long, a crop scientist who holds appointments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at Lancaster University in England, emphasized in an interview that a long road lay ahead before any results from the work might reach farmers’ fields.

But Dr. Long is also convinced that genetic engineering could ultimately lead to what he called a “second Green Revolution” that would produce huge gains in food production, like the original Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which transferred advanced agricultural techniques to some developing countries and led to reductions in world hunger.
The research involves photosynthesis, in which plants use carbon dioxide from the air and energy from sunlight to form new, energy-rich carbohydrates. These compounds are, in turn, the basic energy supply for almost all animal cells, including those of humans. The mathematical description of photosynthesis is sometimes billed as “the equation that powers the world.”
For a decade, Dr. Long had argued that photosynthesis was not actually very efficient. In the course of evolution, several experts said, Mother Nature had focused on the survival and reproduction of plants, not on putting out the maximum amount of seeds or fruits for humans to come along and pick.
Dr. Long thought crop yields might be improved by certain genetic changes. Other scientists doubted it would work, but with the Science paper, Dr. Long and his collaborator — Krishna K. Niyogi, who holds appointments at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — have gone a long way toward proving their point.
Much of the work at the University of Illinois was carried out by two young researchers from abroad who hold positions in Dr. Long’s laboratory, Johannes Kromdijk of the Netherlands and Katarzyna Glowacka of Poland.
No one plans to eat tobacco, of course, nor does the Gates Foundation have any interest in increasing the production of that health-damaging crop. But the researchers used it because tobacco is a particularly fast and easy plant in which to try new genetic alterations to see how well they work.
In a recent interview here, Dr. Kromdijk and Dr. Glowacka showed off tiny tobacco plants incorporating the genetic changes and described their aspirations.
“We hope it translates into food crops in the way we’ve shown in tobacco,” Dr. Kromdijk said. “Of course, you only know when you actually try it.”
In the initial work, the researchers transferred genes from a common laboratory plant, known as thale cress or mouse-ear cress, into strains of tobacco. The effect was not to introduce alien substances, but rather to increase the level of certain proteins that already existed in tobacco.
When plants receive direct sunlight, they are often getting more energy than they can use, and they activate a mechanism that helps them shed it as heat — while slowing carbohydrate production. The genetic changes the researchers introduced help the plant turn that mechanism off faster once the excessive sunlight ends, so that the machinery of photosynthesis can get back more quickly to maximal production of carbohydrates.
It is a bit like a factory worker taking a shorter coffee break before getting back to the assembly line. But the effect on the overall growth of the tobacco plants was surprisingly large.

When the scientists grew the newly created plants in fields at the University of Illinois, they achieved yield increases of 13.5 percent in one strain, 19 percent in a second and 20 percent in a third, over normal tobacco plants grown for comparison.

Because the machinery of photosynthesis in many of the world’s food crops is identical to that of tobacco, theory suggests that a comparable manipulation of those crops should increase production. Work is planned to test that in crops that are especially important as dietary staples in Africa, like cowpeas, rice and cassava.

Two outside experts not involved in the research both used the word “exciting” to describe it. But they emphasized that the researchers had not yet proved that the food supply could be increased.

“How does it look in rice or corn or wheat or sugar beets?” said L. Val Giddings, a senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington and a longtime advocate of gene-altered crops. “You’ve got to get it into a handful of the important crops before you can show this is real and it’s going to have a huge impact. We are not there yet.”

Barry D. Bruce of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, who studies photosynthesis, pointed out that the genetic alteration might behave differently in crops where only parts of the plant, such as seeds or fruits, are harvested. In tobacco, by contrast, the entire aboveground plant is harvested — Dr. Bruce called it “a leafy green plant used for cigars!”

Dr. Bruce also noted that, now that the principle has been established, it might be possible to find plant varieties with the desired traits and introduce the changes into crops by conventional breeding, rather than by genetic engineering. Dr. Long and his group agreed this might be possible.

The genetic engineering approach, if it works, may well be used in commercial seeds produced by Western agricultural companies. One of them, Syngenta, has already signed a deal to get a first look at the results. But the Gates Foundation is determined to see the technology, assuming its early promise is borne out, make its way to African farmers at low cost.

The work is, in part, an effort to secure the food supply against the possible effects of future climate change. If rising global temperatures cut the production of food, human society could be destabilized, but more efficient crop plants could potentially make the food system more resilient, Dr. Long said.

“We’re in a year when commodity prices are very low, and people are saying the world doesn’t need more food,” Dr. Long said. “But if we don’t do this now, we may not have it when we really need it.”

Okay—this is a very nice summary of the work to date. But several things.
If the plants to be transformed into super photo synthesizers are to be eaten by human beings, health safety tests would have to be performed. This is especially important because of the falsehoods present in this article. To wit, this paragraph: “But Dr. Long is also convinced that genetic engineering could ultimately lead to what he called a ‘second Green Revolution’ that would produce huge gains in food production, like the original Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which transferred advanced agricultural techniques to some developing countries and led to reductions in world hunger.”
That Green Revolution “transferred advanced agricultural techniques to some developing countries,” but what that meant was that indigenous agriculture—the inherent knowledge of the people—was brushed aside so that modern agriculture, with its chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and so on, could replace it, with millions of poor people thrown into servitude to Big Ag from America. In the final analysis, that first Green revolution was a total failure and disaster for the indigenous people, and a temporary source of money for Big Ag.
I think we’ll soon see that Monsanto and its allies will be rebranding the old Green Revolution agriculture as “American agriculture,” as the Organic Consumers Association has suggested. Once Big Ag becomes “American agriculture,” then the people who oppose it become, by default, “anti-American,” nicht Wahr?
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Biotech Bullies Now Rule

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The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States doesn’t bode well for America and the world in many ways. In the following essay, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association goes over what the election might mean for us in the organic community.

 

Monsanto and its minions are rushing to tighten their control over our food and farming system. Emboldened by the prospect of another pro-industrial-agriculture administration, they’re plowing ahead—with total disregard for public health, and blanket dismissal of the warnings pouring in from independent scientists.

 

Politico, which obtained a list of Trump’s talking points on agriculture, reports that the list includes a “sweeping promise” to “defend American agriculture against its critics, particularly those who have never grown or produced anything beyond a backyard tomato plant.” From Politico:

 

The document . . . offers a host of policy pledges—from suggesting a shift back to conventional agriculture, to promises for the Trump White House to be an “active participant” in writing the next Farm Bill, to fighting the so-called good food movement and undoing Obama-era agricultural and environmental policies.

 

Pair that news with Trump’s EPA transition team pick, climate-denier Myron Ebell who says “pesticides aren’t bad for you,” and the future for organic regenerative agriculture—and your health—looks bleak.

 

We don’t need to guess or wonder. The incoming Trump administration will not be a friend to those of us committed to a healthy, pollution-free, regenerative, climate-friendly future.

 

Where does that leave us? Working at the state and local level to elect candidates and to pass public health and climate policies in line with the obvious truth, which is that we can’t go on poisoning ourselves and our ecosystem—and still go on.

 

It also will require that we expand food testing, and expose the long list of the dangerous chemicals in our food so we can put our consumer power to good use. Once a critical mass of consumers knows exactly what kinds of—and how much—poison we’re being fed, we will force Big Food to clean up its act, or go broke. At which point, it won’t much matter what Monsanto’s minions are up to in Congress. Because the market for their products will shrivel up faster than a glyphosate-drenched weed.

 

 

***

 

TRUMP’S AG ADVISORY COMMITTEE: WHO’S WHO OF AGRIBUSINESS

 

Donald J. Trump has announced his new Agricultural Advisory Committee. It press release states, “The men and women on the committee will provide pioneering new ideas to strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry as well as provide support to our rural communities. Mr. Trump understands the critical role our nation’s agricultural community plays in feeding not only our country, but the world, and how important these Americans are to powering our nation’s economy.

 

“The formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of these individuals’ diverse skill sets and ideas that can improve the lives of those in agricultural communities. Mr. Trump has received widespread support from voters who understand he is the only candidate with the best interests of the agricultural community at the heart of his policies.

 

“Mr. Trump said, ‘The members of my agricultural advisory committee represent the best that America can offer to help serve agricultural communities. Many of these officials have been elected by their communities to solve the issues that impact our rural areas every day. I’m very proud to stand with these men and women, and look forward to serving those who serve all Americans from the White House.’”

 

Executive board members will convene on a regular basis. The more than 60 advisory board members include:

 

Charles Herbster–National Chairman of the Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President.

 

Sam Clovis– National Chief Policy Advisor for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President.

 

Rebeckah Adcock–CropLife, Senior Director, Government Affairs.

 

Robert Aderholt–Congressman from Alabama; Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture.

 

Jay Armstrong–Kansas Wheat Commission; Chairman, Farm Foundation.

 

Gary Black– Commissioner of Agriculture, Georgia.

 

John Block– Former Secretary of Agriculture.

 

Mike Brandenburg–State Legislator, North Dakota.

 

Terry Branstad–Governor of Iowa.

 

Sam Brownback–Governor of Kansas.

 

Chuck Conner–CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

 

Mike Conaway–House Agriculture Committee Chairman.

 

Jack Dalrymple–Governor of North Dakota.

 

Dennis Daugaard–Governor of South Dakota.

 

Rodney Davis–Congressman from Illinois; House Agriculture Committee and Subcommittee Chair of Bio Tech.

 

Mary Fallin–Governor of Oklahoma.

 

Eddie Fields–Senator, Oklahoma; Chair Senate Ag and Rural Development.

 

Steve Foglesong–Former President National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

 

Jim Gilmore–Former Governor Virginia; Chairman of Report on Terrorism and Agro-Terrorism.

 

Bob Goodale–Former CEO of Harris Teeter.

 

Bob Goodlatte–Congressman, Virginia; Former Chairman House Agriculture Committee.

 

Ron Heck–Iowa farmer and Past President of the American Soybean Assn.

 

Mike McCloskey CEO Fair Oaks Farms- one of largest dairies in U.S.

 

Beau McCoy State Senator; Nebraska Nat. Chr. Council State Govts

 

Ted McKinney Former Director of Global Corp. Affairs for Elanco Animal Health

 

Sid Miller Commissioner of Agriculture, Texas

 

Jim Moseley Former consultant on agriculture at EPA; Former Deputy Secretary of USDA

 

Garry Niemeyer–Former President National Corn Growers.

 

Sonny Perdue–Former Gov. Georgia.

 

Rick Perry–Former Gov. Texas.

 

Pat Roberts–U.S. Senator Kansas.

 

Marcus Rust–CEO Rose Acre Farms, second largest egg producer in U.S.

 

Kip Tom–CEO, Tom Farms LLC, largest agri-business farm operator in Indiana; Operates farms in South America.

 

Johnny Trotter–CEO of BarG, 125,000 head of cattle feedlot operation and farms 10,000 acres in TX.

 

Steve Wellman–Former President of the American Soybean Association.

 

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REPORT SHOWS U.S. FOOD SUPPLY CONTAMINATED WITH GLYPHOSATE

 

Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project are releasing a 26-page report that shows that America’s food supply is contaminated with alarming levels of glyphosate residues.

 

As the main active ingredient in Monsanto’s bestselling weedkiller, Roundup, both Roundup and glyphosate have been linked to a host of negative health impacts, including birth defects, reproductive problems, lowered immune response, irritable bowel syndrome, harmful imbalances in gut microflora, and cancer.

 

The report details the latest independent peer reviewed science that conclusively shows that Roundup and glyphosate are significantly more harmful at much lower levels than previously thought and outlines the significant flaws in the U.S. regulatory system that has left the American public exposed to high levels of a toxic chemical, which last year the World Health Organization linked to cancer.

 

Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project are demanding that the EPA Inspector General’s office launch a non-partisan investigation into glyphosate’s likely negative human health impacts reviewing the latest scientific research; halt the use of Roundup on important food crops, and uncover possible misconduct between U.S. regulators and the chemical industry they are supposed to regulate.

 

Using an independent FDA-registered laboratory, scientists found alarming levels of glyphosate residues in many popular American food products, including General Mills’ Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran, Special K and Frosted Flakes, and PepsiCo’s Doritos, Ritz Crackers and Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips, as part of a unique testing project designed to reveal pesticide exposure at real world levels.

 

Even more disturbing is that the highest glyphosate levels were found in General Mills’ Cheerios, one of the first foods that American mothers commonly feed their young children when they begin eating solid foods. Glyphosate residues for Cheerios, measured at 1,125.3 parts per billion (ppb), were simply off the chart and much higher than the 28 other food products tested.

 

New scientific evidence shows that possible harm from glyphosate can begin at much lower levels, even as low as 0.1 ppb. Credible independent peer reviewed studies published in 2014 and 2015 found that rats exposed to 0.1 ppb of Roundup and 0.05 ppb of glyphosate could cause severe organ damage and alter gene function of over 4,000 genes in the livers and kidneys of rats. These new findings should be a wake-up call for all Americans regarding unacceptable levels of pesticide residues in our nation’s food.

 

This report comes after more than a year and a half investigation into the massive U.S. regulatory failures that have left the American public not only in the dark about glyphosate contamination in our food supply, but also regularly exposed to levels of this toxic weedkiller that emerging science is now demonstrating to be more hazardous to human health than previously thought.

 

New independent research shows that harm from Monsanto’s Roundup and glyphosate-based herbicides can begin at much lower levels than previously thought. The new research shows that endocrine disrupting chemicals can disrupt basic hormone functions at ultra-low levels. U.S. regulations must reflect latest scientific research to protect our health and that of our children.

 

In addition, glyphosate is also patented as an antimicrobial agent. This has raised alarm among scientists who believe that low level exposure to glyphosate can negatively disrupt beneficial bacteria in the gut biome the way it does in the soil, leading to whole host of human health problems that doctors are just beginning to understand.

 

For the past 20 plus years, U.S. regulators have refused to test for glyphosate residues even though it’s the most widely used weedkiller in the U.S. and its use has exploded in the past two decades due to the widespread adoption of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO crops. Today more than 300 million pounds of glyphosate-based weedkillers are sprayed across U.S. farmland, public parks and lawns and home gardens. Use of Roundup has become so pervasive that 75 percent of rainwater samples in the Midwest tested positive for glyphosate, according to Food Democracy Now!

 

On March 20, 2015, 17 leading scientific experts from the World Health

Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans,” which should have served as a call-to-action for U.S. regulators. Instead, the U.S. EPA issued a final report that agreed with Monsanto’s rebuttal, which called the IARC’s report “junk science.” This is why Food Democracy Now! is calling for an investigation of possible regulatory misconduct at the EPA by the EPA’s inspector general.

 

Currently, U.S. regulators allow what is considered a very high level of daily glyphosate residue in America’s food. In the U.S., the EPA set the daily acceptable intake (ADI) limit at 1.75 parts per million (ppm) per kilogram of bodyweight per day in the U.S., versus a more responsible level at 0.3 ppm in the European Union based on their review of the same studies submitted to the EPA. That’s six times the European level now allowed in the U.S. food supply.

 

The U.S. government’s continued reliance on Monsanto-funded science and their refusal to consider the most current independent peer reviewed scientific research is alarming, especially considering the fact that the regulators at the FDA are currently reviewing a 15-year re-approval of Monsanto’s Roundup and glyphosate-based herbicides based on out-of-date science.

 

You can share this report by following this link: http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/2047?t=15&akid=1946.101853._11J9w

 

What else you’ll find in the report:

 

  1. Levels of glyphosate residues found in popular American foods.
  2. A summary of what the latest independent scientific research says about the safety of Roundup and glyphosate.
  3. A detailed analysis of why the current U.S. EPA’s acceptable daily intake (ADI) is much too high.
  4. Evidence that regulators in Europe considered the U.S. ADI to be “very high” and “far outside the range” of what chemical companies other than Monsanto submitted for safety approvals.
  5. Scientific evidence that refutes Monsanto’s claim that glyphosate does not accumulate in the human body.
  6. A call to action-–to investigate regulatory collusion at the EPA, end the practice of pre-harvest spraying of Roundup on food crop, and a call to release all the scientific data submitted by Monsanto for safety assessments.

 

Editor’s addendum: I don’t want to sound defeatist, but with Trump’s climate change denier Myron Ebell set to head up the EPA, I think there’s not much chance that glyphosate poisoning will be remediated so long as agribiz and biotech rules in Washington. The answer, of course, is to eat organic food. –J.C.

 

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Biotech Bullies Rule

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The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States doesn’t bode well for America and the world in many ways. In the following essay, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association goes over what the election might mean for us in the organic community.

 

Monsanto and its minions are rushing to tighten their control over our food and farming system. Emboldened by the prospect of another pro-industrial-agriculture administration, they’re plowing ahead—with total disregard for public health, and blanket dismissal of the warnings pouring in from independent scientists.

 

Politico, which obtained a list of Trump’s talking points on agriculture, reports that the list includes a “sweeping promise” to “defend American agriculture against its critics, particularly those who have never grown or produced anything beyond a backyard tomato plant.” From Politico:

 

The document . . . offers a host of policy pledges—from suggesting a shift back to conventional agriculture, to promises for the Trump White House to be an “active participant” in writing the next Farm Bill, to fighting the so-called good food movement and undoing Obama-era agricultural and environmental policies.

 

Pair that news with Trump’s EPA transition team pick, climate-denier Myron Ebell who says “pesticides aren’t bad for you,” and the future for organic regenerative agriculture—and your health—looks bleak.

 

We don’t need to guess or wonder. The incoming Trump administration will not be a friend to those of us committed to a healthy, pollution-free, regenerative, climate-friendly future.

 

Where does that leave us? Working at the state and local level to elect candidates and to pass public health and climate policies in line with the obvious truth, which is that we can’t go on poisoning ourselves and our ecosystem—and still go on.

 

It also will require that we expand food testing, and expose the long list of the dangerous chemicals in our food so we can put our consumer power to good use. Once a critical mass of consumers knows exactly what kinds of—and how much—poison we’re being fed, we will force Big Food to clean up its act, or go broke. At which point, it won’t much matter what Monsanto’s minions are up to in Congress. Because the market for their products will shrivel up faster than a glyphosate-drenched weed.

 

 

***

 

TRUMP’S AG ADVISORY COMMITTEE: WHO’S WHO OF AGRIBUSINESS

 

Donald J. Trump has announced his new Agricultural Advisory Committee. Its press release states, “The men and women on the committee will provide pioneering new ideas to strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry as well as provide support to our rural communities. Mr. Trump understands the critical role our nation’s agricultural community plays in feeding not only our country, but the world, and how important these Americans are to powering our nation’s economy.

 

“The formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of these individuals’ diverse skill sets and ideas that can improve the lives of those in agricultural communities. Mr. Trump has received widespread support from voters who understand he is the only candidate with the best interests of the agricultural community at the heart of his policies.

 

“Mr. Trump said, ‘The members of my agricultural advisory committee represent the best that America can offer to help serve agricultural communities. Many of these officials have been elected by their communities to solve the issues that impact our rural areas every day. I’m very proud to stand with these men and women, and look forward to serving those who serve all Americans from the White House.’”

 

Executive board members will convene on a regular basis. The more than 60 advisory board members include:

 

Charles Herbster–National Chairman of the Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President.

 

Sam Clovis– National Chief Policy Advisor for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President.

 

Rebeckah Adcock–CropLife, Senior Director, Government Affairs.

 

Robert Aderholt–Congressman from Alabama; Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture.

 

Jay Armstrong–Kansas Wheat Commission; Chairman, Farm Foundation.

 

Gary Black– Commissioner of Agriculture, Georgia.

 

John Block– Former Secretary of Agriculture.

 

Mike Brandenburg–State Legislator, North Dakota.

 

Terry Branstad–Governor of Iowa.

 

Sam Brownback–Governor of Kansas.

 

Chuck Conner–CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

 

Mike Conaway–House Agriculture Committee Chairman.

 

Jack Dalrymple–Governor of North Dakota.

 

Dennis Daugaard–Governor of South Dakota.

 

Rodney Davis–Congressman from Illinois; House Agriculture Committee and Subcommittee Chair of Bio Tech.

 

Mary Fallin–Governor of Oklahoma.

 

Eddie Fields–Senator, Oklahoma; Chair Senate Ag and Rural Development.

 

Steve Foglesong–Former President National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

 

Jim Gilmore–Former Governor Virginia; Chairman of Report on Terrorism and Agro-Terrorism.

 

Bob Goodale–Former CEO of Harris Teeter.

 

Bob Goodlatte–Congressman, Virginia; Former Chairman House Agriculture Committee.

 

Ron Heck–Iowa farmer and Past President of the American Soybean Assn.

 

Mike McCloskey CEO Fair Oaks Farms- one of largest dairies in U.S.

 

Beau McCoy State Senator; Nebraska Nat. Chr. Council State Govts

 

Ted McKinney Former Director of Global Corp. Affairs for Elanco Animal Health

 

Sid Miller Commissioner of Agriculture, Texas

 

Jim Moseley Former consultant on agriculture at EPA; Former Deputy Secretary of USDA

 

Garry Niemeyer–Former President National Corn Growers.

 

Sonny Perdue–Former Gov. Georgia.

 

Rick Perry–Former Gov. Texas.

 

Pat Roberts–U.S. Senator Kansas.

 

Marcus Rust–CEO Rose Acre Farms, second largest egg producer in U.S.

 

Kip Tom–CEO, Tom Farms LLC, largest agri-business farm operator in Indiana; Operates farms in South America.

 

Johnny Trotter–CEO of BarG, 125,000 head of cattle feedlot operation and farms 10,000 acres in TX.

 

Steve Wellman–Former President of the American Soybean Association.

 

***

 

REPORT SHOWS U.S. FOOD SUPPLY CONTAMINATED WITH GLYPHOSATE

 

Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project are releasing a 26-page report that shows that America’s food supply is contaminated with alarming levels of glyphosate residues.

 

As the main active ingredient in Monsanto’s bestselling weedkiller, Roundup, both Roundup and glyphosate have been linked to a host of negative health impacts, including birth defects, reproductive problems, lowered immune response, irritable bowel syndrome, harmful imbalances in gut microflora, and cancer.

 

The report details the latest independent peer reviewed science that conclusively shows that Roundup and glyphosate are significantly more harmful at much lower levels than previously thought and outlines the significant flaws in the U.S. regulatory system that has left the American public exposed to high levels of a toxic chemical, which last year the World Health Organization linked to cancer.

 

Food Democracy Now! and the Detox Project are demanding that the EPA Inspector General’s office launch a non-partisan investigation into glyphosate’s likely negative human health impacts reviewing the latest scientific research; halt the use of Roundup on important food crops, and uncover possible misconduct between U.S. regulators and the chemical industry they are supposed to regulate.

 

Using an independent FDA-registered laboratory, scientists found alarming levels of glyphosate residues in many popular American food products, including General Mills’ Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran, Special K and Frosted Flakes, and PepsiCo’s Doritos, Ritz Crackers and Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips, as part of a unique testing project designed to reveal pesticide exposure at real world levels.

 

Even more disturbing is that the highest glyphosate levels were found in General Mills’ Cheerios, one of the first foods that American mothers commonly feed their young children when they begin eating solid foods. Glyphosate residues for Cheerios, measured at 1,125.3 parts per billion (ppb), were simply off the chart and much higher than the 28 other food products tested.

 

New scientific evidence shows that possible harm from glyphosate can begin at much lower levels, even as low as 0.1 ppb. Credible independent peer reviewed studies published in 2014 and 2015 found that rats exposed to 0.1 ppb of Roundup and 0.05 ppb of glyphosate could cause severe organ damage and alter gene function of over 4,000 genes in the livers and kidneys of rats. These new findings should be a wake-up call for all Americans regarding unacceptable levels of pesticide residues in our nation’s food.

 

This report comes after more than a year and a half investigation into the massive U.S. regulatory failures that have left the American public not only in the dark about glyphosate contamination in our food supply, but also regularly exposed to levels of this toxic weedkiller that emerging science is now demonstrating to be more hazardous to human health than previously thought.

 

New independent research shows that harm from Monsanto’s Roundup and glyphosate-based herbicides can begin at much lower levels than previously thought. The new research shows that endocrine disrupting chemicals can disrupt basic hormone functions at ultra-low levels. U.S. regulations must reflect latest scientific research to protect our health and that of our children.

 

In addition, glyphosate is also patented as an antimicrobial agent. This has raised alarm among scientists who believe that low level exposure to glyphosate can negatively disrupt beneficial bacteria in the gut biome the way it does in the soil, leading to whole host of human health problems that doctors are just beginning to understand.

 

For the past 20 plus years, U.S. regulators have refused to test for glyphosate residues even though it’s the most widely used weedkiller in the U.S. and its use has exploded in the past two decades due to the widespread adoption of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO crops. Today more than 300 million pounds of glyphosate-based weedkillers are sprayed across U.S. farmland, public parks and lawns and home gardens. Use of Roundup has become so pervasive that 75 percent of rainwater samples in the Midwest tested positive for glyphosate, according to Food Democracy Now!

 

On March 20, 2015, 17 leading scientific experts from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans,” which should have served as a call-to-action for U.S. regulators. Instead, the U.S. EPA issued a final report that agreed with Monsanto’s rebuttal, which called the IARC’s report “junk science.” This is why Food Democracy Now! is calling for an investigation of possible regulatory misconduct at the EPA by the EPA’s inspector general.

 

Currently, U.S. regulators allow what is considered a very high level of daily glyphosate residue in America’s food. In the U.S., the EPA set the daily acceptable intake (ADI) limit at 1.75 parts per million (ppm) per kilogram of bodyweight per day in the U.S., versus a more responsible level at 0.3 ppm in the European Union based on their review of the same studies submitted to the EPA. That’s six times the European level now allowed in the U.S. food supply.

 

The U.S. government’s continued reliance on Monsanto-funded science and their refusal to consider the most current independent peer reviewed scientific research is alarming, especially considering the fact that the regulators at the FDA are currently reviewing a 15-year re-approval of Monsanto’s Roundup and glyphosate-based herbicides based on out-of-date science.

 

You can share this report by following this link: http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/2047?t=15&akid=1946.101853._11J9w

 

What else you’ll find in the report:

 

  1. Levels of glyphosate residues found in popular American foods.
  2. A summary of what the latest independent scientific research says about the safety of Roundup and glyphosate.
  3. A detailed analysis of why the current U.S. EPA’s acceptable daily intake (ADI) is much too high.
  4. Evidence that regulators in Europe considered the U.S. ADI to be “very high” and “far outside the range” of what chemical companies other than Monsanto submitted for safety approvals.
  5. Scientific evidence that refutes Monsanto’s claim that glyphosate does not accumulate in the human body.
  6. A call to action-–to investigate regulatory collusion at the EPA, end the practice of pre-harvest spraying of Roundup on food crop, and a call to release all the scientific data submitted by Monsanto for safety assessments.

 

Editor’s addendum: I don’t want to sound defeatist, but with Trump’s climate change denier Myron Ebell set to head up the EPA, I think there’s not much chance that glyphosate poisoning will be remediated so long as agribiz and biotech rules in Washington. The answer, of course, is to eat organic food. –J.C.

 

###

 

 

 




A Website to Enhance and Protect the Health of Mother Earth

Organic Lifestyle Comments (0)

It It was really heartening to hear that at recent meetings in Europe, the idea was brought forth that the many-faceted movements and groups concerned with the health of the environment, the health of our food and farming systems, the health of the ecological web of life on our planet, and the mental and spiritual health of the human beings on this plant need to coalesce into a meta-movement that includes them all.

Is there really any difference between the Native Americans who are standing up for pure water and conservationists who want to protect our rivers and oceans? Is there any fundamental difference between those who want to stop chemical corporations from polluting the land and waters of the earth from those folks who want to purchase organic food because they know it won’t contain agricultural chemicals, antibiotics, and GMOs? And is there any difference between those who want to arrest and reverse climate change and those who want to convert our energy systems from carbon-based exploitation of fossil fuels to renewable, clean energy sources? I could name a hundred NGOs that want rational environmental change and whose purposes dovetail with all these others.

We need to get together.

What would that look like if all of us banded together to promote environmental improvement? First of all, we’d need to coalesce around a single idea that connects us all. Very simply, that idea is health. The word “health” contains the word “heal,” and the aim of all our groups is to heal the sores, cankers, and diseases caused by rapacious modern industry. The diseases show up in disruptions to the planet’s healthy ecosystems, in the participants in the environmental web of life, in the mutated amphibians, sick waterfowl, and disappearing species of the great extinction we’re going through. The word “health” is also related to the word “whole.” In this case, wholeness refers to the situation where all available environmental niches are filled with functioning participants. In other words, where a natural system is most biodiverse, it is most healthy.

Biodiversity is the key to health. Any ecosystem has a set of trophic niches ready to be filled. A trophic niche is a place in the system that not only has food for a creature, but a beneficial role for that creature to play. That’s why the die-off of creatures in the great “Sixth Extinction” we’re going through is so destructive. Every unfilled trophic niche in an ecosystem is an opportunity for a disruptive creature or organism to fill it and take over, causing great harm.

Mental and spiritual health likewise flow from an attunement with nature. We are all the children of nature; Gaia—the living organism that is the earth–is our mother. We do not know better than nature how to conduct ourselves. Our task is to understand nature—her laws, tendencies, energies, directions, movements—and pattern our social and economic systems on her. If you take notice, nature’s arrangements are all sustainable. Everything else is, by definition, unsustainable and will eventually collapse.

So yes, let’s erect the big tent under which all those people and organizations working for the health of the planet and those creatures who live on it can find a home. Together we can assail the forces working against that goal. We don’t have much time. Climate change is fast upon us. Species extinction is progressing rapidly. Huge multinational corporations are taking over world agriculture and poisoning the earth. If we stay separated into little fiefdoms, caring only about our own narrow interests, we will not succeed.

But together we will prevail. Hence I’ve registered www.gaiashealth.com as the umbrella and big tent under which any and all organizations and individuals who are working to promote the health of the planet and its creatures can shelter.

I will be working to have Gaia-friendly institutions around the world gather at this website. If you want to help out, simply nominate organizations, institutions, and individuals you know are working to protect and enhance the health of Mother Earth.

***

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE ORANGE ONE

With the election of Donald Trump as President, we can only hope that his campaign promises were just rhetoric and that he really doesn’t plan to abrogate the Climate Change Agreement, revoke the nuclear deal with Iran, lend government support to increased use of fossil fuels, and so many others.

But until we see otherwise, we can only believe that he meant what he said regarding these environmental treaties and issues. For progressives, his election and Republican control of Congress appears to be the recipe for an unmitigated disaster.

It therefore behooves the environmentally concerned to watch the actions of Trump, Congress, and the future right-wing Supreme Court carefully. On November 11, Trump gave us a clue as to his policies on the environment. In looking for someone to follow through on his campaign vow to dismantle one of the Obama administration’s signature climate change policies, Trump probably could not have found a better candidate for the job than Myron Ebell.

According to The New York Times, “Mr. Ebell, who revels in taking on the scientific consensus on global warming, will be Mr. Trump’s lead agent in choosing personnel and setting the direction of the federal agencies that address climate change and environmental policy more broadly.

“Mr. Ebell, whose organization is financed in part by the coal industry, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the linchpin of that policy, the Clean Power Plan. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the plan is a far-reaching set of regulations that, by seeking to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation, could result in the closing of many coal-burning power plants, among other effects.”

And what will Ebell be doing in the Trump administration? He’s been picked to head up the EPA.

***

HYDROPONIC IMPORTS BEING SOLD AS ORGANIC

An organic industry watchdog contends the USDA has quietly allowed a flood of hydroponically-produced fruits and vegetables, largely imported, to be illegally labeled and sold as “organic.”

This produce is generally grown under artificial lighting, indoors, and on an industrial scale. The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute has filed a formal legal complaint against some of the largest agribusinesses involved in the practice and their organic certifying agents.

The controversy will come to a head in mid-November, when the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is expected to vote at its semiannual meeting in St. Louis on whether or not hydroponic operations (growing without soil) should be legalized for organic certification. This vote comes six years after the NOSB initially reaffirmed that hydroponics and aquaponics should be prohibited under the organic label.

Disregarding that prohibition, the USDA has allowed over 100 foreign and domestic soil-less operations to become certified organic, creating unfair competition for soil-based U.S. growers. The U.S. is an outlier in international commerce as most countries prohibit the organic certification of soil-less hydroponic produce, including the 28 countries of the European Union (EU), Mexico, Japan, and Canada.

“Astute consumers have turned to organics to procure fruits and vegetables for their family knowing that certified farmers do a better job of stewarding the land by nurturing the complex biological ecosystem in the soil, which creates nutrient-dense, superior food,” said Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “Hydroponic and container systems rely on liquid fertilizers developed from conventional crops or waste products. Suggesting that they should qualify for organic labeling is a specious argument.”

The Cornucopia complaint specifically targets two of the giants in U.S. hydroponic production, the organic berry behemoth, Driscoll’s, and a major tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper producer, Wholesum Harvest. Both agribusinesses have production in the U.S. and Mexico and are certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and Quality Assurance International (QAI), respectively.

Pioneers of the organic movement, including the “Agrarian Elders” and other diversified farmers, are incensed by the rise of “organic” hydroponics and are leading the “Keep the Soil in Organic” movement. They are witnessing firsthand the displacement of domestic organic produce with hydroponic versions.

These organic farmers argue that organic agriculture has always been entirely centered on the biological complexity found in properly managed, fertile soil. Iconic farmer and author, Eliot Coleman, of Maine explains, “The phrase ‘organic hydroponic’ is an oxymoron—a figure of speech in which contradictory terms appear in conjunction. Hydroponic growers produce crops in sterile surroundings and douse plant roots with liquid nutrients that can never begin to duplicate the biological complexity of fertile soil.”

In addition, organic hydroponic produce, whether imported or grown by giant agribusinesses in the U.S., is not identified in the marketplace. Consumers have no way of knowing if the berries, tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers they are purchasing are truly organic.

The Cornucopia Institute has engaged the public by distributing a proxy letter to organic stakeholders (available as a download through the hydroponics link in the projects tab on their website). The organization says it has already received thousands of originally signed letters which they will hand deliver to the NOSB at their St. Louis meeting starting November 16.

“There is a higher authority than the USDA, or even the federal courts, in these matters,” said Kastel, “and that’s the community of organic farmers, and their loyal customers who vote every day in the marketplace with their dollars. They are clearly voicing their opposition to the faux organic production that is flooding the marketplace.”

What’s not even mentioned is the energy needed to power artificial lighting to grow crops hydroponically. Crops grown outdoors have a free, sustainable, and very powerful light source: the sun.

***

ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT BACTERIA IN CONVENTIONAL POULTRY

A new study published in the scientific journal Clinical Infectious Diseases has found evidence that an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus can be transmitted to consumers via grocery store poultry meat. Robert Skov, a lead researcher on the paper, said in a statement, “At present, meat products represent only a minor transmission route for MRSA to humans, but our findings nevertheless underscore the importance of reducing the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals as well as continuing surveillance of the animal-food-human interface.”

***

ORGANIC FARMING BOOSTS YIELDS, UPS PEST CONTROL

Organic farming increases biological control of pests and yields in barley
A recent study published in Landscape Ecology has reaffirmed that organic farming leads to greater yields and pest control by supporting natural predators, and demonstrated that these benefits associated with organic farming are maintained regardless of the surrounding landscape.

***

LESS ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT E. COLI IN ORGANIC PIGS

A study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE tested swine from four different European countries—Denmark, France, Italy, and Sweden—and found that those raised on organic farms consistently harbored less antibiotic-resistant E. coli than swine raised on conventional farms. “For all four countries, resistance was substantially lower in organic than conventional pigs…This knowledge, together with a continued effort to improve animal health and thereby reduce the overall need for antibiotics, would be valuable to reduce antibiotic resistance without compromising animal welfare,” the authors concluded.

###
was really heartening to hear that at recent meetings in Europe, the idea was brought forth that the many-faceted movements and groups concerned with the health of the environment, the health of our food and farming systems, the health of the ecological web of life on our planet, and the mental and spiritual health of the human beings on this plant need to coalesce into a meta-movement that includes them all.

Is there really any difference between the Native Americans who are standing up for pure water and conservationists who want to protect our rivers and oceans? Is there any fundamental difference between those who want to stop chemical corporations from polluting the land and waters of the earth from those folks who want to purchase organic food because they know it won’t contain agricultural chemicals, antibiotics, and GMOs? And is there any difference between those who want to arrest and reverse climate change and those who want to convert our energy systems from carbon-based exploitation of fossil fuels to renewable, clean energy sources? I could name a hundred NGOs that want rational environmental change and whose purposes dovetail with all these others.

We need to get together.

What would that look like if all of us banded together to promote environmental improvement? First of all, we’d need to coalesce around a single idea that connects us all. Very simply, that idea is health. The word “health” contains the word “heal,” and the aim of all our groups is to heal the sores, cankers, and diseases caused by rapacious modern industry. The diseases show up in disruptions to the planet’s healthy ecosystems, in the participants in the environmental web of life, in the mutated amphibians, sick waterfowl, and disappearing species of the great extinction we’re going through. The word “health” is also related to the word “whole.” In this case, wholeness refers to the situation where all available environmental niches are filled with functioning participants. In other words, where a natural system is most biodiverse, it is most healthy.

Biodiversity is the key to health. Any ecosystem has a set of trophic niches ready to be filled. A trophic niche is a place in the system that not only has food for a creature, but a beneficial role for that creature to play. That’s why the die-off of creatures in the great “Sixth Extinction” we’re going through is so destructive. Every unfilled trophic niche in an ecosystem is an opportunity for a disruptive creature or organism to fill it and take over, causing great harm.

Mental and spiritual health likewise flow from an attunement with nature. We are all the children of nature; Gaia—the living organism that is the earth–is our mother. We do not know better than nature how to conduct ourselves. Our task is to understand nature—her laws, tendencies, energies, directions, movements—and pattern our social and economic systems on her. If you take notice, nature’s arrangements are all sustainable. Everything else is, by definition, unsustainable and will eventually collapse.

So yes, let’s erect the big tent under which all those people and organizations working for the health of the planet and those creatures who live on it can find a home. Together we can assail the forces working against that goal. We don’t have much time. Climate change is fast upon us. Species extinction is progressing rapidly. Huge multinational corporations are taking over world agriculture and poisoning the earth. If we stay separated into little fiefdoms, caring only about our own narrow interests, we will not succeed.

But together we will prevail. Hence I’ve registered www.gaiashealth.com as the umbrella and big tent under which any and all organizations and individuals who are working to promote the health of the planet and its creatures can shelter.

I will be working to have Gaia-friendly institutions around the world gather at this website. If you want to help out, simply nominate organizations, institutions, and individuals you know are working to protect and enhance the health of Mother Earth.

***

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE ORANGE ONE

With the election of Donald Trump as President, we can only hope that his campaign promises were just rhetoric and that he really doesn’t plan to abrogate the Climate Change Agreement, revoke the nuclear deal with Iran, lend government support to increased use of fossil fuels, and so many others.

But until we see otherwise, we can only believe that he meant what he said regarding these environmental treaties and issues. For progressives, his election and Republican control of Congress appears to be the recipe for an unmitigated disaster.

It therefore behooves the environmentally concerned to watch the actions of Trump, Congress, and the future right-wing Supreme Court carefully. On November 11, Trump gave us a clue as to his policies on the environment. In looking for someone to follow through on his campaign vow to dismantle one of the Obama administration’s signature climate change policies, Trump probably could not have found a better candidate for the job than Myron Ebell.

According to The New York Times, “Mr. Ebell, who revels in taking on the scientific consensus on global warming, will be Mr. Trump’s lead agent in choosing personnel and setting the direction of the federal agencies that address climate change and environmental policy more broadly.

“Mr. Ebell, whose organization is financed in part by the coal industry, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the linchpin of that policy, the Clean Power Plan. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the plan is a far-reaching set of regulations that, by seeking to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation, could result in the closing of many coal-burning power plants, among other effects.”

And what will Ebell be doing in the Trump administration? He’s been picked to head up the EPA.

***

HYDROPONIC IMPORTS BEING SOLD AS ORGANIC

An organic industry watchdog contends the USDA has quietly allowed a flood of hydroponically-produced fruits and vegetables, largely imported, to be illegally labeled and sold as “organic.”

This produce is generally grown under artificial lighting, indoors, and on an industrial scale. The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute has filed a formal legal complaint against some of the largest agribusinesses involved in the practice and their organic certifying agents.

The controversy will come to a head in mid-November, when the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is expected to vote at its semiannual meeting in St. Louis on whether or not hydroponic operations (growing without soil) should be legalized for organic certification. This vote comes six years after the NOSB initially reaffirmed that hydroponics and aquaponics should be prohibited under the organic label.

Disregarding that prohibition, the USDA has allowed over 100 foreign and domestic soil-less operations to become certified organic, creating unfair competition for soil-based U.S. growers. The U.S. is an outlier in international commerce as most countries prohibit the organic certification of soil-less hydroponic produce, including the 28 countries of the European Union (EU), Mexico, Japan, and Canada.

“Astute consumers have turned to organics to procure fruits and vegetables for their family knowing that certified farmers do a better job of stewarding the land by nurturing the complex biological ecosystem in the soil, which creates nutrient-dense, superior food,” said Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “Hydroponic and container systems rely on liquid fertilizers developed from conventional crops or waste products. Suggesting that they should qualify for organic labeling is a specious argument.”

The Cornucopia complaint specifically targets two of the giants in U.S. hydroponic production, the organic berry behemoth, Driscoll’s, and a major tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper producer, Wholesum Harvest. Both agribusinesses have production in the U.S. and Mexico and are certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and Quality Assurance International (QAI), respectively.

Pioneers of the organic movement, including the “Agrarian Elders” and other diversified farmers, are incensed by the rise of “organic” hydroponics and are leading the “Keep the Soil in Organic” movement. They are witnessing firsthand the displacement of domestic organic produce with hydroponic versions.

These organic farmers argue that organic agriculture has always been entirely centered on the biological complexity found in properly managed, fertile soil. Iconic farmer and author, Eliot Coleman, of Maine explains, “The phrase ‘organic hydroponic’ is an oxymoron—a figure of speech in which contradictory terms appear in conjunction. Hydroponic growers produce crops in sterile surroundings and douse plant roots with liquid nutrients that can never begin to duplicate the biological complexity of fertile soil.”

In addition, organic hydroponic produce, whether imported or grown by giant agribusinesses in the U.S., is not identified in the marketplace. Consumers have no way of knowing if the berries, tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers they are purchasing are truly organic.

The Cornucopia Institute has engaged the public by distributing a proxy letter to organic stakeholders (available as a download through the hydroponics link in the projects tab on their website). The organization says it has already received thousands of originally signed letters which they will hand deliver to the NOSB at their St. Louis meeting starting November 16.

“There is a higher authority than the USDA, or even the federal courts, in these matters,” said Kastel, “and that’s the community of organic farmers, and their loyal customers who vote every day in the marketplace with their dollars. They are clearly voicing their opposition to the faux organic production that is flooding the marketplace.”

What’s not even mentioned is the energy needed to power artificial lighting to grow crops hydroponically. Crops grown outdoors have a free, sustainable, and very powerful light source: the sun.

***

ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT BACTERIA IN CONVENTIONAL POULTRY

A new study published in the scientific journal Clinical Infectious Diseases has found evidence that an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus can be transmitted to consumers via grocery store poultry meat. Robert Skov, a lead researcher on the paper, said in a statement, “At present, meat products represent only a minor transmission route for MRSA to humans, but our findings nevertheless underscore the importance of reducing the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals as well as continuing surveillance of the animal-food-human interface.”

***

ORGANIC FARMING BOOSTS YIELDS, UPS PEST CONTROL

Organic farming increases biological control of pests and yields in barley
A recent study published in Landscape Ecology has reaffirmed that organic farming leads to greater yields and pest control by supporting natural predators, and demonstrated that these benefits associated with organic farming are maintained regardless of the surrounding landscape.

***

LESS ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT E. COLI IN ORGANIC PIGS

A study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE tested swine from four different European countries—Denmark, France, Italy, and Sweden—and found that those raised on organic farms consistently harbored less antibiotic-resistant E. coli than swine raised on conventional farms. “For all four countries, resistance was substantially lower in organic than conventional pigs…This knowledge, together with a continued effort to improve animal health and thereby reduce the overall need for antibiotics, would be valuable to reduce antibiotic resistance without compromising animal welfare,” the authors concluded.

###




NY Times Reports Doubts about GMOs

Organic Lifestyle Comments (0)

Danny Hakimoct of The New York Times has investigated GMOs and began his article on the front page of October 29 this way:

“The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat. But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

“The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

“Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise. Europe did not embrace the technology, yet it has achieved increases in yield and decreases in pesticide use on a par with, or even better than, the United States, where genetically modified crops are widely grown.

“An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.

“At the same time, herbicide use has increased in the United States, even as major crops like corn, soybeans and cotton have been converted to GMO varieties. And the United States has fallen behind Europe’s biggest producer, France, in reducing the overall use of pesticides, which includes both herbicides and insecticides.

“One measure, contained in data from the United States Geological Survey, shows the stark difference in the use of pesticides. Since genetically modified crops were introduced in the United States two decades ago for crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, the use of toxins that kill insects and fungi has fallen by a third, but the spraying of herbicides, which are used in much higher volumes, has risen by 21 percent.

“By contrast, in France, use of insecticides and fungicides has fallen by a far greater percentage — 65 percent — and herbicide use has decreased as well, by 36 percent.
Profound differences over genetic engineering have split Americans and Europeans for decades. Although American protesters as far back as 1987 pulled up prototype potato plants, European anger at the idea of fooling with nature has been far more sustained.”

Although Hakimoct doesn’t mention it in these paragraphs, Monsanto is the corporation behind the introduction of GMO crops and is also the purveyor of glyphosate herbicide, which, as the report points out, has risen steeply in the United States since GMOs were introduced 20 years ago. Maybe that was the idea all along. If so, it’s a diabolically ingenious way to sell more herbicide.

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WHAT’S THE UPSHOT OF THE MONSANTO TRIBUNAL IN THE HAGUE?

On October 14-16, over a thousand activists, journalists and witnesses from around the world gathered in The Hague, Netherlands, headquarters of the International Court of Justice, to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and nature (“ecocide”), according to Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association.

Before a distinguished international panel of judges, 30 witnesses—including farmers, consumers, scientists, indigenous people, and former governmental officials—from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, North and South America, delivered detailed and shocking testimony on how Monsanto and its agribusiness accomplices have poisoned the environment and devastated public health.

Victims and witnesses described how, over the past 50 years, Monsanto has duped, assaulted, injured, and killed farmers, farmworkers, rural villagers, and urban consumers with its reckless use of toxic chemicals and pesticides (PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, Dioxin, Roundup, 2,4D), and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The insidious political clout and growing control over the world’s seeds and food by Monsanto and a new global agribusiness cartel constitute a serious, indeed catastrophic, threat to our health as well as to the health of our soils, watersheds, oceans, wetlands, forests and climate.

Monsanto’s chemical- and fossil fuel-intensive GMO crops (corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, eggplant, potatoes, alfalfa, and others) and the toxic pesticides used to grow them are now polluting 400 million acres in 28 nations, comprising almost 10 percent of the world’s croplands. As a result, GMO ingredients and pesticide residues now contaminate much, if not most, of the world’s (non-organic) processed foods, animal feed, meat, dairy and poultry. Meanwhile GMO soy and chemical-intensive palm oil plantations, commodities utilized for junk food, animal feed, cosmetics, and biofuels, are the primary driving forces of the tropical deforestation that threatens to smother the literal lungs of the planet, as well as most of the planet’s biodiversity.

From Sri Lanka, India, Argentina, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, and dozens of other nations, including the industrialized nations of the North, the same tragic, brutal, criminal, narrative emerged: Monsanto, aided and abetted by its shareholders and business allies, has deliberately poisoned people, communities and the environment in order to maximize profits. Meanwhile, indentured scientists, politicians and mass media—Monsanto’s minions—have done little or nothing to stop this mass homicide and ecocide.

For 20 years, Monsanto, with its army of lawyers and PR flacks, has spread lies in the mass media and scientific journals; intimidated or sued farmers and scientific critics, and infiltrated or bribed politicians, regulatory officials and academics.

As the Corporate Europe Observatory put it: “Corporations like Monsanto have limitless resources to buy political power through lobbying. Not only are they represented by numerous lobbying associations at every level from local to global, they also have an army of hired gun lobbyists, fund scientists to act as their mouthpiece, and participate in ‘greenwashing’ projects.’”

In addition, Monsanto has routinely carried out acts of biopiracy—robbing indigenous communities and traditional farmers of their knowledge, plants, and seeds and then patenting these life forms as their corporate “intellectual property.” Overturning or simply ignoring national laws, common law, farmer and consumer rights, and international trade and environmental norms, Monsanto and the other, now merging, chemical-biotech giants (Dow, Dupont, Syngenta, ChinaChem, Bayer, BASF) have essentially organized themselves into a powerful and monopolistic global cartel.

This Monsanto-led cartel, drawing comparisons to the Nazi I.G. Farben cartel of the 1930s and 40s, has managed to gain a certain degree of public, media and scientific acceptance by repeating its “big lies” over and over again in the mass media, including: (1) toxic industrial and agricultural chemicals are safe; (2) seeds and life forms can legitimately be patented and monopolized; (3) GMO crops use less pesticides and chemicals; (4) GMO crops are the only way to feed the world; (5) genetically engineered crops and trees and the chemicals sprayed or laced into them are climate friendly; and (6) Foods derived from GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to non-GMOs.

By destroying the health and livelihoods of literally millions of people, Monsanto has earned the dubious distinction of being the most hated corporation on Earth. No wonder the Biotech Bully of St. Louis is currently trying to change its name and bury the historical record of 115 years of crime and mayhem by merging with the giant chemical, biotech, and pharmaceutical giant, Bayer.

Monsanto refused to appear and testify at the Tribunal, despite being served with a citizens’ subpoena in St. Louis. But on December 10, the Tribunal judges plan to issue legal advisory opinions based upon international law, including the category of human rights violations that fall under the category of “ecocide.”

While the Monsanto Tribunal was busy putting the multinational corporation on trial under international law, a few miles away across the city, 500 global activists participated in the People’s Assembly, where they discussed how to further expose Monsanto and its industrial agriculture collaborators in the court of public opinion.

The Assembly held three days of interactive workshops on how to strengthen national and international public education, and how to use boycotts and marketplace pressure campaigns to undermine and destroy Monsanto’s profitability and eventually drive it (and companies like it) off the market. The People’s Assembly was organized and funded by a broad coalition of organizations including Regeneration International, Navdanya (a grassroots based organization in India founded by Vandana Shiva), IFOAM Organics, Organic Consumers Association, Biovision, Via Campesina, Corporate European Observatory, and others.

Ultimately the People’s Assembly agreed that we need to not only get rid of Monsanto, but the entire degenerative system of food, farming, and land use that is driving global warming, catastrophic droughts and floods, soil erosion, desertification, water shortages, mass biodiversity loss, rural poverty and war, and deteriorating public health.

Leading farmer and campaign activists around the world led the workshops on GMOs, pesticides, seeds, corporate accountability, agroecology, and regenerative agriculture. Sessions included: How to Ban GMOs Worldwide; Strategies and Campaigns to Ban Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals; Steps toward Seed Freedom and Struggles Against Unjust Seed Laws; How to Hold Transnational Corporations Responsible for their Acts; and How We Can Mitigate and Reverse Global Warming and Feed the World.

Here are some of the major strategy ideas that came out of the workshops and plenaries:

(1) Globalize the Struggle. There’s no way to bring the Monsanto and industrial agriculture cartel to heel without organizing and successfully carrying out powerful, global, strategically designed campaigns, both in the marketplace and in the realm of public policy.
Local and even national campaigns no longer suffice. For example, the mass destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the environment and public health currently taking place in South American countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia and Argentina, brought on by the out-of-control production of GMO soy and corn and the reckless use of pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate), Syngenta’s atrazine and paraquat, and Bayer’s glufosinate, can be stopped only by a global North-South campaign that strengthens resistance at home, but also shuts off market demand for these GMO animal feeds in the nations where they are exported.

South Americans cannot possibly stop the deadly production of these pesticide-intensive GMOs in their own countries without the support of activists and consumers in the countries (especially China and Europe) that are importing billions of dollars of these animal feeds for their domestic factory farm production of meat, dairy and poultry. If proper laboratory testing of these GMO animal feeds can be carried out, in combination with testing for the poisons that end up in the EU and China’s meat, dairy and poultry products that are derived from them, then a mass consumer boycott can possibly be organized. Reinforcing this marketplace pressure, groups can simultaneously press for laws requiring the labeling of meat and animal products derived from GMO- and pesticide-tainted feeds. Alongside these market-based campaigns we’ll need to continue our global effort to stop cartel-friendly Free Trade agreements such as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), and to enact a global ban on GMO companion pesticides, such as Roundup/glyphosate.

(2) Globalize Hope. A recurrent theme at the People’s Assembly was the need to move beyond gloom and doom and to emphasize that regenerative food, farming, and land use (utilizing agro-ecology, organic, agro-forestry and holistic grazing techniques) not only can mitigate global warming, deteriorating public health, rural poverty, environmental destruction, and endless war, but actually reverse these trends. One of the lesser known positive developments in the world today is that 25-50 million farmers and ranchers (5-10 percent of all producers) are already practicing regenerative agriculture practices, sequestering massive amounts of excess carbon from the atmosphere and safely storing it in the soil, grasslands, forests, and wetlands through improved soil management, crop biodiversity, reforestation, and conservation. Strengthening this regenerative agriculture movement are hundreds of millions of conscious consumers who are starting to reject GMO and factory farmed foods and are choosing organic, grass-fed, local and regenerative foods instead.

(3) Connect the Dots. Coming out of the Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly is a growing commitment among activists all over the world to move beyond language and cultural barriers, beyond national and continental borders, beyond single-issue campaigning, and to begin building a new 21st Century movement based on mutual solidarity and concrete cooperation in globally coordinated campaigns. Given the catastrophic consequences of “business as usual,” and continued domination by the global “1 percent,” we can no longer afford to operate as separate movements such as the anti-GMO movement, the organic movement, the Fair Trade movement, the economic justice movement, the climate movement, the forest movement, the ocean movement, and the anti-war movement. Nor can we operate as regional or national movements of farmers, workers, students and consumers.

We must connect the dots between interrelated issues and we must work together, from the local to the international level, with fellow leaders of the global grassroots who see the “big picture.” Harnessing the enormous power of the global grassroots, we can build a new diverse Regenerative Movement strong enough and inspirational enough to overturn the dictatorship of Monsanto and the global elite. Coming out of the Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly at The Hague, there is a new sense of urgency and determination. A critical mass of grass roots people are ready to embark on this Long March of resistance, movement-building, and regeneration.

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BIG AG WANTS HYDROPONICS, GENE EDITING AS PART OF ORGANIC RULES

When Congress passed the landmark Organic Foods Production Act in 1990 it created the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) – the unique expert 15-member citizen’s body – to advise the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) about what is appropriate for organic production. The critical role of the NOSB is to protect the interests of the organic community from attacks by corporate lobbyists sent by Industrial Agriculture to water down organic integrity.

In a decisive vote in 2010, the NOSB voted not to allow Hydroponic Production – industrialized, artificial, soil-less production systems totally reliant on imported inputs – in organics. This was a courageous – and correct position – because it recognized and respected that for the one hundred years organic farming has been around it has always been a revolutionary system of food production based on growing in and improving the soil.

So central is soil to the foundational concept of organic that its very name – ‘Organic Farming’ – originates from the life-giving organic matter content of the soil, which organic farmers know to cherish and work hard to protect and increase. As organic consumers, we all understand that healthy food comes from healthy plants grown in healthy soil. Soil is and must forever be the foundation of organic farming.

Citizens have been outraged by the reckless actions of the USDA-NOP that, ignoring that major NOSB ruling against hydroponics, has allowed corporate hydroponic operations to have their production labeled ‘Certified Organic.’

Much of this fake “organic” hydroponic production is being imported from countries like Canada, Mexico, and Holland, and would not qualify for organic certification in much of the rest of the world, including some of the countries in which it is grown.

Even worse than the current efforts to undermine soil-based organic farming is a brand new effort by the corporate organic self-promoters at the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and UNFI (United Natural Foods Incorporated) announcing they want to consider new “gene editing” techniques to be allowed in organic food production. That’s right, the same people who sold us out on GMO labeling are now trying to sneak the latest genetic engineering techniques into organic standards.

In a September 22 blog earlier this year, OTA board member and UNFI lobbyist Melody Meyer wrote about allowing “gene editing,” a new form of genetic engineering, into organic standards-–a clear sign that the OTA and the corporate paymasters at UNFI want to include these new techniques over the objections of virtually all organic farmers and consumers.

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NATIVE HAWAIIANS VIE TO OUST PRO-GMO MAUI COUNCIL

While national attention is focused on the important North Dakota Pipeline protests by native people and earth justice activists, a similar battle for water and land is being led by native Hawaiians on Maui to take back power from Maui Council’s Monsanto-boosting majority.

A “Maui Ohana”(family) slate of nine native Hawaiians and grassroots housing and environmental activists are running in a historic election this November that may replace the Maui County Council’s pro-GMO majority and bring ecological stewardship of land and water to center stage across the islands.

Aina Protectors United leader Alika Atay speaks for the earth, his ancestors, and future generations when he says. “I am speaking for the land, for the water, for the children. Everything we do has a connection to the earth and our resources.

“Given our responsibility under Aloha Aina, we must stand up and protect. We have to look at the damage heavy chemical pesticides are doing to the soil and the aquifer. Not only what affects us now but more so the long-term future concerns. What kind of water will our future generations have to drink?”

That is the same question being asked by the Native Americans and earth activists who have converged near the banks of the Missouri River in North Dakota. The difference in Maui is that instead of protesting against the government, they stand a decent chance of becoming the government.

“We the people have the power,” Atay says. “We the people are going to make this change.”

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NUMBERS OF WILD VERTEBRATES ON EARTH PLUMMETING, REPORT SAYS

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds of its 1970 level by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The Living Planet Index, compiled by researchers from World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, shows that vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67 percent from 1970 levels unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact.

The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said: “Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems as we know them today will collapse.”

I, Jeff Cox, have been learning and writing about health, wholeness, ecology, organics, and humanity’s reliance on the natural world since 1970. I can sum up what I’ve learned over these 46 years in one sentence:

The greater the biodiversity, the healthier the ecosystem.

So this report, if accurate, is sickeningly disturbing. The quality of human life is diminished with the disappearance of any species, great or small, and by the disappearance of the numbers of that species. For, as Shakespeare said, “Nought so vile that on the earth doth live, but to the earth some special good doth give.”

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Sonoma County Health Inspectors Harass Heirloom Expo Vendors

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This year, for the first time in the history of the National Heirloom Exposition at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California, local county health inspectors showed up and started harassing vendors for things like allowing visitors to taste test organic apples before they bought them, Food Democracy Now reports.

 

Not only that, this year a visitor from Monsanto showed up with a camera and a hidden video recorder. When asked what he was doing, he said that he was there to find out more about the genetics behind all the diversity of heirloom seeds at the festival. That’s certainly within his rights, but why the hidden equipment?

 

It’s hard to know what’s changed from the previous five years of the Expo’s existence, but it’s suspicious that this year someone from Monsanto shows up, and then people start getting harassed.

 

Here’s how the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported the situation: “Vendors and exhibitors at a popular natural foods event contend they were harassed and unfairly targeted by Sonoma County health inspectors who cracked down this week with fees and fines, as well as permit requirements.

 

“Organizers of the Exposition said previous health inspectors were positive and supportive of the three-day event, which ended Thursday. But this year was different.

Organizers said the treatment by health inspectors threatens the future of the Heirloom Exposition, which draws more than 15,000 people. They said it makes it challenging for the participation of backyard farmers and hobbyists who can’t give away an apple or tomato without a permit.

 

“’We feel we’re not really wanted,’ said farming entrepreneur Jere Gettle, who co-founded the Heirloom Exposition and the Petaluma Seed Bank. ‘It’s taken the heart out of the event.’” There was talk of moving the event out of Sonoma County.

 

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PESTICIDE, HERBICIDE USE ON GMO CORN AND BEANS TALLIED

 

A new study published in Science Advances (31 Aug 2016:

Vol. 2, no. 8, e1600850. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600850.) looks at how genetically engineered crops affect the use of herbicides and insecticides.

 

The study shows that farmers growing GMO soybeans used 28 percent more Roundup on their Roundup-resistant beans than farmers growing non-GMO beans. Farmers growing GMO corn used about an ounce less Roundup on 2.2 acres than farmers growing non-GMO corn. And farmers growing GMO corn that produces an insecticidal toxin in its tissues used about three one-hundredths of a pound (less than half an ounce) less pesticide on 2.2 acres than farmers growing non-insecticidal GMO corn.

 

So the application of Roundup herbicide and pesticide on corn is about the same for GMO-using farmers and regular conventional farmers, but GMO soybean growers use substantially more herbicide than their conventional non-GMO counterparts.

 

The economists conducting the study (Edward D. Perry, Federico Ciliberto, David A. Hennessy, and GianCarlo Moschini) end by noting that the change in herbicide use on soybeans is consistent with the development of Roundup resistance in weeds, and that the increase in Roundup on soybeans is due to the presence of resistant weeds.

 

Monsanto has consistently claimed that its introduction of GMO beans has led to a reduction in herbicide use, and that resistance to glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) is a natural adaptation that’s not its fault. Yet Monsanto’s colleagues at Bayer, the German pesticide and chemical firm, have introduced new chemicals, such as Alion, that they guarantee will kill glyphosate-resistant broadleaf weeds.

 

Until the weeds make an adaptation to Alion as well, I might add. Tillage works well controlling weeds, and while not without its problems, at least tillage isn’t dousing America’s farmland with poison. But then, you can’t sell tillage.

 

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ORGANIC FOOD CAN HELP CONTROL SUPERBUGS

 

The Organic Center has authored an article in the Modern Wellness Guide about how organic can act as a tool to fight superbugs. In it, the group discusses how choosing organic goes beyond protecting consumers from pesticide residues; organic also reduces the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

 

These diseases have been on the rise lately, and have reached a point where the World Health Organization declared antibiotic-resistant bacteria to be a global health epidemic.

 

One of the reasons for the prevalence of superbugs is the widespread use of antibiotics in conventional agriculture as a prophylactic and growth-promoting agent. Organic, on the other hand, raises livestock without the use of antibiotics. This means that organic farming doesn’t select for microbial resistance, and can even protect consumers from coming into contact with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To examine this issue in depth, The Organic Center developed and published a report showing how organic can be used as a model to produce healthful food while preventing the spread of antibiotic resistance.

 

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SOCIAL, FAMILY STRESS INTENSIFIES PESTICIDE-RELATED EFFECTS

 

Pre-natal pesticide exposure effects greater in stressful environments

A new study published in the journal Neurotoxicology demonstrates that social stressors such as economic strain or poor learning environments can magnify the negative impacts of pre-natal exposure to organophosphate (OP) pesticides.

 

Researchers found that higher levels of total social stress as well as negative parent-child relationships and poor learning environments were generally correlated with lower IQs for all test subjects, but the negative correlation was significantly stronger for children of mothers who were exposed to pesticides during their pregnancy.

 

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37 MILLION BEES DEAD AFTER GMO SEEDS PLANTED NEARBY

 

Dave Schuit, a beekeeper who produces honey in Elmwood, Canada, claims that since GMO corn was planted in the nearby area, his farm has lost around 37 million bees (approximately 600 hives). According to reports, Schuit and other local beekeepers believe neonicotinoids, or “neonics” are to blame for the influx of bee deaths.

 

Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, two of Bayer CropScience’s most widely used pesticides, both contain neonics and have been linked with many large-scale bee ‘die-offs’ in both European and U.S. countries. However, despite the dangers associated with the use of this chemical, the pesticides are still regularly used and sold on the market.

 

Despite their size, the impact bees have on the environment is almost unparalleled. In fact, bees are responsible for pollinating about one-sixth of the flowering plant species worldwide and approximately 400 different agricultural types of plant.

 

In 2010, bees helped provide over $19 billion worth of agricultural crops in the U.S alone – estimated to be roughly one third of the food we eat. As a result, it is not hard to see that bees are needed to sustain our modern food system.

 

However, despite their obvious importance in our ecosystem, bee populations have been rapidly dropping over the past few decades. In fact, 44 percent of honeybee colonies in the United States died off last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last month.

 

In the past, scientists have tried to conclude why bee populations are in rapid decline. While it is not been proven that pesticides directly kill the bees that come into contact with the chemical, many scientists believe there is a strong link between the use of the pesticide and a phenomenon they refer to as “colony collapse disorder” (CCD).

 

“We believe that some subtle interactions between nutrition, pesticide exposure and other stressors are converging to kill colonies,” said Jeffery Pettis, of the ARS’s bee research laboratory.

 

While the cause of CCD is still widely debated, some believe that “the neonicotinoid pesticides are coating corn seeds, and with the use of new air seeders, are blowing pesticide dust into the air when planted.”

 

However, according to a new study published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, neonicotinoid pesticides kill honeybees by damaging their immune system and making them unable to fight diseases and bacteria.

 

Although we are unable to definitively determine what is causing the terminal decline of bee populations around the world, using all the scientific evidence that is currently available, it is clear that pesticides are having a significantly negative effect on bee populations.

 

In fact, it seems more and more countries are also beginning to accept this idea. Canada has banned the use of Imadacloprid on sunflower and corn fields; France has rejected Bayer’s application for Clothianidin; Italy has now banned certain neonicotinoids; and the European Union has banned multiple pesticides.

 

At this moment in time, EU scientists are reviewing the EU-wide ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides. By the end of January 2017, the EU scientist will finish their risk evaluation and determine the status of the chemical.

 

Although the United States have yet to follow suit, several states – including California, Alaska, New York, and Massachusetts – are currently considering legislation that would ban neonicotinoids. In fact, just last month Maryland came the first state to pass a neonic-restricting bill; Maryland’s Pollinator Protection Act has eliminated consumer use of neonicotinoids in the state.

 

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HERE’S A RAMEN SHOP WORTH GOING TO

 

Yuzu Ramen & Broffee, an authentic Japanese restaurant in Emeryville in the East Bay Area, announced they have added five new all-organic ramen dishes to their menu, and are now offering eight varieties in total. The new additions include a spicy tonkotsu, spicy gyukotsu, spicy veggie, cheesy tonkotsu, and a cheesy gyukotsu.

 

It takes three days to prepare these ramen broths. Yuzu uses organic vegetables, 100 percent grass-fed meat and bones for their ramen and broths. No antibiotics or GMOs, no artificial coloring or flavoring, and no MSG or preservatives are used. Sticking to unprocessed and organic ingredients is a core part of their business values. Almost every ingredient is delivered fresh daily from local vendors that focus on organic

 

Yuzu Ramen & Broffee is located at 1298 65th Street in Emeryville. More information: http://www.yuzurb.com/.

 

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MOVE AFOOT TO REPEAL THE DARK ACT

 

On July 31, President Obama turned his back on the 90 percent of Americans who want companies to be required to clearly state on food packages, in plain English, whether or not their products contain GMO ingredients.

 

Instead, the President signed into law the misleading, confusing, and loophole-ridden-DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act.

 

We all know what happened. Monsanto’s minions in Congress passed a law that nullified Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law and essentially guarantees that here in the U.S., food companies will never be required to tell us if the products we buy are contain ingredients grown with massive amounts of Monsanto’s cancer-causing Roundup.

 

Can we repeal the DARK Act, which is now officially referred to as the “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard”? Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) thinks so. And even though it’s a long shot, we need to join forces with our allies to repeal this law. Tell your Senators to support Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s efforts to repeal the DARK Act.

 

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Organic Chickens Coming Home to Roost

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Earlier this summer, just as the nation was celebrating Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law going into effect on July 1, a handful of corporate-owned organic companies sold out the GMO labeling movement to get a few small protections for their own corporate profits.

They were joined in the sell-out by supposedly liberal stalwarts like Senator Al Franken and President Barack Obama. Obama, you may remember, even made it a campaign promise to promote GMO labeling.

At the time, Food Democracy Now gave a detailed analysis of exactly who was involved in this betrayal of the will of more than 90 percent of the American public. Now the fallout continues, as leading family farm and organic seed groups and top organic companies have announced their resignation from the Organic Trade Association and Just Label It for their active role in this outrageous betrayal on GMO labeling.

Just last week, Dr. Bronner’s announced its resignation from the Organic Trade Association ahead of the big organic industry event, the Natural Products Expo East, with Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner denouncing the “betrayal of the consumer-led GMO labeling movement, and general drift away from the core principles that drive the organic movement.”

Food Democracy Now has announced that it’s making sure that everyone in the organic industry at Expo East knows exactly who was behind this sell-out by running mobile billboards at the industry event.

Dr. Bronner’s announcement comes on the heels of an announcement from the Organic Consumers Association that 60 leading non-profits and small organic businesses are calling on the small and mid-sized organic companies to leave the Organic Trade Association.

The corporate organic sell-outs who worked against the GMO labeling movement include Stonyfield Yogurt co-founder and Just Label It chair Gary Hirshberg, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb, and Organic Valley lobbyist and Organic Trade Association President Missy Hughes.

Food Democracy Now is about to launch a boycott against these companies. Joining in the protest against the Organic Trade Association is the family farmer-run Organic Seed and Growers Association (OSGATA), which left the OTA in disgust earlier this summer.

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RODALE INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES ORGANIC FARMERS ASSOCIATION

Rodale Institute, the world’s leading organic agriculture research organization, has launched a new membership organization for organic farmers. The new Organic Farmers Association will exist to provide a voice for organic farmers on policy issues, help organic farmers network and share information, and serve as a resource center for organic farmers.

Advocacy efforts will be led by Elizabeth Kucinich, Board Policy Chair for Rodale Institute. Kucinich has extensive policy experience in Washington, D.C., including serving as the former director of policy at the Center for Food Safety and former director of government affairs at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Elizabeth is an advisory council member of DC EFF, the world’s largest environmental film festival, and is a producer of GMO OMG and Organic Rising.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to bring organic farmers’ voices and their experience with agriculture to policymakers in Washington, D.C.,” said Kucinich. “Policymakers have not yet grasped the significance of organic agriculture for resilient, reliable, non-toxic food production, and its ability to mitigate climate change while restoring our nation’s soil health. We have an opportunity to benefit organic farmers, while positively impacting our nation’s health and mitigating our climate crisis.”

In addition to better representation for organic farmers on legislative issues, the Organic Farmers Association will provide resources for farmers such as webinars, online tools, discounts, and a subscription to Rodale Institute’s New Farm magazine, providing the latest research and news for organic farmers.

“A lot of people say they speak for farmers,” said Jeff Moyer, Executive Director, Rodale Institute. “But there are no national organizations that exist specifically for organic farmers, by organic farmers. A lot of organic farmers are still isolated in their communities. We’d like to unite the nearly 20,000 organic farms around the country to provide that voice, provide a network, and provide the resources that farmers need to be successful.”

To sign up for a membership, visit OrganicFarmersAssociation.org. There are two membership options. A “Farmer Membership,” which represents organic farmers and includes a vote on policy issues, and a “Supporter Membership” for individuals interested in supporting organic farmers. Both memberships are $100 per year. For farm members, the voting structure is simple. Each farm receives one vote on policy issues, so that large and small operations have an equal voice at the table.

The Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. The Institute has been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet.

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3.2 MILLION MOSTLY TOP PREDATORS KILLED BY THE FED IN 2015

The highly secretive arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed more than 3.2 million animals during fiscal year 2015, according to new data released by the agency. The total number of wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles and other animals killed largely at the behest of the livestock industry and other agribusinesses represents a half-million-animal increase over the 2.7 million animals the agency killed in 2014.

Despite increasing calls for reform a century after the federal wildlife-killing program began in 1915, the latest kill report indicates that the program’s reckless slaughter continues, including 385 gray wolves, 68,905 coyotes (plus an unknown number of pups in 492 destroyed dens), 480 black bears, 284 mountain lions, 731 bobcats, 492 river otters (all but 83 killed “unintentionally”), 3,437 foxes, two bald eagles and 21,559 beavers. The program also killed 20,777 prairie dogs outright, plus an unknown number killed in more than 59,000 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated.

“Despite mounting public outcry and calls from Congress to reform these barbaric, outdated tactics, Wildlife Services continues its slaughter of America’s wildlife with no public oversight,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year — a cruel practice that not only fails to effectively manage targeted wildlife but poses an ongoing threat to other animals, including pets.”

Agency insiders have revealed that the agency kills many more animals than it reports.

The data show that the Department of Agriculture boosted its killing program despite a growing public outcry and calls for reform by scientists, elected officials and nongovernmental organizations.

“The Department of Agriculture should get out of the wildlife-slaughter business,” said Robinson. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help keep the natural balance of their ecosystems. Our government kills off the predators, such as coyotes, and then kills off their prey — like prairie dogs — in an absurd, pointless cycle of violence.”

USDA’s Wildlife Services program began in 1915 when Congress appropriated $125,000 to the Bureau of Biological Survey for “destroying wolves, coyotes, and other animals injurious to agriculture and animal husbandry” on national forests and other public lands.

By the 1920s, scientists and fur trappers were robustly criticizing the Biological Survey’s massive poisoning of wildlife, and in response in 1928 the agency officially renounced “extermination” as its goal. Nevertheless it proceeded to exterminate wolves, grizzly bears, black-footed ferrets, and other animals from most of their remaining ranges in the years to follow. The agency was blocked from completely exterminating these species through the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act.

In 1997, after several name changes, the deceptive name “Wildlife Services” was inaugurated in place of “Biological Survey.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

***

GREENPEACE UNCOVERS INDUSTRY BEE-KILLING PESTICIDE STUDIES

Joe Sandler Clarke, writing for Greenpeace, reveals how chemical giants Bayer and Syngenta commissioned private studies that showed their neonicotinoid pesticides causes serious harm to bees.

The company research—designed to reveal the level at which their products harm bees—was obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to the U.S. environmental regulator. Publicly, the two firms have often sought to play down suggestions that their products can cause harm to honeybees.

However, the studies will cause little surprise in industry circles. Industry and scientists have long known that the products can harm bees. Instead, the research has been criticized by experts because it assumes a very narrow definition of harm to bee health and ignores wild bees, which evidence suggests are more likely to be harmed by neonicotinoids. It means the studies may substantially underestimate the impact of the two firms’ products on pollinators.

Due to commercial confidentiality rules, Greenpeace is not allowed to release the studies in full.

On its website, Syngenta states there is “no direct correlation between neonicotinoids use and poor bee health” and “the allegation that neonicotinoids-based pesticides are inherently damaging to bee colonies or populations is not true.”

In statements issued to Greenpeace last month, the firm added, “None of the studies Syngenta has undertaken or commissioned for use by regulatory agencies have shown that thiamethoxam (its neonicotinoid pesticide) damages the health of bee colonies and we stand by the integrity of our neonicotinoid product.”

The private research did not examine the impact of the product on bee colonies in “normal” conditions. However, other studies have done so.

Last month, a study by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology linked the long-term decline of wild bees in England to the use of neonicotinoids.

A major field study in Sweden last year found that wild bees were badly affected when exposed to fields treated with clothianidin (Bayer’s neonic), while honeybees proved more robust.

In a statement to Greenpeace, a Bayer spokesperson said:

“The study conducted in North Carolina is an artificial feeding study that intentionally exaggerates the exposure potential because it is designed to calculate a ‘no-effect’ concentration for clothianidin. Although the colony was artificially provided with a spiked sugar solution, the bees were allowed to forage freely in the environment, so there is less stress (which can be a contributing variable) than if they were completely confined to cages.

“This protocol was developed jointly by Bayer and the EPA several years ago and it is now being applied to other compounds. Based on these results, we believe the data support the establishment of a no-effect concentration of 20 ppb for clothianidin, which is consistent to that of other neonicotinoids.

“One of our research scientists will make a public presentation at the International Congress of Entomology meeting in Orlando, Florida, in which he will discuss the similarities of the findings of these studies, as well as the merits of the new test protocol.”

Responding to the Greenpeace story, a Syngenta spokesperson said:

“The EPA asked us to do this study and agreed with the methodology. A sucrose based mechanism was used on the basis that it was required to expose bees artificially to Thiamethoxam to determine what actual level of residue would exert a toxic effect.

“There were transient effects observed and the reported No Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) for this study was 50 ppb (parts per billion). It is accepted that residues of Thiamethoxam in pollen and nectar from seed treated crops are in the single ppb level. So this reported NOAEL of 50 ppb indicates that honeybee colonies are at low risk from exposure to Thiamethoxam in pollen and nectar of seed treated crops.

“This research is already in the process of being published in a forthcoming journal and is clearly already publicly available through the Freedom of Information process in the United States.”

***

TOWN NEAR GMO PLANTINGS SUFFERS BIRTH DEFECTS, CANCERS

The village of Avia Terai in Argentina is surrounded by GMO soy crops and Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is sprayed freely.

Here, children are born with birth defects and degenerative diseases of unknown origin. One little girl has large brownish-black spots all over her face and body—marks she’s had since birth. Another is slowly wasting away from an undiagnosed degenerative disease thought to be genetic, aggravated by exposure to herbicides. Many children are deformed in one way or another. Many elders are dying from cancer.

On October 15, Maria Liz Robledo, one of Monsanto’s victims in Argentina, and Damian Verzenassi, a public health doctor in Argentina, will tell the world how Argentinians have suffered from Monsanto’s Roundup. They are among the witnesses and experts who will testify before a panel of international judges at the International Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

###




Organic Chickens Coming Home to Roost

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Earlier this summer, just as the nation was celebrating Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law going into effect on July 1, a handful of corporate-owned organic companies sold out the GMO labeling movement to get a few small protections for their own corporate profits.

They were joined in the sell-out by supposedly liberal stalwarts like Senator Al Franken and President Barack Obama. Obama, you may remember, even made it a campaign promise to promote GMO labeling.

At the time, Food Democracy Now gave a detailed analysis of exactly who was involved in this betrayal of the will of more than 90 percent of the American public. Now the fallout continues, as leading family farm and organic seed groups and top organic companies have announced their resignation from the Organic Trade Association and Just Label It for their active role in this outrageous betrayal on GMO labeling.

Just last week, Dr. Bronner’s announced its resignation from the Organic Trade Association ahead of the big organic industry event, the Natural Products Expo East, with Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner denouncing the “betrayal of the consumer-led GMO labeling movement, and general drift away from the core principles that drive the organic movement.”

Food Democracy Now has announced that it’s making sure that everyone in the organic industry at Expo East knows exactly who was behind this sell-out by running mobile billboards at the industry event.

Dr. Bronner’s announcement comes on the heels of an announcement from the Organic Consumers Association that 60 leading non-profits and small organic businesses are calling on the small and mid-sized organic companies to leave the Organic Trade Association.

The corporate organic sell-outs who worked against the GMO labeling movement include Stonyfield Yogurt co-founder and Just Label It chair Gary Hirshberg, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb, and Organic Valley lobbyist and Organic Trade Association President Missy Hughes.

Food Democracy Now is about to launch a boycott against these companies. Joining in the protest against the Organic Trade Association is the family farmer-run Organic Seed and Growers Association (OSGATA), which left the OTA in disgust earlier this summer.

***

RODALE INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES ORGANIC FARMERS ASSOCIATION

Rodale Institute, the world’s leading organic agriculture research organization, has launched a new membership organization for organic farmers. The new Organic Farmers Association will exist to provide a voice for organic farmers on policy issues, help organic farmers network and share information, and serve as a resource center for organic farmers.

Advocacy efforts will be led by Elizabeth Kucinich, Board Policy Chair for Rodale Institute. Kucinich has extensive policy experience in Washington, D.C., including serving as the former director of policy at the Center for Food Safety and former director of government affairs at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Elizabeth is an advisory council member of DC EFF, the world’s largest environmental film festival, and is a producer of GMO OMG and Organic Rising.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to bring organic farmers’ voices and their experience with agriculture to policymakers in Washington, D.C.,” said Kucinich. “Policymakers have not yet grasped the significance of organic agriculture for resilient, reliable, non-toxic food production, and its ability to mitigate climate change while restoring our nation’s soil health. We have an opportunity to benefit organic farmers, while positively impacting our nation’s health and mitigating our climate crisis.”

In addition to better representation for organic farmers on legislative issues, the Organic Farmers Association will provide resources for farmers such as webinars, online tools, discounts, and a subscription to Rodale Institute’s New Farm magazine, providing the latest research and news for organic farmers.

“A lot of people say they speak for farmers,” said Jeff Moyer, Executive Director, Rodale Institute. “But there are no national organizations that exist specifically for organic farmers, by organic farmers. A lot of organic farmers are still isolated in their communities. We’d like to unite the nearly 20,000 organic farms around the country to provide that voice, provide a network, and provide the resources that farmers need to be successful.”

To sign up for a membership, visit OrganicFarmersAssociation.org. There are two membership options. A “Farmer Membership,” which represents organic farmers and includes a vote on policy issues, and a “Supporter Membership” for individuals interested in supporting organic farmers. Both memberships are $100 per year. For farm members, the voting structure is simple. Each farm receives one vote on policy issues, so that large and small operations have an equal voice at the table.

The Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. The Institute has been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet.

***

3.2 MILLION MOSTLY TOP PREDATORS KILLED BY THE FED IN 2015

The highly secretive arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture known as Wildlife Services killed more than 3.2 million animals during fiscal year 2015, according to new data released by the agency. The total number of wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles and other animals killed largely at the behest of the livestock industry and other agribusinesses represents a half-million-animal increase over the 2.7 million animals the agency killed in 2014.

Despite increasing calls for reform a century after the federal wildlife-killing program began in 1915, the latest kill report indicates that the program’s reckless slaughter continues, including 385 gray wolves, 68,905 coyotes (plus an unknown number of pups in 492 destroyed dens), 480 black bears, 284 mountain lions, 731 bobcats, 492 river otters (all but 83 killed “unintentionally”), 3,437 foxes, two bald eagles and 21,559 beavers. The program also killed 20,777 prairie dogs outright, plus an unknown number killed in more than 59,000 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated.

“Despite mounting public outcry and calls from Congress to reform these barbaric, outdated tactics, Wildlife Services continues its slaughter of America’s wildlife with no public oversight,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year — a cruel practice that not only fails to effectively manage targeted wildlife but poses an ongoing threat to other animals, including pets.”

Agency insiders have revealed that the agency kills many more animals than it reports.

The data show that the Department of Agriculture boosted its killing program despite a growing public outcry and calls for reform by scientists, elected officials and nongovernmental organizations.

“The Department of Agriculture should get out of the wildlife-slaughter business,” said Robinson. “Wolves, bears and other carnivores help keep the natural balance of their ecosystems. Our government kills off the predators, such as coyotes, and then kills off their prey — like prairie dogs — in an absurd, pointless cycle of violence.”

USDA’s Wildlife Services program began in 1915 when Congress appropriated $125,000 to the Bureau of Biological Survey for “destroying wolves, coyotes, and other animals injurious to agriculture and animal husbandry” on national forests and other public lands.

By the 1920s, scientists and fur trappers were robustly criticizing the Biological Survey’s massive poisoning of wildlife, and in response in 1928 the agency officially renounced “extermination” as its goal. Nevertheless it proceeded to exterminate wolves, grizzly bears, black-footed ferrets, and other animals from most of their remaining ranges in the years to follow. The agency was blocked from completely exterminating these species through the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act.

In 1997, after several name changes, the deceptive name “Wildlife Services” was inaugurated in place of “Biological Survey.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

***

GREENPEACE UNCOVERS INDUSTRY BEE-KILLING PESTICIDE STUDIES

Joe Sandler Clarke, writing for Greenpeace, reveals how chemical giants Bayer and Syngenta commissioned private studies that showed their neonicotinoid pesticides causes serious harm to bees.

The company research—designed to reveal the level at which their products harm bees—was obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to the U.S. environmental regulator. Publicly, the two firms have often sought to play down suggestions that their products can cause harm to honeybees.

However, the studies will cause little surprise in industry circles. Industry and scientists have long known that the products can harm bees. Instead, the research has been criticized by experts because it assumes a very narrow definition of harm to bee health and ignores wild bees, which evidence suggests are more likely to be harmed by neonicotinoids. It means the studies may substantially underestimate the impact of the two firms’ products on pollinators.

Due to commercial confidentiality rules, Greenpeace is not allowed to release the studies in full.

On its website, Syngenta states there is “no direct correlation between neonicotinoids use and poor bee health” and “the allegation that neonicotinoids-based pesticides are inherently damaging to bee colonies or populations is not true.”

In statements issued to Greenpeace last month, the firm added, “None of the studies Syngenta has undertaken or commissioned for use by regulatory agencies have shown that thiamethoxam (its neonicotinoid pesticide) damages the health of bee colonies and we stand by the integrity of our neonicotinoid product.”

The private research did not examine the impact of the product on bee colonies in “normal” conditions. However, other studies have done so.

Last month, a study by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology linked the long-term decline of wild bees in England to the use of neonicotinoids.

A major field study in Sweden last year found that wild bees were badly affected when exposed to fields treated with clothianidin (Bayer’s neonic), while honeybees proved more robust.

In a statement to Greenpeace, a Bayer spokesperson said:

“The study conducted in North Carolina is an artificial feeding study that intentionally exaggerates the exposure potential because it is designed to calculate a ‘no-effect’ concentration for clothianidin. Although the colony was artificially provided with a spiked sugar solution, the bees were allowed to forage freely in the environment, so there is less stress (which can be a contributing variable) than if they were completely confined to cages.

“This protocol was developed jointly by Bayer and the EPA several years ago and it is now being applied to other compounds. Based on these results, we believe the data support the establishment of a no-effect concentration of 20 ppb for clothianidin, which is consistent to that of other neonicotinoids.

“One of our research scientists will make a public presentation at the International Congress of Entomology meeting in Orlando, Florida, in which he will discuss the similarities of the findings of these studies, as well as the merits of the new test protocol.”

Responding to the Greenpeace story, a Syngenta spokesperson said:

“The EPA asked us to do this study and agreed with the methodology. A sucrose based mechanism was used on the basis that it was required to expose bees artificially to Thiamethoxam to determine what actual level of residue would exert a toxic effect.

“There were transient effects observed and the reported No Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) for this study was 50 ppb (parts per billion). It is accepted that residues of Thiamethoxam in pollen and nectar from seed treated crops are in the single ppb level. So this reported NOAEL of 50 ppb indicates that honeybee colonies are at low risk from exposure to Thiamethoxam in pollen and nectar of seed treated crops.

“This research is already in the process of being published in a forthcoming journal and is clearly already publicly available through the Freedom of Information process in the United States.”

***

TOWN NEAR GMO PLANTINGS SUFFERS BIRTH DEFECTS, CANCERS

The village of Avia Terai in Argentina is surrounded by GMO soy crops and Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is sprayed freely.

Here, children are born with birth defects and degenerative diseases of unknown origin. One little girl has large brownish-black spots all over her face and body—marks she’s had since birth. Another is slowly wasting away from an undiagnosed degenerative disease thought to be genetic, aggravated by exposure to herbicides. Many children are deformed in one way or another. Many elders are dying from cancer.

On October 15, Maria Liz Robledo, one of Monsanto’s victims in Argentina, and Damian Verzenassi, a public health doctor in Argentina, will tell the world how Argentinians have suffered from Monsanto’s Roundup. They are among the witnesses and experts who will testify before a panel of international judges at the International Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

###




Bayer to Buy Monsanto for $66 Billion

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Ordinarily, the wheelings and dealings of large agribusiness corporations aren’t of much interest to organic farmers and consumers, but a new deal in the works should give us all pause because it involves two of the least environmentally-friendly Big Ag companies in the world, plus some of the banksters who gave us the Great Recession of 2008.

German drug and agricultural chemical maker Bayer makes the neonicotinoid pesticides that are decimating bee colonies around the world, and Monsanto is the company behind GMOs and Roundup herbicide. Bayer has clinched a $66 billion takeover of Monsanto, according to the Reuters News Service, ending months of wrangling with a third sweetened offer that marks the largest all-cash deal on record.

The $128-a-share deal, up from Bayer’s previous offer of $127.50 a share, has emerged as the signature deal in a consolidation race that has roiled the agribusiness sector in recent years, due to shifting weather patterns, intense competition in grain exports and a souring global farm economy.

“Bayer’s competitors are merging, so not doing this deal would mean having a competitive disadvantage,” said fund manager Markus Manns of Union Investment, one of Bayer’s top 12 investors.

Grain prices are hovering near their lowest levels in years amid a global supply glut, and farm incomes have plunged.

But the proposed merger will likely face an intense and lengthy regulatory process in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the European Union, and elsewhere. Hugh Grant, Monsanto’s chief executive, said the companies will need to file in about 30 jurisdictions for the merger.

Competition authorities are likely to scrutinize the tie-up closely, and some of Bayer’s own shareholders have been highly critical of a takeover that they say risks overpaying and neglecting the company’s pharmaceutical business.

If the deal closes, it will create a company commanding more than a quarter of the combined world market for seeds and pesticides in the fast-consolidating farm supplies industry.

What the newly-formed company would be named is unclear.

Grant said on a media conference call that the future of the Monsanto brand has not yet been discussed, but the world’s largest seed company is “flexible” about the name going forward.

The transaction includes a $2-billion break-up fee that Bayer will pay to Monsanto should it fail to get regulatory clearance. Bayer expects the deal to close by the end of 2017.

Bayer’s move to combine its crop chemicals business, the world’s second-largest after Syngenta AG, with Monsanto’s industry-leading seeds business, is the latest in a series of major agrochemicals mergers.

The German company is aiming to create a one-stop shop for seeds, crop chemicals and computer-aided services to farmers.

That was also the idea behind Monsanto’s swoop on Syngenta last year, which the Swiss company fended off, only to agree later to a takeover by China’s state-owned ChemChina.

U.S. chemicals giants Dow Chemical and DuPont plan to merge and later spin off their respective seeds and crop chemicals operations into a major agribusiness.

And Canadian fertilizer producers Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. agreed to combine to navigate a severe industry slump, but the new company’s potential pricing power may attract tough regulatory scrutiny.

Antitrust experts have said regulators will likely demand the sale of some soybeans, cotton, and canola seed assets.

Bayer said BofA, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and Chase JP Morgan had committed to providing the bridge financing.

BofA, Merrill Lynch, and Credit Suisse are acting as lead financial advisers to Bayer, with Rothschild as an additional adviser. Bayer’s legal advisers are Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Allen & Overy LLP.

Morgan Stanley and Ducera Partners are acting as financial advisers to Monsanto, with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz its legal adviser.

***

TOXIC CHEMICALS IN HOUSEHOLD DUST LINKED TO CANCER, INFERTILITY

Household dust harbors a cocktail of toxic chemicals that have been linked to an increased risk of a range of health hazards, from cancer to problems with fertility, researchers in the US have found, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper in Britain.

The chemicals are shed from common products, from flooring to electrical goods as well as beauty and cleaning products.

“We think our homes are a safe haven, but unfortunately they are being polluted by toxic chemicals,” said Veena Singla, co-author of the study by the Natural Resources Defense Council in California.

The scientists cautioned that children were particularly vulnerable to the health effects of contaminated dust as they often play or crawl on the floor and frequently touch their mouths. “They end up having a lot more exposure to chemicals in dust and they are more vulnerable to toxic effects because their brains and bodies are still developing,” said Singla.

Writing in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, Singla and colleagues described how they analyzed 26 peer-reviewed papers, as well as one unpublished dataset, from 1999 onwards to examine the chemical make-up of indoor dust. The studies covered a wide range of indoor environments, from homes to schools and gymnasiums across 14 states.

“What emerged was a rather disturbing picture of many different toxic chemicals from our products that are present in dust in the home and [are] contaminating the home,” said Singla.

The researchers highlighted 45 toxic chemicals in indoor dust, 10 of which were present in 90 percent or more of the dust samples–these included flame retardants, fragrances, and phenols.

Among them is the flame retardant TDCIPP that is known to be cancer-causing and is frequently found in furniture foam, baby products, and carpet padding, as is TPHP, another flame retardant in the top 10 list that can affect the reproductive and nervous systems.

“They are just a bunch of letters – a lot of people might not recognise what those chemicals are, or what they mean, but they are really a number of bad actor chemicals,” said Singla.

Other toxic substances found in almost all of the dust samples include chemicals known as phthalates that are often found in vinyl flooring, food packaging, personal care products and have been linked to developmental problems in babies, hormone disruption, and are also thought to affect the reproductive system.

While some chemicals on the list have been banned from use in childcare products, or are being more widely phased out, Singla says many remain widespread in the home. “Especially for building materials there is not as much turnover of a lot of those products, like flooring,” she said, adding: “Unfortunately even though some of these phthalates have been banned from kids’ products, they are not banned from other kinds of products.”

In a separate, unpublished, analysis, Singla compared the levels of chemicals found in household dust with soil screening levels used by the Environmental Protection Agency in the US. “What we found–and we were shocked by it actually–is that the dust levels exceed those EPA screening levels for a number of the chemicals and again it is the phthalates and flame retardant chemicals that are standing out as the bad offenders here,” said Singla.

But, she adds, there are steps that can be taken to reduce exposure to contaminated dust. As well as vacuuming floors, hands should be washed with plain soap and water before eating, while cleaning with a wet mop and dusting with a damp cloth can help to reduce household dust levels.

While a wider policy change on the use of toxic chemicals is needed, Singla added, consumers could also take action by making careful choices about the products they buy. “It is really important for companies and regulators to get the message that people care about this and want and need safer products for their families.”

***

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT TO PRIORITIZE ECO-CRIMES

Just as the International Monsanto Citizens’ Tribunal is preparing to hold Monsanto accountable for its crimes in The Hague next month, comes this breaking news from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC, will for the first time in history prioritize crimes “committed by means of, or that result in the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, or the illegal dispossession of land.”

What does this mean for the Monsanto Tribunal?

It means that its work in The Hague will form the foundation for prosecuting companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, and the rest of the corporate biotech criminals in the United Nations-backed International Criminal Court.

When the Monsanto Tribunal was being planned, the intent was to draw international attention to Monsanto’s crimes—all of them. The Tribunal wanted to change the rules so that corporations like Monsanto could be prosecuted for crimes against nature or the environment, not just crimes against humanity.

That’s why this news from the United Nations-backed ICC is breathtaking. It validates the work of the Citizens’ Tribunal. It means that finally, Monsanto and companies like it will have to answer for destroying the world’s soils, wiping out biodiversity, poisoning the world’s water and air.

The proposed takeover of Monsanto by Bayer doesn’t change the impact the Monsanto Tribunal will have. A corporate criminal by any other name is still a corporate criminal.

The Monsanto Tribunal is just one of the projects the Organic Consumers Association is working on. With Bayer’s proposed buyout of Monsanto, OCA plans to double down in 2017 on its work to expose Big Biotech’s efforts to monopolize seeds and the world’s food supply, and its rampant poisoning of our food, bodies, and our environment.

***

1.5 BILLION FEWER BIRDS IN NORTH AMERICA SINCE 1970, REPORT SAYS

North American skies have grown quieter over the last few decades by the absent songs of 1.5 billion birds, says the latest summary of bird populations, according to Bob Weber, writing in The Canadian Press.

The survey by dozens of government, university and environmental agencies across North America has also listed 86 species of birds—including once-common and much-loved songbirds such as the evening grosbeak and Canada warbler—that are threatened by plummeting populations, habitat destruction and climate change.

“The information on urgency is quite alarming,” said the summary’s co-author Judith Kennedy of Environment Canada. The summary is entitled, “Partners in Flight. “We’re really getting down to the dregs of some of these populations.”

The summary is the most complete survey of land bird numbers to date and attempts to assess the health of populations on a continental basis. It concludes that, while there are still a lot of birds in the sky, there aren’t anywhere near as many as there used to be.

Evening grosbeaks are down 92 per cent since 1970. Snowy owls have lost 64 per cent of their numbers. The Canada warbler has lost 63 per cent of it population.

Tally it all up and there should be another 1.5 billion birds perching in backyards and flying around in forests than there are, says the report.

Nor are the declines stopping. Among those 86 species, 22 have already lost at least half of their population since 1970 and are projected to lose another 50 per cent of their numbers within the next 40 years.

For at least six species, this “half-life” window is fewer than 20 years.

The culprits are familiar.

Agriculture disturbs habitat of grassland birds and introduces pesticides into the landscape. Logging fragments the intact forests birds use as refuelling stations as they migrate. Domestic cats are thought to kill more than two billion birds a year.

“It’s the death of a thousand cuts,” said Kennedy.

At stake is much more than the pleasure of a little bird song. The report says birds are crucial indicators of overall ecosystem health. Healthy forests and prairies need healthy bird populations, said Kennedy. “(They) only function because of that abundance.”

As well, birds — like bees — pollinate plants. And birds eat bugs. Lots of bugs. “We would be bitten by a lot more mosquitoes (with fewer birds).”

There are still up to five billion birds that leave Canada every winter. But Kennedy said the time to start thinking about their future is now, before some species start to decrease. “It’s too late for us to worry when we’re down to the last few hundred.”

The Partners In Flight report reinforces messages from several previous, related studies.
Earlier this year, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative found one-third of all North American bird species need quick help to stop them from disappearing, with more than half of all seabird species on the road to extinction without conservation action.

A 2014 study by the Audubon Society found climate change could cost 126 species more than half their current range by 2050.

A McGill University study in 2015 concluded more than 70 percent of global forests are within a kilometer of a road, field, town or other human disturbance—easily close enough to degrade forest habitat.

It seems that Rachel Carson was prescient indeed when she published Silent Spring in 1962.

###




You May Want to Avoid ‘Organic’ Food from China

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The following article was written by Irene Luo and originally published in Epoch Times.

After numerous food scares in China, the Chinese have become disillusioned with the communist regime’s ability to properly regulate the food industry. The answer for some victimized Chinese is now organics—a guarantee that their food products will be produced in an environmentally responsible way and not be grown with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, or other dangerous chemicals.

Organics, although only a small portion of China’s food market, are on the rise in China, with the consumption of organic food out of total consumption tripling between 2007 and 2012 according to Biofach, the world’s largest organic trade fair. More and more Chinese-produced organic food is being exported to the U.S.

But is China’s “organic” actually safe? And who does the guaranteeing?

It’s not too clear, considering China’s opaque system. Of course, not all organic food from China is problematic, and China is not the only violator of food safety regulations, but with China being the third greatest exporter of agricultural products to the United States, the situation does deserve attention.

Below are some of the major issues with China’s “organic” produce.

1. Environmental pollution in China is severe.

As a result of China’s rapid, largely unregulated industrial growth in the past few decades, China suffers dire environmental pollution. China’s soil and water sources contain large amounts of heavy metals, like lead and cadmium, released by industrial wastewater.

But the “organic” label fails to account for environmental pollution, as the system only certifies a process in which no harmful pesticides, fertilizers, etc. can be added when growing organic produce. But what about the heavy metals already contaminating the water sources and soil in China? According to Mike Adams, a natural health advocate and editor for Natural News, the USDA sets no limits on heavy metal contamination.

Chinese government data in 2011 showed over half of China’s large lakes and reservoirs were too contaminated for human use. And a groundwater pollution report by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources published in April of 2015 found 16 percent of the sampled water to be of “extremely poor” quality.

Furthermore, nearly one-fifth of China’s farmland is polluted, according to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ministry of Land Resources, with heavy metals that seeped into the soil through polluted irrigation water.

2. Fraudulent labeling regularly appears.

Since organic products sell at higher prices, food producers, and not just ones in China, may tack fraudulent “organic” labels on their products for a higher profit. As issues arise in all levels of the supply chain, Chinese authorities and the USDA find it hard to find all the violations. A 2010 USDA report said some producers purposefully avoid the annual certificate renewal process and continued using expired organic labels in order to reduce costs, while other retailers simply mislabeled conventional products as organic.

According to the USDA, out of 23 cases of fraudulent organic certificates between February of 2011 and June of 2013, nine involved Chinese companies. In September 2011, the USDA issued a warning to organic distributors and processors of fraudulent organic certificates on hibiscus, jasmine, and beet root extract powders from a Xi’an company.

In another case, Whole Foods Market had to stop selling Chinese ginger under its “365” label after the ginger was found to contain residues of aldicarb sulfoxide, an agricultural pesticide not approved for use on organic food.

3. Organics are often certified by third-party vendors.

The Chinese Organic Certification Center (COFCC), the agency supposedly in charge of certifying all organics, inspects only 30 percent of organic products, while the rest are certified by private firms, NGOs, and individual inspectors, all of which must be accredited by the Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA). But the same 2010 report by the USDA said there was no equivalency in organic standards and certification between the United States and China, as China did not recognize foreign organic standards. Therefore, serious discrepancies can occur between what chemicals and agricultural practices are allowed in organics from China in comparison to organics from United States.

Organics imported to the United States are all supposed to be certified by a USDA-accredited certifier, but as there are not enough certifiers, the USDA outsources to Chinese third parties. But in one instance, the USDA granted conditional accreditations to a certifier based only on paperwork and neglected to physically confirm they complied with all regulations.

4. No strong regulations are in place.

In 2010, the USDA reported that the Chinese regime failed to properly enforce organic standards, and no clear authority was given to any one governmental body, thus allowing abuses and illegal activity to occur. It also cited a Guangzhou Daily report about a consumer who reported fake organic vegetables and was directed to four different government departments before being told that none of them had enough authority to deal with the problem.

5. Corruption is rampant.

In communist-ruled China, authorities control the media and censor internet rumors to cover up food scandals, depriving them of the attention needed for reform to occur. Rather than focusing on eradicating food contamination problems, the Chinese regime spends more time concealing its wrongdoings and promoting a facade of stability and prosperity. Furthermore, an intricate web of corruption ties together the court system, the business and manufacturing sectors, and government officials. Bribes for licenses are common, with unethical practices regularly covered up by a cash offering.

All this is even more reason to buy food from local certified organic farmers and stores that you can trust.

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GATORADE TO LAUNCH A SUGARY ‘ORGANIC’ VERSION

From The New York Times, September 2, 2016, Christopher Mele writes:

“Gatorade, the brightly colored sports drink marketed by professional sports figures in advertising targeted at amateur athletes, is introducing an organic version of its brand.
PepsiCo Inc., the maker of Gatorade, said the new product, which will be sold in select markets beginning this fall, would have seven ingredients: water, organic cane sugar, citric acid, organic natural flavor, sea salt, sodium citrate and potassium chloride.”

How does that ingredient list sound to you? Sounds like junk food to me—pretty much sweetened water with a little flavoring and a nice shot of potassium chloride.

Lindsay Moyer, a senior nutritionist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which promotes a food system that is healthier and more nutritious, was also skeptical about the changes.

Gatorade’s G Organic discontinues using the artificial food dyes found in nearly every one of its other drinks, which is “a step forward,” she said, adding, “G Organic is still a sugary drink — essentially, liquid candy — and organic sugar is no healthier than sugar.”

Each 16.9-ounce bottle of G Organic has seven teaspoons of added sugar, which is more than the six-teaspoon daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association, she wrote in an email.

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WIDELY-USED HERBICIDE MAY POSE BREAST CANCER RISK

Atrazine is the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. Europe banned it in 2004 due to suspected environmental damage and health concerns.

Tyrone Hayes, a UC Berkeley professor, was hired by Syngenta to investigate the effects of atrazine on amphibians, but the company blocked the publication of his work when they didn’t like the results. Research shows atrazine triggers overproduction of estrogen and underproduction of testosterone, and it has been linked to deformities of the reproductive organs, several types of cancer, and birth defects.

In related reporting, the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers on corn for cow feed on Vermont dairy farms nearly doubled between 2002 and 2012. These chemicals pose a threat to the environment, water supplies and human health. Up to 80 percent of herbicides used on Vermont dairy farms are atrazine-based — a chemical associated with estrogen overproduction, the feminizing of males, reproductive problems, several cancers (including breast), and birth defects.

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ATTENTION SCOTCH LOVERS: THERE”S NOW AN ORGANIC SINGLE MALT

Benromach Organic is the first Speyside single malt Whisky to be certified “organic” by the UK Soil Association, which means that every step of production – from farm to bottle – is organic. According to its PR, “We can’t guarantee you’ll be able to taste ‘organic,’ but you’ll feel its handcrafted nature with plenty of toffee and spice. The dram is topped with a golden brown color, imparted from maturation in virgin oak casks. It costs about $70 for 750 ml.

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