Transition to an Organic World
It’s sometimes hard to see from the inside the magnitude of the changes that human society is undergoing right now.
The industrial revolution is over and we are transitioning into the age of digital information. Chemical agriculture is transitioning into more responsible organic agriculture. And our energy economy is transitioning—or just beginning to transition—from fossil fuels to renewable energy. All three of these transitions go hand in hand. The more information we have about the environment and the world’s ecologies, the more sense it makes to grow food organically and to curb carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
Those carbon emissions, as you know, are particularly troublesome. When it comes to our sources of energy, humans are still hunter-gatherers. We hunt for oil and natural gas, and then burn them to power our motors, and do so at an unsustainable rate that’s warming the world and its oceans to dangerous levels. Climate change is here and getting worse. We hear a lot of talk and see a lot of hand wringing, but who’s doing anything serious about it? What’s the plan, Stan?
Let me make a suggestion. In the United Kingdom there’s a fledgling company called Air Fuel Synthesis. On its website, AFS writes, “We believe there is a strong case, based on energy security and ambitious carbon reduction targets, to develop a near carbon neutral fuel using low carbon electricity, hydrogen, and atmospheric carbon dioxide.” The principals in AFS have secured start-up funding and are on their way to setting up the system that will create hydrocarbon fuels out of thin air. Here’s how it works:
The petroleum and natural gas that we harvest from the ground as fossil fuels are hydrocarbons—molecules of carbon and hydrogen. They make powerful fuels, and when burned, produce carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide gets dumped into the atmosphere by the trillions of tons. It acts like panes of glass in an automobile on a sunny day. Heat is generated by sunlight but because of the glass in the car windows, it can’t escape. This is the so-called greenhouse effect. It creates climate change.
Air Fuel Synthesis aims to take carbon and oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the air and hydrogen from water molecules and bring them together to form methanol, (CH3OH), a liquid hydrocarbon fuel that can power auto, truck, and airplane engines. Instead of digging up fossil fuels and dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the AFS set-up will recycle the carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere. By making our fuel carbon neutral, other natural systems for sequestering carbon, such as in plants and in the ocean, can start to reverse the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
But, you may ask, what about the energy it takes to split apart the carbon dioxide and water molecules? Where will that come from?
AFS says it will use electricity from carbon neutral, renewable sources. Let me suggest that there are huge stretches of shade-free surface on the earth where it’s almost always sunny. Saudi Arabia comes to mind. And so do the world’s oceans. Solar panels produce electricity with no pollution. The oceans are already an electrolyte, so electricity passed through negative and positive poles will dissociate water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Solar electricity can also be used to dissociate carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen. The raw materials for making methanol are floating in the air and water in superabundance and are there for free. The energy to power methanol factories shines down on us in superabundance every day—and it’s free.
Here’s a further wrinkle in this transition. Instead of hauling methanol to filling stations, these renewable energy factories could burn the methanol on site and use the energy to drive electricity-producing turbines that charge up batteries to be swapped into and out of cars and trucks. Re-useable batteries are hauled to the factories and returned charged up to the filling stations. The engineers can work out the most efficient ways to do this.
So what’s preventing humans from making this transition from fossil fuels to free recycled fuel?
There’s no political will in Congress to do something like this here in the U.S. because Congresspeople spend most of their time raising money so they can stay in office. The big corporations that control energy, autos, and transportation stay committed to fossil fuels because they are lucrative and that money can be used to buy the political impotence of Congresspeople. Tell the guy who’s holding an open sack under a money spigot to turn off his money machine and he’ll likely say, “Later.”
Unfortunately for the status quo, later is now. The transition to a new world is underway. Virtually free energy, organic food, and limitless computing power are on their way.
WALMART AND TARGET TO SELL ORGANIC FOOD
Walmart plans to announce that it is putting its muscle behind Wild Oats organic products, offering the label at prices that will undercut brand-name organic competitors by at least 25 percent.
The move by Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and grocer, is likely to send shock waves through the organic market, in which an increasing number of food companies and retailers are seeking a toehold.
“We’re removing the premium associated with organic groceries,” said Jack L. Sinclair, executive vice president of Walmart U.S.’s grocery division. The Wild Oats organic products will be priced the same as similar nonorganic brand-name goods.
Over at least the next few years, Walmart’s move is likely to raise prices for organic ingredients, which are already going up because of fast-growing consumer demand. Organic food accounted for $29 billion in United States sales in 2012, according to the most recent data, the Organic Trade Association said. Ten years earlier, its sales were $8 billion.
Eager to tap into that demand, Target, one of Walmart’s primary competitors, said on Tuesday that it would expand the presence of organic products in its stores. At Walmart, internal company research found that 91 percent of customers said they would buy “affordable” organic products if they were available, executives said.
ORGANICS UNDER ATTACK
Without any input from the public, the USDA has changed the way the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) decides which non-organic materials are allowed in certified organic products, according to the Organic Consumers Association.
The change all but guarantees that when the NOSB meets every six months, the list of non-organic and synthetic materials allowed in organic will get longer and longer.
The USDA’s new rule plays to the cabal of the self-appointed organic elite who want to degrade organic standards and undermine organic integrity. For consumers, farmers, co-ops and businesses committed to high organic standards, the USDA’s latest industry-friendly move is a clarion call to fight back against the corporate-led, government-sanctioned attack on organic standards.
KOCH-BACKED BILL NIXES MANDATORY GMO LABELING
A Republican congressman from Kansas has introduced legislation that would nullify efforts in multiple states to require labeling of genetically modified foods, the Reuters news service is reporting.
The bill, dubbed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, was drafted by Rep. Mike Pompeo and is aimed at overriding bills in about two dozen states that would require foods made with genetically engineered crops to be labeled as such. The bill specifically prohibits any mandatory labeling of foods developed using bioengineering.
Makers of biotech crops and many large food manufacturers have fought mandatory labeling, arguing that genetically modified crops are not materially different and pose no safety risk. They say labeling would mislead consumers.
Pompeo reiterated those claims, stating that GMOs are safe and “equally healthy” and no labeling is needed. “It has made food safer and more abundant,” he said.
“It has been an enormous boon to all of humanity.”
There are currently 66 active bills and ballot initiatives in process in 27 states to require labeling of foods made with GMOs, according to the Environmental Working Group, which is tracking the measures. “The vast majority of Americans… consistently tell pollsters that they want the right to know whether there are GE (genetically engineered) ingredients in their food,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the EWG.
Why Buy Organic Food?
If anyone asks you why you buy organic food, or why they should buy organic food, you might want to copy the following and hand it to them.
I buy organic food because:
• It’s often more nutritious and tastes better. Many studies show that organic food can provide up to 30 percent more of some nutritive elements than conventionally farmed food.
• It contains no artificial ingredients like chemical food coloring, texturizers, preservatives, laboratory-made flavors, and so on.
• It’s grown or raised without agricultural chemicals, many of which contaminate conventional food, accumulate in the body, and cause serious illness and disease.
• It is not genetically modified. The GM process creates unnatural plants and animals increasingly suspected of causing serious bodily injury when ingested, among other problems.
• No hormones to stimulate growth or force increased milk production are given to organically raised animals.
• No antibiotics, which hasten the evolution of antibiotic-resistant microbes, are allowed in organic animal husbandry.
• Organic rules insist on the humane treatment of farm animals.
• Organic farming enhances the health of the soil, prevents erosion, protects against drought, and adds life-giving organic matter to the soil even as it’s being farmed.
• Organic farms are about 40 percent more biodiverse than conventional farms. The greater the biodiversity, the healthier the ecosystem.
• Organic farming protects farmers and their families, and farm workers and their families, from contact with toxic agricultural chemicals.
• Organic farms provide safe, non-toxic habitat for wild creatures, from microbes to deer, from fish to birds.
• Organic farming protects lakes and streams from chemical pollution.
YOUR COFFEE DOLLARS DEFEAT GMO LABELING
Food Democracy Now has issued the following press release:
With nearly 20,000 retail stores in over 60 countries, Starbucks is the most popular and widespread coffeehouse chain on the planet. In the past decade, Starbucks has paved the way for the modern corporate coffeehouse industry with its alleged commitment to “ethical sourcing” and “sustainability,” and its consistently strong promotional marketing.
Unfortunately, while Starbucks has widely touted “ethical sourcing” and “sustainability” in their marketing material, they’ve failed to live up to those ideals in reality. Right now, Starbucks is serving milk to millions of customers every day from factory farms, along with baked goods full of genetically engineered ingredients.
As if that weren’t bad enough, as a dues paying member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Starbucks has helped lead the charge against openness and transparency in our food system by fighting against common sense GMO labeling in the U.S.
In the past two years, Starbucks has been a part of a GMA-led coalition that has donated more than $70 million dollars to defeat GMO labeling efforts in California and Washington State. During 2012, the GMA donated $2 million to defeat Prop 37 in California and last year, the GMA illegally donated $11 million as a part of a secret slush fund to defeat I-522 in Washington.
Tell Starbucks to stop fighting against GMO labeling and commit to serving the most sustainable dairy option–organic milk–at all of its locations:
By opposing GMO labeling, Starbucks has willingly climbed in bed with Monsanto and the GMA and is intentionally misleading customers about their commitment to “sustainability” and “ethical sourcing.”
The Starbucks’ company website states: “We have always believed Starbucks can–and should–have a positive impact on the communities we serve. One person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
That sounds great in theory, but what about the fact that Starbucks serves milk for their lattes and cappuccinos from cows on factory farms? We know from living in Iowa that factory farms are not sustainable and don’t have a positive impact on our communities, where they pollute our water supply, degrade our soil, and depopulate rural towns.
And while we’re impressed with Starbucks’ online “Ethical Sourcing” pledge, which states: “We’re committed to offering high-quality, ethically purchased, and responsibly produced products,” we think they fall frighteningly short by selling dairy products from factory farms where animals are fed genetically engineered grains and given sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics. This is not our idea of sustainable!
At Food Democracy Now! we think that Starbucks could be a force for good and true “ethical sourcing,” instead of promoting industrial agriculture by factory farms and supporting Monsanto’s herbicides and GMOs. In order to do this, Starbucks needs to transition away from the factory farm model and support local, regional and organic dairy farmers.
If Starbucks could commit to that, like they have with sourcing their fair trade coffee, rural America could benefit from a resurgence in small and mid-sized organic dairy farms. Starbucks’ customers can help them lead the way by demanding this important change.
Take the pledge to boycott Starbucks until they stop fighting GMO labeling and start serving local, sustainable organic milk! Tell Starbucks it’s time to get out of bed with Monsanto and start ethically sourcing their dairy products and removing GMOs from their in-store baked goods. Here’s the action website: http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/1227?t=10&akid=1184.101853.pTWO5h
It’s time that major companies like Starbucks are held accountable for their unsustainable and unethical choices that conflict with their own marketing hype. We can’t let them get away with it, just because the mainstream media refuses to do its job and report the truth.
GMO LABELING BILL MOV ING IN CALIFORNIA SENATE
In 2012, California’s Prop 37 sparked a groundswell of GMO labeling bills in states across the nation. Last year, Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling laws, but those laws won’t go into effect until other states pass similar legislation. The Organic Consumers Association wants to make California the first state to pass a GMO labeling bill with no strings attached.
California Senate Bill 1381, which would label genetically engineered foods in the state, was recently passed out of the state Senate Health Committee. The bill now goes back to the Rules Committee and then on to the Senate Judicial and Agriculture Committees, before going to the Senate floor for a vote.
SB 1381 is a simpler, clearer version of Prop 37. Polls, both before and after the 2012 election, showed that 67 percent of Californians support a state GMO labeling law. SB 1381 is a chance to finally achieve what the people of California want: GMO labels on their food. Californians deserve the right to know if food has been genetically engineered, just as citizens do in the 64 countries across the globe that have mandatory GMO labeling rules.
PUTTING TWO AND TWO TOGETHER
Let’s put two things together here.
One, income inequality is America is sickening. The top one tenth of one percent have more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. What we’re talking about is bank accounts worth billions upon billions of dollars. We’re talking about a handful of oligarchs.
Two, the Supreme Court, in its ignorant folly, has ruled that protecting free speech means that these American oligarchs can now back legislators to whatever amount of money they choose over each election cycle.
So here I am, Senator Bunkum or Representative Flunky, spending most of my time on the phone trying to raise money to keep myself in office in the next election, when into my office walks David Koch or Sheldon Adelson or one of their representatives, with an open checkbook and says, “What do you need? A few million? So be it. And in return we’d like you to consider the following pieces of legislation.” Meanwhile, 50,000 of the legislators’ constituents back home are signing petitions urging them to reject the selfsame legislation, but the petitions have no money attached.
What does this mean for the future of America? It means that the top one percent, rich and getting richer, will call the shots. And for whom will they call the shots? Well, let’s see—Paul Ryan’s budget already proposes to cut more food stamp aid, funds for the poor, Medicare and Medicaid. And why? So that the money can flow, as it does in ever-increasing torrents, to the wealthiest among us. And then? The wealthiest will turn the screws ever tighter on the legislators who they are bribing (legally now) to make sure the money spigots open ever wider in their direction, and ever smaller for the rest of us.
The Roberts Court, installed by our country’s own moron, George W. Bush, is carrying out his pro-corporate agenda. This latest decision is beyond sickening. It spells the end of the great experiment in democracy and social justice that was once the United States of America but has now become the suffocating fat asses of the uber-wealthy sitting on top of the people. And the people can’t breathe.
BOOKS FOR FOLKS WHO LIKE TO EAT GOOD FOOD
Here are two books that touch upon aspects of home cookery. Just make sure, if you purchase the books, that the ingredients you use to follow the recipes are organic. Then you’ll be able to set a table that’s the envy of the world.
CHARCUTERIA, The Soul of Spain, by Jeffrey Weiss; Surrey Books, Chicago, 2014; 460 pp., $39.95. If you’re up for it, Chef Weiss, who worked for years with top chefs in Spain, will take you step by step into the world of Spanish charcuterie: smoked meats, fermented and spiced meats, sausages, escabeche, and much more. It’s written with the salty language of a line cook, with a passion for the subject, and it will make your mouth water.
SAUCES AND SHAPES: Pasta the Italian Way, by Oretta Zanini De Vita and Maureen B. Fant; W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 2013; 400 pp., $35. Here in America, we love Italian food. Too bad we don’t make it and serve it the way Italians do. What’s needed is a guidebook to real Italian food, just what you’d encounter if you ate at the dinner tables of real Italian families. Well, this book is it. When your friends from Italy come to visit, they’ll be astounded at the authenticity of your food and service.
The World Is Waking Up to GMO-Glyphosate Risk
Brazil’s Federal Public Prosecutor has asked the country’s justice department to suspend the use of glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup—the world’s top-selling herbicide, EcoWatch reports.
In addition, the prosecutor has also targeted another herbicide known as 2,4-D and the active ingredients methyl parathion, lactofem, phorate, carbofuran, abamectin, tiram and paraquat, according to GMWatch.
The news comes as another huge blow to the biotech industry, following last week’s unanimous ruling by Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court that decided to cancel the cultivation of Bayer’s Liberty Link GM Maize.
Two weeks ago, Sri Lanka ordered a ban on glyphosate due to concerns the chemical may be linked to a mysterious kidney disease that has killed thousands of agricultural workers.
The legislature in El Salvador approved a ban on dozens of agrochemicals including glyphosate last September, but the proposal has so far not been signed into law.
ORGANIC FARMS MORE BIODIVERSE THAN CONVENTIONAL FARMS
A new European study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that organic farms are able to support more species than conventional farms.
Researchers from the UK (Oxford), Sweden (SLU), and Switzerland (University of Zurich) teamed up to examine the evidence of how different agricultural methods affect the diversity of life present on farms. They found that on average, organic farms support 34 percent more plant, insect, and animal species than conventional farms.
When pollinators such as bees were looked at individually, they found that organic farms had 50 percent higher species diversity than conventional farms. “Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” said Sean Tuck of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, lead author of the study. “Organic methods could go some way towards halting the continued loss of diversity in industrialized nations.”
MEAT, DAIRY, EGG LABELS EXPLAINED
The following definitions that may be found on meat, dairy, and egg labels was prepared by Rastelli Direct for Healthy Eating magazine.
American Humane Certified
The American Humane Association is America’s oldest animal welfare certification program. It has implemented a specific set of standards and a number of third-party auditors who can inspect farms to see whether those standards are being met. The American Humane Association does not allow farmers to use growth hormones or antibiotics to supplement animal growth. However, they do allow the use of antibiotics to treat sick animals. In some cases, the AHA allows for de-beaking poultry and for animals to be kept in cages; albeit, the cages must be large enough to allow natural behaviors.
Many people purchase cage-free eggs and poultry products because they think it is more humane. However, there is no standard definition of “cage-free.” In general, it does imply that the birds have the room to partake in natural behaviors, but it doesn’t always mean that the animals have access to the outdoors. Many cage-free claims are also not certified.
The free-range label is similar to cage-free except that it does ensure animals are granted access to the outdoors.
Technically speaking, the label “grass-fed” means that grazing animals are not fed grains to fatten them up for slaughter, but rather a healthier diet of natural grass and other greens. However, it also usually implies that the farm maintains other healthy practices such as local butchering and less crowded conditions. In general, “grass-fed” is a good label to look for. Grass-fed beef is nutritionally superior to grain-finished meat.
Many farmers use hormones to cause their animals to grow more quickly, thus boosting their profits. However, human consumption of hormones could increase the risk of cancer. Thus, all organic and many grass-fed farms do not treat with hormones. This doesn’t imply a restriction on antibiotic use. However, if an animal needs to be treated with antibiotics, it is no longer certifiably organic and can’t regain that status until antibiotic use has been discontinued for a prescribed period of time.
Lean meat has fewer than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5 ounce serving. Extra-lean meat has fewer than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.
If a product is labeled “natural,” that supposedly means that it contains no artificial ingredients and that the processing does not fundamentally alter the product. To be labeled as natural, animals do not necessarily have to be raised on free-range farms or without antibiotics. In fact, there is no definition of “natural,” either by law or regulation, and so anything can be labeled natural.
There is a strict set of criteria, codified into U.S. law, that must be met for a meat to be considered organic. Organic foods cannot be irradiated, genetically modified, or grown using synthetic fertilizers or chemicals. Organic meat cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics and animals can only consume a diet of organically grown feed. Organic meat animals are free-range.
If the meat of an animal is “source-verified,” that means that a high-tech system has been used to guarantee where the meat or beef came from.
The pasture-raised label is the best version of free-range: the animals can continuously roam freely in their natural habitat, and eat the foods they would naturally eat. Poultry as well as red meat animals can be pastured.
Guide Reveals GMO Foods on Supermarket Shelves
Opinion polls show that up to 90 percent of the American public wants GE foods labeled. But despite this overwhelming demand, almost no foods on U.S. grocery shelves reveal their secret, genetically engineered ingredients, according to the Center for Food Safety.
We’ve seen that our government, under pressure from the biotechnology industry, has not required the labeling of GE foods. And the biotech industry does not voluntarily identify them, fearing, probably correctly, that the majority of Americans would avoid GE foods if given a choice. As a result, the U.S. public has been deprived of its right to choose whether to buy and consume these engineered foods. However, this is not the case with most of our major trading partners around the globe who have instituted mandatory labeling of all GE foods and ingredients.
“Our True Food Shoppers Guide to Avoiding GE Foods” was the first of its kind, first published in October of 2000, the Center writes. “In fact, the Shoppers Guide is what launched the True Food Network! The Guide is designed to help reclaim your right to know about the foods you are buying, and help you find and avoid GMO foods and ingredients.”
How do you get the free Shoppers Guide to Avoiding GE Foods? Just visit www.truefoodshoppersguide.org and you’ll find links that allow you to download the guide or download the iPhone or Android app for your smartphone. Or you can email the Center at firstname.lastname@example.org to order a printed pocket Guide.
ORGANIC ARMOTHERAPY IN YOUR BATHROOM
Want an organic aromatherapy insert for your showerhead? Instant spa! Check out this video:
LABEL GMO FOODS—OR BAN THEM OUTRIGHT?
The following is an essay by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association. It’s long and very detailed, but it sums up the current state of the fight by organic-minded people to drive genetically engineered products off the market. It’s well worth reading, absorbing, and sharing with those who want to achieve this goal.
Since the controversial introduction in the mid-nineties of genetically engineered (GE) food and crops, and the subsequent fast-tracking of those crops by the federal government—with no independent safety-testing or labeling required—there has been a lively debate among activists, both inside and outside the U.S., about how to drive these unhealthy and environmentally destructive “Frankenfoods” off the market.
Some campaigners have called for an outright ban of GE crops. In fact, several dozen nations, thousands of local governments in the EU, and six counties in the U.S. (in California, Washington and Hawaii) have created GMO-free zones by passing bans.
Other activists argue that strict mandatory labeling laws, similar to those in the EU, are all we need in order to rid the world of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Activists in this camp point out that very few products in countries that have mandatory GMO labeling laws contain GMOs, because once companies are required to label GMO ingredients, they reformulate their products to be GMO-free, rather than risk rejection by consumers.
A review of two decades of anti-GMO campaigning in North America and Europe suggests that mandatory labeling and bans, or GMO-free zones, should be seen as complementary, rather than contradictory. And recent news about increased contamination of non-GMO crops by the growing number of USDA-approved GMO crops suggests that if we don’t implement labeling laws and bans sooner rather than later, we may run out of time to preserve organic and non-GMO farmers and their fields.
In the EU in the late-1990s, in what was the largest agricultural market in the world, anti-GMO campaigners, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, at first tried to establish a sweeping production and import ban on all GMOs. They were unsuccessful, largely because politicians and bureaucrats argued that an outright ban of GMOs in the EU would violate World Trade Organization agreements and bring on serious economic retaliation from the U.S. government.
Leading consumer, environmental and farm groups pushing for a ban were successful, however, in forcing EU authorities to adopt significant GMO safety-testing regulations. All GMOs, under EU law, are considered “novel foods” and are subject to extensive, case-by-case, science-based food evaluation by European regulatory officials. These regulations, much to the chagrin of Monsanto and the Gene Giants, have kept most GMOs, with the exception of animal feeds, out of the country.
EU regulations also permit member nations to establish GMO-free zones. As of 2012 there are 169 regions and 4,713 municipalities that have declared themselves GMO-free zones in the EU. In addition to these GMO-free zones in the EU, at least 26 nations, including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico, and Russia have banned GMOs entirely. Significant labeling and safety-testing procedures on GMOs have been put in place in approximately 60 countries.
Although EU grassroots forces failed to gain a continent-wide ban on the cultivation or import of GMOs, they were successful in pushing authorities to impose mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered foods, feeds and food ingredients in 1997. This, combined with strict pre-market safety-testing regulations, has marginalized or eliminated GMOs throughout the EU.
EU foods derived from animals raised on GMO feed, however—meat, eggs, and dairy products—do not have to be labeled in the EU. As a consequence, billions of dollars of GMO-tainted animal feeds, including corn, soybeans and canola, continue to be imported every year into the EU from the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Argentina. EU activists, in Germany and elsewhere, have now begun campaigning to eliminate this strategic loophole.
As the EU’s GMO food labeling law came into effect in 1997-98, activists switched gears, successfully pressuring many large supermarket chains, including Carrefour, Co-Op, Tesco, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, and food manufacturers, including Unilever and Nestlé, to pledge to remain GMO-free. Feeling the heat from grassroots campaigners and realizing that mandatory GMO labeling would be the “kiss of death” for their brand-name products and their reputations, every major EU supermarket, food manufacturing and restaurant chain, including U.S.-based multinationals such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart, eliminated GMOs from their supply chains. As a consequence almost no GMO-derived foods, with the exception of meat and animal products, have been sold in EU retail stores or restaurants from 1997 until now.
With no real market for GMOs, EU farmers have refused to grow them. EU activists point out that if meat, eggs and dairy products derived from animals fed GMO grains had to be labeled, there would be no GMOs in Europe. Period.
In the U.S., the battle against GE foods and crops has been markedly more difficult. Since 1994, government regulatory agencies have refused to require labels on GMOs, or to require independent safety testing beyond the obviously biased research carried out by Monsanto and other genetic engineering companies themselves.
Despite government and industry opposition, and limited funding, a growing number of pro-organic and anti-GMO campaigners carried out a variety of public education, marketplace pressure and boycotts between 1994 and 2012 designed to either ban or label GMOs. Although GMO labeling bills, which according to numerous polls are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans, were introduced in Congress over and over again during the past two decades, none have gathered more than nominal support from lawmakers And media coverage, at least until the California GMO labeling ballot initiative in 2012 (Proposition 37) and the Washington State ballot initiative in 2013 (I-522), has been generally sparse, with reporters routinely spouting industry propaganda that GMOs are safe, environmentally sustainable and necessary to feed a growing global population.
But the tide is beginning to turn. More farmers are rejecting GMO seeds, more consumers are demanding non-GMO foods, or at the least, labels on GMO foods. And the media is beginning to give the anti-GMO movement if not its fair share, at least substantially more ink than we’ve seen in decades.
Between 1994-2012, the number of acres in the U.S. planted in GMO crops has grown significantly. Today, 169 million acres—almost half of all cultivated U.S. farmlands—are now growing GMO crops.
But despite the proliferation of GMO crops, we’re now seeing increased demand for non-GMO seeds. This is partly because farmers are growing frustrated with having to buy more and more pesticides and herbicides for GMO crops, as weeds and pests grow increasingly resistant to products like Monsanto’s Roundup.
But it’s also because organic and non-GMO farmers are speaking out about contamination of their crops by nearby GMO crops. Just this week, a new survey published by Food & Water Watch revealed that a third of U.S. organic farmers report problems with contamination from nearby GMO crops, and over half of the farmers surveyed said they’ve had grain shipments rejected because of contamination.
Increasing demand for non-GMO crops also stems from consumers’ heightened concerns about health, which in turn is increasing demand for non-GMO and organic crops and foods. The turning point in the anti-GMO Movement in the U.S. came in 2012-13 when organic and anti-GE organizations, led by the Organic Consumers Association, Food Democracy Now, Center for Food Safety, Alliance for Natural Health and others, joined by a number of organic and natural health companies including Mercola.com, Dr. Bronner’s Soaps, Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, Natural News, and Nutiva, decided to bypass the federal government and launch high-profile, multi-million dollar state ballot initiative campaigns for mandatory labeling of GMOs in California and Washington State.
Although anti-GMO campaigners narrowly lost 51%-49% in both states, large genetic engineering and food corporations were forced to spend over $70 million ($12 million of which was illegally laundered by the Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington). In addition GMA members, most of whom are high-profile food manufacturers, seriously damaged their brands and reputations by carrying out a misleading, dirty tricks advertising campaign that flooded the airwaves in California and Washington and antagonized millions of consumers—many of whom began boycotting their products and assailing their Facebook pages.
By 2012, thanks to the massive media coverage of the California GMO labeling initiative, organic foods and products reached $35 billion in sales, representing almost 5 percent of all grocery store sales, with non-GMO “natural” food sales reaching another $15 billion.
This growth in sales has not gone unnoticed by food manufacturers and retailers. Although 75-80 percent of all non-organic processed foods contain GMOs, General Mills, Kraft General Foods, Chipotle, Ben and Jerry’s and Whole Foods Market, responding to public concern and marketplace pressure, are now moving to eliminate GMOs from some or all of their brand name products.
In the meantime, grassroots activists continue to push for mandatory labeling laws. In 2012-13, they lobbied legislators in 30 states, achieving partial success in Maine and Connecticut. In 2014 Vermont, Oregon and several others states appear poised to pass GMO labeling laws, while voters in five Oregon and California counties will attempt to pass GMO bans.
Frantically trying to head off the inevitable, the GMA and a powerful coalition of genetic engineering, industrial agriculture, restaurant, supermarket and junk food manufacturers have begun lobbying Congress to take away states’ rights to pass laws requiring GMO food labels. The GMA has also lobbied the FDA and Congress to allow the obviously fraudulent, though routine, industry practice of labeling or marketing GE-tainted foods as “natural.”
At the state level the GE Lobby, Big Food and the Farm Bureau are sponsoring bills to take away the right of counties and municipalities to pass laws banning GMOs or restricting hazardous industrial agriculture practices.
On the international front, genetic engineering, pharmaceutical and Big Food companies are attempting to subvert GMO labels or bans by “fast-tracking,” with no public input or discussion, transnational trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). These so-called Free Trade agreements would allow multinational corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont to sue local, state or even national governments that interfere with their profits, by passing laws regulating or banning GMOs or other controversial agricultural practices.
Although these profoundly pro-corporate and anti-consumer and anti-environmental trade agreements in theory can stop GMO labeling laws and bans from coming into effect, in political terms they are perceived by the majority of the body politic and even many state and local officials as highly authoritarian and anti-democratic. Similarly TPP and TAFTA are correctly perceived by many national political, environmental and labor leaders as undermining national sovereignty, sustainability and economic justice.
Once GMOs foods are labeled, informed consumers will move to protect themselves and their families by not buying them. Once enough consumers shun GMO-tainted and labeled foods, stores will stop selling them and food manufacturers will stop putting GMO food ingredients in their products. However as the EU experience shows, labeling must eventually be comprehensive, with a requirement for meat, eggs and dairy products to be labeled if the animals have been fed GMO feed.
But food labeling alone cannot protect the environment, or non-GMO and organic farmers from GE drift and seed contamination. This is why county and regional bans on GMO cultivation and the creation of regional GMO-free zones are important. More than 80 percent of farmers surveyed by Food & Water Watch said they were “concerned” about contamination, while 60 percent said they were “very concerned.” Farmers said a lax U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been excessively influenced by the biotech industry.
The Food & Water Watch report comes just as the USDA has extended its public comment period on “coexistence” between GMO and non-GMO agriculture.
In the U.S. the largest food fight in history will soon intensify. Throwing gasoline on the fire, GE companies are arrogantly and foolhardily attempting to introduce genetically engineered fish, apples and “Agent Orange” (2,4 D) herbicide-resistant corn and soy on the market, just at the time when human health and environmental concerns are escalating. These new Frankenfoods and crops will survive in the marketplace only if there are no mandatory labeling laws and no legitimate safety testing.
But this “no labels” scenario is unlikely to continue. State legislative battles in Vermont, Oregon, and other states will likely reach critical mass in 2014, forcing industry and the federal government to finally adopt EU-type regulations and practices on GMOs. Once labeling is in place (including labels on meat, fish dairy, and eggs) genetic engineering companies, led by Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF will have no choice but to abandon GMOs and gene-splicing, in favor of less controversial hybrid seed/cross-breeding practices (which do not require labels) such as “marker assisted breeding.”
If industry and government on the other hand dig in their heels, stomping on consumer, state, municipal and community rights, telling us to “shut up and eat your Frankenfoods,” America’s food revolution may turn into a full-scale rebellion.
America’s organic consumers and natural health advocates invite you to join us in this decisive battle to drive GMOs off the market and make the great transition to healthy and sustainable food and farming. To make a donation to this cause, the Food Fight of Our Lives, follow this link: https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=10369.
Ronnie Cummins is the international director of the Organic Consumers Association
LOOK FOR THOSE GREEN CANNING JARS
Many organic-minded consumers can some high-acid organic vegetables such as tomatoes each summer at the peak of their ripe goodness. This year, look for the Ball canning jar company’s American Heritage Collection of special edition canning jars made with green glass. They commemorate Ball’s introduction of a series of jars in 1913-1915. They’re pretty. They’re green. They save money. And you can hand them down to your great grandkids some day.
Biggest Grocery Chains Say No to GMO Salmon
The two largest grocery stores in the United States, Kroger and Safeway, have made commitments to not sell GMO salmon, according to statements released today by Friends of the Earth and a coalition of more than 30 consumer, health, food safety and fishing groups, including Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, and Consumers Union.
These stores join other leading supermarket chains — now totaling over 9,000 stores nationwide — that have already rejected the GMO salmon that is still under review by FDA.
Kroger, the leading conventional grocery chain in the U.S. with 2,424 stores, informed Friends of the Earth of its decision in a December email from Keith Dailey, director of media relations at Kroger. “Should genetically engineered salmon be approved, Kroger has no intention of sourcing it,” Dailey wrote.
Safeway, the number two conventional grocer with 1,406 stores, confirmed their position in an email to Friends of the Earth last week.
“Should GE salmon come to market, we are not considering nor do we have any plans to carry GE salmon. The seafood products we offer will continue to be selected consistent with our Responsible Seafood Purchasing Policy, Responsible Sourcing Commitment and our partnership with FishWise,” Safeway’s statement said.
“By making commitments to not sell genetically engineered salmon, Kroger and Safeway have joined the large number of grocery chains, from Trader Joe’s to Target, that have wisely chosen to listen to the majority of consumers who do not want to eat genetically engineered fish,” said Dana Perls, Food and Technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “Now Costco, Walmart, Albertsons and other retailers need to catch up and provide their customers with what they want: natural, sustainable seafood that isn’t genetically engineered in a lab.”
MONSANTO’S ‘COEXISTENCE’ WITH ORGANICS IS A DEATH SENTENCE
You might have heard a new term floating around the Internet – “Coexistence”- an idyllic term to promote the fantasy of GMO and non-GMO crops living in harmony side by side. But Monsanto and the USDA’s new “coexistence” plan is a road to extinction for America’s organic farmers. And if approved, it will mean the end of organic food as we know it, according to Food Democracy Now.
Right now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with biotech lobbyists to finalize a plan so Monsanto’s GMO crops can contaminate organic and non-GMO farmers’ crops at will. Even worse, the USDA’s new plan could force these farmers to pay for crop “contamination insurance” to protect themselves against unwanted contamination by Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered genes.
When Monsanto says “coexistence”, what they really mean is: “We will contaminate organics.”
The new policy recommendations are the result of a special industry-controlled panel instigated by Secretary Vilsack in 2011 that sought to find “cooperation” between stakeholders to find a “solution” for the contamination of organic and non-GMO crops by genetically engineered pollen from neighboring fields.
GMO seeds have been widely adopted in the five main commodity crops, with more than 90 percent adoption rates of genetic engineering in corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, canola, and alfalfa. Therefore, the genetic contamination of neighboring farmers’ fields planted with organic and non-GMO crops is virtually guaranteed. Now, as new GMO crops are being approved, it’s only a matter of time before other organic crops are contaminated too.
Despite claims by Monsanto and the USDA, nobody can overrule the laws of biology and dictate how plants reproduce. Patented GMO pollen is spread by wind, insects, birds and animals, and no matter how much Monsanto denies it, their GMO crops will contaminate and destroy the integrity of farmers’ organic and non-GMO crops.
This policy would circumvent legal victories won in court, as in the case of organic farmer Steve Marsh in Australia and the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association vs Monsanto here in the U.S. In response, Secretary Vilsack created the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, known as AC21.
At Secretary Vilsack’s request, the AC21 sought to find “types of compensation mechanisms” that “would be appropriate to address economic losses by farmers in which the value of their crops is reduced by unintended presence of genetically engineered (GE) material(s).” Tragically, AC21 was dominated by pro-GMO industry lobbyists, who hijacked the agenda to protect the biotech industry.
Rather than force the patent holders of genetically engineered crops to compensate organic and non-GMO farmers when their fields are contaminated by Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical and Syngenta’s patented genes, the USDA’s AC21 recommendations shift the entire cost of contamination to organic and non-GMO crop farmers.
Even worse, if the current AC21 plan is adopted, it could exempt biotech seed and chemical giants, Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, from any future legal liability or financial compensation to organic and non-GMO farmers whose crops become contaminated.
By supporting the USDA’s new “coexistence” plan, farmers may have to forfeit their right to file future claims of economic injury and damages against Monsanto. That’s because new “coexistence” rules could impose mandatory arbitration that would prohibit farmers from taking Monsanto to court over GMO contamination. Forever.
While the USDA claims that it has “unequivocal” support for all forms of agriculture and its policies will be based on “science-based stewardship,” the truth is that Monsanto and the USDA know it’s impossible to control “gene flow” once a GMO crop is approved.
The fact is, contamination has been a part of the biotech industry’s GMO strategy from the beginning. In 2001, biotech industry consultant Don Westfall told the Toronto Star: “The hope of the industry is that over time the market is so flooded
that there’s nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender.”
Fight back by visiting this website:
GLYPHOSATE IS IN THE AIR AND RAIN
Farming with genetically engineered seed has altered our daily exposure to chemicals, such that even the rain and air contains physiologically active levels of glyphosate from corporate agriculture’s war against any plant not part of its monocultured, genetically engineered system of production, according to an article in Wake Up World.
With a significant body of research now available showing that glyphosate and its components are far more toxic than believed at the time of its government approval, the implications of ubiquitous glyphosate exposure should be carefully considered.
Ultimately, findings like these reveal that the perception of choice and health freedom, when it comes to the consumer’s right to avoid harm from GMOs by refusing to buy or consume them, is illusory. Not only are consumers in the U.S. not allowed to know what is in their food with accurate and truthful labeling of ingredients, we now know that biopollution from GMOs produces uncontrollable and irreversible changes in the genomes of other organisms—including humans.
The contamination of GM foods with herbicides like Roundup (glyphosate) makes them not equivalent to their non-contaminated alternatives. The reality is that the environment is becoming so saturated with the fall out from the ever-expanding GM agrichemical farming grid that even if you somehow find a way to avoid eating contaminated food, you will be forced to have to deal with its adverse health effects, as long as you need air to breath and water to drink.
Ultimately, unless our food production system moves beyond its present chemical war-modeled phase of GMO monoculturing, even non-GMO food will end up being contaminated with these chemicals and rogue genes, because nothing ‘natural’ lives in a vacuum – and if it does, then it really shouldn’t be called “organic,” and maybe shouldn’t even be called food.
FDA: Compost Is Yucky
Evan Halper of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote about Pennsylvania organic farmer Jim Crawford, who was loading crates of freshly picked tomatoes onto trucks heading for an urban farmers market when he noticed a federal agent approaching.
A tense conversation followed as the visitor to his farm—an inspector from the Food and Drug Administration—warned him that some organic-growing techniques he had honed over four decades could soon be outlawed.
“This is my badge. These are the fines. This is what is hanging over your head, and we want you to know that,” Crawford says the official told him.
In a nutshell, the FDA is claiming that compost made from manure and other organic matter can spread disease when used to fertilize organic crops, and so farmers will have to allow their compost to rot for nine months or more. Plus, the FDA is loading organic growers with a whole other set of burdensome rules. All in the name of insuring the safety of our food supply.
This is the same FDA that allows the worst kind of toxic chemicals in our food supply, including the endocrine disruptor glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. So—toxic chemicals okay. Compost not okay. But wait a minute. Composting is a process by which beneficial microorganisms blaze through organic matter with such fury that pathogenic organisms are killed. It’s a way of colonizing decaying manure and plant material with beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that support a healthy soil. What’s going on?
Well, two things. First, in 2010, after a years-long campaign, food-safety activists persuaded Congress to give the FDA authority to regulate farm practices. “They are going to drive farms out of business,” said Dave Runsten, policy director for Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, California.
The FDA has ample experience breaking up unsafe pharmaceutical factories and food processors but is still finding its way around family farms. At a recent congressional hearing, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) seized on one draft set of rules in which the FDA declared kale is “never consumed raw.”
“I was going to offer to make a kale salad for you,” she said to Michael Taylor, a deputy FDA commissioner. “It causes you to wonder if those who are writing these rules have ever set foot on a farm.”
And that brings us to the second thing that’s going on: Michael Taylor. He’s the former Monsanto executive now in charge of food safety at the FDA, and an indefatigable promoter of GMOs and Monsanto’s burgeoning sales of herbicides that support these genetically engineered crops.
The FDA has backed away from some of its positions, and Taylor points out that thousands of the smallest farms would be exempt from new inspections under an agreement negotiated in Congress. “This is the first time that the FDA will have regulated produce safety on the farm,” he said in an interview. “It is understandable people have concerns and questions,” he added. “We have learned a lot during this last year.” Sounds nice, but Taylor’s actions speak louder than words. He was behind the FDA’s recent decision to allow double to quadruple the amount of glyphosate in the nation’s food supply.
Compost is the source and destiny of all life and the very foundation of health on an organic farm or in an organic garden. The same cannot be said of glyphosate. For the FDA to increase allowable levels of this toxic chemical in food while at the same time impugning compost as a source of sickness and disease exposes the real agenda of the FDA. And that is to give big corporate agriculture all the support it needs while driving organic family farmers out of business.
This has been going on since the FDA attacked J.I. Rodale as a quack at the very beginning of the organic movement in America. It reached crisis level in the 1970s, when corporate agriculture drove so many families off their farms that farmers were driving their tractors to protest rallies in farm state capitals, and some were committing suicide.
The organic community—that’s you—is really all that stands in the way of corporate agriculture’s total domination of the food supply. The good news is that our community is growing larger and stronger every year.
MONSANTO’S ‘SCIENCE’ IS REALLY JUST PROPAGANDA
To hear the pesticide and junk food marketers of the world tell it, anyone who questions the value, legitimacy or safety of GMO crops is naïve, anti-science and irrational to the point of hysteria, according to Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association. Their recent essay on this topic is so important, I’m reproducing it here. The following is their essay:
How long can Monsanto ignore the mounting actual scientific evidence that their technology is not only failing to live up to its promises, it’s putting public health at risk?
Jim Goodman, farmer, activist and member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board, recently wrote about Monsanto’s deceptive use of the expression “sound science.”
Simply put, ‘sound science’ always supports the position of industry over people, corporate profit over food safety, the environment and public health.
Here are five new reports and studies, published in the last two months, that blow huge holes in Monsanto’s “sound science” story. Reports of everything from Monsanto’s Roundup causing fatal, chronic kidney disease to how, contrary to industry claims, Roundup persists for years, contaminating soil, air and water. And oh-by-the-way, no, GMO crops will not feed the world, nor have they reduced the use of herbicides and pesticides.
1. Monsanto’s Roundup linked to fatal, chronic kidney disease. Article in Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, February, 2014.
What happens when you mix glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, with “hard” water? That is, water that contains metals, such as calcium, magnesium, strontium and iron, either found naturally in the soil, or resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers?
The glyphosate becomes “extremely toxic” to the kidneys.
That’s the theory put forth by researchers trying to uncover the mystery of thousands of deaths from chronic kidney disease among people in farming areas of Sri Lanka, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
2. Monsanto’s Roundup persists in soil and water. U.S. Geological Survey report in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, February, 2014.
Monsanto has always insisted (despite evidence to the contrary) that its Roundup herbicide is benign, that its toxicity doesn’t persist.
But that’s only half the story, according to a study published this month in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Researchers now say that if you study only the key active ingredient, glyphosate, you might, as Monsanto claims, determine that Roundup is benign.
But there are other ingredients in Roundup, including one called Aminomethylphosphonic acid, or AMPA. The study, called “Pesticides in Mississippi air and rain: A comparison between 1995 and 2007,” found that glyphosate and its still-toxic byproduct, AMPA, were found in over 75 percent of the air and rain samples tested from Mississippi in 2007.
What does that mean for you? According to one analysis, “if you were breathing in the sampled air you would be inhaling approximately 2.5 nanograms of glyphosate per cubic meter of air. It has been estimated the average adult inhales approximately 388 cubic feet or 11 cubic meters of air per day, which would equal to 27.5 nanograms (billionths of a gram) of glyphosate a day.”
3. GMO crops have led to an increase in use of pesticides and herbicides. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, February, 2014.
The USDA, which, gauging from its track record has never met a GMO crop it didn’t like, published a report substantiating what responsible, independent scientists have been saying all along. Genetic engineering does not result in increased yields (as industry would have us believe)—but it has led to the increased (not decreased, as industry claims) use of pesticides and herbicides.
To be fair, the report gives overall favorable reviews to GMO crops. Not surprising, given the agency’s cozy relationship with Monsanto. But that makes it all the more telling that the once staunch-defender of GMO crops is now raising questions about industry’s long-term, decidedly unproven and unscientific, claims that biotechnology is the best thing since sliced (GMO wheat) bread.
4. Pesticides are more dangerous than we thought. Article in BioMed Research International, February, 2014.
More bad news on pesticides. A study published in BioMed Research International this month says that it’s not just the toxic chemicals we need to worry about in pesticides. It’s the inert ingredients, and how they interact with the active, toxic ingredients.
Typically, studies conducted to determine the safety of pesticides focus exclusively on the active ingredients. But scientists at the University of Caen tested eight commercial products, including Roundup, and found that nine of them were hundreds of times more toxic than their active ingredient alone.
Which product won the “Most Toxic” award? Monsanto’s Roundup, which was found to be “by far the most toxic of the herbicides and insecticides tested,” according to the study.
5. Small-Scale, organic farming needed to feed the world. U.N. Commission on Trade and Development, December 2013.
In December 2013, the U.N. Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released the results of a lengthy, in-depth study that blows a huge hole in one of Monsanto’s favorite claims, that we need GMOs to feed the world. The study, entitled, “Wake Up Before it is Too Late,” concluded with this warning: Small-scale organic farming is the only way to feed the world.
According to an analysis by one of the report’s contributors, the report contains in-depth sections on the shift toward more sustainable, resilient agriculture; livestock production and climate change; the importance of research and extension; the role of land use; and the role of reforming global trade rules.
More than 60 experts from around the world contributed to the report.
Clearly the evidence—real, scientific evidence—against GMO crops is mounting, when five new anti-GMO studies and reports surface in a matter of a couple of months.
How much more will it take before the USDA, FDA, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stop supporting an agrochemical industry under attack from the scientific community, and start putting public health before corporate profits?
In December, more than 200 scientists, physicians, and experts from relevant fields, signed a statement declaring that the biotech industry is deceiving the public when it claims that GMOs are safe. There is, the group said, no “scientific consensus” to support industry’s claims that GMOs are safe.
But as new studies surface every day, it’s become increasingly clear that among credible physicians and scientists, the consensus is that we’d better wake up, soon, to the risks and threats posed by a reckless technology that has been allowed to dominate our food and farming systems, unchecked, for far too long.
A STANDING OVATION FOR ‘THE SYMPHONY OF THE SOIL’
“Unfolding with gentle joy and an unexpected beauty, this ode to the miracle of the Earth’s topmost layer gives us a newfound respect for the ground beneath our feet.” –New York Times, Critics Pick
“Symphony of the Soil,” the latest documentary from the director of “The Future of Food,” is now available on DVD.
“Symphony of the Soil” explores the complexity and mystery of soil. Filmed on four continents, the film portrays soil as a protagonist of our planetary story. In a skillful mix of art and science, the film reveals soil for what it really is: a living organism and the foundation of life on earth.
Its creators hope it will inspire people to stop treating soil like, well, dirt. You can watch the trailer by visiting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5QYZ-LRXW4.
How Organics Respects the Rule of Law
Those who practice agriculture or horticulture using the organic method are following the rule of law—nature’s law. Her laws are fairly simple, but they are profound, and contravened at our peril. The salient laws can be summarized as follows:
1) Healthy soil is a living organism comprised of myriad microscopic bits of life, miniscule plants, fungi, worms, and a host of other denizens, all functioning together in a working ecosystem. The farmer or gardener’s job is to support and improve this organism by recycling every bit of organic waste material back into the soil through the composting process.
2) There is no place on the farm or garden for manmade toxic chemicals—pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, or hormones. Attempts to control life on the farm or in the garden by killing “bad” creatures only selects for the development of more troublesome pests and diseases. Nature’s law says all life forms are good, all necessary, and all contribute to a healthy ecosystem. Shakespeare said this 400 years ago in Romeo and Juliet, when the Friar remarked, “None so vile that on the earth doth live, but to the earth some special good doth give.”
3) Inserting genes from one genus into another genus, such as is done with genetically modified organisms, is an abomination and a complete contravention of nature’s elaborate system of keeping genus and species apart for very good reasons. No good will ever come of it, but much harm will.
4) Creating a farm or garden of a single crop will only encourage that crop’s predators and parasites to attack it. Rather nature’s law is to create a multiplicity of different crops. In diversity is stability.
5) Possession is nine-tenths of the natural law. If the soil and crops are diverse and part of a healthy ecosystem that thoroughly colonizes its niche, pathogens will still be present, but they will not be able to cause disease because all the trophic niches will be occupied. In other words, they won’t be able to get enough of a toehold to break out into disease.
6) Insects are the censors of nature, the way top-level predators like wolves keep herds of caribou healthy by picking off and devouring the weakest. Insects attack the weakest plants first, helping to insure that only the healthiest plants survive.
7) Following nature’s laws produces a confluence of benefits, many of which are unforeseen. Transgressing nature’s laws produces a perfect storm of problems, most of which are unanticipated.
Now let’s move from agriculture and horticulture to society and the rule of law. In this country, the basic law of the land is the U.S. Constitution, a brilliant document that, through its system of checks and balances, mimics nature’s laws as they operate to create healthy ecosystems, where health is the result of the checks and balances among the creatures that make up the interconnected web of life.
So, what about the rule of law and the primacy of the Constitution in America, 2014. How are we doing?
Well, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. But our federal government is claiming that newspapers like The New York Times, which is reporting on the revelations of the National Security Agency’s documents provided by Edward Snowden, should be prevented from such reporting. I suspect the framers of the Constitution would applaud Edward Snowden.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees that citizens should be safe from government intrusion into their private and personal affairs without probable cause that crimes are being committed, and yet the NSA and other governmental agencies are intruding on our privacy wholesale, in direction contravention of the Constitution.
The Constitution guarantees that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law, but the President has now determined that he can order the murder of American citizens by drone attacks without due process of law, in direct contravention of the Constitution. Not only that, he claims the right to direct lethal attacks against citizens of other countries that he declares are terrorists who threaten America, even if the attacks kill innocent civilians, without oversight or acquiescence from Congress. No President should have this power of life and death to use as he alone chooses. Is he any better than any other dictator in this regard?
Those who lie to Congress are supposed to be arraigned as felons, but our security officials lie to Congress without legal action, as James Clapper did when he told Congress that the NSA was not spying on American citizens. Outing a CIA agent is supposed to be a felony, but when Valerie Plame was outed, the culprit wasn’t prosecuted. Two black teenagers were recently murdered in Florida, but neither of their attackers was convicted of murder. Laws are flouted all the time in our lawless society. Children are gunned down by the dozens in schools but Congress will pass no laws to curb gun violence because of gun zealots like Ted Nugent who calls the President a “subhuman mongrel,” and this is a President who, at a State of the Union speech, was yelled at by a member of Congress who shouted, “Liar!”
Wall Street bankers committed all kinds of financial crimes but are not prosecuted. Yet an 84-year-old nun who trespassed at a Tennessee nuclear facility, exposing its security breaches, gets three years in prison. The men who murdered the black teenagers in Florida go free while a woman who fired a warning shot into the ceiling to stop her abusive husband from attacking her gets hard time.
Uh—rule of law? Excuse me? Those who think we are living in a civil society are delusional. It’s time for a change. You see what contravention of the rule of natural law has done to our food supply. The erosion of the Constitution is having the same toxic effect on our society.
PRENATAL PESTICIDE EXPOSURE RESULTS IN LOWER CHILDRENS’ IQS
According to The Organic Center, a study carried out by a team at the Columbia University Center for Children’s Environmental Health focused on children born to a group of 265 mothers living in low-income, public housing. By age seven, children born to mothers in the group with the highest exposute to pesticides scored 5.5 percent lower on a common test of working memory and 2.7 percent lower in terms of IQ, compared to children born to mothers in a low-exposure group. The study suggested that even very low exposures might lead to some reduction in mental abilities.
Another study, carried out by U.C. Berkeley scientists, in cooperation with the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, measured urinary metabolites of insecticides during pregnancy, and then from children at six months of age, and periodically through age five. A variety of intelligence and learning tests were used to measure the mental abilities of 329 children at age seven. Children born to the most heavily exposed mothers had an IQ deficit of seven points, or about 7 percent, compared to the low exposure quintile.
The senior author of this study, Brenda Eskenazi, told CNN.com that the impacts on intelligence found in their study were similar in magnitude to the adverse impacts associated with high lead exposures, in the 1960s and 1970s, and were comparable to a child performing six-months behind average in a school population.
The research team also reported that about 25 percent of pregnant women in the general U.S. population are exposed to organophosphate insecticides at levels comparable to the average Latino farm women included in this study.
A third study was carried out at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and measured prenatal organophosphate pesticide metabolite levels in urine and blood samples from 404 pregnant women. The babies of about 30 percent of the women in the study were at higher risk following exposures to OP insecticides.
These children suffered a 4 point decline in one measure of mental function.
Dr. Phil Landrigan, Director of the Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center called the findings of the three studies “shocking” in a New York Times health blog (Tara Parker-Pope, April 21, 2011). He went on to say –
“Babies exposed to the highest levels [of OPs] had the most severe effects. It means these children are going to have problems as they go through life.”
“When we took lead out of gasoline, we reduced lead poisoning by 90 percent, and we raised the I.Q. of a whole generation of children four or five points. I think these findings about pesticides should generate similar controversy, but I’m cautiously optimistic that they will have the effect of having the EPA sharply reduce the use of organophosphate pesticides.”
Not to be cynical, Dr. Landrigan, but don’t hold your breath.
POLAND BANS PLANTING OF MONSANTO’S GMO CORN
Following the anti-Monsanto activism launched by nations like France and Hungary, Poland has announced that it will launch a complete ban on growing Monsanto’s genetically modified strain of corn.
The announcement, made by Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki, sets yet another international standard against Monsanto’s genetically modified creations. In addition to being linked to a plethora health ailments, Sawicki says that the pollen originating from this GM strain may actually be devastating the already dwindling bee population.
“The decree is in the works. It introduces a complete ban on this strain of maize in Poland,” Sawicki stated to the press.
Similar opposition to Monsanto occurred on March 9th, when seven European countries blocked a proposal by the Danish EU presidency to permit the cultivation of genetically modified plants on the entire continent. France lead the charge against GMOs by asking the European Commission to suspend authorization of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn. What’s more, the country settled a landmark case in favor of the people over Monsanto, finding the biotech giant guilty of chemical poisoning.
In a ruling given by a court in Lyon (southeast France), grain grower Paul Francois stated that Monsanto failed to provide proper warnings on the Lasso weed killer product label which resulted in neurological problems such as memory loss and headaches. The court ordered an expert opinion to determine the sum of the damages, and to verify the link between Lasso and the reported illnesses. The result was a guilty charge, paving the way for further legal action on behalf of injured farmers.
Since 1996, the agricultural branch of the French social security system has gathered about 200 alerts per year regarding sickness related to pesticides.
Nations are continually taking a stand against Monsanto, with nations like Hungary destroying 1000 acres of GM maize and India slamming Monsanto with “‘bio-piracy” charges.
Guess Who Owns Organic?
In 1995 there were 81 independent organic processing companies in the United States, according to The Cornucopia Institute. A decade later, Big Food had gobbled up all but 15 of them, and the trend continues today.
Corporate consolidation of the food system has been largely hidden from consumers. That’s changing, thanks to tools such as Philip H. Howard’s widely circulated, “Who Owns Organic?” infographic. The chart provides a snapshot of the structure of the organic industry, showing the acquisitions and alliances of the top 100 food processors in North America. The chart empowers consumers to see at a glance which companies dominate the organic marketplace.
Dr. Howard released an update of the chart on February 13. It is posted prominently on the right-hand margin at www.cornucopia.org, or you can see it by visiting http://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/12/Updated-Organic2014.pdf.
The chart shows that many iconic organic brands are owned by the titans of junk food, processed food, and sugary beverages—the same corporations that spent millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California and Washington. General Mills (which owns Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, and LaraBar), Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla), J.M. Smucker (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic), and many other corporate owners of organic brands contributed big bucks to deny citizens’ right to know what is in their food.
I contacted Dr. Howard and asked him how he thought this massive consolidation and co-option of organic food producers by Big Ag and Big Food is affecting the organic industry’s integrity. Does the USDA Organic seal still convey a guarantee that these foods are truly organic? He replied:
“Perhaps the most common response after big food takes over an organic brand is to reduce the commitment to certified organic, and sell more products that are ‘natural,’ since people don’t always read the labels carefully. Certifiers I’ve talked to have more confidence in CCOF and Oregon Tilth than QAI, but technically they are all supposed to follow the same USDA standards. They’re pretty confident in certified foods from the US and Latin America, but skeptical of organic foods from China,” he wrote in an email.
He also mentioned the fact that The Cornucopia Institute has revealed that the big corporate food companies that now own most of the organic producers have packed the National Organic Standards board with people friendly to them and have worked to weaken organic standards in order to increase profits. In a glaring example, WhiteWave Foods, a division of the dairy giant Dean Foods, announced that it has introduced non-organic grocery products under its Horizon label. Horizon Organic, primarily marketing dairy products, is the largest organic label in the marketplace and, up until the third quarter of 2013, was selling exclusively organic products. So—don’t be fooled. Avoid Horizon products, even if they purport to be organic, because their integrity is eroding fast.
“Consumers who want food companies that embody more of the original organic ideals,” he wrote, “would do well to seek out products from independent organic firms. Given the very uneven playing field they are competing on, independent organic processors are unlikely to survive without such support.”
Tools such as Howard’s infographic and The Cornucopia Institute’s scorecards rating organic brands of dairy, eggs, soy foods and breakfast cereals empower consumers to make those choices. The updated chart and scorecards are available for download at www.cornucopia.org.
MONSANTO ACTS MORE THUGGISH BY THE DAY
The following is excerpted from Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website:
At a January, 2014, Monsanto shareholders’ meeting, two rather disturbing trends took place (though, admittedly, neither was entirely surprising).
First, it was readily apparent that the company has no intention of taking steps to label genetically modified (GM) foods, and any such proposals by shareholders do not stand a chance of being voted through.
Second, Monsanto’s power doesn’t end outside of their boardroom. At least two dozen on-duty police were on hand to “control” the 30-40 peaceful protestors in favor of mandatory GMO labeling. Police dressed in military fatigue uniforms were on hand at the shareholder meeting displaying their power, or rather Monsanto’s. In all, 10 protestors were arrested, including a woman in her 60s who was pulled over for holding a sign out her car window and arrested for “impeding traffic.”
Taxpayers aren’t only footing the bill for Monsanto’s police force outside of their shareholder meetings. A report by Food & Water Watch has also revealed that taxpayer-funded U.S. State Department officials have actively promoted the commercialization of biotech seeds, even going so far as to facilitate negotiations between foreign governments and Monsanto. The report, which included a review of nearly 1,000 diplomatic cables (released by WikiLeaks in 2010) of correspondence between the State Department and embassies in more than 100 countries, details how the State Department promotes the genetically modified seed industry’s global agenda.
The European Union (EU) has historically taken a strict, cautious stance regarding GM crops, much to the chagrin of Monsanto. US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed the US government conspired to find ways to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use GM seeds, mainly by engaging in aggressive trade wars against reluctant nations.
$3 MILLION TO STUDY IMPACT OF CHEMICALS ON BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced over $3 million in grants to research institutions to better understand how chemicals interact with biological processes and how these interactions may lead to altered brain development.
The studies are focused on improving EPA’s ability to predict the potential health effects of chemical exposures. The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is one of the four grantees to receive $800,000 to conduct research on developmental neurotoxicity.
“This research will transform our understanding of how exposure to chemicals during sensitive life stages affects the development of the brain,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “By better predicting whether chemicals have the potential to impact health and human development, these grants will not only advance the science necessary to improve chemical safety but protect the well being and futures of children in this nation.”
UC Davis will conduct research to demonstrate how the thyroid hormone (TH), which is responsible for neurodevelopment, is affected by toxic chemicals. Research will also provide insight into which parts of the neurodevelopment systems are susceptible to disruption, and improve assessments used to show impact to human health.
In addition to UC Davis, other recipients include: North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., The University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.
Is ‘Science’ Just Corporate Lies?
In the February 10th issue of The New Yorker, Rachel Aviv has written a piece of investigative journalism about a tenured, full professor at the University of California, Berkeley, whose epidemiological work revealed that atrazine, an herbicide manufactured by Syngenta Corporation that’s the second most popular herbicide in the world after Monsanto’s Roundup, causes sexual organ deformities and serious gender abnormalities in amphibians. His work contributes to current research that finds elevated levels of sexual deformities in human babies of mothers who live in areas where atrazine contaminates the drinking water.
Despite Dr. Hayes’s careful science, and the work of other respected scientists, the Environmental Protection Agency keeps approving the chemical’s use, basing its approval on studies paid for by—who else?—Syngenta. Reminds one of the EPA’s continual approval of Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate herbicide, doesn’t it? Well, Syngenta’s co-opting of the EPA is the carrot in the company’s carrot-and-stick approach to dealing with Dr. Hayes, according to The New Yorker article.
The stick is Syngenta’s campaign to discredit Dr. Hayes, his work, his wife, his background, and to destroy his reputation as a scientist. The article points out that there are whole companies of so-called scientists devoted to discrediting scientific work that threatens the corporate profits of agricultural chemical companies, among other facets of Big Food. I encourage you to read the article, entitled, “A Valuable Reputation.”
Now for some examples. In its February 2, 2014, edition, The New York Times published the following op-ed piece, entitled, “We Need GMO Wheat.” It was written by Jason Lusk, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State, and the author of “Why You Shouldn’t Buy Organic,” that ran in the Huffington Post on April 18, 2013; the op-ed piece in the Times was co-authored by Henry I. Miller, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank, and the author of a book entitled, “The Frankenfood Myth.” Here’s part of what they had to say:
Three crops — corn, soybeans and wheat — account for a vast majority of the value of America’s agricultural crop output. But wheat is different in one important respect. While more than 90 percent of the nation’s corn and soybean acres are now planted with seeds genetically engineered to resist insects, herbicides or both, there is not a single acre of genetically engineered wheat being grown commercially in the United States.
Wheat farmers have suffered as a result, as have consumers of bread and pasta, who have been paying higher prices than they might have because fewer and fewer acres are planted in wheat. Without the benefits of the newer molecular techniques of genetic engineering, the nation’s wheat industry will continue to struggle against other commodities that have adopted biotechnology, and against the drought conditions out West. All of this is happening as the planet’s population increases and global wheat demand expands in response.
Why has wheat lagged behind? One reason is that, back in the mid-1990s, corn and soybean farmers avidly embraced the nascent biotechnology revolution, snatching up new, genetically engineered seed varieties. But wheat farmers balked at the potentially higher prices of these new seeds and feared that anti-genetic engineering views held by some of our trading partners would hurt exports.
Today, it’s easy to see why corn and soybean farmers made the switch. Crop yields have increased and farmers have been able to reduce their use of chemical insecticides and shift to less toxic herbicides to control weeds. They’ve also made more money. Over the same period, the amount of land planted in wheat has dropped by about 20 percent, and although yields have increased, productivity growth has been lower than for the crops genetically engineered with molecular techniques.
Monsanto recently said that it had made significant progress in the development of herbicide-tolerant wheat. It will enable farmers to use more environmentally benign herbicides and could be ready for commercial use in the next few years. But the federal government must first approve it, a process that has become mired in excessive, expensive and unscientific regulation that discriminates against this kind of genetic engineering.
The scientific consensus is that existing genetically engineered crops are as safe as the non-genetically engineered hybrid plants that are a mainstay of our diet. The government should be encouraging and promoting these technologies.
There are so many outright lies in this opinion piece that it’s hard to know where to begin. Suffice it to say that GMO crops do not increase yields—just the opposite. Farmers haven’t been able to reduce their use of chemical insecticides and shift to less toxic herbicides—just the opposite. And government approval is not “excessive, expensive, and unscientific” if approval is based on real science and not “science” paid for by the very corporations government is supposed to be regulating. It’s how a sane society keeps itself safe. Finally, there is no “scientific consensus” that GMO crops are as safe as non-GMO crops.
But rather than going over the duplicitous op-ed piece point by point, let me note the following piece published by CNN from Professor David Schubert of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. He addresses the real facts about GMOs and the need for labeling them.
“Most people like to know what they are eating,” Professor Schubert writes. “However, labeling for genetically modified organisms is not required in any state. This is largely because of the money expended by GM seed producers toward blocking food-labeling laws.
“A common claim made by this group is that GM foods have been proved safe to eat and that there is a global scientific consensus to support this statement; therefore, no labeling is needed. However, an examination of the scientific data, along with discussions on this topic in other countries, show that both claims are blatantly false. What is the evidence that some GM foods are hazardous to human health and that consumers should be able to make a choice based upon this information?
“When GMOs were introduced nearly 20 years ago, there was the promise of crops with increased yields and resistance to flooding and salt. Since then, traditional breeding methods have created commercial varieties with these traits, while genetic engineering has created none. For example, recently published data show that conventional breeding of corn and soy increases yields to a greater extent than GM technologies.
“With the promise of reducing the use of agricultural chemicals, most of the current GM crops are supposedly either insect or herbicide resistant. In reality, GM crops have fostered an epidemic of herbicide resistant weeds and insects that are no longer killed by the built-in toxins.
“The result is a massive increase in herbicide use — an additional 527 million pounds over the past 16 years. The major herbicide, glyphosate, is found inside the GM plants we eat, leading to its detection in people. Future GM crops will likely trigger a greater use of more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D, a component of the Agent Orange defoliant deployed in Vietnam. In addition to these problems, there is increasing evidence that GM crops and the chemicals required for their production are harmful to humans.
“An Associated Press story in October documented the large increase in cancer and birth defects in commercial farming areas of Argentina since the introduction of GM crops. These data confirm recent animal studies showing that GM corn and the herbicides sprayed on it caused a dramatic increase in cancer in the same strain of rats used in FDA drug safety tests. Another large study showed an increase in severe stomach inflammation in pigs caused by GM feed containing insecticidal toxins, a condition that would likely lead to cancer in humans.
“As a result of these new revelations about GM technology, the industry is making a major public relations effort to promote itself, often falsely claiming that there is a ‘consensus’ among scientists that the technology is safe.
“In reality, there is no evidence that GM food is safe for human consumption, nor is there any consensus on this topic within the scientific community. It is critical for the public to educate itself about the realities of GMOs and not be fooled by the rhetoric from companies that sell it.
“Most of the world has studied this issue and concluded that GMOs are not worth the risk. Passing GM labeling initiatives in states will be the initial demonstration that the public understands what is at stake. At the very least, labeling may help reverse the unsustainable trend in this country towards ever increasing industrial GMO farming.”
The take-away from the New Yorker article about Dr. Hayes, the Times’ op-ed piece flacking for the biotech industry, and Professor Schubert’s piece calling out Messrs. Lusk and Miller is that what we always thought of as science—the unbiased empirical search for the truth—is really two realms today. One realm is science as it should be, done by reputable scientists uncorrupted by money, whose findings are repeatable by unbiased researchers. The other is phony “science,” created in corporate boardrooms as illusion for the public, as scientific Potemkin villages designed to influence public opinion, as PR smoke and mirrors—“truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert called it.
In addition to phony science, the big corporations tend to have a “profit before people” mentality that leads them to discredit real science and destroy the reputations of real scientists who expose problems with their products.
Isn’t this the way the mob operates?
TOXIC CHEMICALS FOUND IN CHILDREN’S CLOTHING
A recent report by Greenpeace detected toxic chemicals in a wide range of children’s’ clothing, The Organic Center reports.
Investigators looked at 82 items of children’s apparel from 25 different countries. Analyses were conducted to detect the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates, organotins, per/poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs), and antimony. Researchers found traces of all of these chemicals in many of the children’s products examined, which means that clothing may be a significant source of exposure to pollutants for children.
To avoid many toxic chemicals, make sure to look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) symbol when you are shopping for children’s clothing. Any chemical inputs in GOTS certified fabrics such as dyes, auxiliaries and process chemicals must be evaluated and meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability. Additionally, printing methods using phthalates and PVC are prohibited under GOTS certification, so it’s the best way to ensure that your clothing is free of toxic chemicals.
ORGANIC SOYBEANS SHOW SUPERIOR NUTRITIVE VALUE
Organic soybeans have a healthier nutritional profile than conventionally grown soybeans, according to a recent article in the journal Food Chemistry. The study compared organic soybean batches from Iowa with genetically modified (GM) soybeans and conventional non-GM soybeans grown in the same state. Researchers found that “organic soybeans showed the healthiest nutritional profile with more sugars, such as glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose. Organic soybeans also had more total protein and zinc, and contained less total saturated fat and total omega-6 fatty acids than both conventional and GM-soy. Another interesting find of the study was that GM soybeans contained high residues of pesticides, showing 3.3mg/kg of glyphosate and 5.7 mg/kg of AMPA. These contaminants were not found in non-GM soybeans, and support previous research suggesting that the use of GM crops enables higher use rates of some pesticides.
We’ve Got to Do Something about Glyphosate
According to the well-respected and peer-reviewed scientific journal called Toxicology, a study sponsored in part by the National Institutes of Health concluded that “glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines.”
Let’s unpack this statement. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, Monsanto’s herbicide. Despite Monsanto’s assurances of Roundup’s safety, this study conclusively shows its toxicity. In addition, the chemical is an endocrine disruptor. The endocrine system is the master hormonal system in humans and many animals. Hormones are the molecules that instruct the body’s other systems what to do, when to do it, how to act, and—most importantly—how to develop. To disrupt the endocrine system is to turn a smoothly running system with all communication lines open and functioning into a Tower of Babel.
How serious is this? I urge you to find a copy of a book entitled, “Our Stolen Future,” published by Plume Publishing (an imprint of Penguin), and written by Dr. Theo Colborn, senior scientist at the World Wildlife Fund and a world-recognized expert on endocrine-disrupting chemicals; Dianne Dumanoski, a journalist for the Boston Globe and recipient of the Knight Fellowship in Science Journalism at MIT, and John Peterson Myers, director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, which supports efforts to protect the global environment. Al Gore wrote the introduction.
Of this book, The New York Review of Books wrote, “Its subject is so important and its story so powerful that it deserves to be read by the widest possible audience…The authors refuse to let the profound implications of their work propel them into intellectual sloppiness or theatrical overkill.” In other words, it’s a fine piece of fact-based journalism about the poisoning of our endocrine systems by agricultural and food processing chemicals.
So glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor. And Monsanto, of course, has created “Roundup Ready” crops that can withstand applications of glyphosate that kill other plants such as weeds. How much glyphosate is being used these days? Well, glyphosate is the word’s best selling herbicide, used on over 150 crops in over 90 countries. Today glyphosate can be found in products like Roundup, Touchdown, Rodeo, and others. Worldwide, over 60,000 TONS of the chemical are spread on crop fields.
But surely the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t allow harmful amounts in our food, right? Wrong.
The EPA recently upped the allowable levels of glyphosate residue in many food crops. Last spring, when the media was focused on the Senate’s passing of the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” the EPA, at Monsanto’s bidding, quietly promoted the rule change that doubles allowable glyphosate levels in oilseed crops–sesame, flax, and soybean–from 20 parts per million to 40 ppm. It also raises the permitted glyphosate contamination level for sweet potatoes and carrots from 0.2 ppm to 3.0 ppm for sweet potatoes and 5.0 ppm for carrots–15 and 25 times the previous levels.
Glyphosate is not just another scary thing to be afraid of. It—like genetic modification biotechnology, another Monsanto brainchild—messes with the control panel of life, especially of life developing in the womb that must rely on the correct hormones at the correct levels to develop safely into a healthy human being.
It seems that Monsanto has our federal government in its pocket. The list of revolving door suits switching from Monsanto to the government and back again, with stops in between to haul in some big money by lobbying legislators is quite long. Michael Taylor, formerly Monsanto’s public relations flack, is now Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the Food and Drug Administration, charged with keeping our food supply wholesome and safe. He has worked tirelessly to gut the Delaney Amendment, a 1958 law that says no substance known to cause cancer can be put into the food supply. He has prompted both courts and regulatory commissions to agree with him that if a substance only causes a little cancer, it’s quite all right.
The real problem is Congress, bought and sold by Monsanto. In the coming elections for House and Senate, we should make sure to ask every candidate where he or she stands on the question of the safety of glyphosate and GMO crops. Unless that candidate is firmly against these life-destroying chemicals and lab processes, don’t vote for him. Or her, although it’s hard to see why any woman would want to protect a chemical that interferes with the normal development of babies in the womb.
Glyphosate is everywhere, but it still pays to fight this plague by eating organic. Organic food has been shown to have far less residue of this poison than conventional crops. That’s especially important for women of child-bearing years who either are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.