The Nature of Health
We’ve all heard it a thousand times: “Your health is the most important thing. Lose your health and you’ve lost everything.”
But what is health, exactly? Some might say that it’s freedom from disease, but that’s not the right focus. As we proceed through life, we get sick from time to time. It’s how our bodies develop antibodies as defenses against diseases, so that we don’t keep getting the same disease over and over again.
Well, then maybe it’s freedom from chronic conditions like diabetes or emphysema. One can be free from chronic disease yet still be unhealthy, due to a poor diet or lack of exercise, or bad habits like smoking or doing drugs. So lack of disease is not necessarily an indication of good health. Lack of disease is just the baseline and starting point from which true health develops.
Health is something more fundamental. It’s beyond any symptoms or lack thereof. It is the birthright of every living system—whether individual creature, ecological association of creatures, or even the global web of all life—and it emerges to the degree that these systems are operating at full potential.
Too much of the way we live and do things today interferes with our ability to operate at full potential, and thus impedes our health rather than supporting it. Despite the propaganda of corporate agriculture, it’s obvious that our chemical-drenched and overly-processed food is harming us. Change is desperately needed, and not just in the matter of our food, but in just about every area of life.
Many of the needed changes are already afoot, although in early stages. More and more food is being grown organically. The problem of income inequality is getting more attention. Climate change is at least being addressed.
So, what do these systems and many others that affect global health have in common? Where is the template for change on this meta level? Let’s see if we can find it, starting with the life sciences.
Every creature is an interconnected web of life processes. Scientists over the centuries have worked to disentangle this web and study its parts and their functions. Any scientist who has studied anatomy, physiology, microbiology, cell biology, and similar fields will tell you that the interconnections are myriad, that living systems are mind-bogglingly complex.
But what if we went in the opposite direction? Instead of pulling life apart to see how it works, what if we discovered insights so deep that the welter of information about the life sciences pulls together, and what heretofore seemed to be unconnected facts are now seen as varied expressions of overarching principles? As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Our globe…is a transparent law, not a mass of facts. The law dissolves the fact and holds it fluid.”
There may have been a time when one human mind could hold all the available knowledge of the life sciences, but that time isn’t now. Ask a scientist if he or she can keep up with the tsunami of information in their field that comes at them every day, and chances are they will say, “No way.” It is time to think about synthesizing rather than simply explicating our knowledge. In this way we’ll find clues to true health.
Every individual life has a job within the context of an ecology. The wolves cull the browsers. The browsers keep down the woody plants, allowing meadows to grow. The meadows offer food and habitat for plant-eating insects. Plant-eating insects cull the weak meadow plants. All are different forms of life, but all are following nature’s ecological rule: “The interaction of predator and prey promotes the health of the whole system.”
And what is mankind’s ecological role? Genesis 2, verse 15 says, “And the Lord put the man into the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it.” If we read this metaphorically, the world is the Garden of Eden and our job is to dress and keep it—to protect it, in other words. Not a job we’ve been doing too well of late.
Another of nature’s organizing principles might be called, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” We see this in microbes that develop resistance to antibiotics, in the super weeds that are plaguing farmers who douse their fields with herbicides, and in insects that evolve resistance to pesticides. Setting out to kill whole populations of any organism puts evolutionary pressure on that organism to learn to live with the deadly agent. If a farmer spreads pesticide on 10,000 acres of cotton, it’s a guarantee that there will be a few mutant boll weevils that are immune to the pesticide’s killing power. They breed and you soon have a field full of boll weevils that can ignore the pesticide.
A sad corollary to this principle is that thoughtless human activity is driving many species to extinction, not by applying toxic agents, but simply through habitat loss due to human occupation and our lack of concern for a healthy environment. We might call this natural imperative to protect nature, “Think holistically and think long-term.” By thinking holistically, we take all of nature into account when we act, and by thinking long-term, we assess the consequences of our actions into the future.
There’s another natural principle that could be called, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” In farmland fertilized organically with bacteria-laden and nutrient-rich compost, disease-causing microorganisms have a difficult time gaining a toehold. The good guys overwhelm the bad guys. The same principle holds true in the human gut. When the gut is thoroughly colonized by probiotic cultures, such as found in kefir and sauerkraut, disease-causing bacteria are muscled out by the healthful microbes. So it behooves us to make sure we are farming in ways that support a strong, biodiverse ecology of life-giving organisms.
All living things transmit the instructions for reproduction through DNA, yet all DNA is made from just four building blocks. It’s a language with just four letters, but they are enough to make everything from a yeast cell to an elephant. All living things also use four major elements to construct their tissues: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen.
One more principle could be called, “Waste not, want not.” Nature recycles those four major elements and a raft of trace elements in smaller amounts, and recycles them over and over. A bit of your body may once have been a dinosaur, a fish in the ocean, and a saber-tooth tiger before it got to you. The recycling starts with the modest microorganisms and soil creatures, and builds its way in increasing complexity towards the champion example of living complexity. No, not human beings, but rather the loblolly pine with 22 billion combinations of those four letters in its strands of DNA. By comparison, a human being is built from just three billion of the four letters.
From the life in the soil all other life springs. As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “That which is nature’s mother is her tomb. What is her burying grave, that is her womb.” In the climax ecosystem of a virgin forest, all the nutrients are recycled. In a tropical forest where it’s always hot, almost all the nutrients are up in the trees, in the parasitic plants that grow on the trees, in the arboreal animals, birds, insects, and so on. If a leaf falls, it’s quickly decomposed by bacteria into its constituent nutrients that are hauled back up into the forest canopy to build new tissue. As life approaches the colder climates, where winter slows and then halts the recycling process, more and more of the organic matter is stored in the duff of the forest floor. Enter a forest in the Mid-Atlantic States and the duff may be less than a foot thick and the topsoil below it a couple of feet thick. But enter a Canadian forest and the duff and topsoil may be many feet thick. The environmental conditions may change, but the recycling principles are the same.
A healthy soil is one where the life in the soil has what it needs to function as it should and grow healthy plants. Healthy plants are those that have the nutrients they need to carry out their personal and ecological functions. The animals that eat those plants similarly get the nutrients they need to assume the roles nature has fitted them for. Thus health is something that comes up from the soil through the web of life to form fully functional climax ecosystems. At death, microbes return the nutrients in the once-living tissue to the soil, where they are food for the next generation of beings.
The soil, therefore, is the source and destiny of life, and the engine that churns the elements as they become an endless succession of living creatures.
Nature’s laws, then, are variations on a theme of cooperation and competition. And cooperation and competition in turn are two sides of the same coin. Cooperation promotes health, but so does competition. Symbiotic relationships in nature–such as the colonization of plant roots by fungus that scavenges phosphorus and feeds it back to the plant and the sticky sweet sap that the plant exudes to feed the fungus–is an example of cooperation promoting health. In rutting season, bucks vie with one another and the winner impregnates the does, passing his genes on to posterity—an example of competition promoting the health of the herd.
Ideally, this is how it works, and how it has worked through the vast stretches of time leading up to the Anthropocene—that is, the age of the dominance of mankind. Yet look around today and you see lots of illness and obesity, but precious little climax ecosystem. There is no question that we, an aggressive species of primate, are not only overpopulating the planet but are also on a killing spree that’s causing wholesale species extinction.
Change toward a healthier way to conduct our social, economic, political, and personal lives depends on recognizing the fundamental laws of nature, then reconstituting our ways of living to follow those principles. Nature’s basic rule that conflates all the others is pretty simple. We need cooperation and we need competition, in equal measure, for they are the yin and yang of life, the unity that transcends duality. Our current society, at least in America, puts the emphasis on competition, which throws everything out of whack.
But wait, someone might say, don’t employees cooperate at work to produce a product or a service? I’d venture to say that there is just as much competition and jockeying for position and favor among a corporation’s hourly employees as among the salaried workers. And look at our Congress: very little cooperation, overwhelming competition, a broken system. The proper balance is achieved in team sports, where the competition between teams and even between teammates for a spot on the starting line-up is fierce, but no team will be a winning team if its players don’t cooperate.
Both cooperation and competition need a goal. It may even be the same goal. But the end—the goal—doesn’t justify the means. Reaching the goal at all costs and by any means necessary is out-of-control competition. Cooperation keeps rampant competition in check, and competition whets the appetite for cooperation.
So what do we get when we set up our systems—from supplying food to building innovative technologies—to imitate nature’s imperative for cooperation and competition allied to reach a goal? We get a confluence of unforeseen benefits. The country of Denmark has come a long way in showing us how this works. Not only do the Danes reach their goals, they do so as the happiest people on earth, many studies show. Freedom from worry because of a strong, cooperative social safety net reduces stress and promotes mental and physical health. Health and happiness go hand in hand.
Just recycling nutrients on the organic farm through the agency of compost produces a huge confluence of unexpected benefits. More spongy organic matter in the soil means the soil holds more water and, as shown in recent droughts, makes the soil more drought resistant. The compost favors the growth of fungal mycelia in the soil, allowing plants to communicate with one another through a kind of living internet under the ground. And so when insects attack one plant, it signals others to start producing insect-repelling substances in their leaves, lessening the damage and thwarting the attack. Suffice it to say that by following nature’s rules, you are playing nature’s game, and that game is benign, holistic, and long-term.
A moment’s reflection will reveal that playing by any other set of rules, such as making the bottom line the most important product of any business, gives you a confluence of unexpected detriments. By using poisons to kill weeds, you encourage the development of weeds that defeat the purpose of the poisons. Did the makers of Roundup foresee that?
When how we act reflects how all of nature’s rules come together in the unity of cooperation and competition in balance, there will be enormous repercussions in all the areas of life. For instance, in any personal relationship, there’s competition for each partner’s time, there are competing demands, differences of opinion, problems that need solving, competition with yourself to prioritize needs and wants. A loving relationship will mean that cooperation is the salve that heals the wounds and the glue that holds the partners together when forces are working to pull them apart. Love is cooperation and is found at one pole of life; competition is selfishness at the other pole of life. They reside together within all of us. Strangely, they complement each other. A hill presupposes a valley.
Only by keeping this balance in mind will we reach the place where our biological and spiritual systems operate at full capacity, where these systems are whole and sound, and where true health—and happiness–are found.
Agribusiness’ Big Lie Exposed
In last week’s Organic Food Guy, I posted an astonishingly good piece of reporting by Jonathan Latham, PhD, executive director and co-founder of the Bioscience Resource Project, based in Ithaca, New York, that originally appeared in the Independent Science News.
In his article (you can read it by visiting organicfoodguy.com and in the upper right corner where it says “Recent Posts,” click on How the Food War Can Be Won), Latham reveals that we in America have been fed a Big Lie by agribusiness. The lie is that the burgeoning human race will outrun the world food supply within a few decades and only agribusiness and large-scale, corporate conventional agriculture can possibly feed all the people that will overrun the planet by then.
Latham points out that far from running out of food, the world is awash with food and will continue to be for as far into the future as we can see. He provides the details for this assertion in his article.
Of course it’s in the interest of agribusiness firms to scare everyone into thinking that we face imminent starvation and that they are our salvation.
As a journalist, it’s my job—and my duty—to be skeptical. Is Latham’s Big Lie true? Is there really an agribiz PR strategy to convince the country that only Big Ag can save us from the impending days of famine? I thought I’d check, so I googled “World Food Crisis,” and sure enough, within the first few items to come up was a website from Monsanto. Very slick, very friendly, and very much the scare tactic that Latham exposed.
Here are the first few paragraphs on the site:
“Our world’s food system is a balance of farmers, grocers and companies who work together to provide fresh foods year round. In the next 50 years, our society will have to produce more food than it did in the past 10,000 years combined in order to meet the needs of nearly 2 billion more people.
“It’s one of the greatest challenges facing humankind, and it’s one we’re committed to help addressing by directly working with others to help solve.
“We’re one of many organizations working towards creating a more food-secure world. Thinkers from the Global Harvest Initiative, World Economic Forum and World Food Prize Foundation agree–addressing the food challenges of tomorrow requires innovative, thoughtful action today. From Africa to Asia, and here in our own backyard, we’re putting our heads together to make this vision a reality.”
Wow—we’re going to have to produce more food in the next 50 years than all the food produced since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Sounds like we need a miracle. Maybe the miracle will come from the institutions the Monsanto website mentions, like the Global Harvest Initiative.
According to SourceWatch, a website that parts the curtains of corporate and political front groups to see who’s really behind them, “the Global Harvest Initiative is a campaign to encourage a second Green Revolution based on a baseless claim that the world must double food production by 2050 to feed a growing population.”
The organizations that make up GHI as of 2013 include DuPont, Elanco, IBM, John Deere, and Monsanto, all agribusiness giants promoting large scale conventional agriculture and GMO seeds.
The World Economic Forum includes 1,000 of the largest corporations in the world.
The World Food Prize Foundation is an outgrowth of the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s when an agronomist named Normal Borlaug tried to end world hunger by bringing chemical agriculture to replace the indigenous agriculture of native peoples worldwide. Borlaug was lionized as the man who saved a million lives, but this is a phony narrative. He was really the man who replaced sustainable native agriculture with conventional chemical agriculture.
University of Indiana historian Nick Cullather wrote a book called “The Hungry World” about all this in 2010. Mother Jones’ book reviewer Tom Philpott, in his review of the book, wrote, “As for Borlaug, a future Nobel laureate and putative savior of India’s famine-stalked masses who died in 1999, he learned in Mexico to see modernization as a transition from lower to higher levels of soil nutrients; i.e., energy-intensive, soil-degrading synthetic fertilizers.
“By the end of the Mexico chapter, Cullather has already shattered the Green Revolution myth and exposed it as something like a lunge, and a not very well thought-out one, to replace other societies’ farming systems with our own highly problematic one. The Mexico effort’s one unambiguous success was in creating an attractive development model: Take hybridized (or now, GMO) seeds, douse them with imported fertilizers, add water and pesticides, and get more food.”
The annual meeting of the World Food Prize Foundation was held in Iowa at the end of 2014, and dubbed “The Year of Norman Borlaug.” Speakers included Dr. Marco Ferroni of Syngenta, Dr. Catherine Feuillet of Bayer CropScience, Dr. Robert Fraley and Kerry Preete of Monsanto, Dan Glickman and Tom Vilsack, the former and current U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture respectively, Dr. Claudia Garcia of Elanco, Paul Schickler of DuPont, Tom Leech of Walmart, John May of John Deere, Esin Mete of the International Fertilizer Industry Association, and Dr. Margaret Zeigler, executive director of Global Harvest Initiative.
The speakers focused on what they called, “The Greatest Challenge in Human History:
Can we sustainably feed the 9 billion people who will be on our planet by the year 2050?”
Notice that they used the word sustainable. Anyone who knows conventional agriculture knows that it is not sustainable. Sustainable means that farms can be run efficiently forever by recycling nutrients, rather than importing chemicals that over time poison the farm environment. So what are these agribiz giants doing talking about sustainability?
Well, a quick look at Monsanto’s corporate website (Monsanto.com) reveals in its first sentence that “Monsanto is a sustainable agriculture company,” and invites visitors to click through to a three-minute propaganda film entitled, “Monsanto’s Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture.”
Of course, there are farmers and institutions that either practice or promote true sustainability: organic and Biodynamic farmers, others who may not identify with those terms but farm without using conventional methods, and then there are institutions like the International Organization of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the British Soil Society, the Permaculture people, the Organic Consumers Association, the Rodale Institute, and many more that are working tirelessly to advance the cause of real sustainability. Note that none of them appear in the ranks of the agribusiness PR people, lobbyists, and high tech farm groups that run with Monsanto. In fact, if you examine the farming methods that are truly sustainable, you realize that organic agriculture can easily feed the world in perpetuity while improving the soil, protecting the environment, and providing livelihood to millions of folks. But none of this is in the purview of Big Ag because it is not really interested in feeding the world sustainably, it is interested in selling product and reaping profit.
Bottom line: Latham is exactly right. The notion that famine is in our future and only agribusiness can save us is a Big Lie promoted to convince people that corporate agriculture is in the best interests of the human race.
BEWARE OF BARRON’S ‘QUICK CHECK GUIDE TO ORGANIC FOODS’
Ninety-five percent of the book is simply a listing of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein, and total carbohydrates for the panoply of organic foods. The problem chapters come at the beginning of the book, where the author, Barbara Wexler, a graduate of the Yale University College of Medicine, presents the value of genetically modified foods without mention of the many studies that have shown the problems, such as direct ill effects of GMOs on the digestive system, and especially the effect of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) used in abundance on GMO crops, which de-activates an enzyme crucial to the production of proteins in both plants and animals. She gives organic foods a general pat on the back for the cleanliness without any mention of the many studies that show their nutritional superiority and health-building consequences. All in all, the book, which purports to be a reference for those wanting to eat organic foods, seems more like an apology for conventional foods than an investigation of the health value of organic food and the benevolent agriculture that produces it.
PARCHMENT BAG COOKING FROM SIMPLY ORGANIC
Simply Organic is selling kits for quick and easy meals when time is short and the body exhausted after a day of work. The kit is called Steam Gourmet and consists of a parchment bag and a packet of seasonings. You buy (organic) skinless, boneless chicken breasts on the way home, sprinkle them with the seasonings on both sides, place them in the parchment bag and fold it to seal, place the bag in the oven and bake according to the instructions on the kit. The bag seals in moisture and flavors, and the breasts emerge perfectly cooked and seasoned. Add organic salad and whole grain bread and the entire meal is ready. Clean-up is simple and everything is organic.
A NEW WAY TO PREVENT GMO CONTAMINATION IN THE WILD
Could genetically modified bacteria escape from a laboratory or fermentation tank and cause disease or ecological destruction? New York Times’ science writer Andrew Pollack asks this all-important question in the January 21, 2015, newspaper.
This is not known to have occurred, he says, perhaps forgetting that several rogue genes have escaped into open fields around America, contaminating wheat crops, corn crops, wild weeds, and threatening species that rely on those plants with extinction (cue the photo of the monarch butterfly). But, he writes, two groups of scientists reported on Wednesday that they had developed a complex technique to prevent it from happening.
The scientists have given a common type of bacterium a unique genetic code that makes it dependent for survival on unnatural amino acids that must be fed to it. If such organisms escaped into the wild, where those amino acids are not available, they would die. First of all, Pollack doesn’t mention that the “common type of bacterium” is E. coli, an inhabitant of the human gut that can cause violent illness and, under certain circumstances, death.
Second, organisms tend to find their way around man-made attempts to thwart them. The more aggressively you assault an organism, the more evolutionary pressure you put upon it to find a way around the assault. How long before E. coli or other organisms that need that “unnatural amino acid” to survive learn to manufacture that amino acid or commandeer some other organism to manufacture it for them?
“It really addresses a longstanding problem in biotechnology,” said Farren Isaacs, an assistant professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology at Yale, who led one of the research groups. He called it a “really compelling solution to engineering biocontainment, or biological barriers that limit the spread and survival of organisms in natural environments.”
Scientists are so cocksure that they have solved the GMO containment problem that they may be unpleasantly surprised at life’s ability to tenaciously evolve ways to stay alive. I certainly am not anti-science. I am anti-hubris among scientists who plunge ahead in the firm belief that they know better than nature.
SABRA HUMMUS CONTAINS GMO SOYBEAN OIL
Green America’s GMO Inside campaign has announced a major new push to get Sabra, the world’s largest manufacturer of hummus, to drop genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from its popular hummus dip.
GMO Inside and allies will mobilize public pressure on Sabra with a call-in day of action, a petition, social media outreach and other steps. The campaign comes just one week before Super Bowl XLIX, which will prominently feature Sabra as the official hummus of the NFL.
Green America’s GMO Inside campaign is also demanding that Sabra’s parent company, PepsiCo, end its multi-million dollar funding of anti-GMO labeling campaigns around the country. Most recently, PepsiCo. spent $4 million to fight GMO labeling initiatives in Oregon and Colorado, and over $8 million in total fighting labeling.
To date, over 13,000 consumers have signed GMO Inside’s petition urging Sabra and PepsiCo to go non-GMO and for PepsiCo to certify Sabra products through a third party non-GMO-verification. Information about Green America’s GMO Inside campaign is available online at http://gmoinside.org/sabra/.
“Consumer demand for organic and non-GMO foods is growing,” said John W. Roulac, GMO Inside co-chair. “Sabra has already moved some of its products to non-GMO; doing the same for its signature dip will allow the firm to meet growing customer demand.”
“Consumers are upset that Sabra’s parent company PepsiCo has spent a total of $8.6 million to deny them their right to know about GMOs,” stated Nicole McCann, campaign director of Green America’s GMO Inside. “As awareness grows about the risks of GMOs, consumers are shifting their support away from companies and brands contributing to anti-labeling efforts, as well as products containing GMO ingredients.”
“By continuing to use genetically engineered soybean oil, produced with toxic pesticides that put humans, pollinators, and the planet at risk, Sabra is supporting an unsustainable food system that largely benefits big chemical and agribusiness corporations,” said Lisa Archer, food and technology program director at Friends of the Earth.
WHEN A CEREAL BOX TELLS A BIG FAT LIE
General Mills’ Vanilla, Chocolate and Cinnamon Chex boxes all proudly display a label that should make many health-conscious consumers happy: “no high fructose corn syrup.”
The only problem: it’s not true, according to Credo Action.
These General Mills products all contain a super-concentrated sweetener that is made from high fructose corn syrup, and within the Big Ag industry is literally called “HFCS-90” or high fructose corn syrup-90.
But then the Corn Refiners Association changed the name to “fructose.” And now General Mills is not only disingenuously hiding their corn syrup behind this innocuous alias–the company is bragging that it’s products don’t contain any!
The “fructose” label is especially nefarious, since fructose is a naturally occurring fruit sugar, and HFCS-90 is a highly concentrated, highly processed product that is molecularly different from the fructose you would eat in your apple. The corn industry waves away HFCS-90 as a minor ingredient, stating “HFCS-90, is sometimes used when very little is needed to provide sweetness.” But that’s clearly not the case. According to the label, there is actually more HFCS-90 in Cinnamon Chex than there is actual cinnamon.
Clearly, General Mills is eager to make these claims as many consumers are increasingly avoiding high fructose corn syrup over health concerns. The drastic increase of this cheap sugar replacement in the past 40 years has coincided with skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic diseases. And while the science is still emerging, a number of studies – including one just released from the University of Utah – have found evidence that high fructose corn syrup is more toxic than sucrose, or traditional sugar.
Of course, both sugar and high fructose corn syrup are unhealthy in large amounts. But making healthy choices starts with understanding what we are eating. And as long as companies like General Mills are not only changing the names of ingredients, but also flat-out lying on the front of the box, informed choices are that much harder.
JUST HOW BAD ARE MONSANTO AND FRIENDS?
Here’s the executive summary of a 60-plus pager report written by Gary Ruskin for the non-profit U.S. Right to Know, entitled, “Seedy Business.” If you’d like to read the whole report, you can find it at https://www.organicconsumers.org/sites/default/files/seedybusiness.pdf.
For anyone reading this who thinks that anti-GMO folks are hysterical anti-science nut jobs, let me just say that I’ve had my finger on this pulse since 1970, and what Ruskin writes is the absolute truth. The Big Ag companies are as bad as he says, and in my opinion, worse, because they know the death and destruction they cause, but can’t stop themselves due to the extremely lucrative results of their work. What do you call someone (or some business) that causes death and destruction for self-aggrandizing profit? Whatever your term for that kind of sociopathy, it applies here. So—here’s the summary:
Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them. The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the
public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is
already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.
This campaign has greatly influenced how U.S. media covers GMOs. The industry’s PR
firm, Ketchum, even boasted that “positive media coverage has doubled” on GMOs.
Due to this influence over the media, the public hears mostly what the industries claim: GMOs are safe, and anyone who disagrees or raises questions is not trustworthy. This report will show how the industries have manipulated the media, public opinion and
politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin. It will describe fifteen things that Big Food is hiding with its slick PR campaign on GMOs.
#1: The agrichemical companies have a history of concealing health risks from the public. Time and again, the companies that produce GMOs have hidden from consumers and workers the truth about the dangers of their products and operations. So how can we trust them to tell us the truth about their GMOs?
#2: The FDA does not test whether GMOs are safe. It merely reviews information submitted by the agrichemical companies.
#3: Our nation’s lax policy on GMOs is the work of former Vice President Dan Quayle’s
anti-regulatory crusade. It was designed and delivered as a political favor to Monsanto.
#4: What the agrichemical and tobacco industries have in common: PR firms,
operatives, tactics. The agrichemical industry’s recent PR campaign is similar in some ways to the most infamous industry PR campaign ever – the tobacco industry’s effort to evade responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.
#5: Russia’s PR firm runs the agrichemical industry’s big PR salvo on GMOs. We don’t
trust the PR firm Ketchum when it spins for Russia and President Putin. Why should we trust its spin on GMOs?
#6: The agrichemical industry’s key front groups and shills aren’t trustworthy. Many of
the industry’s leading advocates have records of defending the indefensible, or other scandals and conduct that inspire no confidence.
#7: The agrichemical companies have employed repugnant PR tactics. These tactics
include attacks on scientists and journalists, and brainwashing children.
#8: The agrichemical companies have a potent, sleazy political machine. They have
allies in high places, and employ their power vigorously – and sometimes corruptly — to protect and expand their markets and their profits from GMOs.
#9: Half of the Big Six agrichemical firms can’t even grow their GMOs in their own
home countries. Because of the health and environmental risks of GMOs, citizens of
Germany and Switzerland won’t allow farming of BASF, Bayer and Syngenta’s GMO seeds.
#10: Monsanto supported GMO labeling in the UK but opposes it in the USA. Although
Monsanto is based in St. Louis, Missouri, Monsanto believes that British citizens deserve stronger consumer rights than Americans do.
#11: The pesticide treadmill breeds profits, so it will likely intensify. It is in the financial
interest of the agrichemical companies to promote the evolution and spread of the most pestilential superweeds and superpests, because these will spur the sale of the greatest
quantities of the most expensive pesticides.
#12: GMO science is for sale. Science can be swayed, bought or biased by the agrichemical industry in many ways, such as suppressing adverse findings, harming the careers of scientists who produce such findings, controlling the funding that shapes what research is conducted, the lack of independent U.S.-based testing of health and environmental risks of GMOs, and tainting scientific reviews of GMOs by conflicts of interest.
#13: There are nearly no consumer benefits of GMOs. The GMOs that Americans eat are
not healthier, safer or more nutritious than conventional foods. They do not look better,
nor do they taste better. By any measure that consumers actually care about, they are not in any way an improvement. Profits from GMOs accrue to the agrichemical companies, while health risks are borne by consumers.
#14: The FDA and food companies have been wrong before: they have assured us of the
safety of products that were not safe. Many drugs and food additives that the FDA allowed on the market have subsequently been banned because they were toxic or dangerous.
#15: A few other things the agrichemical industry doesn’t want you to know about
them: crimes, scandals and other wrongdoing. The agrichemical industry’s six major firms — Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer and BASF — have been involved in so many reprehensible activities that documenting them would require at least an entire book.
How the Food War Can Be Won
The following article could very well be the most important article you’ll read anywhere in 2015. I know it’s long, but settle in a comfy place and read it top to bottom. You will have your mind expanded.
It was written by Jonathan Latham, PhD, executive director and co-founder of the Bioscience Resource Project, based in Ithaca, New York, and was posted January 12, 2015, in the Independent Science News. It is so important that I am re-posting it (almost) in its entirety.
What Latham does in this article is to expose the behind-the-scenes underpinnings of how and why agribusiness has managed to take over the world’s agriculture when it obviously is detrimental to the health of nature and nature’s creatures. I have added a few parenthetical bits of information. Here it is:
Consider this: Researchers from Iowa have shown that organic farming methods yield almost as much crop as conventional methods using agricultural chemicals. Other researchers, from Berkeley, California, have reached a similar conclusion. (In fact, many studies show organic yields can exceed conventional yields.) Indeed, both of these findings met with a very enthusiastic reception. The enthusiasm is appropriate, but only if one misses a deep and fundamental point: that even to participate in such a conversation is to fall into a carefully laid trap.
The strategic centerpiece of Monsanto’s Public Relations campaign, and also that of just about every major commercial participant in the industrialized food system, is to focus on the promotion of one single overarching idea. The big idea that industrial producers in the food system want you to believe is that only they can produce enough for the future population.
Thus non-industrial systems of farming, such as all those that use organic methods or non-GMO seeds, cannot feed the world.
(They’ve been saying this for decades. If you’re old enough, you may remember Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’s response when asked about organic farming in the 1970s. He said, “Who’s going to decide which 50 percent of the world’s population will starve if we switch to organic farming?”)
To be sure, agribusiness has other PR strategies: “Agribusiness is pro-science; its opponents are anti-science,” and so on. But the main plank has for decades been to create a cast-iron moral framing around the need to produce more food.
Therefore, if you go to the websites of Monsanto and Cargill and Syngenta and Bayer and their bedfellows: the US Farm Bureau, the UK National Farmers Union, and the American Soybean Association, and CropLife International, or The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefel;l;er Foundation, USAID, or the international research system (CGIAR), and now even NASA, they very soon raise the “urgent problem” of who will feed the expected global population of nine or 10 billion in 2050.
Likewise, whenever these same organizations compose speeches or press releases, or videos, or make any pronouncement designed for policymakers or the populace, they devote precious space to the same urgent problem. It is even in their job advertisements. It is their Golden Fact and their universal calling card. And as far as neutrals are concerned it wins the food system debate hands down, because it says, if any other farming system cannot feed the world, it is irrelevant. Only agribusiness can do that.
Yet this PR strategy has a disastrous foundational weakness. There is no global or regional shortage of food. There never has been and nor is there ever likely to be. India has a superabundance of food. South America is swamped in food. The US, Australia, New Zealand and Europe are swamped in food. In Great Britain, as in many wealthy countries, nearly half of all row crop food production now goes to biofuels, which at bottom are an attempt to dispose of surplus agricultural products. China isn’t quite swamped but it still exports food and it grows 30 percent of the world’s cotton. No foodpocalypse there either.
Of all the populous nations, Bangladesh comes closest to not being swamped in food. Its situation is complex. Its government says it is self-sufficient. The UN world Food Program says it is not, but the truth appears to be that Bangladeshi farmers do not produce the rice they could because prices are too low due to persistent gluts (1).
Even some establishment institutions will occasionally admit that the food shortage concept-–now and in any reasonably conceivable future-–is bankrupt. According to experts consulted by the World Bank Institute there is already sufficient food production for 14 billion people-–more food than will ever be needed. The Golden Fact of agribusiness is a lie.
So, if the agribusiness PR experts are correct that food crisis fears are pivotal to their industry, then it follows that those who oppose the industrialization of food and agriculture should make dismantling that lie their top priority.
Anyone who wants a sustainable, pesticide-free, or non-GMO food future, or who wants to swim in a healthy river or lake again, or wants to avoid climate chaos, needs to know all this. Anyone who would like to rebuild the rural economy or who appreciates cultural, biological, or agricultural diversity of any meaningful kind should take every possible opportunity to point out the evidence that refutes it.
Granaries are bulging, crops are being burned as biofuels or dumped, prices are low, farmers are abandoning farming for slums and cities (and people in some industrialized countries throw up to a third of the food they buy into the garbage). Anyone could also point out that probably the least important criterion for growing food is how much an acre of farmland yields. Even just to acknowledge crop yield as an issue for anyone other than the individual farmer is to reinforce the framing of the industry they oppose.
The project to fully industrialize global food production is far from complete, yet already it is responsible for most deforestation, most marine pollution, most coral reef destruction, much of greenhouse gas emissions (according to The New York Times, “2014 now surpasses 2010 as the warmest year ever in a global temperature record that stretches back to 1880), the most habitat loss, most of the degradation of streams and rivers, most food insecurity, most immigration, most water depletion, and massive human health problems. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the industrialization of food is not reversed, our planet will be made unlivable for multi-cellular organisms. Our planet is becoming literally uninhabitable solely as a result of the social and ecological consequences of industrializing agriculture. All these problems are without even mentioning the trillions of dollars in annual externalized costs and subsidies.
So, if one were to devise a strategy for the food movement, it would be this. The public already knows (mostly) that pesticides are dangerous. They also know that organic food is higher quality, and is far more environmentally friendly. It knows that GMOs should be labeled, are largely untested, and may be harmful. That is why the leaders of most major countries, including China, dine on organic food. The immense scale of the problems created by industrial agriculture should, of course, be understood better, but the main facts are hardly in dispute.
But what industry understands, and the food movement does not, is that what prevents total rejection of bland, industrialized, pesticide-laden, GMO food is the standard acceptance, especially in Western countries, of the overarching agribusiness argument that such food is to feed the world.
But, if the food movement could show that famine is an empty threat, then it would also have shown, by clear implication, that the chemical health risks and the ecological devastation that these technologies represent are what is unnecessary. The movement would have shown that pesticides and GMOs exist solely to extract profit from the food chain. They have no other purpose. Therefore, every project of the food movement should aim to spread the truth of oversupply, until mention of the Golden Fact invites ridicule and embarrassment rather than fear.
Food campaigners might also consider that a strategy to combat the food scarcity myth can unite a potent mix of causes. Just as an understanding of food abundance destroys the argument for pesticide use and GMOs simultaneously, it also creates the potential for common ground within and between constituencies that do not currently associate much: health advocates, food system workers, climate campaigners, wildlife conservationists and international development campaigners. None of these constituencies inherently like chemical poisons, and they are hardly natural allies of agribusiness, but the pressure of the food crisis lie has driven many of them to ignore what could be the best solution to their mutual problems: small scale farming and pesticide-free agriculture. This is exactly what the companies intended.
So divisive has the Golden Fact been that some non-profits have entered into perverse partnerships with agribusiness and others support inadequate or positively fraudulent “sustainability” labels. Another consequence has been mass confusion over the observation that almost all the threats to the food supply (salinization, water depletion, soil erosion, climate change, and chemical pollution) come from the supposed solution–-the industrialization of food production. These contradictions are not real. When the smoke is blown away and the mirrors are taken down, the choices within the food system become crystal clear. They fall broadly into two camps.
On the one side lie family farms and ecological methods. These support farmer and consumer health, resilience, financial and democratic independence, community, cultural and biological diversity, and long term sustainability. On the other side is control of the food system by corporate agribusiness. Agribusiness domination leads invariantly to dependence, uniformity, poisoning, and ecological degradation, inequality, land grabbing, and, not so far off, to climate chaos.
One is a vision, the other is a nightmare: in every single case where industrial agriculture is implemented, it leaves landscapes progressively emptier of life. Eventually, the soil turns either into mud that washes into the rivers or into dust that blows away on the wind. Industrial agriculture has no long-term future; it is ecological suicide. But for obvious reasons, those who profit from it cannot allow all this to become broadly understood. That is why the food scarcity lie is so fundamental to them. They absolutely depend on it, since it alone can camouflage the simplicity of the underlying issues.
Despite all this, the food and environmental movements have never seriously contested the reality of a food crisis. Perhaps that is because it is a narrative with a long history. As early as the 1940s, the chemical and oil industries sent the Rockefeller Foundation to Mexico to “fix” agriculture there. Despite evidence to the contrary, the Rockefeller scientists delivered a now-familiar narrative: Mexican agriculture was obviously gripped by a production deficit that could be fixed by “modern” agribusiness products., 2010). This story later became the uncontested “truth” that legitimized the green revolution and still propels the proliferation of pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, and other agribusiness methods into every part of the globe.
Yet in the age of the internet it is no longer necessary to let an industry decide where the truth resides. It is possible to restore reality to the global discussion about food so that all potential production methods can have their merits fairly evaluated. Until this is done, agribusiness and chemical industry solutions will always be the default winner, alternative agriculture will always be alternative, if it exists at all.
The evidence with which to contradict the lie is everywhere; but in an unequal and unjust system truth never speaks for itself. It is a specific task that requires a refusal to be intimidated by the torrents of official misinformation and a willingness to disentangle oneself from the intellectual web of industry thinking. (That will often mean ordinary people acting alone.)
The task requires two things; the first is familiarity with the basic facts of the food system. Good starting points (apart from the links at the end of this article) are “Good Food for Everyone Forever” by Colin Tudge or “World Hunger: Twelve Myths” by Joseph Collins, Peter Rosset, and Frances Moore Lappe.
The second requirement is a shift in perception. The shift is to move beyond considering only physical goals, such as saving individual species, or specific political achievements, and to move towards considering the significance of the underlying mental state of the citizenry.
Companies and industries pay huge sums of money for public relations. PR is predicated on the idea that all human behavior is governed by belief systems. PR is therefore the discovery of the structure of those belief systems, mainly through focus groups, and the subsequent manipulation of those belief structures with respect to particular products or other goals.
Thus human reasoning, which asks questions like: Is it fair? What will the neighbors think? can be accessed and diverted to make individuals and groups act often against their own self-interests. Two important general rules are that it works best when people don’t know they are being influenced, and that it comes best from a “friendly” source. PR is therefore always concealed, which creates the widespread misunderstanding that it is rare or ineffective.
Anyone who desires social change on a significant scale should seek to understand this, and its corollary, that the food crisis lie is far from the only lie. As philosopher Michel Foucault documented for madness and also criminality, many assertions constituting supposed “reality” are best understood as establishment fabrications. Those described by Foucault mostly have deep historical roots; but others, such as the genetic origin of disease, or the validity of animal experiments, are untruths of recent origin. The function of these fabrications is always social control. As Edward Bernays, the father of modern PR, long ago wrote:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
The possibility of manipulating habits and opinions, which he also called “the engineering of consent” was not an idle boast. Foucault, who was concerned mostly with the power held by governments, considered that the fabrications he had identified were not conspiracies. They were emergent properties of power. Power and knowledge grow together in an intertwined and mutually supportive fashion. He argued that knowledge creates power but is also deferential to power and so is deformed by it. An example is when US newspapers decline to use the word “torture” for when torture is used by the US government, which euphemistically calls it “enhanced interrogation.” These newspapers and the US government are together doing what Foucault theorized. The US government gets to torture and gains power in the process while the public is simultaneously deceived and disempowered. In this way the preferred language of the powerful has historically and continuously evolved into the established public truth, to the disadvantage of the people.
Bernays, however, worked mainly for corporations. He knew, since some of them were his own ideas, that many of the more recent fabrications were not emergent properties but were intentionally planted.
The essential point, however, is to appreciate not only that companies and others deliberately engineer social change; but also that when they do so it begins with the reordering of the “reality” perceived by the people. The companies first create a reality (such as Mexican hunger) for which their desired change seems to the people either obvious, or beneficial, or natural. When it comes, the people therefore do not resist the solution, many welcome it.
Dictators and revolutionaries provide an interesting lesson in this. The successful ones have achieved sometimes extraordinary power. As always, they have done so first by changing the opinions of the people. The dictator, like any corporation, must make the people want them. As a general rule, dictators do this by creating new and more compelling false realities on top of older ones.
Hitler, to take a familiar example, harnessed a newly synthesized idea (German nationalism) to a baseless scientific theory (of racial genetics) and welded this to pre-existing “realities” of elitism and impugned manhood (the loss of WWI). These ideas were instrumental in his rise to power. But the important lesson for social change is that none of the ideas used by him possessed (now or then) any objective or empirical reality. They were all fabrications. It is true Hitler also had secret money, bodyguards, and so on, but so did others. Only Hitler found the appropriate combination of concepts able to colonize the minds of enough German people.
But Hitler is not known now for being just another leader of Germany. He is infamous for two events, the holocaust and World War II. The same lessons apply. Millions fought and died for almost a decade in a struggle to assert ideas that could have been destroyed by the intellectual equivalent of a feather. But that is how powerful ideas are.
The lies told in more democratic societies are not so very different to those used by Hitler in the sense that the important ones have predictable properties that can be categorized and sorted. What the food scarcity lie has in common with Hitler’s use of race, and with myths of nationalism, or of modern terrorism, and many others, is the creation of a threat, in this case of famine and possible social breakdown. The creation of an internal or external threat is thus the first category of lies.
The second category recognizes the necessity of “efficient government.” No government can issue direct and separate orders to all the people all the time. Nor can it possess the resources for physical enforcement of those orders. It must therefore find ways to cause the people to govern, order, and regiment themselves, in exquisite detail. Therefore, governments supply and support guiding principles in the form of artificial unifying but ill-defined aspirations, such as “progress” or “civilization.” Typically, they also strongly encourage the desirability of being “normal;” and especially they reinforce elitism (follow the leader), and so on.
Another structural category follows from the recognition that the effective operation of power over others, unless it is based on pure physical force or intimidation, usually requires an authoritative source of ostensibly unbiased knowledge. The population must be “convinced” by an unimpeachable third party. This function is typically fulfilled by either organized religion or by organized science. Scientific or religious institutions thus legitimize the ideas (progress, hierarchy, normality, inequality, etc.) of the rulers. These sources conceal the use of power because they combine the appearance of authority, independence and disinterestedness. These qualities are all or partly fictions.
Another category are fabrications intended to foster dependence on the state and the formal economy. These aim to undermine the ancient dependence of individuals on the land and each other, and transfer that dependence to the state. Thus the worship of competition, the exaggeration of gender differences, and genetic determinism (the theory that your health, personality, and success derive only from within) are examples of fabrications that sow enmity and isolation among the population.
Another important category, which includes the myths of papal infallibility, or scientific and journalistic objectivity, exist to reinforce the power of authority itself. These fabrications act to bolster the influence of other myths.
The above list is not exhaustive, but it serves to introduce the idea that the organizing of detailed control over populations of millions, achieved mostly without resorting to any physical force, requires the establishing and perpetual reinforcement of multiple interlocking untruths. This itself has important implications.
The first and most important implication is that if the lies and fabrications exist to concentrate and exercise power over others (and then conceal their use), then it also follows that genuinely beneficial and humanitarian goals such as harmony, justice, and equity, require retrieval of the truth and the goals will follow naturally from that retrieval.
The task of anyone who wants harmony, justice, and peace to prevail therefore becomes primarily to free the people from believing in lies and thus allowing them to attain mastery over their own minds. At that point they will know their own true needs and desires; they will no longer “want” to be oppressed or exploited.
The second implication of this entwining of knowledge with power is that, when properly understood, goals of harmony, understanding, health, diversity, justice, sustainability, opportunity, etc., are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. Rather, they are necessarily interconnected.
The third implication is that an empire built on lies is much more vulnerable than it seems. It can rapidly unravel. Think of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
Given that resources are limited, the problems of achieving broad social justice, of providing for the people, and of restoring environmental health consequently become that of discerning which of the lies (since there are many) are most in need of exposing; and perhaps in what order.
Thus the necessary shift in perception is to see that, as in most wars, the crucial struggle in the food war is the one inside people’s heads. And that the great food war will be won by the side that understands that and uses it best.
This food war can be won by either side. The natural advantages of the grassroots in this realm are many. They include the power of the internet-–which represents a historic opportunity to connect with others; second, that it takes a lot less effort to assert the truth than it does to build a lie–many people only need to hear the truth once; and thirdly, that in this particular battle the non-profit public-interest side doesn’t necessarily need a bigger megaphone because, unlike the industry, they are (broadly) trusted by the public.
Consequently, it is perfectly possible that a lie that took several powerful industries many decades to build up could be dismantled in months. It is necessary only to unleash the power of the truth and to constantly remember the hidden power of the people: that all the effort industries put into misleading them is an accurate acknowledgement of the potential of that power.
There are many writers and NGOs, such as Pesticides Action Network, IATP, EWG, Organic Consumers Association, IFOAM, the Center for Food Safety, and others, who are aligned with the grassroots, and who are doing a good and necessary job of explaining the problems and costs of industrial agriculture. But these arguments have so far proven inadequate. Agribusiness knows why that is.
But by combining these arguments with a refutation of the food crisis, they can help destroy the industrial model of agriculture forever. And when that happens, many of our worst global problems, from climate change and rainforest destruction down, will become either manageable or even negligible.
It is all in the mind.
(1) Billen et al (2011) Localising the Nitrogen Imprint of the Paris Food Supply: the Potential of Organic Farming and Changes in Human Diet. Biogeosciences Discuss 8: 10979-11002.
(2) Cullather, N. (2010) The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia (Harvard)
(3) Foley et al (2005) Global Consequences of Land use. Science 309: 570.
(4) Foley et al (2011) Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature 478: 337–342.
(5) Peekhaus W. (2010) Monsanto Discovers New Social Media. International Journal of Communication 4: 955–976.
(6) Pretty J. et al., (2000) An Assessment of the Total External Costs of UK Agriculture Agricultural Systems 65: 113-136.
(7) Stone GD and Glover D. (2011) Genetically modified crops and the ‘food crisis’: discourse and material impacts. Development in Practice 21: DOI: 10.1080/09614524.2011.562876
As if to back up what Dr. Latham has to say, the U.S. Congress steps to the front with two actions that seem mystifying until you think back on Dr. Latham’s viewpoint:
CONGRESS TELLS INVESTIGATORS: DON’T LOOK AT THE IMPACT
OF PEROPLE’S FOOD CHOICES ON THE ENVIRONMENT
A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation’s dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices.
Congress now has slapped them down.
Lawmakers attached a list of directives to a massive spending bill that was passed by both the House and the Senate in recent days. One of those directives expresses “concern” that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee “is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors” into their recommendations, and directs the Obama administration to ignore such factors in the next revision of the guidelines, which is due out next year.
The federal dietary guidelines have never explicitly considered the effects of food choices on the environment, but the idea of doing so is not new. In 1986, nutritionist Kate Clancy, then teaching at Syracuse University, co-authored an article called “Dietary Guidelines for Sustainability.” It was addressed to her colleagues, Clancy says. She wanted them “to take a broader view of what they were advising people to do, with regard to their diet. It wasn’t just nutrients.” She urged them to consider not just what foods contribute to personal health, but also what types of food “contribute to the protection of our natural resources.”
Earlier this year, after the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee decided to look at some environmental aspects of diet, Clancy finally got an invitation to make her case to the committee. “Let me say that after 30 years of waiting, that fact that this committee is addressing sustainability issues brings me a lot of pleasure,” Clancy told the committee.
Members of the advisory committee aren’t allowed to talk to the media about their work. But Timothy Searchinger, a researcher with Princeton University and the World Resources Institute, an environmental group, believes that recommendations about diet have to consider environmental impacts. Producing food, he says, already claims half of all land where vegetation can grow. Farming is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. “That doesn’t mean that farmers are bad. It means that eating has a big impact on the environment,” he says.
The impact will grow in the future, along with the world’s population. So if people are thinking about their own personal environmental footprint, he says, “probably what you eat is more important than anything else.”
In a meeting of the panel a few months ago, Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University professor, told the rest of the committee that “in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods is more health-promoting and is associated with less environmental impact.”
This new focus has already run into criticism. The American Meat Institute, which represents meat producers, says nutritionists don’t have the expertise to take on environmental questions.
The new directive from Congress may shut down the fledgling effort completely.
CONGRESS PREPARING TO KEEP YOU IN THE D.A.R.K.
Amanda Byrnes of Food & Water Watch points out that conservative legislators have already begun tackling their priority issues, and it’s only a matter of time before what’s known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (or DARK) Act is re-introduced. If passed and signed into law, this act would overturn state laws that require the labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods.
Over 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMOs, a rare consensus that crosses all party lines. We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat — and a right to make informed choices about what we feed ourselves and our families.
State after state has introduced measures that would require GMO labeling, with some passing outright and others, notably in Oregon, coming within a stone’s throw of success. It’s just a matter of time before more states pass labeling laws, which is why the Grocery Manufacturers Association, representing corporations like Monsanto, Nestlé and Dow, hopes its allies in Congress will pass some version of the DARK Act and take away states’ rights to determine whether genetically engineered ingredients need to be disclosed on labels.
“Let the market decide” has long been a rallying point for politicians favoring limited regulation of corporations, so maybe it’s time to tell those members of Congress that the market has spoken, and it wants labels.
TO SUM UP:
Looking at these two Congressional actions, or actions-to-be from Dr. Latham’s perspective, you can see the hand of agribusiness at work in two ways. First, there is a revolving door between Congress and industry. Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto PR executive, now heads up our country’s food safety mechanism. Agribusiness executives, paid large sums of money, shuttle into the government and out of the government on a regular basis.
The other way agribusiness gets Congress to do its bidding is through lobbyists with their hands full of cash making sure that Senators and Representatives vote the right way. It takes a lot of money to run for Congress and the lobbyists have the money, supplied by the agribusiness firms that count on the votes. It’s likely that most Congress people don’t even know how much they are being manipulated, but some surely do.
Thus the Golden Idea—otherwise known as the Big Lie—persists, aided and abetted by our national (and state) legislators whose salaries are p[aid for by we taxpayers. The Big Lie and its disseminators are devoted to keeping you from discovering the truth: organic farming techniques are not only able to feed the world, they are also the only farming method that will save the world.
The Real Value of Nature
The value of nature worldwide—that is, the services provided by ecosystems—equals $147.7 trillion per year—greater than all the GNPs of all the world’s countries put together.
But the real value is not in money, but in HEALTH. What nature’s functioning ecosystems produce is health. And would you rather have a million dollars and be in chemo, or have a pocket full of change and glowing good health?
ALL WHO WANT MORE GMOS THAT CAN WITHSTAND HEAVY APPLICATIONS OF HERBICIDES RAISE YOUR HAND. WHY IS THE USDA’S HAND UP?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final and a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on several genetically engineered (GE) products as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate them. APHIS is issuing a final EIS as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate GE corn and soybean plants that are resistant to several herbicides, including one known as 2,4-D. APHIS also announced it will issue a draft EIS for public comment in the coming days as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate GE cotton and soybean plants that are resistant to multiple herbicides, including dicamba.
GUT BACTERIA EXCEL AT DISMANTLING YEAST CELL WALLS
Bacteria that have evolved to help us digest the yeast that give beer and bread their bubbles could support the development of new treatments to help people fight off yeast infections and autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, researchers report.
The study shows how microbes in our digestive tract have learned to unravel the difficult to break down complex carbohydrates that make up the yeast cell wall. It’s published by scientists from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and the University of Michigan Medical School.
Evolving over the 7,000 years that we have been eating fermented food and drink, the ability of a common gut bacterium called Bacteroides thetaiotomicron to degrade yeasts is almost exclusively found in the human gut.
Publishing their findings in the Jan. 8 issue of Nature, the international research team says the discovery of this process could accelerate the development of prebiotic medicines to help people suffering from bowel problems and autoimmune diseases.
The new findings provide a better understanding of how our unique intestinal soup of bacteria has the capacity to obtain nutrients from our highly varied diet.
Their findings suggest yeast has health benefits possibly by increasing the Bacteroides growth in the microbiome.
Involving an international team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, United States and Belgium, the research has unraveled the mechanism by which B. thetaiotaomicron has learned to feast upon difficult to break down complex carbohydrates called yeast mannans.
Mannans, derived from the yeast cell wall, are a component in our diet from fermented foods including bread, beer, wine and soy sauce, as well as yeasts that call the human gut home and are in some cases thought to be harmful.
GMOS ARE CRIMES AGAINST NATURE
The following report is from the Organic Consumers Association and was written by International Director Ronnie Cummins.
“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” — New York Times, Oct. 25, 1998
The technology of agricultural genetic engineering (GE) is the controversial practice of gene-splicing and disrupting the genetic blueprints of plants and trees in a lab, to produce patented seeds. The seeds are generally one of two types. One type, which includes Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant crops, produces plants that survive the spraying of poisons, while all the other plants around them die. The other type produces a plant that manufactures its own pest-killing poison, designed to target a specific pest.
Contrary to what some in the biotech industry and the media claim, genetic engineering of plants is not the same thing as selective breeding, or hybridization. Genetic modification involves inserting foreign genetic material (DNA) into an organism. Selective breeding does not.
For two decades, Monsanto and its cohorts (Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF) have been randomly inserting the genes of one species into a non-related species, or genetically “interfering” with the instructions of an organism’s RNA—utilizing viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes and bacteria as vectors, markers and promoters—to create gene-spliced seeds and crops. Through clever marketing, they’ve captured the loyalty of North America’s (and many other nations’) chemical-intensive farmers, grain traders and Junk Food corporations. Fortunately, in the 28 member states of the European Union, where GMOs must be labeled and independently safety-tested, there are little or no GMO crops planted, and few GMO foods or food ingredients on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus.
Although Monsanto, industry scientists and corporate agribusiness claim that GMO crops and foods, and the chemicals that accompany them, are perfectly safe and therefore need no labeling or independent safety-testing, hundreds of independent scientists, that is, those not on the payroll of Monsanto or its minions, cite literally hundreds of studies showing that GMOs and their companion chemicals, such as Roundup, are extremely toxic.
Self-appointed GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) labeling “leaders” such as Scott Faber of the Just Label It campaign (a former lobbyist for the pro-GMO Grocery Manufacturers Association) need to stop repeating Monsanto and Big Food’s lies that there is no “evidence” that GMOs are dangerous for human health or the environment. As Faber stated at a Congressional Hearing on December 10, 2014:
“We do not oppose… genetically modified food ingredients. We think there are many promising applications of genetically modified food ingredients… I am optimistic that the promises that were made by the providers of this technology will ultimately be realized…that we will have traits that produce more nutritious food that will see significant yield…”
Given the current barrage of pro-GMO propaganda in the mass media, “GMO-Free” proponents need to put far greater emphasis on the fact that it isn’t just the imprecise and unpredictable nature of gene-splicing itself—a process that produces toxins and allergens, and shuts down essential gene functions—that threatens human health and the environment. The billions of pounds of systemic toxic pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides), especially Roundup, that are used on GMO and so-called conventional crops, are equally, if not more, hazardous to human health and the environment.
These systemic agro-toxins, for the most part, cannot be washed off before eating. These biocides end up on our dinner plates and in our drinking water. They lodge in our bodies and in the bodies of our children, slowly but surely degrading our health and killing us. The world needs a food and farming system that is organic, climate-friendly and regenerative, one that is free of pesticides, animal drugs and chemical fertilizers—not one that is merely GMO-free.
A 12-point agenda for driving GMOs off the market
The anti-GMO and organic Movement has come a long way in the past two decades. But given the dangers posed by GMOs and Roundup, it’s time to move aggressively forward. Here are a dozen crucial steps we need to take in 2015 to drive GMOs and Roundup off the market.
1. Stop Congress from passing the Pompeo bill (HR #4432) in 2015, which would take away states rights to pass mandatory GMO food labeling bills, and make it legal for unscrupulous food and beverage companies to continue mislabeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural.”
2. Stop Congress from “fast-tracking” and passing secretly negotiated “Free Trade” agreements (the TPP-Trans-Pacific Partnership, and TTIP-Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that would weaken consumer and states rights to label and safety test GMO and factory-farmed foods.
3. Pass more state laws requiring mandatory labels on GMOs.
4. Pass more bans on GMOs, neonicotinoids and pesticides at the township, city, and county levels.
5. Support Vermont, Maui (Hawaii), Jackson and Josephine counties (Oregon) in their federal and state legal battles to uphold their laws requiring labels and/or bans on GMOs.
6. Educate the public on the dangers and cruelty of GMO-fed, factory-farmed meat, dairy and egg products, and organize a “Great Boycott” of all factory-farmed foods.
7. Support mandatory state legislation to label dairy products and chain restaurant food coming from factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).
8. Pressure retail natural food stores and coops to follow the lead of Whole Foods Market and the Natural Grocer to label and/or ban all GMO-derived foods, including meat and animal products and deli foods, from their stores.
9. Pressure restaurants to follow the lead of organic/grass fed restaurants and ban, or at least label, all GMO ingredients.
10. Support consumer efforts to test for Roundup/glyphosate contamination in drinking water, human urine, breast milk, and in non-GMO food products such as wheat, potatoes, oats, peas, lentils and dry beans that are currently sprayed with Roundup before harvest.
11. Educate the public on the positive health, environmental, ethical and climate-friendly (greenhouse gas sequestering) attributes of organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised food and farming.
12. Boycott the “Traitor Brand” products of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the Snack Food Association.
Oregon Anti-GMO Measure Fails
The “Yes on 92” campaign, supporting the labeling of GMO foods in Oregon, has ended its efforts.
“While we have accomplished much, Measure 92 will not emerge victorious in this election. But our growing movement to label genetically engineered foods is neither defeated nor discouraged,” Yes on 92 reported. The measure lost by slightly more than 800 votes out of 1.5 million cast.
“On Tuesday we went to court in a final attempt to have 4,600 uncounted ballots opened and counted in this race. The judge agreed that leaving thousands of ballots uncounted in this election will cause irreparable harm to those voters and to the Measure 92 campaign. But he ultimately ruled that Oregon law didn’t allow him to issue the order to stop the count.
“These voters did everything right; completing, signing and returning their ballots on time and yet they have been denied the right to vote. We strongly believe we would have won the election if those votes had been counted.”
Meanwhile, the House Energy & Commerce Committee is now holding hearings on H.R. 4432. Lead sponsors Mike Pomeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) are calling the bill, “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014.”
Like last year’s Monsanto Protection Act, this bill has been crafted by Monsanto and biotech lobbyists to offer protection to Monsanto and permanently hide the fact that GMOs are in 75 percent of the processed foods sold in grocery stores in America.
What H.R. 4432 will do:
Preempt states from requiring labeling of genetically engineered food; prevent FDA from requiring GMO labeling; allow “natural” foods to contain genetically engineered ingredients; creates a new GMO “review” system based on industry studies and loopholes for certain food additives and animals fed conventional food.
CHOOSE GLASS OR CERAMIC LIQUID CONTAINERS
Chemicals can and do leach from plastic containers, thereby contaminating foods and beverages, Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website reports.
Among the most hazardous of these chemicals are bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, both of which mimic hormones in the body. Ovarian toxicity appears to be a particularly strong feature of BPA. Harvard researchers have found that higher BPA levels in women are linked to a reduced number of fertile eggs.
In response to consumer demand for BPA-free products, many manufacturers have switched to using a different chemical called bisphenol-S (BPS), which appears to be just as toxic as BPA. Styrene, found in Styrofoam cups, can be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” according to scientists with the National Research Council.
SCIENCE OUT AT EPA, LOBBYISTS IN
H.R. 1422, which passed the House of Representatives 229-191, would transform the Scientific Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency, effectively gagging scientists while handing power to people with direct financial interests in the industries regulated by the EPA. It now goes to the Senate.
The bill even goes so far as to forbid scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. This means that world-leading experts would be banned from sharing their expertise in their own research.
Republicans are arguing that allowing EPA to use peer-reviewed scientific studies would constitute a conflict of interest. “In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”
So how is the GOP selling such a blatantly absurd policy?
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) sums up the logic of the Republicans, arguing
that the board’s current structure “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachussets didn’t beat about the bush with his summary of the Republican position: “I get it. You don’t like science,” he told bill sponsor Rep. Chris Stewart, (R-Utah). “And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.”
But the fight was lost, the bill passed, and two other bills aimed at impeding the EPA are scheduled to slide through. One prevents the agency from relying on what it calls “secret science” in crafting its regulations—translation: a means to effectively block the EPA from adopting any new rules to protect public health.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), in an editorial for The Hill, stated that this trifecta of idiocy represents “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”
The White House has threatened to veto all three bills.
The role of independent scientific assessment of the environmental and health impacts of industry is the only way the EPA is of any value or credibility. Take that away, and you turn the EPA into a Trade Show where industry lackeys hard-sell the public and politicians with zero scrutiny, according to the Organic Consumers Association.
MASSIVE FRAUD ALLEGED ON HUGE ORGANIC DAIRY FARMS
In what has been called one of the largest fraud investigations in the history of the organic industry, The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, announced filing formal legal complaints against 14 industrial livestock operations producing milk, meat and eggs being marketed, allegedly illegally, as organic.
After years of inaction by the USDA, Cornucopia contracted for aerial photography in nine states, from West Texas to New York and Maryland, over the past eight months. What they found confirmed earlier site visits: a systemic pattern of corporate agribusiness interests operating industrial-scale confinement livestock facilities providing no legitimate grazing, or even access to the outdoors, as required by federal organic regulations.
“The federal organic regulations make it very clear that all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and that ruminants, like dairy cows, must have access to pasture,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. “The vast majority of these massive, industrial-scale facilities, some managing 10,000-20,000 head of cattle, and upwards of 1 million laying hens, had 100 percent of their animals confined in giant buildings or feedlots.”
“Shoppers, who passionately support the ideals and values represented by the organic label, understandably feel betrayed when they see photos of these massive CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) masquerading as organic,” Kastel added.
The organization recommends consumers consult Cornucopia’s organic brand scorecard (http://www.cornucopia.org/2008/01/dairy-report-and-scorecard/) so they can choose from the many organic brands that partner with farmers and that truly deliver on the promise of better environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry, and economic justice for the families who produce organic food.
ORGANIC STRAWBERRY PLANTING STOCK BEING TRIALED
Center for Food Safety (CFS), in collaboration with six organic strawberry farmers, today announced the launch of a pilot project to field test newly developed organic strawberry planting stock. Government funds and university research support for this project have been non-existent, despite repeated requests for contributions.
Currently, organic planting stock is not commercially available to organic strawberry growers, as revealed by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). Therefore, the farmers have no choice but to purchase non-organic planting stock from conventional nurseries, which routinely fumigate their soils with methyl bromide, chloropicrin and other toxic chemicals prior to propagation.
Organic strawberry growers have expressed dissatisfaction with being forced to grow conventional transplants, but no organic transplants or funding for nursery experiments have been forthcoming in nearly a decade.
In response, in January 2012, Center for Food Safety convened the first Organic Strawberry Summit, bringing together all sectors of the organic strawberry industry to discuss this problem. At its second meeting, Greenheart Farms in Arroyo Grande, California, agreed to produce the first-ever organic strawberry plants from tissue culture and to sell them to growers for field testing this season.
“Organic (agriculture) has consistently led the way in developing pest management strategies that do not rely on dangerous synthetic chemicals, which jeopardize both human and environmental health,” said Dr. Lisa J. Bunin, organic policy director at Center for Food Safety. “Organic farmers are ready and willing to take up the challenge in the case of methyl bromide and strawberry planting stock.”
Organic strawberries comprise 8.5 percent of California’s strawberry market and contribute more than $63 million to the state’s economy, based on 2011 figures. These figures are likely to be much higher given the tremendous, recent growth in organic strawberry production. Between 2013 and 2014, organic strawberry production increased by 21.5 percent for winter plantings and 118 percent for summer plantings, according to the California Strawberry Commission.
Methyl bromide is a neurotoxin, a carcinogen, and an ozone depleter. In accordance with the Montreal Protocol, it was slated to be banned, internationally, nearly 10 years ago. The U.S. is currently only one of three advanced industrialized countries, including Australia and Canada, that still apply for annual exemptions to this ban. European Union countries no longer use it. California strawberry growers use about 90 percent of all the methyl bromide used in the industrialized world.
What with all the hideous gunning down of unarmed black people by police in recent days, the subject of race is back, front and center. The other day I read someone’s comment that we, as a society, need to become color blind.
Nonsense. No way will we ever, or should we ever, become color blind. Are you going to look at black person and pretend they’re not black? Or look at a white person and pretend they’re not white? That’s just stupid.
Color blind is simply the wrong term. What we want is to become color tolerant. Then any black person will have all the rights, excuses, advantages, forgivenesses, acceptances, and equality as everyone else.
If anything, we should celebrate our divergent ethnicities. Where would this country be without our black folks? They are the backbone of America. They did the heavy lifting for centuries. They have kept the soul of this country alive. They have insisted on the righteousness of tolerance. They have shown us the way of non-violence. They have mightily enriched our arts, especially in the area of music, and in the field of athletics. They should be cherished and celebrated every day of every year. We would not be the country we are without the contribution of all our citizens, black or white.
Our African-American countrymen and women (and children) are owed a great deal, not only because of their contributions to our society and culture, but also and maybe most importantly, because how badly they and their progenitors have been used and abused in this country.
The fact that white police forces feel they have a license to kill black people with impunity is a horrible blot on our people, our culture, and our nation. Right now, I don’t say God bless America. I say God, please make it stop.
NO IT WASN’T
“It is easy to forget that once upon a time all agriculture was organic, grassfed, and regenerative.” — Courtney White, The Carbon Pilgrim, Nov. 16, 2014.
People say this all the time, as if farming in the centuries and millennia before the advent of organic farming in the 1930s was equivalent to the organic method. But no, it wasn’t. True, farmers way back didn’t have modern agricultural chemicals, but the organic method is a lot more than the absence of chemicals. It’s a holistic way of thinking about farming, about the farm as an ecosystem. Ecology wasn’t even recognized as a science until the mid-20th Century. Yes, cattle in bygone eras were pastured, but they were also fed silage and grains to fatten them up. And regeneration as a concept to advance farming was introduced by Bob Rodale in the late 1970s. So stop saying that pre-industrial agriculture was organic, because it wasn’t.
WE CAN’T BE ORGANIC IF WE’RE RADIOACTIVE
The cumulative amount of radiation released from Fukushima already exceeds that of the infamous 1986 Chernobyl disaster, says a new study published in the journal Nature — and the damage, of course, is still ongoing. In fact, according to some news sources, the radiation plume in the Pacific Ocean has reached the shores of Alaska and is heading down the coast toward California.
Scientists from Japan, after testing radiation concentrations in various spots throughout the Pacific Ocean and on land, found that at least 120 petabecquerels (PBq), or 120 quadrillion becquerels (Bq), of radioactive cesium-134 (Cs-134) and cesium-137 (Cs-137) have been released by Fukushima into the ocean.
This figure is 11 percent higher than the total amount of radioactive cesium released by Chernobyl on both land and water, illustrating the true severity of the Fukushima disaster that the mainstream media is concealing from the public.
Even worse is the fact that the 120 PBq figure does not take into account all the other radioactive isotopes like strontium, plutonium and uranium that have been spreading through the air and water since 2011 when the disaster occurred. Taking all these other contaminants into account paints an even more dire picture of what the world has to look forward to.
MORE BAD NEWS ABOUT FUKUSHIMA
The following are 28 signs that the west coast of North America is being threatened with nuclear radiation from Fukushima. Some of this seems anecdotal, some seems a little hysterical, but there’s no doubt that the Pacific is being contaminated and it’s heading our way.
1. Polar bears, seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are suffering from fur loss and open sores. Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses. The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.
2. There is an epidemic of sea lion deaths along the California coastline. At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die. It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”
3. Along the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaska coastline, the population of sockeye salmon is at a historic low. Many are blaming Fukushima.
4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.
5. A vast field of radioactive debris from Fukushima that is approximately the size of California has crossed the Pacific Ocean and is starting to collide with the west coast.
6. It is being projected that the radioactivity of coastal waters off the U.S. west coast could double over the next five to six years.
7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.
8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.
9. Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada. The radioactive isotope was found in 73 percent of mackerel tested, 91 percent of the halibut, 92 percent of the sardines, 93 percent of the tuna and eel, 94 percent of the cod and anchovies, 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish.
10. Canadian authorities are finding extremely high levels of nuclear radiation in certain fish samples. One sea bass sample collected in July, for example, had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.
11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish. “Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancers from ingestion of fish.”
12. BBC News recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima are “18 times higher” than previously believed.
13. An EU-funded study concluded that Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere.
14. Atmospheric radiation from Fukushima reached the west coast of the United States within a few days back in 2011.
15. At this point, 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.
16. A senior researcher of marine chemistry at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute says that “30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium” are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.
17. According to Tepco, a total of somewhere between 20 trillion and 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have gotten into the Pacific Ocean since the Fukushima disaster first began.
18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.
19. It has been estimated that up to 100 times as much nuclear radiation has been released into the ocean from Fukushima than was released during the entire Chernobyl disaster.
20. One recent study concluded that a very large plume of cesium-137 from the Fukushima disaster will start flowing into U.S. coastal waters early next year.
21. It is being projected that significant levels of cesium-137 will reach every corner of the Pacific Ocean by the year 2020.
22. It is being projected that the entire Pacific Ocean will soon “have cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher” than what we witnessed during the era of heavy atomic bomb testing in the Pacific many decades ago.
23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning:
“Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.”
24. The Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that are constantly coming from Fukushima are going to affect the health of those living in the northern hemisphere for a very, very long time. Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer. Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles. Strontium-90’s half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.
25. According to a recent Planet Infowars report, the California coastline is being transformed into “a dead zone.”
26. A study conducted last year came to the conclusion that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could negatively affect human life along the west coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska “for decades.”
27. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is being projected that the cleanup of Fukushima could take up to 40 years to complete.
28. Yale Professor Charles Perrow is warning that if the cleanup of Fukushima is not handled with 100 percent precision, humanity could be threatened “for thousands of years.”
NOT TO WORRY SAYS RESPECTED MAINSTREAM SCIENCE JOURNAL
From Science magazine:
After a two-and-a-half year ocean journey, radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has drifted to within 160 kilometers of the California coast, according to a new study. But the radiation levels are minuscule and do not pose a threat, researchers say.
Shortly after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March, 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Co. estimated that the facility had released a staggering 7000 trillion becquerels—a measure of emitted radiation—of radiation into nearby seawater. Meanwhile, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment reported readings of 45.5 million becquerels per cubic meter of water, high enough to cause reproductive problems in fish.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that the power plant’s radiation dissipated quickly as it spread from the coast, however. It arrived at this conclusion by measuring cesium-134, a kind of radiation “fingerprint” unique to Fukushima because of its relatively short two-year half-life. By June, 2011, cesium-134 was found 600 kilometers offshore from Japan producing 325 becquerels per cubic meter. Building models based on early readings, the World Health Organization and public health departments in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska all forecast that Fukushima radiation would not pose a human health risk in North America.
But antinuclear groups like Beyond Nuclear, a Maryland nonprofit that advocates against nuclear power, questioned those predictions, citing concerns about continuing releases of radioactive isotopes from Fukushima since the 2011 meltdowns. In addition, nonprofits like the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership, which monitors and works to improve watersheds in Oregon, wanted more concrete data to present to their communities.
So marine chemist Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts convinced an eclectic group of organizations to collect water samples up and down the west coast of North America. Following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, Buesseler had tracked radioactive contaminants in the Black Sea, the closest major water body to the accident site. To pay for similar research in the much larger Pacific Ocean, he turned to crowdfunding—the increasingly popular method of using the Internet to bring multiple people together to fund costly endeavors. Government bodies such as the Umpqua Soil and Water Conservation District, universities, and conservation groups joined in, offering both to collect water from more than 50 sites in the Pacific Ocean near U.S. shores and to pay to ship and test those samples in Buesseler’s lab.
The findings are reassuring, Buesseler says. He measured a high of just 8 becquerels of radiation per cubic meter in the samples. Of that, he says, less than 2 becquerels came from cesium-134 traced to Fukushima. The remainder is largely from strontium-90 and cesium-137: Some of that is fallout from mid-20th century atomic bomb tests in the Pacific, and some may have come from Fukushima—these isotopes lack the half-life fingerprint that ties cesium-134 to the Japanese disaster. The total level of radiation is hardly worth worrying about, Buesseler says: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for drinking water allow up to 7400 becquerels per cubic meter. Buesseler is presenting his latest findings Thursday at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America’s annual meeting.
“There are people here in California who are worried they could get fried by going to a beach, and this research confirms that those fears are wrong and inappropriate,” says Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the study. But he also cautions that Fukushima may bring other risks to North America beyond ocean radiation levels, particularly related to seafood. Oregon State University researchers found that radiation levels in tuna caught off the Oregon coast tripled after the Fukushima meltdown—though levels remain too low to risk human health, they said. Hirsch predicts seafood radiation levels could climb as fish higher on the food chain eat and absorb radiation from smaller animals.
Although his results may not have public health implications, Buesseler says he hopes his work leads to a better informed populace. “People were making irrational decisions about spending time at the coast, or attributing starfish deaths to Fukushima,” he says. “Dental x-rays and airplanes have greater exposures than what we are measuring.”
REPORT FROM ANOTHER RESPECTED SCIENCE JOURNAL
From Nature magazine:
Pressure continued to mount on the owner of Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on 1 September after it admitted that recent leaks of contaminated cooling water contained 18 times the levels of radiation previously reported.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said that one hot spot was found to be giving off 1,800 millisieverts per hour — much more than the 100mSv initially quoted and enough gamma radiation to kill a human within four hours. It also emerged that the pipe from which the water was leaking had been sealed with plastic tape.
The company vowed to launch an investigation of the leak and “take any appropriate countermeasures immediately”, adding that only 1mSv of the radiation was made up of gamma rays, with the rest being less penetrating beta radiation.
But the new revelations will heap pressure on the Japanese government to intervene in the clean-up of Fukushima after experts voiced fears that TEPCO is unable to cope with the operation, which has seen hundreds of tons of radioactive water escape into the Pacific Ocean. Analysts warned that if the government fails to act, prime minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear stance may be jeopardized.
“It’s clear that TEPCO is unable to solve the problems on its own,” said Tsutomu Toichi, managing director and chief economist at the Institute of Energy Economics in Tokyo. “The government has to step in to ensure these problems are solved quickly. It is going to have to provide funds, as well as a plan for moving forward, and explain this to the public in a way that is easy to understand.”
Wiktor Frid, a nuclear expert with the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority in Stockholm, added, “That water leaked from a tank unnoticed for several days is alarming and extremely embarrassing for TEPCO”.
U.S. NUCLEAR WHISTLEBLOWER IS FIRED FOR HER EFFORTS
As the official in charge of overseeing safety compliance for the nation’s largest nuclear waste cleanup project, Donna Busche was simply doing her job. Federal contractors running the Hanford nuclear site suddenly saw her routine safety concerns as roadblocks to meeting deadlines regardless of quality, and terminated Busche in February, 2014. The companies have even stonewalled the Department of Energy Inspector General’s investigation into her case, putting into question who is supposed to regulate whom.
AND NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS
After spending years trying to make good French fries at home, I’ve finally run across the trick.
It’s important to start with the right kind of potatoes. The best kind of potato to use for making fries is a Kennebec or Yukon Gold.
The best way to prepare the potato is to hand cut into 1/4 inch strips, skin on, then soak overnight in cold water. Then fry in Pure Canola oil first at 225 degrees for 4 minutes, then refrigerate overnight, then fry again at 375 degrees for 2 minutes.
Making good fries requires precise fryer oil temperature management. Thought has to go into how many fries to place in the fryer at once, how long they should cook, and then how long to wait before putting in the next batch to be fried.
Well, okay. Maybe next week. Just make sure the spuds are organic.
COKE TO INTRODUCE NEW IMPROVED “MILK”
Coca-Cola is poised to take advantage of growing demand for better-for-you products among American consumers, with its new Coke Life product that launched nationally this month in mini-cans, Coca-Cola North American President J. Alexander M. Douglas said. “And our belief is that that trend will continue and that we have to be in a competitively-advantaged place, a solution for consumers who want to make positive changes but also want to treat themselves to the best-tasting drinks,” he said.
Americans have been cutting back on soda for years, and that’s dealt a blow to sales and profit at Coca-Cola.
Now, the company is making a bold move into a completely different beverage: milk.
Coca-Cola is planning to bring a new kind of milk to stores nationwide in late December. The milk, called Fairlife, has 50 percent more protein and 50 percent less sugar than regular milk. It also has 30 percent more calcium.
“It’s basically the premiumization of milk,” Sandy Douglas, a senior vice president at Coca-Cola’s North American operation, said recently at an investor conference. (Is that like the gentrification of a neighborhood?) “Our ambition there is to create the Simply of milk.” He was referring to the company’s Simply juice line, which has seen strong growth even as the overall fruit juice industry has been in decline. Coca-Cola advertises its Simply juices as healthier, never frozen and never sweetened, which plays well with grocery shoppers.
My question is this. In order to get a fabulously well-paying job like Coca-Cola North American President, do you have to have a name like “J. Alexander M. Douglas?”
NEONICOTINOID (BEE-DESTROYING) SEEDS HAVE NO BENEFIT
Mounting scientific literature regarding neonicotinoid pesticides is finding they contaminate our rivers and streams, and likely play an important role in causing colony collapse disorder among honeybees.
One of the primary ways these pesticides enter the environment is through genetically modified soybean seeds coated with the pesticide prior to planting. Now, a new peer-reviewed report by the Biological and Economic Analysis Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded these seed treatments do not provide any significant benefit, with data indicating that there was no difference in yield when comparing treated and untreated seeds. Also, as currently used, the pesticides are present in the soybean leaf during a time when most destructive pests are not active. “U.S. soybean growers derive limited to no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments in most instances,” the report says, adding, “Usage of neonicotinoid seed treatments does not protect soybean yield any better than doing no pest control.”
Oh, and by the way, Monsanto has announced that despite this mounting evidence of no benefit and honeybee die-offs, it will not stop coating seed with the chemicals. So there, America and your damn honeybees. As Bogey said when he was slapping Peter Lorre around in The Maltese Falcon, “You’ll take it and you’ll like it.”
POLLINATORS INCREASE WITH BIODIVERSITY ON ORGANIC FARMS
In a recent study published in Agriculture Ecosystems and the Environment, scientists found that pollinator services to crops on organic farms increased when habitat heterogeneity was increased, but this same trend was not seen on conventionally farmed land.
Researchers compared pod development in beans on conventional farms and organic farms surrounded by varying amounts heterogeneous habitat depending on the amount of surrounding land set aside to grow hay or grass. Pots of beans were then placed in each field and monitored for indicators of successful pollination in the number of bean pods that developed as well as the total number of beans per pod.
Overall, organic farms had more pods per plant than conventional fields, suggesting that more successful pollination occurred in organic fields. Also, as the amount of habitat heterogeneity increased, so did the number of beans in each pod—demonstrating that pollination services in organic fields also increased as the landscape became more diverse. “Surprisingly,” the report on the study said, “this increase in pollination services with habitat heterogeneity was not observed in conventional farms. The authors hypothesized that it may be that organic farming is simply friendlier towards pollinators because it does not use synthetic herbicides or fertilizers.”
Organic farming and gardening represents a shift in thinking that can apply broadly to all the activities of life, bringing life-supporting perspective to actions by individuals, groups, and institutions.
It really involves moving beyond a human-centered point of view to a holistic view. The big problem with the human-centered point of view is that the end (human improvement of some sort) justifies the means. For example, in conventional farming and gardening, human beings have mastery over the farm and garden and all the creatures that affect them.
And that means lots of killing. Look at the words we use for the levers conventional agriculture applies to nature to grow our crops: pestiCIDES, herbiCIDES, fungiCIDES, ANTIbiotics. In other words, we kill off every life form except the desired crops.
The holistic view means that we study the way nature works and then try to emulate her in our farming and gardening, using the most benign methods first, and harsher methods only up to the point that we don’t cause damage to the web of life. The organic grower knows that if it takes wholesale slaughter to grow a crop, it’s best to find another crop to grow. And emulating nature means that the entire force of natural law is brought in to strengthen the process. Killing everything except the crops does exactly the opposite—it tries to defeat nature.
Instead of killing everything but the crops, organic growers promote biodiversity—nature’s system of checks and balances that produces natural good health. The soil is not just material that props up crops until we can flood them with soluble chemical fertilizers and plant and animal poisons. It is a living system that we enrich so that it too has a huge biodiversity that feeds plants what they want, in the amounts they want, when they want it. That’s what nature does. That’s a healthy ecology whether on the farm, in the garden, or out in wild nature.
Okay—that works for farming and gardening. Can it work in another area of life, such as social interaction? Lately, we’ve seen some horrific examples of the police function. A frightened cop is a very dangerous cop. I just saw a YouTube video of a guy pumping gas into his truck who was approached by a cop who challenged him. The guy reached into his truck for his ID, and the cop shot him down.
Michael Brown maybe gave Darren Wilson some lip or even tried to turn his gun away (who knows?), but Wilson unloaded his service revolver on the unarmed kid and you know the rest of the story. Killing. Over and over and over. Even right here in Santa Rosa, California, not more than 12 miles from me, a Latino kid with a plastic rifle was murdered by a Santa Rosa cop who thought maybe that thing was real.
What does the organic approach tell us about law enforcement? What, for instance, might Darren Wilson have done when an unarmed teenager displeased him? Now Wilson says he feared for his life, and that Brown was trying to wrest the gun from his hand. And that the next thing Wilson saw happening was that he was going to be murdered by this kid. I personally don’t believe a word of it, but let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Wilson’s telling the truth.
Let’s back up here. Let’s say Michael Brown and friends were walking down the street, blocking the roadway, and maybe giving the officer typical teenage attitude.
Let’s say Officer Wilson asked them to move off the street to legitimately open the roadway to traffic. Let’s say Michael Brown told him to shove it. Maybe at that point, Officer Wilson might have told young Mr. Brown that he was going to get a ticket for blocking a public roadway. Maybe Mr. Brown told Officer Wilson, “Yeah? Let’s see you give me a ticket.”
I’m not saying Brown actually said this, I’m just saying that sometimes teenagers can be a handful of badass.
Maybe Officer Wilson could have seen the big picture. Brown lives in his town. He knows where to find him. Brown was ignoring a lawful request by the cop to clear the street. The cop’s options were many. He could have gone to Brown’s parents and given them the summons. He could have called for backup and arrested Mr. Brown for non-cooperation with a law enforcement officer’s legitimate request, taken him to the cop shop, and arraigned him. It was, after all, a misdemeanor. In other words, Wilson could have used the least violent strategy first, then moved, step by careful step, to achieve the lawful aim of preventing blockage of a street to public traffic.
Why was Wilson’s gun even out in the first place? But it was out and, Wilson says, he and Brown were wrestling for control of it. So Officer Wilson shot and killed young Mr. Brown, an unarmed teenager, in what was obviously an emotional flareup. Isn’t that a lot like producing food by killing everything in the field except the crop?
What makes the situation so gut wrenching is the response of the prosecutor and the grand jury. It’s just so pitifully and painfully obvious that the white powers that be rigged the game from the outset, to make sure that the white cop walked.
Think I’m exaggerating? In addition to his duties as the St. Louis County prosecutor in charge of prosecuting Officer Darren Wilson, Robert McCulloch is also the President of The Backstoppers, an organization used to fundraise for police men and women in both Missouri and Illinois. Last August, his organization was affiliated with a T-shirt drive featuring a picture of Missouri and the statement, “I SUPPORT OFFICER D. WILSON,” which was set up to raise money for the Darren Wilson Defense Fund as well as The Backstoppers. So, the prosecutor charged with discovering whether Officer Wilson is guilty of murder is raising money for the cop being investigated.
Any parallels with the agricultural powers that be called Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and the other dealers in agricultural poison? You decide. The organic solution would have been to leave the gun in the holster and give Mike Brown a ticket, not fire 12 bullets into him for a misdemeanor.
‘NO GMO’ CHIPS TURN OUT TO BE LOADED WITH GMOS
Xochitl, a company that makes tortilla chips, has gained a foothold in grocery stores across the United States in large part because of two words added to its package to reassure consumers: “No GMO.”
Its website shows that the chips are now in grocery stores across the country, and both organic and non-organic varieties are offered (both say “No GMO” on the bag). But according to a recent test conducted by Consumer Reports, the company has been lying about that important distinction. The recent Consumer Reports investigation found that the non-organic (but supposedly non-GMO) varieties of the chips actually contained over 75 percent GMO corn, based on tests of six different packages.
This is why we need mandatory GMO labeling with fully defined standards and verification. Anything less is unacceptable. Food manufacturers need to be held accountable and we need to know if it’s GMO.
FOOD GIANTS TURN HEALTHY YOGURT INTO JUNK FOOD
A new report called “Culture Wars: How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, into Junk Food,” issued by The Cornucopia Institute, accuses Dannon, Yoplait, Chobani and other major marketers of misleading parents, who are looking for healthier foods for their families, into purchasing yogurts loaded with sugar and containing a myriad of questionably safe artificial sweeteners, colors, and emulsifiers.
The group alleges that agribusiness, in its marketing approach, has capitalized on yogurt’s historic, well-deserved, healthful reputation while simultaneously adulterating the product, sometimes illegally, to gain competitive advantage and popular appeal.
In addition to The Cornucopia Institute’s comprehensive report on the yogurt industry, they also released a related buyer’s guide rating 114 brands and separating the truly healthy options from those that would be found on any dietitian’s shortlist of foods to avoid.
You can read Cornucopia’s report at http://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt/
and see its buyer’s guide at http://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt-scorecard/
SAN JOSE TAKES THE LEAD IN SMART WASTE TECHNOLOGY
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and City of San José officials have toured the city’s Zero Waste Energy Development anaerobic digestion facility where food scraps are turned into renewable energy and compost for local farms.
The facility’s state-of-the-art anaerobic digesters use bacteria to break down food waste in an oxygen-free environment, converting it into methane biogas that’s burned to generate electricity. The facility can digest and compost 90,000 tons of food waste and produce 1.6 megawatts of electricity per year. San José aims to achieve zero waste by 2022 and diverts 74 percent of materials from landfills through reuse, recycling, composting, and anaerobic digestion.
INDIAN FILMMAKER DOCUMENTS GMO ABUSES
In his documentary, “Poison on the Platter,” Indian filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt examines how multinational corporations and government regulators have conspired to spread GE foods across India, reports Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website.
The film provides an insightful perspective about the global impact of GMOs. If you don’t believe contamination of our food supply by GMOs holds the potential for planetary disaster, you might change your mind after seeing this film. Mahesh Bhatt warns:
“In their mad rush to capture the multi-billion dollar Indian agriculture and food industry, the biotech multinational companies are bulldozing warnings by scientists about the adverse impact of GMO foods on health and the environment. This is hurtling mankind toward a disaster, which will be far more destructive than anything the world has seen so far, simply because it will affect every single person living on this planet.”
JUDGE BLOCKS MAUI’S LAW BANNING GMO CULTIVATION
A federal judge has ruled that Maui County, Hawaii, may not implement a new law banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms until he considers arguments in a lawsuit against the measure.
Monsanto Co. and a unit of Dow Chemical Co. sued the county to stop the law. Employees of the companies and local Maui County businesses joined the lawsuit. They argue that the law would harm the economy and their businesses. They said the court has already ruled in another case involving a Kauai law regulating genetically engineered crops, that the state, and not the county, has jurisdiction over the issue.
Maui voters created the law with a ballot initiative. The measure was to take effect after officials certified the election results, which was expected later this month. Now both sides have agreed to delay the date the law goes into effect, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren said in his ruling.
Kenneth Robbins, an attorney for the companies, said Kurren was saying in his ruling the plaintiffs have shown they could potentially suffer irreparable harm if the law goes into effect.
Michael Carroll, an attorney for the ballot initiative’s authors, plans to ask Kurren to hold off from deciding this case until a state court on Maui rules on a separate lawsuit his clients filed Wednesday. That lawsuit seeks to compel the county to implement the law. Carroll said Friday he’s hopeful the federal court will ultimately agree the issues should be decided in a Maui court.
Does ‘Gluten Allergy’ Really Have Anything to Do with Gluten?
All of a sudden, my supermarket has a whole shelf of gluten-free products. Seems like everything now comes in a gluten-free version. But it wasn’t that long ago that most people had never heard of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, except that it was a necessary part of good, chewy, wholesome bread. What happened? Why so much gluten intolerance all of a sudden?
Well, why so much autism all of a sudden? So much diabetes? So much obesity? Could the allergic reaction to bread be attributed to something other than gluten? I mean, human beings have been eating wheat since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago, and were probably gathering einkorn, modern wheat’s predecessor, for many years before that. All of a sudden everyone’s got a wheat allergy?
An intriguing blog called The Healthy Home Economist made a recent post that is astonishing, and it concerns wheat allergy. In the post, the author, who calls herself Sarah, with no last name, claims that just before harvest, most of the wheat used in our foods is sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and that what people are actually experiencing is a response to this toxic chemical.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, 99 percent of durum wheat, 97 percent of spring wheat, and 61 percent of winter wheat has been doused with Roundup as part of the harvesting process,” Sarah claimed, though a link to these USDA statistics was not provided. But a chart from a USDA database indicates that these wheats do receive applications of Roundup, even though there is no Roundup-resistant wheat that is approved for mainstream use in the United States.
I checked the Monsanto website regarding the application of Roundup to crops just before harvest (which means the herbicide residues are not only in every cell of the crop’s tissues, but also on the surface as a residue). Monsanto recommends spraying three or four days before harvest. You can check it yourself at http://roundup.ca/_uploads/documents/MON-Preharvest%20Staging%20Guide.pdf. At the site, farmers are encouraged to apply Roundup to many crops just before harvest, not just wheat but also barley, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, and dry beans.
One of the reasons to spray these food crops, Monsanto says, is to kill weeds that may have grown with the crop or will grow post-harvest. “Preharvest is the best time for controlling Canada thistle, quackgrass, perennial sowthistle, dandelion, toadflax, and milkweed. A preharvest weed control application is an excellent management strategy to not only control perennial weeds, but to facilitate harvest management and get a head start on next year’s crop,” Monsanto says.
And another reason to spray is to promote uniformity of ripening of the seeds to be used for human or animal food. And finally, when the wheat or other stalks die, they dry quickly and are easier on the farmers’ equipment, such as combines.
The Manitoba Pulse Growers’ literature warns farmers in that Canadian province to be aware that some countries require crops to contain “less chemical residue” than others. It states that, in the U.S., there are no marketing issues with excess Roundup residue on plants. The maximum residue level allowed is set, and provided farmers follow the directions on their Roundup labels, they don’t need to worry. Selling to Japan is a bit more difficult if farmers use pre-harvest Roundup treatments, because the maximum residue level of Roundup that Japan will tolerate on beans is “set at a rigidly low level.”
Preharvest spraying of this toxic chemical might help explain the results from a study released earlier this year that found higher than expected levels of glyphosate in breast milk samples. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Despite the herbicide being found in breast milk, urine, streams and waterways, and even rain, Monsanto maintains that the use of Roundup on feed crops and food crops alike is safe for animals and people under “present and expected conditions of use.”
Also, a new report by ConsumerReports.org points out that a gluten-free claim doesn’t mean the product is necessarily more nutritious, it may actually be less so; that consumers may increase their exposure to arsenic by going gluten-free, and a gluten-free diet might cause weight gain—not weight loss. And, most gluten-free foods cost more than their regular counterparts.
Still, a new survey of more than 1,000 Americans conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that about a third of people buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten. Among the top benefits they cited were better digestion and gastrointestinal function, healthy weight loss, increased energy, lower cholesterol, and a stronger immune system.
“While people may feel better on a gluten-free diet, there is little evidence to support that their improved health is related to the elimination of gluten from their diet,” said Trisha Calvo, deputy content editor, health and food, at Consumer Reports. “Before you decide to ride the wave of this dietary trend, consider why it might not be a good idea.”
Unless someone has a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease – an autoimmune condition in which gluten causes potentially life-threatening intestinal damage – Consumer Reports says there is little reason to eliminate gluten, and doing so may actually be a disservice to one’s health. Less than seven percent of Americans have these conditions.
A quarter of the people CR surveyed thought gluten-free foods have more vitamins and minerals than other foods. But CR’s review of 81 products free of gluten across 12 categories revealed they’re a mixed bag in terms of nutrition. Many gluten-free foods aren’t enriched or fortified with nutrients such as folic acid and iron as many products that contain wheat flours are.
And according to CR’s survey, more than a third of Americans think that going gluten-free will help them slim down, but there’s very little evidence that doing so is a good weight-loss strategy; in fact, the opposite is often true. Ditching gluten often means adding sugar, fat, and sodium, which are often used to pump up the flavor in these foods; these foods also might have more calories and consuming them could cause some people to gain weight.
If going gluten free means cutting down on the toxic load of glyphosate you’re getting, then it is a good thing. But you don’t have to give up eating healthy whole grain breads. Just choose organic.
THE TROUBLE WITH GLYPHOSATE
Shall we take a closer look at Roundup and glyphosate to see if it really is safe, especially if sprayed on crops just before harvest?
Glyphosate kills by inhibiting an enzyme (CYP 450) involved in the synthesis of amino acids. It’s absorbed through foliage and transported by the plant to growing points. Unable to make the amino acids necessary for life, the plant dies. Because of this mode of action, it is only effective on actively growing plants. It is not effective as a pre-emergence herbicide; that is, before the crop seeds sprout and start to grow.
Glyphosate may be the culprit behind many of the so-called “diseases of civilization” that have plagued humanity since the chemical was introduced into agriculture in the last third of the 20th Century, diseases that are escalating at alarming rates today. These diseases and conditions include birth defects, autism, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, infertility, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and more.
That’s the conclusion of two scientists who looked over 286 studies of the biological effects of glyphosate and published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Entropy in mid-April, 2013. These findings are a bombshell that, if confirmed by further scientific studies, could—and should–lead to a total worldwide ban on glyphosate. Women of child-bearing age, who plan to become pregnant, who are pregnant, or are rearing young children should pay close attention to the following information.
In their search of the literature, environmental scientist Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, Senior Research Scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, found a great deal of evidence that glyphosate suppresses and inhibits a human enzyme called cytochrome P450, known in scientific shorthand as CYP. Inhibiting enzymes is exactly how glyphosate works as an herbicide, because enzymes are catalysts for all sorts of functions in plants, and when they are suppressed, the plants die for lack of the ability to function properly. Something of the same effect may be at work in humans who ingest glyphosate from their food.
“Glyphosate’s inhibition of CYP enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals,” they write. “CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify any foreign substances not normally found in living creatures, such as pesticides, industrial chemicals, pollutants, and drugs. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. The negative impact on the body is insidious, and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems within the body.”
The authors show how glyphosate harms three crucial bodily functions. First, it interferes with CYP enzymes. Second, it disrupts our intestinal flora’s ability to construct important amino acids that build and repair the body’s cellular tissues.
Third, it impairs the movement of sulfate compounds in the blood. These compounds are especially important in the growth of infants, young children, and the developing fetus in pregnant women due to their role in forming and assigning jobs to hormones that direct normal fetal growth. Hormones are the body’s messaging system, telling tissues like stem cells how to grow and what to grow into. Endocrine disruptors like glyphosate impair the body’s hormonal messages. It’s as if your cell phone connections were garbled and mostly incoherent.
Glyphosate’s enzyme inhibition acts synergistically with the other two damaging effects—that is, it produces a more serious health effect than the sum of the individual effects.
In conclusion, the study’s authors write: “Given the known toxic effects of glyphosate reviewed here and the plausibility that they are negatively impacting health worldwide, it is imperative for more independent research to take place to validate the ideas presented here, and to take immediate action, if they are verified, to drastically curtail the use of glyphosate in agriculture. Glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and contrary to being essentially non-toxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”
What the authors have done in this study of the scientific literature on glyphosate is to connect the dots, with each dot being one of the 286 studies.
Author Anthony Samsel is an environmental scientist with a long list of achievements in pollution control. He’s a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and an organic farmer to boot. “Now that I’m retired, it’s time to help those who are victimized by industrial polluters,” he says. Now his work focuses on charitable community investigations of industrial polluters of air and water by hazardous chemical materials; agricultural pollution by pesticides, biocides, and genetically engineered materials, and their effects on public health and the environment.
He says that the information about glyphosate’s disastrous effects on human health have not been reported to the public before. “As far as I know, I have never seen CYP 450 enzymes referred to in a non-technical magazine,” he says.
“I started reading Organic Gardening magazine as a child in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have owned and operated several commercial farm operations in New England. I now grow five acres of organic produce in New Hampshire, most of which is donated to the needy in this area.”
Author Stephanie Seneff told me that “I became interested in glyphosate through my research on autism. I have been alarmed by the recent increases in the incidence of autism in the U.S., and I am determined to figure out what environmental toxins may be at play. I have now become convinced that glyphosate plays a major role, although it is not the entire story.” The incidence of autism in America has risen by 30 percent just in the past two years.
“We did not do any new research other than predict the likely consequences of glyphosate, given the evidence available in the papers we reviewed. I don’t think anybody else has put together the story that’s in this paper, regarding how glyphosate can be linked up to syndromes like obesity, depression, and autism directly through its known actions on biological systems. So I would say that our findings and conclusions are new, rather than just a summary.”
Are there any other indications that glyphosate may be causing harm?
Three rivers come together and run through the Yakima Valley of Washington State. The Valley is home to a large portion of Washington’s fruit growing industry, and so in the 1960s, noxious weed control boards were established to keep weed competition with the fruit industry’s crops in check.
Barbara H. Peterson, writing in her informative blog, Farm Wars, details what happened next:
“Three Washington counties – Yakima, Benton, and Franklin – experienced an unusually high number of birth defects (800 percent higher than the national average) at around the same time as glyphosate was being used extensively for several years to eradicate noxious weeds on land and in the water. That birth defect is called anencephaly, or failure of the neural tubes that form the brain to develop. It’s almost always fatal. Could there be a connection?
“It appears that Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties just happen to have three things in common – the Yakima River, a noxious weed eradication program using copious amounts of glyphosate for years on both land and in the river, and an increase in anencephaly, which glyphosate just happens to be suspected of causing.
“Considering the government’s propensity to ignore any connection between Monsanto’s glyphosate and health effects, and the fact that the EPA just raised allowable glyphosate levels, I think we can safely assume that the correlation between increased usage and these brain damaged babies will not be adequately investigated.”
Worldwide, annual use of glyphosate is projected to reach 1.35 million metric tons by 2016, according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc.
Now let’s look at some studies about glyphosate’s toxicity.
The headline in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology reads: “Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence.” Put in simpler terms, the headline means that the people responsible for making the safety rules for glyphosate are ignoring the evidence of its harm in animal development. This article cites a number of scientific studies showing that the chemical causes birth defects by interfering with retinoic acid, a signaling molecule derived in the body from vitamin A that guides embryonic development in all animals with backbones, from fish to humans. Despite many studies showing reproductive problems and birth defects in animals like frogs and rats, officials in the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety and European Union food safety officials minimized the potential for harm by relying primarily on studies paid for by Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta that downplayed the problems.
The conclusion of the article’s eight scientists states, in part, “A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that glyphosate and Roundup cause teratogenic (a teratogen is an agent affecting an embryo or fetus) effects and other toxic effects on reproduction, as well as genotoxic effects (a genotoxin causes mutations by damaging an organism’s DNA)…Attempts by industry and government regulatory bodies to dismiss this research are unconvincing and work against the principle that it is the responsibility of industry to prove that its products are safe and not the responsibility of the public to prove that they are unsafe.”
Researchers in a French study exposed live human liver cells to glyphosate at lower levels than found in agriculture and reported that all the cells’ normal functions were disrupted within 24 hours. DNA damage was found at just five parts per million of the herbicide. The researchers concluded, “A real cell impact of glyphosate-based herbicides residues in food, feed or in the environment has thus to be considered, and their classifications as carcinogens/mutagens/reprotoxics discussed.” The title of their paper in Toxicology for August 21, 2009, is not weasel-worded: “Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines.”
A September, 2013, study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, is titled, “Glyphosate Induces Human Breast Cancer Cells Growth Via Estrogen Receptors.” In other words, when scientists added glyphosate to a petri dish with living human breast cancer cells, the cells started reproducing like crazy, an action that is the definition of cancer.
A French study found that very low doses of glyphosate reduced testosterone levels in male rats by 35 percent and caused cell death at higher levels. A study published in the journal Archives of Toxicology showed Roundup is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications. Industry regulators and long-term studies look at glyphosate in isolation, instead of looking at Roundup’s full formulation, which includes secret added ingredients. These “confidential” and unlabeled ingredients, when measured as a whole, affect all living cells, including human cells.
A study in Environmental Health Perspectives for June, 2005, tested glyphosate alone and as an ingredient in Roundup, which contains other chemicals beside glyphosate, on living placental cells—you know, those cells whose job it is to interface with the mother’s bloodstream to secure nutrients for the developing baby. Here’s the upshot, translated from the scientific jargon: “Here we show that glyphosate is toxic to human placental cells within 18 hours with concentrations lower than those found with agricultural use, and this effect increases with concentration and time or in the presence of the other ingredients in Roundup. Surprisingly, Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient (glyphosate). We tested the effects of glyphosate and Roundup at lower nontoxic concentrations on aromatase, the enzyme responsible for estrogen synthesis. We conclude that endocrine and toxic effects of Roundup, not just glyphosate, can be observed in mammals. We suggest that Roundup enhances glyphosate bioavailability and/or bioaccumulation.” In other words, the other ingredients in Roundup make it more toxic than glyphosate alone.
The other way that newborn babies can get glyphosate from their moms is through breast milk. A group called Moms Across America did research on glyphosate in American mothers’ breast milk at several locations across the country and found that indeed, it was in the milk at levels around 700 parts per billion. This is 700 times higher than allowed in Europe’s drinking water. And while 700 ppb is a lot, it is still less than the maximum allowable by the Environmental Protection Agency. And since the research was preliminary and not a rigorous scientific study, we need to make sure we don’t overstate the case here. And yet 700 ppb is frightening, because glyphosate at almost any level causes concern.
Moms Across America released the breast milk report to EPA in April, 2014. More recently, the group gave EPA a three-inch-thick binder full of studies showing harm to humans and other mammals, Here are just a handful of the many studies EPA was given:
Glyphosate was recently connected to increases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Peer reviewed studies show rats fed diets as low as 2 ppm of glyphosate were 70 percent to 80 percent more likely to develop tumors than rats not fed the chemical. Infertility, affecting both the sperm and the egg, was documented in animals subjected to glyphosate residue levels as low as .05 ppm. Birth defects in frog and chicken embryos resulted after being subjected to glyphosate residues of just 2.03 ppm.
The chemical is a chelator, making certain nutrients unavailable in foods.
Glyphosate has an antibiotic effect that kills gut bacteria at one-tenth parts per million. One of the levels found in breast milk was one-third greater than that. “Therefore we can surmise that many of our babies’ gut bacteria are being destroyed, weakening their immune systems,” the organization writes. And remember that study by Samsel and Seneff mentioned earlier? The study’s full title is, “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.” Some of the studies cited in this review connect glyphosate with autism. That’s a connection, not a cause-and-effect conclusion, but it should throw up a big warning flag for the EPA.
EPA, however, has said only that it will include Mothers Across America’s breast milk information in its review, which will take until sometime in 2015. During this wait time, MAA points out, the U.S. will continue to be Number One in the industrialized world for infant death on the baby’s first day. “Fifty percent more babies die in the U.S. on day one than all of the other industrialized nations combined,” MAA says.
About a million metric tons (about 2 billion, 205 million pounds) of Roundup are used on farms, gardens, and lawns worldwide every year in the most recent calculations. And so it’s found everywhere—in the air, water, and soil; in the plants grown in that soil, in the animals who eat those plants, and in the people who eat those plants and animals.
Glyphosate was detected in more than 75 percent of air and rain samples in the Mississippi delta region in a 2007 study.
The EPA in July, 2013, announced a final ruling to increase, yet again, the allowed residue of glyphosate in food and animal feed. Under the ruling, the allowed glyphosate level in animal feed has risen to 100 parts per million and 40 ppm in oilseed crops.
The EPA ruling defies sound science and undermines public health, yet the EPA claims glyphosate is only “minimally toxic” to humans, and 40 ppm is nothing to worry about.
But if Roundup is so toxic, why is everyone using so much of it? And why all around the world?
Roundup has been around since the 1970s, but it really became a super problem when the science of genetic engineering was perfected in the mid-1990s. Monsanto’s scientists—and its marketing executives—reasoned that if they could find a gene for glyphosate resistance and put it into major crop seeds, then farmers could pour on enough Roundup to kill weeds without harming the major crops. This would open up vast new markets for the herbicide.
As early as 1982, the scientists were looking for ways to make crops resistant to the herbicide, but first, they had to find the genetic key to that resistance. Remember that Monsanto had been making Roundup since the early 1970s, and waste water involved in the processing was stored in its waste ponds. Now, when you assault an organism—especially a microorganism—with a death-dealing chemical, you kill off most of a population, except for a few mutants who can resist the assault. These reproduce and soon you have a colony of resistant bacteria, or weeds, or insects, or what-have-you. It was then that Monsanto discovered the gene for glyphosate resistance in its waste water ponds, where they had inadvertently created the conditions nature needed to develop the gene in bacteria through mutation and natural selection. At the same time, genetic engineering—the swapping of genes among different orders of plants and animals—was a developing science, and by 1996, GMO soybeans were dubbed Roundup Ready and offered for sale on the market. Today soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, potatoes, and wheat (under development) are Roundup Ready.
What this means to pregnant women and parents of young, developing children and those kids entering puberty is that those crops are not only GMOs (genetically modified organisms)—you know, the GMOs that Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, and other biotech firms don’t want you to know about on food labels—but they have also been grown with systemic Roundup. Remember, this chemical mixture is systemic. It’s in every cell of the plant. You can’t wash it off. It survives cooking, freezing, and canning. It goes into you and your offspring.
Monsanto says that by using Roundup Ready crops, farmers can reduce the use of this herbicide. But that’s nonsense. Farmers lavish Roundup on their crops and fields, as we’ve seen. Roundup use has quadrupled since the GMO crops were introduced.
Remember also that nature responds to death-dealing chemical assaults by creating mutations to counter the assaults. And so the use of Roundup on these GMO crops has resulted in races of superweeds that Roundup now can’t kill. In Monsanto’s version of the arms race, it suggested that Roundup be paired with Dow’s 2,4-D—another very toxic herbicide and one of the components of Agent Orange, the defoliant used to kill forests in Vietnam so our planes could see where to bomb.
The USDA was asked to approve the use of this double-whammy, supertoxic herbicide, and in the fall of 2014, did so. Will it kill the superweeds? Experience tells us that it will kill some of them—but not all. A few resistant weeds will survive, breed, and produce the next generation of super superweeds. And so on ad infinitum, with Monsanto, Dow and the rest laughing all the way to the bank, leaving farmers, the environment, and all of us out here in a world poisoned by glyphosate, holding the bag. And trying to learn how to protect our children.
Be aware that glyphosate-containing GMO corn and soy are almost ubiquitous in conventional processed foods like breakfast cereals, soft drinks, cookies, pastries, and so on. Read labels. If it contains corn and soy, it almost assuredly contains glyphosate.
So, given all this information, let me ask you two questions:
Do you think it’s wise to trust Monsanto when it says that Roundup is safe?
Do you need any more incentive to eat organic?
MAUI VOTES AGAINST GMOS, IS PROMPTLY SUED BY MONSANTO
Despite outspending citizens 87 to 1, the biotechnology industry, led by Monsanto, was defeated in Maui when that Hawaiian island’s citizens passed a GMO moratorium calling for a complete suspension of the cultivation of genetically engineered crops until studies conclusively prove they are safe.
Monsanto has announced it will file a lawsuit to challenge the moratorium. It is already suing the state of Vermont after that state passed a law requiring GMO foods to be labeled.
Ballot initiatives to label GMOs narrowly failed to pass in Oregon and failed miserably in Colorado on November 4 after the biotech industry and junk food makers spent many tens of millions of dollars to tell people—falsely—that labeling GMOs would raise their food prices, that anyone who is anti-GMO is anti-science, and that all of it, Roundup included, is perfectly safe.
I FOUND THIS GOOD IDEA ON FACEBOOK
From Klyda White: Instead of an oil sands pipeline, build a water pipeline from the Midwest and northern states to California. Same number of jobs created. Limit some of the flooding in these Midwest states. Help rebuild California’s water tables and irrigate all the fresh vegetables the country needs. And if it springs a leak, it would just be FRESH WATER spilling into rivers, lakes and the aquifer. Seems like win-win-win to me.
USDA Approves New GMO Potato, Alfalfa
The Organic Consumers Association reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a new GMO potato.
The “Innate” potato is made by the J. R. Simplot Company—the largest supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s restaurants. The USDA has also recently approved a new genetically engineered alfalfa.
Simplot wants consumers to believe that its new GMO potato is not only harmless, but the potato is bruise-resistant (which is really a benefit to commercial buyers and growers, not consumers), and that when heated to a temperature required for frying, the potato produces less asparagine, a naturally occurring amino acid that at high temperatures reacts with some sugars to oxidize into acrylamide. Acrylamide is recognized as a potential carcinogen.
In other words, the maker of the Innate GMO potato says it’s not only safe (the same claim Monsanto and Dow make about their GMO corn and soy products), it’s actually better for you than a non-GMO potato.
What Simplot doesn’t tell you is that the technology used to create the Innate potato—RNA interference, or RNAi—is considered by some scientists to be even more dangerous than the DNA manipulation technology used to create Roundup Ready and Bt crops.
INTERNATIONAL STUDY WILL INVESTIGATE GMOS, ROUNDUP
On Tuesday, November 11, a $25-million international study was launched that will put an end, once and for all, to the question of whether or not Monsanto’s Roundup is “safe,” the Organic onsumer’s association reports.
The study, the first of its kind, will be based on a variety of herbicide-resistant corn. Three independent scientists–from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation in Moscow, from the University of California in Irvine, and from the Maltoni Cancer Research Center in Bentivoglio, Italy–will investigate the answers to these questions:
1. Is the GM food (or its associated pesticide; i.e. Roundup herbicide) toxic to organ systems over the long-term?
2. Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) cause cancer?
3. Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) reduce fertility or cause birth defects?
4. Is the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup herbicide more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate?
PESTICIDES LINKED TO DEPRESSION IN FARMERS, FARM WIVES
Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study of about 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer, Modern Farmer magazine reports.
Dr. Freya Kamel, the lead researcher on the study, told Modern Farmer that “There had been scattered reports in the literature that pesticides were associated with depression. We wanted to do a new study because we had more detailed data than most people have access to.” That excessive amount of data includes tens of thousands of farmers, with specific information about which pesticides they were using and whether they had sought treatment for a variety of health problems, from pesticide poisoning to depression. Farmers were surveyed multiple times throughout the 20-year period, which gives the researchers an insight into their health over time that no other study has.
There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90 percent and 80 percent, respectively. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides, falling generally into one of those two categories, that demonstrated a categorically reliable correlation to increased risk of depression.
These types aren’t necessarily uncommon, either. Malathion was used by 67 percent of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. Malathion is banned in Europe, but is a common pesticide not only on farms but around homes and gardens.
DR. MERCOLA’S FIVE FACTORS CAUSING OBESITY EPIDEMIC
Two out of three Americans are now either overweight or obese, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola (www.mercola.com).
Obesity has become the number one form of malnutrition in the country, and no group has been hit harder than children. Childhood obesity in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 1980, and one in five kids is now overweight by age six; 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese.
As noted in a recent article by investigative health reporter Martha Rosenberg, the weight of the average American increased by 24 pounds in the four decades between 1960 and 2000.
Contrary to popular belief, obesity is not simply the result of eating too many calories and not exercising enough. While those are part of the equation, there are a number of other environmental and lifestyle factors that are likely to play a much more significant role because most people don’t realize they’re affected by them, and therefore fail to address them. They are:
#1: Antibiotics in Food and Medicine. Eighty percent of all antibiotics used in America are fed to farm animals, which we eat. These antibiotics harm our gut bacteria, an essential part of a strong immune system and obesity control.
#2: Growth Enhancing Drugs and Hormones used on Farm Animals. They are used to fatten livestock and have the same effect on us.
#3: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. These are pervasive in food and the environment. The endocrine system is the master hormonal system, directing all kinds of processes in our bodies that keep us healthy and at a normal weight. When these chemicals disrupt the body’s messaging system, obesity is just one of the bad results.
#4: Artificial Sweeteners. The lure of artificial sweeteners is the idea that no- or low-calorie sugar substitutes will help you lose weight. But research has repeatedly shown that artificially sweetened foods and beverages tend to stimulate your appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain.
#5: Junk Food Marketing. Not only are processed foods a direct cause of obesity, but they are aggressively marketed, especially to children. According to a 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine, children aged 2-11 now see an average of more than 10 television food ads per day. And 98 percent of these are for products that are high in fat, sugar, and/or sodium.
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOUR HALIBUT IS REALLY HALIBUT?
Oceana and Food and Water Watch reports that fraud is rampant at the fish market.
When grouper, halibut, and red snapper were DNA tested, they sometimes turned out to be king mackerel and tile fish, two types of fish the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant women and other sensitive groups to avoid due to high mercury content.
According to Oceana, more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, yet only one percent of these imports are inspected for fraud. Evidently, no one is minding the store. You can protect yourself by visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website (seafoodwatch.org) to see what seafood choices are wise and to download a free app for your iPhone or Android device.
PEOPLE’S PARK REVISITED: NOW IT’S PEOPLE’S FARM
On an April morning in 2012, hundreds of people broke the lock on a fence surrounding the Gill Tract, a 14-acre plot of land owned by the University of California. They set about planting thousands of vegetable seedlings.
This was to protest the university’s plans to convert part of the Gill Tract into a commercial development. But the protestors also had bigger things on their minds, such as malnutrition among the poor. The Gill Tract protest, which has evolved and persisted for more than two years, has become a symbol of the subversive possibilities of urban agriculture.
There’s now a documentary about events at the Gill Tract called Occupy the Farm. The director of the film, Todd Darling, told National Public Radio that “What surprised me when I first got there was how much fun everybody was having. All these kids were running around. People from the neighborhood were there. I realized that doing this as a group, in a piece of open land, was fulfilling people in a way that everyone was surprised at. When people talk about growing food as community, as a way of building communities, I realized that it’s not just rhetoric, it actually is true. There’s something magical about that activity.”
Darling’s film highlights many of the big issues that motivated the protest’s organizers. “It certainly was a protest against the university’s plans to essentially privatize it by paving it over and leasing it out to commercial operations, but at the heart of it is the story of food and malnutrition in urban areas,” he says.
At the end of the first summer, the impromptu farmers harvested two tons worth of food. Darling says he was startled by the amount. “I came to realize how much food you could really grow in a small area,” he says.