New York Times Prints GMO Propaganda as ‘Opinion’
In its op-ed section on April 24, The New York Times gave space to a GMO propagandist named Mark Lynas. Which is fine. This is a country with free speech, right? Lynas can say his piece. We can read it, assess it, and agree with it or not, as we see fit. Such dialogue is good, right?
Well, maybe not when it’s corporate propaganda masquerading as one person’s heartfelt opinion.
So Lynas’s essay is entitled, “How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food.” Here’s a bit of what he had to say.
“I, too, was once in that activist camp (anti-GMO). A lifelong environmentalist, I opposed genetically modified foods in the past. Fifteen years ago, I even participated in vandalizing field trials in Britain. Then I changed my mind.
“After writing two books on the science of climate change, I decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s.”
(Why opposition to GMOs is called “anti-science” is beyond me. Isn’t science supposed to be open-minded? There’s a load of perfectly good scientific evidence that GMOs and the chemicals associated with them are harmful. Does being pro-science mean swallowing the biotech industry Koolaid without examination?)
“There is an equivalent level of scientific consensus on both issues, I realized, that climate change is real and genetically modified foods are safe. I could not defend the expert consensus on one issue while opposing it on the other.”
(Ah—this is the straight Monsanto line here. As I reported before in this blog: “A few weeks ago, I spoke by phone with Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO),” reports Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.
“During the course of our conversation, when we touched on the subject of the science behind the debate over whether or not GMOs are ‘safe’ (me arguing that there’s no scientific consensus), Enright said, ‘Then you must not believe in climate change, either.’
“I glossed over that accusation, though it struck me as odd. And random. Until less than a week later, on March 9 (2015), an article appeared in the Guardian under this headline: ‘The anti-GM lobby appears to be taking a page out of the Climategate playbook.’
“That’s when I realized what I should have known. Enright’s comment wasn’t random at all. It’s just a new twist on an old talking point—from an industry on the verge of crumbling under the weight of an avalanche of new credible, scientific evidence exposing not only the dangers of GMO crops and the toxic chemicals used to grow them, but also the extent to which both Monsanto and U.S. government agencies like the EPA, FDA and USDA have covered up those dangers.”
So Lynas is parroting the BIO line almost word for word. Note to the NYT—opinion is one thing. Blatant propaganda is quite another. But back to Lynas’s “opinion piece.”)
“The environmental movement’s war against genetic engineering has led to a deepening rift with the scientific community. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science showed a greater gap between scientists and the public on G.M.O.s than on any other scientific controversy: While 88 percent of association scientists agreed it was safe to eat genetically modified foods, only 37 percent of the public did — a gap in perceptions of 51 points. (The gap on climate change was 37 points; on childhood vaccinations, 18 points.”
(So 88 percent of AAAS scientists agreed it was safe to eat GMO foods. And were these scientists all biomedical researchers? Maybe they were chemists beholden to the chemical industry, or astrophysicists who don’t know a damn thing about food safety. Maybe the 22 percent who thought GMO aren’t safe to eat are food and health scientists. One of them, Dr. Judy Carman, has said: “We believe that there is a lack of evidence that these GM crop varieties are safe to eat.” Why? She and other researchers looked at the studies done on GMO safety. They found flaws with all of the studies reviewed. For example, studies were not consistent or transparent in their methods, investigators didn’t define what they considered to be a toxic or pathological finding, or they were not transparent in what they found. Many of the studies contained several such faults. But back to Mr. Lynas.)
“On genetic engineering, environmentalists have been markedly more successful than climate change deniers or anti-vaccination campaigners in undermining public understanding of science. The scientific community is losing this battle.”
(Notice how Lynas lumps anti-GMO environmentalists in with climate change deniers and anti-vaccination lunkheads, and claims we are “undermining science.” And that the anti-GMO people are separate from and opposed to “the scientific community.” It’s just insulting and dead wrong. Does the NYT think that this kind of propaganda advances the discussion or tries to get to the reality of the situation? Isn’t there an editor at the Times with the sense to know that these are Big Biotech’s talking points?)
Lynas goes on to say: “At Cornell, I am working to amplify the voices of farmers and scientists in a more informed conversation about what biotechnology can bring to food security and environmental protection…We need this technology. We must not let the green movement stand in its way.”
Okay—so who is Mark Lynas? Lynas is a researcher at the Cornell Alliance for Science. And what is the Cornell Alliance for Science? Here’s what the Corporate Crime Reporter has to say:
“The Cornell Alliance for Science was launched last year with a $5.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ‘add a stronger voice for science and depolarize the charged debate around agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).’
(Translation: we’re out to defend GMOs on behalf of the agrichemical and food industries against all critics.)
Cornell decided last week to go after a newly created public interest group — U.S. Right to Know — which was created to “expose what the food industry doesn’t want you to know.” U.S. Right to Know is the brainchild of anti-GMO campaigner Gary Ruskin. And one of the group’s first campaigns is to identify professors at universities with ties to corporations backing GMOs. The Corporate Crime Reporter continued:
“Earlier this year, Ruskin’s group filed a Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence and emails to and from professors at public universities who wrote for the agrichemical industry’s PR website — GMO Answers.
“The GMO Answers website was created by Ketchum, a corporate public relations firm.
“’We taxpayers deserve to know the details about when our taxpayer-paid employees front for private corporations and their slick PR firms,’ Ruskin said. ‘This is especially true when they do work for unsavory entities such as Ketchum, which has been implicated in espionage against nonprofit organizations.’
“The public records requests filed by U.S. Right to Know covered correspondence to and from professors who work for publicly-funded universities and agrichemical companies such as Monsanto, as well as to and from PR firms such as Ketchum or Fleishman Hillard, and to and from trade associations such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Council for Biotechnology Information.
“The requests are not an effort to obtain any personal information or academic research involving the professors. The records request did not sit well with the corporate minded directors of the Cornell Alliance for Science. They are calling on the public to ‘stand with the Science 14’ against U.S. Right to Know’s record request.
“’It’s a tactic pulled straight from the climate change deniers’ playbook — and now an anti-science, agenda-driven organization is using it to bully another group of scientists,’ the Cornell Alliance for Science says.
“’All of these scientists have proactively engaged with the public to raise scientific awareness about agricultural innovation and contributed to the scientific consensus about the safety of GMOs. FOIA requests are a vital tool for a transparent democracy. However, this FOIA is clearly a last ditch witch-hunt by an anti-GMO group to mislead the public and keep scientists from doing their work.’
“’We’ve seen this anti-science bullying tactic before in Climategate, where academic discussion was taken out of context to mislead the public. Broad anti-science campaigns like this are hurting our society. Please join the fight for academic freedom by signing our letter to support the scientists under attack and urge them to stand strong in the face of anti-science bullying,’ the Alliance says.
(Why is wanting to see the emails of paid scientists to and from agribusiness and biotech corporations “bullying?” It’s only bullying if false accusations are being made. But no accusations at all are being made. Could it be that Cornell’s scientists—and others—feel squeamish about revealing their connections to Big Ag? For the debate on record requests aimed at scientists, see “Why Scientists Often Hate Record Requests” by Anna Clark, Columbia Journalism Review, February 25, 2015. The National Geographic magazine also recently fell into the trap of equating the consensus on global warming with the science on GMOs. The pro-GMO Center for Science in the Public Interest recently refused an offer to debate the issue of the labeling of GMO foods. See “CSPI Refuses to Debate Consumers Union on Labeling of GMO Foods” in the Corporate Crime Reporter, February 27, 2015.)
“Ruskin says the Cornell Alliance is just another arm of the corporate push for GMOs. ‘The agrichemical and biotech industries have a new PR shop at Cornell University, financed by the Gates Foundation,’ Ruskin said. ‘This is just the latest sorry example of the corporatization of the university in general, and Cornell University in particular.’
“’The agrichemical industry and the Gates Foundation have hired the good name of Cornell University to trash our efforts to uncover the details of the agrichemical industry’s $100 million campaign to defend GMOs.’
“The Cornell Alliance for Science says that they want to ‘depolarize’ the debate on GMOs. But really it seems like they just want to defeat public health, public interest, consumer and environmental advocates who are concerned about the health and environmental effects of genetically engineered food.”
Why is the Gates Foundation funding this attack on public health, public interest, and consumer and environmental advocates? And how can The New York Times go along with it? Should “opinion” be allowed in the pages of the Times when it is an obvious piece of industry PR boilerplate?
NEIL YOUNG’S NEXT ALBUM: ‘THE MONSANTO YEARS’
In mid-June of this year, Neil Young will release his next album, entitled, “The Monsanto Years.”
The Monsanto Years are here and we are living them. Monsanto is the poster-child for what is wrong with corporate controlled government in our world. “The Monsanto Years” encompasses several associated subjects that millions of people worldwide are concerned about and active in.
These subjects include: No One Owns the Sacred Seed. The Worldwide Solution to Climate Change. Sustainable Organic Agriculture. Separation of Corporation and State. Corporate Justice Applied. The Age of Extinction. Corporate Media and the Disinformation Business. World-Wide Water Shortages. Local Solutions. And more.
There is no end to my admiration of this artist.
CHIPOTLE NIXES GMO FOODS IN ITS OFFERINGS
Green America, a national nonprofit organization working to create a green economy, issued the following statement today in response to Chipotle’s announcement of removing GMOs from its foods:
“Chipotle’s announcement that they are removing genetically engineered ingredients is major step forward for the company and an important milestone in creating a safer and healthier food system for all Americans. Increasingly, it is clear that consumers want food without genetically engineered ingredients, and have already rewarded Chipotle with increased sales for its growing non-GMO commitments. Evidence shows that GMOs are increasing the use of toxic herbicide use due to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds. Most recently, Glyphosate, which is commonly used on GMO crops, was deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the impacts of GMOs on the environment and human health and it is time for the restaurant industry and other food companies to make a change. Chipotle has shown that it is possible for a large fast food chain to adopt a more sustainable food supply. It is time that all food companies follow suit and move beyond genetically engineered ingredients and towards a more sustainable food system that benefits people and the planet.”
POPE’S STANCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE STIRS KOCH BROTHERS’ IRE
Guess who thinks that Pope Francis’s impending encyclical on climate change is “unscientific” when it declares that wrecking the planet is immoral, if not suicidal. Why, conservatives at the Heartland Institute, Charles Koch’s right-wing “think” tank, that’s who.
“The Holy Father is being misled by unreliable and unscientific fearmongers,” the Koch Foundation funded organization says, painting the Pope as a doddering old fool being misled by the evil Wormtongues of the left.
The fact that the Koch brothers make billions upon billions of dollars by selling the stuff that’s causing climate change isn’t lost on most people. It’s only the fools at the Heartland Institute, doddering or not, who don’t understand…on purpose. Oh that’s right, the Kochs are paying their salaries.
Pope Francis must still believe that love makes the world go ‘round. The Kochs and their lackeys know that it’s really money that does that.
30,000 ARGENTINE HEALTH PROS CALL FOR BAN ON ROUNDUP
Following the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, Argentina’s union of doctors and health professionals, FESPROSA, has issued a statement throwing the support of its 30,000 members behind the decision:
“The organization (IARC) has just released the results of a study that overturns the agribusiness model. Thus the complaints that affected residents and scientists outside the orbit of corporations have been making for years have gained renewed momentum,” FESPROSA said in the statement.
“In our country glyphosate is applied on more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million litres, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF). Soy is not the only crop addicted to glyphosate: the herbicide is also used for transgenic maize and other crops. Where glyphosate falls, only GMOs can grow. Everything else dies.
“Our trade union, the Federation of Health Professionals of Argentina (FESPROSA), which represents more than 30,000 doctors and health professionals in our country, includes the Social Health Collective of Andrés Carrasco. Andrés Carrasco was a researcher at the Argentine government research institute, CONICET, who died a year ago. He showed the damage caused by glyphosate to embryos. For disseminating his research, he was attacked by the industry and the authorities at CONICET. Today, WHO vindicates him.
“Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.
“Health authorities, including the National Ministry of Health and the political powers, can no longer look away. Agribusiness cannot keep growing at the expense of the health of the Argentine people. The 30,000 health professionals in Argentina in the FESPROSA ask that glyphosate is now prohibited in our country and that a debate on the necessary restructuring of agribusiness is opened, focusing on the application of technologies that do not endanger human life.”
GMO CORN SEEN LACKING IN NUTRIENTS
An eye-opening investigation conducted by Canada’s only supplier of non-GMO corn seed has revealed that genetically modified “Frankencorn” is severely lacking in a number of vital nutrients, reports Natural News.
Compared to non-GMO corn varieties, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn contains only a small fraction of the amount of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and carbon normally found in natural corn.
Shattering the myth that there’s no substantial difference between GMO and non-GMO crops, the report by De Dell Seed Company of London, Ontario, shows that GMO corn is nutritionally deficient and wholly unfit for human consumption. In nearly every vitamin and mineral category tested, GMO corn was found to contain only trace amounts of many key nutrients necessary for life.
According to the report, corn ears were selected from two adjacent corn fields in Iowa — one growing Roundup Ready corn and the other growing non-GMO corn. The corn ears were selected from multiple locations in each field two weeks prior to harvest to get a proper sampling, and they were then shelled from the cob and sent to a laboratory for testing.
When the results came back, researchers found that the Roundup Ready corn contained 13 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate, the primary active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The non-GMO corn, on the other hand, contained no glyphosate.
“The EPA standard for glyphosate in water in America is .7 ppm,” explains Moms Across America. “European tests showed organ damage to animals at .1 ppb (.0001 ppm) of glyphosate in water. Our water levels allow glyphosate 7,000 times higher than what has been shown to be toxic in animals. This corn has 13 ppm! That’s 130,000 times higher than what is toxic in water!”
Similarly, the GMO corn samples were found to have higher pH levels, higher sodium content and significantly less natural phosphate, potassium, calcium, and magnesium compared to the non-GMO corn.
Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/049515_GMO_corn_nutrient_content_glyphosate.html#ixzz3YrdhONgm
A NOTE ABOUT BALTIMORE
As the riots swirled around Baltimore, here’s what John Angelos, son of the owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, said after the club closed the stadium at Camden Yards to the public.
“My great source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
“The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.”
He’s right, and his words strike at the core reasons why the African-American community in Baltimore exploded at the tragic death of Freddie Gray.
But to me, the core question is more personal—more one on one. Who do these violent, aggressive, murderous cops think they are? I’m not talking about good Officer Wright who saves your kid’s life. I’m talking about the beasts who destroyed Freddie Gray’s body and let him die. Or the cop who shot unarmed Michael Brown, or the Cleveland cop who pulled up to an unarmed 12 year old kid and offed him. Or even in my home town of Santa Rosa where a kid with a toy gun was murdered by a cop. Need I go on—because there are all kinds of other cases where police decide to murder people, especially black people? Like the privileged white guy who mistook his pistol for a taser and killed a guy. Well, it’s too depressing. All I can say is that black people in our country live under a cloud of fear that the uniformed, armed, militarized, and bigoted forces that are supposed to serve and protect them are actually looking for any good reason to beat the crap out of them, damage them, and maybe even kill them. Hey—it’s what’s happening. Rodney King was a tea party compared to what we’re seeing today.
Here’s what I think: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And there is no more absolute power than a gun in my holster and a license to kill, at my discretion, anyone who I think represents a threat to me or anyone else. I am judge and jury. I have the badge. If you stinking lowlifes think you can challenge me, I’ll let you taste hot lead. My anger fuels my adrenalin, and my adrenalin turns me from the nice guy into the Incredible Hulk. Disobey me and I will shoot you in the heart. Give me a challenge and it will be met with lethal force. And you know what? I will not be prosecuted. I will not even be arraigned. I will stay on the force with full pay and the protection of the institution and my fellow officers. I hold the gun, the cards, and the rights. If I want to kill you, I will. And there’s nothing, nothing you can do about it.
This is the reality our black citizens face every day. We white guys and gals—we don’t have to even think about stuff like this. But if I’m a black guy or woman, every morning when I get up and try to live a normal life, look in the mirror, and see a black face, I see a victim of racism. I see a running rabbit pursued by a system of racial injustice. I see a target of police violence. I see someone who is not worthy. I see someone who can be killed by the society I live in without consequence. I don’t matter.
So when Freddie Gray gets murdered, I can’t stand it anymore. I don’t care if it’s my neighborhood or your neighborhood or wherever. I’m going to burn and loot and destroy and tear down this murderous, unfair, infuriating, outrageous, bigoted, racist, humiliating system. Just try to understand.
The Inimitable Wines of Mike Benziger
The Holy Grail of fine winemaking is terroir. Terroir is a French word that means the taste of a place. A wine showing terroir tastes like where it comes from.
Imagine if someone poured you a glass of red wine and you tasted it and immediately said, “This is Heitz cabernet sauvignon from the winery’s ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ site.” And you were correct because you’d tasted wines from that vineyard before and they all had the unique and distinctive “Martha’s” taste. That’s terroir.
The concept doesn’t apply to makers of inexpensive wines produced on a massive scale, because there the idea is to have them taste the same, year after year, so that customers who like the wines can rest assured their taste won’t vary.
But with fine winemaking, which typically means estate wines where the fruit all comes from the label’s property, that unique taste of the place gives the wine distinction that can’t be imitated.
I’ve known Mike Benziger, who runs Benziger winery in Glen Ellen, California, with the help of many family members, for about 25 years at least. I watched with interest as he went organic and my interest picked up further when he went Biodynamic. In Biodynamics, the farm is looked on as a living organism with many parts, kind of like a beehive. The idea is to get the nutrient cycles spinning through recycling. Carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and all the other building blocks of the living creatures on the farm come from and return to the compost pile, which recycles their nutrients by fertilizing the soil, which grows the plants that we eat and the animals that participate in the farm’s ecology.
The ideal is to bring as few inputs into the farm as possible, throwing away very little, recycling everything.
It was maybe 15 years ago that Mike Benziger said something very profound about his wine farm. I’ll paraphrase because I don’t remember his exact words, but he said that by following Biodynamic principles and recycling everything back on itself, the vines, the trees, the plants, the animals, the yeasts and microbes will all become a system unique to that place, and would ultimately result in the wines showing terroir.
In other words, a climax biodiverse ecosystem would gradually come into being and give the wines a flavor and aroma all their own. A climax ecosystem is one that has achieved stability and will continue in perpetuity without changing significantly—such as the virgin forests that Europeans found when they first arrived in North America. If you cut down virgin forest, virgin forest doesn’t grow back. First the cleared land will grow tough weeds. Then a mix of weeds, then shrubs, then pass through many stages over a very long time growing a series of trees until—finally—after thousands of years, a climax forest may again be achieved. Climax ecosystems are characterized by great biodiversity. Many and varied are its inhabitants, both plant and animal. If there is a food source, there will be a creature to take advantage of it. Climax ecosystems define health. The ecosystem becomes like a knitted sweater. Pull out just one string—shoot the wolves, for instance—and the whole thing comes apart.
This is what organic culture and Biodynamic culture lead to.
So, Benziger winery had an Earth Day celebration this year and guests had the Benziger wines to sample. What I found astonished me. There was a distinctive thread that ran through all the estate wines. It was partially a taste, a flavor, but even more importantly, there was a style of classic leanness and grip that told me the wines would be great with food. No giant fruit bombs. Just elegance, refinement, and terroir. Mike Benziger and those involved had done it. Yes, it took a while, but dedication to the organic and Biodynamic principles had turned what once were good wines into present-day great wines.
And, as we know, the Holy Grail was the cup that held the wine at the Last Supper.
ORGANIC FARMERS CAN SUE WHEN THEIR CROPS ARE CONTAMINATED
The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that a large organic farm can seek damages for lost crops and profits when pesticides and herbicides from surrounding conventional farms drifts onto its property.
Oluf and Debra Johnson’s 1,500-acre organic farm in Stearns County, MN, has repeatedly been contaminated by nearby conventional and GMO farms since the couple started it in the 1990s. A local pesticide cooperative known as Paynesville Farmers Union (PFU), which is near the farm, has been cited at least four times for violating pesticide laws, and inadvertently causing damage to the Johnson’s farm.
The Johnson’s let the first incident slide. But after the second, third, and fourth times, they decided that enough was enough. Following the second pesticide drift in 2002, the Johnson’s filed a complaint with the Minnesota Agriculture Department, which eventually ruled that PFU had illegally sprayed chemicals on windy days, which led to contamination of the Johnson’s organic crops.
PFU settled with the Johnson’s out of court, and the Johnson’s agreed to sell their tainted products as non-organics for a lower price, and pull the fields from production for three years in order to bring them back up to organic standards. But PFU’s inconsiderate spraying habits continued, with numerous additional incidents occurring in 2005, 2007, and 2008, according to the Star Tribune.
Precedent has now been set for organic farmers to sue biotechnology companies whose GMOs contaminate their crops.
NRDC SUES EPA OVER APPROVAL OF NEW HERBICIDE
Back in October, EPA approved a new double-whammy herbicide for use in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The herbicide, called Enlist Duo, combines Roundup with another powerful weed killer called 2,4-D.
Now Sylvia Fallon, writing on the website of the Natural Resources Defense Council, reports that NRDC has filed a lawsuit challenging EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo because it will wreak further destruction on monarch butterfly populations already devastated by agricultural chemicals and because the pesticide poses risks to human health.
Rather than acknowledge the shortcomings of its approval of Enlist Duo, the EPA recently expanded its approval to an additional nine states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and North Dakota. NRDC is challenging that decision as well.
Enlist Duo is designed to be used in conjunction with genetically modified corn and soy crops that have been engineered to withstand the application of the powerful herbicide, much like how its predecessor Roundup was designed to be used on genetically modified Roundup Ready crops. However, the widespread use of Roundup over the years has led to the widespread destruction of milkweed, a native wildflower that monarch caterpillars depend on. The monarch population that famously migrates across the US each year has dropped by 90 percent since the late 1990s when Roundup Ready crops were adopted.
The US Department of Agriculture predicts Enlist Duo could result in as much as a six-fold increase in the use of 2,4-D, a herbicide developed in the 1940s that has been linked to health impacts in humans, including decreased fertility, birth defects and thyroid problems. Additionally, glyphosate, the chief ingredient in Roundup and the other ingredient in Enlist Duo, was recently classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization.
CORNUCOPIA SEZ THROW THE BUMS OUT
The following is from The Cornucopia Institute, the nation’s preeminent organic industry watchdog.
The Cornucopia Institute has sent a letter to the White House and to USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack requesting a change in leadership at the regulator’s National Organic Program (NOP).
A radical shift in the governance in the organic sector, established by Congress in 1990, has created deep fissures within the organic community and, more recently, resulted in 15 organic stakeholders, including Cornucopia, suing the USDA.
Previous administrations faced plenty of criticism from organic advocates. However, during the Clinton and Bush years, USDA officials were universally viewed as respecting the purview of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This 15-member, multi-stakeholder body was established by Congress to review all synthetic/non-organic ingredients and materials used in organic farming and food production.
Congress also mandated that the USDA Secretary seek the counsel of the NOSB on all aspects of implementing the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). “Although the USDA ignored some of the NOSB recommendations in the past, until recently they never went 180 degrees in the opposite direction in deference to the preferences of powerful corporate interests,” said Kevin Engelbert, a former NOSB member from Nichols, New York. “And they never reversed the 23-year tradition of allowing the NOSB the autonomy to create their own procedure manual, set their own agenda and create their own workplan.”
The problem seems to be that huge agribusiness corporations, looking to cash in on the booming market for organic food, are exerting their enormous power on government agencies like the USDA. The NOSB was supposed to represent actual organic farmers and regulatory officials, but the panels that set organic policy are now riddled with corporate agribusiness employees. That’s against the law that established the organic program within USDA, but where agribusiness is concerned, such laws are often ignored.
The Cornucopia Institute’s recommendation—that President Obama dismiss the perpetrators of this radical shift—should be supported by all who value real organic food. Let the White House know you support it. You can email the President at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments%20.
What’s Wrong with Smart Pesticides?
In 2006, a patent was granted to a man named Paul Stamets, one of the world’s leading mycologists. His patent has received very little attention and exposure. Why is that?
What has Paul discovered? The mycologist has figured out how to use fungus as a solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects, calling this use of fungus a Smart Pesticide.. Stamets does this by taking entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that kill insects) and changes them so they don’t produce spores. Insects then eat the fungus and die.
Some people think this will put the chemical pesticide industry out of business. While that would be nice, Stamets’ idea is terrible. Why?
Because insects are not life forms to be killed wholesale. They are necessary players in the ecology of life on earth, providing pollination of crops, food for birds and small mammals, and giving a million other benefits to the earth. If organic culture has taught us anything, it’s that health springs from biodiversity—and that includes insects. The best farm field is not one devoid of insects, it’s one where many kinds of insects provide checks and balances so that plant eaters are controlled by the insect eating insects, and aren’t capable of doing much damage to the crops. It’s been shown that plants that have a few nibbles taken out of them by plant eating insects grow healthier and stronger than the same kind of plants grown in fields where the insects have been killed.
Stamets’ non-spore-producing, insect-killing fungus wipes out 200,000 species of insects? Not in my yard. Not in any organic garden or farm field. Let biodiversity flourish and the insects will control themselves. This fungus isn’t a “control,” it’s a wholesale slaughter of beneficial life forms that we depend on for our health.
MONSANTO KNEW OF GLYPHOSATE’S CARCINOGENICITY
According to evidence unearthed from the archives of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), it has been established that Monsanto was aware of the potential of glyphosate to cause cancer in mammals from the early 1980s.
Recently the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement in which glyphosate (the main component of Roundup herbicide) was classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans.
This announcement of this change to toxicity class 2A was given vast coverage in the global media, causing Monsanto to move immediately into damage limitation mode. The corporation demanded the retraction of the report, although it had not yet been published!
Back in 1983, an EPA scientist had this to say about EPA’s public stance on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate:
“Our viewpoint is one of protecting the public health when we see suspicious data. Unfortunately, EPA has not taken that conservative viewpoint in its assessment of glyphosate’s cancer causing potential.
“Tests done on glyphosate to meet registration requirements have been associated with fraudulent practices. Countless deaths of rats and mice are not reported. Data tables have been fabricated. There is a routine falsification of data.”
For a full exposition of Monsanto’s malfeasance, let me urge you again to get a copy of “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth,” a book that tells the whole sordid tale of the rise of GMO crops and Roundup herbicide and the corruption of science, government, and industry.
USDA ALLOWS PESTICIDES IN ORGANIC COMPOST
The Center for Food Safety (CFS), Center for Environmental Health, and Beyond Pesticides have together filed a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) failure to follow the law in making a substantial rule change to the USDA organic standard.
At issue is a contaminated compost guidance released by USDA, which weakens the long-standing prohibition of synthetic pesticide contaminants.
“In this case USDA decided to unlawfully ignore vital public participation and transparency requirements while undermining the organic standard, creating a new loophole for pesticides,” said George Kimbrell, CFS senior attorney. “Worse, this decision is part of a larger USDA pattern and practice of decision-by-fiat. We will not let it continue.”
Prior to the new contaminated compost guidance, organic regulations expressly prohibited fertilizers and compost from containing any synthetic substances not included on organic’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. According to Ralph Bloemers, staff attorney for the Crag Law Center “the new guidance radically changes organic requirements, allowing organic producers to use compost materials treated with synthetic pesticides.” The USDA made this rule without the required rulemaking process, usurping the public’s right to ensure USDA activities are consistent with the Organic Food Production Act.
“Consumers want healthier choices and have a right to expect that the organic label insures that organic food was produced without harmful pesticides,” said Michael Green, executive director of Center for Environmental Health. “By allowing chemical residues to sneak into organic production through this undemocratic, back-door rule, the USDA is recklessly putting the integrity of the organic seal at risk.”
“The organic market is driven by consumer trust in an organic process that respects the historical commitment to public consultation and the legal requirement for public hearing and comment,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides and a former National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) member. “We are taking action to ensure the integrity of the regulations that guide organic production.”
The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires that producers are responsible for identifying sources of feedstocks used in compost to ensure that only allowable plant and animal materials are used. The new NOP guidance violates OFPA by allowing green waste in compost to contain pesticide residues.
“Public participation in governmental decision making is the hallmark of organic food production,” said Dr. Lisa J. Bunin, organic policy director at Center for Food Safety. “It’s also what ensures government accountability in maintaining and enhancing organic integrity throughout the entire supply chain.”
Plaintiffs allege that the USDA’s decision weakens the integrity of organic food production, not only by creating inconsistent organic production standards but also by undermining the essential public participation function of organic policy-making. Since USDA never subjected the contaminated-compost decision to formal notice and public comment rulemaking, USDA failed in its duty to ensure that its regulation is consistent with the OFPA and the standards set forth for approving the use of synthetic substances.
The Truth about GMOs Is Exposed
An important new book entitled, “Altered Genes, Twist Truth,” by Steven M. Druker, a public interest attorney who sued the Food and Drug Administration so he could read its files on genetic engineering, reveals a systematic subversion of science, corruption of government, and decades-long deception of the public. What he discovered forms the basis for this well researched and meticulously documented book.
Druker writes, “Numerous scientists (including those on the US Food and Drug Administration’s Biotechnology Task Force) have concluded that the process of creating genetically engineered (GE) foods radically differs from conventional breeding and entails greater risk.
“Consequently, not only has there never been a consensus within the scientific community that GE foods are safe, many eminent experts have issued cautions, as have respected scientific organizations like the Royal Society of Canada and the Public Health Association of Australia.
“In contrast to the experts who counsel caution, many of the scientists and scientific institutions that promote GE foods have systematically suppressed evidence and distorted the truth in order to advance them.
“In fact, the GE food venture has been chronically and crucially reliant on such deceptions and could not have survived without them.”
He shows how GE foods first achieved commercialization only because the US Food and Drug Administration covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their abnormal risks, lied about the facts, and deliberately violated federal food safety law by allowing them onto the market without having been proven safe through standard testing.
The FDA and other GE proponents have created so much confusion that although US food safety law in regard to GE foods is much stricter than EU law, most people are under the illusion it’s weaker – and don’t realize that these inadequately tested foods have entered the American market, not due to the law’s failings, but to the FDA’s failure to obey it.
Here’s what primatologist Jane Goodall says in the foreword she wrote for “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth”: “One of the most important books of the last 50 years.”
Next time someone tells you that you are anti-science for believing that genetic modifications aren’t benign, refer them to this website:
BREAKTHROUGH ON SOLAR ENERGY
A team at IBM has developed what they call a High Concentration Photo Voltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system that is capable of concentrating the power of sunlight by 2,000 times. They are even claiming to be able to concentrate energy safely up to 5,000X. That’s huge.
“Each HCPVT chip can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight-hour day in a sunny region. In the HCPVT system, instead of heating a building, the 90 degree Celsius water will pass through a porous membrane distillation system where it is then vaporized and desalinated. Such a system could provide 30-40 liters of drinkable water per square meter of receiver area per day, while still generating electricity with a more than 25 percent yield or two kilowatts hours per day. A large installation would provide enough water for a small town,” the team reports.
The heat is absorbed into hundreds of tiny solar cells called photovoltaic chips. These gather the energy and are then cooled by microchanneled water, which is why they are safely able to concentrate such large amounts of solar energy.
According to Greenpeace, this technology can establish itself as the third largest player in the sustainable power generation industry. A study published in 2009 predicted that solar power could supply all the world’s energy needs in minimal space. Greenpeace estimates that it would take only two percent of the Sahara Desert’s land area to supply the entire planet’s electricity needs.
MORE AMERICANS TRUST FOX ‘NEWS’ THAN TRUST OBAMA
More U.S. adults believe Fox News is a more reliable source of information about climate change than President Barack Obama, according to a new poll from St. Leo University.
The March poll of 1,016 Americans found that 17 percent trust Fox News on climate change, while only 11 percent trust the president. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they trust print, online, and broadcast media outlets such as CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, Associated Press, and The New York Times.
And if there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind about climate change, they should visit this website:
GLYPHOSATE CAUSING BIRTH DEFECTS IN PIGLETS
Glyphosate has been found in malformed piglets, according to research conducted by a team of scientists from Germany and Egypt in collaboration with the Danish pig farmer Ib Pedersen, whose pigs were analyzed for glyphosate content.
The rate of malformations increased to one out of 260 piglets if sow feeds contained 0.87-1.13 ppm glyphosate in the first 40 days of pregnancy. In the case of 0.25 ppm glyphosate in sow feeds, one out of 1432 piglets was malformed. In this case, therefore, the higher dose of glyphosate led to more malformations.
The piglets showed different abnormalities, including ear atrophy, spinal and cranial deformations, hole in the skull, and leg atrophy. In one piglet, one eye was not developed. There were piglets without a trunk, with an “elephant tongue,” and a female piglet with testes. One malformed piglet had a swollen belly and the foregut and hindgut were not connected.
The highest concentrations of glyphosate were found in the lungs and heart, with the lowest concentrations in muscle.
The researchers note, “Further investigations are urgently needed to prove or exclude the role of glyphosate in malformations in piglets and other animals.” This would mean feeding laboratory animals a diet containing the same concentrations of glyphosate (in the form of Roundup) as were in Ib Pedersen’s pigs’ feed, in a multigenerational study. This would provide the definitive causative proof needed to condemn glyphosate herbicides as the culprit.
Here’s the link to the study:
Krüger M, Schrödl W, Pedersen Ib, Shehata AA (2014) Detection of glyphosate in malformed piglets. J Environ Anal Toxicol 4: 230. doi:10.4172/2161-0525.1000230, or visit: http://omicsonline.org/open-access/detection-of-glyphosate-in-malformed-piglets-2161-0525.1000230.pdf
W.H.O. SAYS GLYPHOSATE ‘PROBABLY CARCINOGENIC’
An ingredient in Roundup weed-killer – glyphosate – is “probably carcinogenic,” according to a new decision by the World Health Organization. The analysis is based on the existing research on the chemical exposure in people and lab animals.
The report determines that there is “limited evidence” that the chemical can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer in humans. It says there is, however, “convincing evidence” that it can cause cancer in laboratory animals. Among people who work with the herbicide, who generally have traces of the compound in their blood and urine, there appears to be a slightly increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the report: “Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada, and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides.”
MONSANTO RESPONDS IN A LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
To the Editor:
Safety is fundamental to our work with farmers. The glyphosate they use is probably the most thoroughly studied pesticide in history, and researchers know more about it and its safety than just about anything else used for weed control.
German regulators just completed a four-year review of glyphosate safety for the European Union. Unlike W.H.O.’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, German regulators had to review all available data. They examined every study the agency looked at, plus many more.
German regulators concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk and posted a skeptical response to the cancer agency’s recent statement.
As a physician, I encourage people not to take our word for it, but rather to research all the facts. Overwhelming evidence regarding glyphosate supports a conclusion of no cancer risk.
Associate Medical Director
In a more recent press release, Monsanto has called the W.H.O. report “junk science.”
AG SCIENTISTS RATTLED BY DEMANDS FOR GMO DOCUMENTS
The fierce public relations war over genetically modified (GM) food has a new front, according to Keith Kloor, writing in ScienceInsider, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A nonprofit group opposed to GMO products filed a flurry of freedom of information requests late last month with at least four U.S. universities, asking administrators to turn over any correspondence between a dozen academic researchers and a handful of agricultural companies, trade groups, and PR firms.
The scientists—many of whom have publicly supported agricultural biotechnologies—are debating how best to respond, and at least one university has already rejected the request. “It seems like a fishing expedition to me,” says geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California Davis, one of six UC researchers targeted by the requests. “I am very worried [the correspondence] is going to be used to sully the reputations of scientists.”
The group, U.S. Right to Know of Oakland, California, says it has no vendetta. USRTK is interested in documenting links between universities and business, its executive director Gary Ruskin says, and is “especially looking to learn how these faculty members have been appropriated into the PR machine for the chemical-agro industry.”
Ruskin is no stranger to the GM food debate. Late last year, he helped found USRTK, which works “to expose what the food industry doesn’t want us to know. We stand up for the right to know what is in our food and how it affects our health.”
The group’s three board members include Juliet Schor, a prominent economist at Boston College. USRTK’s website says its sole major donor (more than $5000) is the Organic Consumers Association, a nonprofit group based in Finland, Minnesota, which has donated $47,500.
In the requests, Ruskin seeks any letters and e-mails exchanged after 2012 between the scientists and 14 companies and groups. The list includes Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow, major biotech and grocery trade groups, and communications firms including FleishmanHillard and Ogilvy & Mather. “The records disclosed … will be used in preparation of articles for dissemination to the public,” states one request obtained by ScienceInsider.
Many researchers are awaiting advice from university lawyers on how to respond.
Too Big to Fail, Too Powerful to Jail
It was Benito Mussolini who said that fascism wasn’t quite the right term for what he established in Italy when it was part of the Axis during WWII. He said a better word might be corporatism, because the merging of corporations and state apparatus was the heart of his regime. And yes, when Italy was a war-ravaged wreck at the end of the war, he was killed and his body hung upside down for people to take a whack at.
I honestly believe that America—our lovely, freedom-loving, hope-of-humanity America—is well down the road to corporatism.
I see banks and financial institutions arrogantly laughing at us as they amass ever more money and power, getting away with crimes while avoiding all accountability. How many of the banksters who nearly destroyed our economy in 2008 with their toxic subprime mortgages and credit default swaps have been prosecuted? The answer is none. Not only were their banks too big to fail, they are too powerful to jail. How’s that for power, peons?
I see our regulatory agencies like the EPA, FDA, and NOP being corrupted and coopted. Everyone has known for many years that pesticides and Roundup are toxic poisons, yet the agencies not only allow their use, they raise the limits on the amounts that can be used. The evidence of the damage that GMOs cause is now coming to light, but our regulatory agencies, hand in glove with Big Ag and Biotech (Monsanto et. al.), get a free pass.
The Supreme Court decides in Citizens United that billionaires can spend whatever they want to control our political system—and by gum, they sure do. The corporate oligarchy, represented most blatantly by the Koch brothers, calls the shots and is gunning for people like Elizabeth Warren, who are calling them out.
The Republican Party has been controlled for quite a while now not by patriots, as
they claim, but by far right ideologues, extremists, corporatists, banksters, and outright crooks. And if anyone claims otherwise, they put their hand on their chest and say, “Who me?” Hypocrites. I remember stories of a good man who, a long time ago, called such people “whited sepulchers,” good looking on the outside but inside, full of corruption and dead men’s bones.
The Presidency of the United States, once such a beacon of hope for humanity, is reduced to invidious punks who swagger, invading other countries without cause, torturing people, causing wholesale slaughter, locking people up without trial, passing legislation with the Orwellian name of “Patriot Act” that actually opens the door to mass surveillance of the citizenry.
I see our homeland’s police, supposed to serve and protect, look more like an occupying military force with all the hardware of such a force, gunning down unarmed citizens in the streets.
I could go on. There’s lots more to say. It’s very sad. Our country, that we love, is slipping away, day by day. And when it comes time to right these wrongs by voting decent people into office, the corporatists rig the voting laws in their favor and we end up with both houses of Congress controlled by the very people who want to cut benefits for the poor and give that money to the wealthy.
The result is income inequality that hasn’t been seen since the era of the robber barons in the late 19th Century. And yet Americans go to the polls and vote these corporatists back into office. Why? Ignorance. Propaganda such as put out by “Fox News.” The corporatists have grabbed the microphone and have convinced the mass of people that salvation lies in their hands—and this against all evidence.
Meanwhile our country slips away. The rock solid American values slowly turn transparent and drift off in a haze of lies. Never in a million years did I ever think I would see this process happen in this once-great country.
The final straws: the Bundy ranch, where a man who owes the government money in grazing fees gathers his armed militias, who point their guns at federal agents come to collect the money. The agents retreat—wisely. Nothing further is done. No arrests are made. No one is accountable.
And finally, the TPP is drawn up in secret, and only through whistle-blowers do we find out that among its provisions is one that says that if our government passes any laws or rules that damage a corporation’s expectation of profits, that corporation can sue our government in an international court set up and staffed by corporate lawyers. Don’t forget: corporations are people, my friends.
Unless something is done—and soon–I say the game is over.
WHY AN APPLE THAT DOESN’T BROWN?
Is there really a constituency out there clamoring for apples that don’t brown if cut and exposed to air for a couple of hours? How have we gotten along this far with apples that turn brown? What were we thinking?
And the answer is that the public by and large doesn’t give a hoot whether apples brown or not. If you really want them not to brown for some reason, everybody knows you just dip them in lemon juice. So why has Big Biotech genetically engineered an apple that doesn’t brown?
And the answer to that question is, so it can be patented. Nobody else can grow your GMO apple without getting the pants sued off them.
Is this why the Department of Agriculture keeps okaying all kinds of cockamamie GMOs? And why the FDA keeps approving them as safe, despite so much evidence to the contrary that scientists around the world have signed a document saying that GMO foods are not proven to be safe? Is this why the Grocery Manufacturers Association—the front group for Monsanto and the big food processors like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, etc.—spends $100 million to defeat a labeling law in a state like Oregon?
Yes, folks, the real reason all this is happening, that 70 percent of our conventional food supply is GMO, is that Big Ag, Biotech, and Big Chemical are slapping their genetically modified hands on every food they can in order to patent them and put them off limits to anyone but themselves. Picture these fat cats sitting around a table filled with various foodstuffs. Now picture them being told that if they slap their hands on a food, they can make it their sole property. Picture a future in which everything available to eat is owned and patented by the corporations. Once they’ve completely cornered the market on all our major ingredients, what do you think will happen to food prices?
Remember the battles in the states to label GMOs? Remember how the fat cats claimed that labeling GMOs will cause food prices to rise? A label telling us whether a food contains GMOs won’t cause food prices to rise. They are lying (so what else is new?). Genetically altering food so it can be patented and the market in that food can be cornered—that’s what will cause food prices to rise.
The game is rigged. The fix is in. Corporate America, in collusion with our government agencies, is creating a future we don’t want to see. So far, we don’t see it, because corporate America keeps it all hidden.
THE MEXICANS ARE SMARTER THAN WE ARE: THEY BAN GMO CORN
Devon Peña, writing in Sustainable Pulse, reports that the legal battles over the existing ban in Mexico on the planting of GM maize continue to unfold with a string of four important court victories in favor of the ban.
On February 28, 2015, the collective of organizations known as Acción Colectiva del Maíz announced that they had secured four more favorable court decisions involving corporate challenges seeking to end the GMO corn ban in Mexico. These are pivotal victories, but the group explains that more administrative and judicial reviews remain to be adjudicated, including five by Monsanto and Syngenta against the use of precautionary measures to manage the bio-safety risks posed by GM corn.
The most recent set of court decrees upheld the continued suspension of authorizations to plant transgenic maize in Mexico. According to a press release, the judges recognized “the supremacy of the right of the collectivity of corn over the transnational seed companies.”
On Friday morning, February 27 two courts upheld two injunctions ordering the suspension of the planting of GM maize and verified the continuing status of the class action lawsuit, which was filed in July 2013 by agroecologists, indigenous and traditional farmers and plant breeders, human rights and environmental activists, and artists. The group that filed the lawsuit seeks to defend corn in all its biological diversity and socio-cultural significance.
The upholding of the ban adds to a growing list of victories that includes the multinational corporation Monsanto, which last week saw its latest appeal rejected unanimously. On Wednesday February 25, the DuPont Corporation also lost an appeal.
Corn producer Emiliano Juárez explains the significance of the upholding of the ban: “It is clear that if the planting of transgenic corn is contaminating our countryside and foods, the effect is the same as tobacco, both on our health and in the fields, and there is no way to avoid dispersion in the environment while the damage to our bodies is seldom immediate.”
GENETIC ENGINEERING HAS CORRUPTED SCIENCE AND GOVERNMENT
“Altered Genes, Twisted Truth” is the name of an extremely important new book by public interest attorney Steven Druker, who initiated a lawsuit that forced the FDA to divulge its internal files on GMO foods – thereby exposing how the agency had covered up the extensive warnings from its own scientists about their risks, lied about the facts, and then ushered them onto the market in blatant violation of U.S. food safety law.
But Druker’s book does far more than expose the FDA’s fraud. It reveals how the entire GMO food venture has been chronically and crucially dependent on fraud – and how the key misrepresentations have been dispensed by eminent scientists and scientific institutions such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Society.
Further, the book’s factual and logical soundness – and its importance – have been recognized by several scientists who have unstintingly praised it. For instance, the world-famous (and well-beloved) primatologist Jane Goodall has written the foreword, in which she not only hails it as one of the most important books of the last 50 years but states: “I shall urge everyone I know who cares about life on earth, and the future of their children, and children’s children, to read it. It will go a long way toward dispelling the confusion and delusion that has been created regarding the genetic engineering process and the foods it produces. . . . Steven Druker is a hero. He deserves at least a Nobel Prize.”
Monsanto and its allies are desperately hoping that the book will be ignored so that the fraudulent foundation of the GMO food venture will stay hidden. But if it’s on the New York Times bestseller list, and remains there for many weeks, it can’t be ignored – and Druker will be increasingly interviewed by key media outlets, which will bring the startling revelations in his book to the attention of a large portion of the population and to influential individuals, disclosing how they’ve been systematically deceived by those whom they had a right to trust.
By reading this book, you can intelligently push back against the false claims you routinely encounter from people who have been taken in by the propaganda.
Here’s a sampling of responses from people who’ve read the book:
“A fascinating book: highly informative, eminently readable, and most enjoyable. It’s a real page-turner and an eye-opener.” — Richard C. Jennings, PhD, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, UK.
“This incisive and insightful book is truly outstanding. Not only is it well-reasoned and scientifically solid, it’s a pleasure to read – and a must-read. Through its masterful marshalling of facts, it dispels the cloud of disinformation that has misled people into believing that GMO foods have been adequately tested and don’t entail abnormal risk.”
– David Schubert, PhD, molecular biologist and Head of Cellular Neurobiology, Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
“A great book. The evidence is comprehensive and irrefutable; the reasoning is clear and compelling. No one has documented other cases of irresponsible behavior by government regulators and the scientific establishment nearly as well as Druker documents this one. His book should be widely read and thoroughly heeded.” — John Ikerd, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri.
“Steven Druker’s meticulously documented, well-crafted, and spellbinding narrative should serve as a clarion call to all of us. In particular, his chapter detailing the deadly epidemic of 1989-90 that was linked with a genetically engineered food supplement is especially significant. . . . Overall his discussion of this tragic event, as well as its ominous implications, is the most comprehensive, evenly-balanced and accurate account that I have read.” — Stephen Naylor, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, Mayo Clinic (1991-2001).
“A landmark. It should be required reading in every university biology course.” — Joseph Cummins, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Genetics, Western University, Ontario.
“Steven Druker has done a beautiful job of weaving a compelling scientific argument into an engaging narrative that often reads like a detective story, and he makes his points dramatically and clearly. The examination of genetic engineering from the standpoint of software engineering is especially insightful, exposing how the former is more like a ‘hackathon’ than a careful, systematic methodology for revising complex information systems. I will recommend this book to my friends.” — Thomas J. McCabe, developer of the cyclomatic complexity software metric, a key analytic tool in computer programming employed throughout the world
“A remarkable work. If the numerous revelations it contains become widely known, the arguments being used to defend genetically engineered foods will be untenable.” — Frederick Kirschenmann, PhD, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University
HERE’S HOW THOROUGHLY EPA HAS BEEN CORRUPTED BY MONSANTO
You may have seen the news recently that the cancer evaluation arm of the World Health Organization has said for the first time that one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States—glyphosate herbicide, a main component of Monsanto’s Roundup—“probably causes cancer” in people.
The finding is critically important and points to the need for the federal government’s agency with oversight to protect us from dangerous chemicals—the Environmental Protection Agency—to weigh in immediately. So far, EPA’s only response on glyphosate was to raise the allowable levels in our food supply.
Here is a comment from Jennifer Sass, senior scientist in the health program at the Natural Resources Defense Council: “The WHO decision underscores the need for the Environmental Protection Agency to examine and act on all we’ve learned about glyphosate’s dangers in the two decades since it was last approved for use.
“NRDC has already filed two lawsuits and a petition with EPA to restrict the use of glyphosate-containing herbicides because of their devastating impact on monarch butterflies. The soaring use on genetically modified crops of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, has wiped out much of the milkweed, a native wildflower that monarchs need to survive.
“The finding by WHO’s research arm that glyphosate probably can cause cancer in humans only adds urgency to the need for EPA to launch an immediate review of the chemical’s toxicity. It was last assessed in 1993, well before the massive surge in glyphosate use and the disturbing new evidence of its health impact. This review should consider whether glyphosate should be pulled from the market immediately to protect human health and the environment.”
Now let me ask you a question: do you think EPA is going to do a damn thing about glyphosate? Here’s another question: Don’t you think it’s about time We the People wake up and clean house in Washington? I remember when George Bush left office, I read that his right-wing corporatist bureaucrats were so liberally salted among Federal agencies, that they would thwart any attempts to rein in Big Ag and its Biotech buddies for many years to come. Seems like that’s about what’s happening.
BANKSTERS WANT ‘A FRIENDLIER ATTITUDE’ FROM DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.
Citigroup has decided to withhold donations for now to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over concerns that Senate Democrats could give Warren and lawmakers who share her views more power, sources inside the bank told Reuters.
JPMorgan representatives have met Democratic Party officials to emphasize the connection between its annual contribution and the need for a “friendlier attitude toward the banks,” a source familiar with JPMorgan’s donations said.
MONSANTO GETS MINISCULE FINE FOR IDAHO POLLUTION
Monsanto has agreed to pay US$600,000 in fines to federal regulators for not reporting the release of severe toxic chemicals from its Idaho plant between the years 2006 and 2009. The agrochemical company reached a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this week for the toxins released from the Soda Springs facilities, a Monsanto subsidiary.
The $600,000 is not expected to burn a hole in the multimillion dollar company’s pocket. In the fiscal year of 2013, the company reported over $1.5 billion in profit.
INDIANA: HOTBED OF SOCIAL INJUSTICE
In all the talk about the Indiana “Religious Freedom Act,” I haven’t heard anybody ask the question: what do we mean by religion? If the law allows me to discriminate against LGTB folks on religious grounds, what religion is that? Christianity? Islam? Judaism? Shinto? Buddhism?
What if I say that I have a personal religion, one that is unique to me and my God, and that in my religion, God says that red-haired people are an abomination unto the Lord. Does the Indiana law allow me to act on that belief and refuse service to, or harass red-haired people—or worse? Is “religion” anything I say it is, or must it be a recognized organized religion with a tax exemption? If “religion” means a recognized church, and gives its practitioners the right to transgress our anti-discrimination laws, what about the vast numbers of people who aren’t part of organized religion? Doesn’t that treat them unequally? Where’s the due process in separating people into a religious group that can ignore the law and non-religious people who must follow the law? Doesn’t doing that contravene the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ requirement of due process? Doesn’t doing that contravene the First Amendment’s prohibition against government establishment of religion?
So it seems that some people have a religion with a God who tells its adherents they must hold same sex marriages as an abomination unto the Lord. Doesn’t radical Islam have a God who tells its adherents that they must wage jihad on all infidels and destroy them? How is that different?
Let’s get real, folks. The Indiana law is a thinly veiled license for discrimination against people for their race, religion, or sexual preference, which is against the law. We pride ourselves for being a law-abiding society. Let’s abide by the law. If an evangelical Christian wants to discriminate because his religion tells him to, he’s free to do that. But he should be willing to pay the consequences. I mean, I can jaywalk if I choose, but I’m going to have to pay the ticket.
OK, the Indiana governor and his right-wing cronies have been forced to retreat by the firestorm of criticism the new law provoked, claiming all the while that they never meant the law to be discriminatory. I say horse pucky. They knew it—that’s what it was for.
I’ll tell you a story about Indiana. Once I was asked to speak in Muncie, Indiana, at a venue of the Ball canning jar corporation. The Ball Company has a museum there showcasing its historical mason jars. Among the exhibits was a case full of jars made for the Ku Klux Klan, with the KKK stamped on the base of the jars. The case was proudly displayed. Indiana has a long record of white supremacy and racial discrimination. This new Religious Freedom Act is just another in a long history of despicable assaults on a fair and just social fabric. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Churchgoer, but your religious freedom stops at the law.
Bad Journalism or Bogus Science?
So I’m reading the latest issue of Science News—a magazine I had thought of as reliable and fair-minded—when I came across a book review of “The Modern Savage,” a book about factory farming. The review was written by Beth Mole.
In her review, Ms. Mole points out that while factory farms get bad press, this book is really about “the pitfalls of small scale and do-it-yourself meat production.” That got my interest, as I have seen small-scale meat production up close and personal, and can recall the merriment on the farm when hog-slaughtering day came around in December. Yes, merriment. If you’ve ever tasted fresh, home-made sausage made from pork that was oinking just a few hours before, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Within her review, Ms. Mole wrote the following: “Very little data exist on the severity or prevalence of problems on small farms. (One exception: Studies have repeatedly found higher levels of germs and disease on small and organic farms than at industrial outfits.)”
Wait. What? Gosh, not another resurgence of the nonsense spewed by Big Ag a few years ago that had headline writers at newspapers around the country warning people that organic food will kill you because it’s smeared with manure and other filth. Utter nonsense of course. But Ms. Mole sounds so confident that organic farms are breeding grounds for “germs and disease.” Maybe things have changed. I decided to do some checking and share the results with Ms. Mole. Here’s just some of what I found:
1. THE GRACE REPORT
Modern industrial farms are ideal breeding grounds for germs and disease, according to a report from the Grace Communications Foundation, a non-profit that develops innovative strategies to increase public awareness of the critical environmental and public health issues created by our current food, water and energy systems.
Animals live in close confinement, often standing or laying in their own waste, and are under constant stress that inhibits their immune systems and makes them more prone to infection. When drug-resistant bacteria develop in industrial livestock facilities, they can reach the human population through food, the environment (i.e., water, soil, and air), or by direct human- animal contact.
One major way in which antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria enter the environment is via animal manure. Industrial livestock operations produce an enormous amount of concentrated animal waste—over one billion tons annually—often laden with antibiotics and their residues, as well as antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is estimated that approximately 75 percent of all antibiotics given to animals are not fully digested and eventually pass through the body and enter the environment, where they can encounter new bacteria and create additional resistant strains. With huge quantities of manure routinely sprayed onto fields surrounding CAFOs, antibiotic resistant bacteria can leech into surface and ground water, contaminating drinking wells and endangering the health of people living close to large livestock facilities.
Bacteria can also be spread by insects that come in contact with animal waste. A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined flies near broiler poultry operations and found that many of the flies living near these operations carried antibiotic resistant enterococci and staphylococci. If these flies travel to nearby homes, they could transport these drug resistant bacteria from the farm to neighboring communities.
2. THE DR. GREGER INTERVIEW
“After reading ‘Bird Flu,’ a book by Michael Greger, M.D.,” reports Kathy Freston in The Huffington Post, “I was stunned to realize the extent to which we have endangered our health by allowing factory farms to flourish and produce 99 percent of the meat, dairy, and eggs we eat. Not only are dangerous flu viruses mutating because of these concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s), but we are also being exposed to some other very serious bacteria and pathogens. It seems that things have gotten out of hand in our food production, especially in the livestock sector.”
Here’s a portion of her interview with Michael Greger, M.D., a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and the Tufts University School of Medicine, who serves as Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. His recent scientific publications in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, Critical Reviews in Microbiology, and the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition, and Public Health explore the public health implications of industrialized animal agriculture.
Kathy Freston: Where does E. coli come from and how does it get into food? Why is it often found on vegetables?
Michael Greger: E. coli is an intestinal pathogen. It only gets in the food if fecal matter gets in the food. Since plants don’t have intestines, all E. coli infections–in fact all food poisoning–come from animals. When’s the last time you heard of anyone getting Dutch elm disease or a really bad case of aphids? People don’t get plant diseases; they get animal diseases. Dairy cow and pig factories often dump millions of gallons of putrefying waste into massive open-air cesspits, which can leak and contaminate water used to irrigate our crops. That’s how a deadly fecal pathogen like E. coli O157:H7 can end up contaminating our spinach. So regardless of what we eat, we all need to fight against the expansion of factory farming in our communities, our nation, and around the world.
KF: It seems we only occasionally hear of the very few terrible cases where E. coli kills; is it really a widespread problem?
MG: When medical researchers at the University of Minnesota took more than 1,000 food samples from multiple retail markets, they found evidence of fecal contamination in 69 percent of the pork and beef and 92 percent of the poultry samples. Nine out of ten chicken carcasses in the store may be contaminated with fecal matter.
3. THE HARVARD WOMEN’S HEALTH WATCH REPORT
According to Stephanie Watson, Executive Editor of the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, organic chicken and pork were about a third less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventionally raised chicken and pork.
This is just a quick sample of the material out there showing that organic farms and food are safer, more wholesome, and more nutritious than conventional food. There’s much, much more if you care to look. So I offered to share this information with Ms. Mole, and asked her for any citations she has to back up the claim that “studies have repeatedly found higher levels of germs and disease on small and organic farms than at industrial outfits.”
Somehow I’m not surprised that Ms. Mole has not responded.
Oh, and one last thought: think of all the stuff you don’t get when you eat organic: antibiotics, growth hormones, GMO-fed meat, glyphosate contamination, and all sorts of agricultural chemicals used on conventional farms.
THE VIEW FROM POMPEO’S HEAD
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) has introduced a bill that would prohibit state efforts to require labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs).
This is Monsanto’s dream bill— it would allow corporations that make and use GMOs to continue to keep quiet about them, and it would keep the rest of us in the dark (in fact, some of our allies are calling this the DARK, or the Denying Americans the Right to Know, Act), says Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.
States that have already passed GMO labeling laws could be prevented from implementing their laws to require labels. We know that this bill does not represent our best interests. In fact, over 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMOs. This is an impressive consensus, one that we don’t see on many issues in the U.S.
But if there is so much public support for GMO labeling, why does this bill exist?
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an industry group that represents corporations like Monsanto, Nestlé and Dow, has been working with allies in Congress to get this bill re-introduced in the current Congress (after it failed to move when introduced last year). This is just one of the many ways that these corporations have tried to keep GMO labeling from becoming the law. In every state that has worked to pass labeling laws, the industry has spent millions of dollars to manufacture doubt and keep us from knowing what’s in our food.
But it is not up to corporations to decide whether you and I get to know what is in our food. We should be able to make informed choices about what we feed ourselves and our families.
We know that the GMA, and the corporations it represents, are busy lobbying our members of Congress, so we need to make sure they’re hearing from their actual constituents to counter the anti-labeling rhetoric.
MAJOR BREACH IN THE NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM
In a nutshell: The National Organic Program leaves the door open to include nanotechnology in organic food and packaging. The decision stuns the organic community and undercuts the recommendations of its appointed Advisory Board.
Against the objections by the large majority of the organic community, guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA/NOP) will now allow companies to petition to use nanotechnology in organic products, rather than prohibit it as was expected.
The new guidance disregards recommendations made by the Agency’s own appointed advisors, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which determined that: “there is an overwhelming agreement within the organic industry to prohibit nanotechnology in organic production and processing” (Oct. 28, 2010).
“This decision by USDA defies common sense and undermines organic,” said Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at Center for Food Safety and nanotechnology expert. “Fundamentally, nanomaterials are synthetic, can be toxic and are not found in nature in their manufactured form. They do not belong in organic, plain and simple.”
Nanotechnology is a platform technology for manipulating materials at the atomic and molecular level. The resultant manufactured nanomaterials are so small that they cannot be seen with an ordinary microscope. Yet “nano” means more than just tiny. Nano engineered materials have the capacity to act in fundamentally novel ways, ways that cannot be predicted of the same materials at larger scale. Their exponentially small size gives them extraordinary mobility and their unique chemical and biological properties increase the potential for biological interaction and enhanced toxicity.
The U.S. organic community has consistently agreed that, like genetic engineering, nanomaterials must be excluded from organic foods and packing. In fact, in response to public outcry, the food industry as a whole is moving away from nanotechnology in food. Just this month, Dunkin’ Donuts announced that it will no longer use nanomaterials in its donuts—specifically nano-titanium dioxide in its powdered sugar. McDonald’s and Kraft have also previously announced that they do not use nanomaterials in their products.
“It is unfathomable that while so many companies are taking nanomaterials out of their foods, that the National Organic Program has devised a gateway for ushering nanomaterials into organic foods,” said Dr. Lisa J. Bunin, organic policy director at Center for Food Safety. “This guidance needs to change.”
USDA/NOP’s approach to nanotechnology runs counter to most other nation’s organic programs. Canada, Australia, and Austria have prohibited nanoparticles smaller than 100 nanometers(nm) from organic foods. The United Kingdom prohibits nanomaterials smaller than 200nm. Instead, the NOP has established a process whereby companies can petition to allow nanomaterials into their food as a synthetic ingredient. Moreover, the new NOP guidance is silent on nanoparticles in packaging, which is an increasingly common application of the technology.
“It is surprising to see USDA taking actions that are inconsistent with our organic trading partners, especially since the U.S. has been rushing to establish equivalency agreements with other nations and economic regions,” said Dr. Bunin. “This latest action has the potential to render such agreements null and void, which is neither in the country’s best interests nor those of our nation’s own organic producers.”
GMO INDUSTRY CONTINUES TO EXPAND
One of the familiar narratives for the promotion of genetically modified crops is that they have the potential to alleviate poverty and hunger. But the real impacts of GM crops deserve closer assessment, writes Wanqing Zhou, research associate in the Food and Agriculture Program at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article.
The amount of agricultural land used for GM crops has been increasing for more than two decades, reaching 400 million acres in 2014. The largest GM crop producers are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India, and Canada.
In 2014, the global value of GM seed reached $15.7 billion. The small handful of companies that develop and market GM crops has a near monopoly. In the United States, the agri-tech multinational Monsanto holds 63 percent of the Release Permits and Release Notifications for GM crops issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the seed company DuPont Pioneer holds another 13 percent.
GMO SAFE TO EAT? NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE
A recently published review by researchers at two universities has suggested that there is not enough evidence that GMO crops are safe to eat.
Researchers looked at published studies on rats fed GM crops containing one or more of three commonly used GM genes. Researchers examined studies that investigated the health of these rats by looking at tissues from their digestive tracts under a microscope. The digestive tract is a likely place for damage to occur from eating these crops. Researchers considered evidence obtained by looking through a microscope because it is sometimes very difficult to see if there is damage to tissues without using a microscope. These are called histopathology studies.
The researchers found 47 crop varieties with one or more of these genes that government regulators had said were safe to eat. However, no published studies could be found for 81 percent of those crop varieties.
Of the published studies, most were general health assessments of the GM crop on rat health, but 75 percent of these were done after the crop had been approved as safe to eat by government regulators, with half of the studies published at least nine years after approval.
The researchers found flaws with all of the studies reviewed. For example, studies were not consistent or transparent in their methods, investigators didn’t define what they considered to be a toxic or pathological finding, or they were not transparent in what they found. Many of the studies contained several such faults.
Dr. Judy Carman, one of the authors of the review said: “We believe that there is a lack of evidence that these GM crop varieties are safe to eat. The authors of the paper believe that guidelines should be developed as to how these studies should be done so that they can be done properly.”
The review was done as a collaboration between researchers at the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, and the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, all based in South Australia. The research was published in Environment International, an Elsevier journal ranked in the top 4 percent of environmental science journals by impact factor, rated A* by Excellence in Research for Australia.
MORE EVIDENCE OF MONSANTO’S WRONGDOING
“A few weeks ago, I spoke by phone with Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO),” reports Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.
“During the course of our conversation, when we touched on the subject of the science behind the debate over whether or not GMOs are ‘safe’ (me arguing that there’s no scientific consensus), Enright said, ‘Then you must not believe in climate change, either.’
“I glossed over that accusation, though it struck me as odd. And random. Until less than a week later, on March 9 (2015), an article appeared in the Guardian under this headline: ‘The anti-GM lobby appears to be taking a page out of the Climategate playbook.’
“That’s when I realized what I should have known. Enright’s comment wasn’t random at all. It’s just a new twist on an old talking point—from an industry on the verge of crumbling under the weight of an avalanche of new credible, scientific evidence exposing not only the dangers of GMO crops and the toxic chemicals used to grow them, but the extent to which both Monsanto and U.S. government agencies like the EPA, FDA and USDA have covered up those dangers. (Side note: Turns out the authors of the Guardian piece all have ties to, surprise, the biotech industry).
“Here are just a few examples of the latest reports, articles and books exposing the dangers of GMOs, Big Ag’s toxic chemicals and evidence of a decades-long cover-up to keep consumers in the dark.”
• New study: World Health Organization declares glyphosate a human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decision was reported in The Lancet Oncology, on Friday, March 20 (2015). Predictably, Monsanto went on the attack, demanding the study be retracted.
• New study: Roundup causes antibiotic resistance in bacteria. In the first study of its kind, a research lead by a team from the University Of Canterbury, New Zealand says that commonly used herbicides, including the world’s most used herbicide Roundup, can cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. Cause for concern? You bet, when nearly 2 million people die annually from antibiotic-resistant infections.
• New article: “GMO Science Deniers: Monsanto and the USDA,” points out what we all learned in third-grade science (but what Monsanto and the USDA refuse to acknowledge): That plants evolve to adapt to their environment, with the stronger ones winning out. Hence the fact that over time, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops have bred a new generation of superweeds. Yet, incredibly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) bought into Monsanto’s anti-science claim that the continuous use of Roundup, over time, would not produce evolving Roundup-resistant weeds. Of course, that’s exactly what’s happened.
• New book: Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public, exposes how the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) disregarded the warnings of its own scientists in order to foster the biotech industry’s agenda. According to author Steven Druker, the FDA broke U.S. food safety laws when the agency made a blanket presumption that GMO foods qualified to be categorized “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS). And they did it in order to push GMOs into the market with no pre-market safety testing.
• New book: Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA, written by a former (1979-2004) employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), documents the EPA’s “corruption and misuse of science and public trust.” According to author E.G. Vallianatos, the EPA allowed our lands and waters to be poisoned with more toxic chemicals, including glyphosate, than ever, while turning a blind eye to the consequences.
• New report: “Seedy Business: What Big Food is hiding with Its Slick PR Campaign on GMOs,” exposes Big Food’s long history of manipulating the media, policymakers and public opinion with $100-million worth of sleazy public relations tactics.
“That’s just a smattering of the latest science—from scientists who have nothing to gain and everything to lose, based on Monsanto’s history of aggressively discrediting any scientist who dares to challenge GMOs—that should have every consumer in this country asking, ‘What’s going on here?’ Ms. Paul writes.
“Of course the industry response to the latest accusations concerning both its products and its desperate attempt to keep consumers in the dark, has been the same old same old: deny, deny, deny. All the while pretending to be incredulous that anyone would question its motives. This from an industry that (among other crimes) for nearly 40 years, knowingly poisoned a community in Alabama by dumping millions of pounds of PCBs into open-pit landfills, according to a 2002 article. Thousands of pages of Monsanto documents—many emblazoned with warnings such as ‘CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy’—show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew.
“One final comment on the climate-denier talking point. How ironic that Enright and the biotech industry would pretend to side with the scientists sounding the alarm on global warming—when the largest contributor to global warming is industrial agriculture, with its GMO monoculture crops. Anyone serious about global warming knows that our best hope is to ditch our chemical-intensive, soil-destroying industrial agriculture and replace it with organic, regenerative farming practices that restore the soil’s ability to capture carbon.”
CONSUMER REPORTS ADVISES: EAT ORGANIC FOOD FOR HEALTH
A recent Consumer Reports survey of 1,050 people found that pesticides are a concern for 85 percent of Americans. So, are these worries justified? And should we all be buying organic food?
Experts at Consumer Reports believe that organic is always the best choice because it is better for your health, the environment, and the people who grow our food. The risk from pesticides in produce grown conventionally varies from very low to very high, depending on the type of produce and on the country where it’s grown. The differences can be dramatic. For instance, eating one serving of green beans from the U.S. is 200 times riskier than eating a serving of U.S.-grown broccoli.
“We’re exposed to a cocktail of chemicals from our food on a daily basis,” says Michael Crupain, M.D., director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are traces of 29 different pesticides in the average American’s body. “It’s not realistic to expect we wouldn’t have any pesticides in our bodies in this day and age, but that would be the ideal,” says Crupain. “We just don’t know enough about the health effects.”
IN CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS: APRES MOI, LE DELUGE
Humanity recently learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.
And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation.
According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire-–including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.
A vast, powerful, and warm current, the Gulf Stream transports more water than “all the world’s rivers combined,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But it’s just one part of a larger regional ocean conveyor system-–scientists technically call it the “Atlantic meridional overturning circulation”—which, in turn, is just one part of the larger global “thermohaline circulation (“thermohaline” conjoins terms meaning “temperature” and “salty”).
For the whole system, a key driver occurs in the North Atlantic ocean. Here, the warm Gulf Stream flows northward into cooler waters and splits into what is called the North Atlantic Current. This stream flows still further toward northern latitudes — until it reaches points where colder, salty water sinks due to its greater density, and then travels back southward at depth.
This “overturning circulation” plays a major role in the climate because it brings warm water northward, thereby helping to warm Europe’s climate, and also sends cold water back towards the tropics.
The system above has a key vulnerability. What keeps everything churning in the North Atlantic is the fact that cold salt water is denser than warm water — so it sinks. However, if too much ice melts in the region — from, say Greenland — a freshening of the cold salt water could occur. If the water is less salty it will also be less dense, reducing its tendency to sink below the surface.
This could slow or even eventually shut down the circulation. In the scientifically panned 2004 blockbuster film “The Day After Tomorrow,” it is precisely such a shutdown that triggers a New Ice Age, and utter global disaster and chaos.
That’s not going to happen, say scientists. Not remotely.
Nonetheless, the new research finds that global warming does indeed seem to be slowing down the circulation. And while hardly catastrophic, that can’t be good news. Among the very real effects, notes the Potsdam Institute’s Rahmstorf, could be a possible increase in U.S. sea level if the whole circulation were to break down — which would be seriously bad news for cities like New York and Boston.
The study uses a reconstruction of sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic to find that starting in around 1970 or 1975, the overturning circulation started to weaken —an event likely triggered by an unusual amount of sea ice traveling out of the Arctic ocean, melting, and causing freshening. The circulation then started to recover in the 1990s, but “it seems this was only a temporary recovery, and now it’s actually further weakened,” says Rahmstorf.
The hypothesized reason for further declines presented by the paper is that the massive Greenland ice sheet may now be losing enough freshwater due to melting to weaken the circulation. And indeed, it appears that a particular ocean region of the North Atlantic south of Greenland and between Canada and Britain is becoming colder — an indicator of less northward heat transport.
Rahmstorf points to a recent release by the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, finding that the winter of December 2014 through February 2015 was the warmest on record for the globe as a whole. However, there were several anomalies — not just a cold and very snowy winter for the eastern U.S., but also record cold temperatures in the middle of the North Atlantic.
“These new NOAA data got me quite worried because they indicate that this partial recovery that we describe in the paper was only temporary, and the circulation is on the way down again,” says Rahmstorf.
So far, the study finds, we’re looking at a circulation that’s about 15 to 20 percent weaker. That may not sound like much, but the paper suggests a weakening this strong has not happened at any time since the year 900. Moreover, this is already more weakening than scientifically expected — and could be the beginning of a further slowdown that could have great consequences.
How the GOP Is Thwarting Our Desire for Safe Food
By having become the political arm of a few oligarchs who control billions of dollars of America’s wealth and are turning capitalism into a money gusher for themselves, the Republican Party is preventing our government from doing its job to protect the environment and manage agriculture so it produces clean, harmless food.
It’s past time for Americans to wake up and find ways to shut off the money spigots for the bigots. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman recently wrote this in The New York Times regarding the GOP’s so-called budget plan:
“The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics. And that’s telling us something important about what has happened to half of our political spectrum.
“It’s very important to realize that this isn’t normal political behavior. The George W. Bush administration was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, but it was never this blatant. Outrageous fiscal mendacity is neither historically normal nor bipartisan. It’s a modern Republican thing. And the question we should ask is why.
“Think about what these Republican budgets would do. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.
“But this is, of course, not a policy direction the public would support if it were clearly explained. So the budgets must be sold as courageous efforts to eliminate deficits and pay down debt — which means that they must include trillions in imaginary, unexplained savings.
“Does this mean that all those politicians declaiming about the evils of budget deficits and their determination to end the scourge of debt were never sincere? Yes, it does.
Look, I know that it’s hard to keep up the outrage after so many years of fiscal fraudulence. But please try. We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.”
THIS’LL TEACH ‘EM
Dr. Krugman left out one adjective that applies to modern Republicanism: mean-spirited. For example, to teach learning by doing, New Hampshire students drafted a bill to learn the process of how a bill becomes law. They proposed House Bill 373, an act establishing the Red Tail Hawk as the New Hampshire State Raptor. Even though it passed through the Environment and Agriculture committee with a majority vote, some representatives were far from receptive.
“Rep. Warren Groen, a Republican from Rochester, said, “It grasps them with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”
The Republican legislature then killed the bill as the kids watched from the gallery.
W.H.O. SAYS ROUNDUP LIKELY CAUSES CANCER
The following is from Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association:
Several days ago, an agency of the World Health Organization issued a report concluding that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, likely causes cancer in humans.
If you eat foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), you are consuming glyphosate—because the U.S. EPA not only allows glyphosate residue on your food, the agency actually raised the allowed limits in 2013.
How do you know you’re eating GMO foods? You don’t. Because Monsanto and the EPA, USDA and FDA made certain of that by refusing to require labels on GMO foods. Even though about 80 percent of processed foods in the U.S. contain GMO ingredients.
You may be thinking, is it worth it to keep funding these state GMO labeling campaigns, when Monsanto and Big Food come in with their hundreds of millions of dollars to snuff them out?
The answer is a resounding yes. Here’s why. First, it’s more urgent than ever for your health. The FDA just signed off on the GMO apple and the GMO potato, and will likely sign off on GMO salmon and GMO wheat. This, in addition to new GMO corn and soy varieties the USDA recently approved—crops engineered to withstand massive doses of a toxic combination of both glyphosate and 2,4-D (a form of which was used to make Agent Orange).
More and more studies are being done on the toxic effect of glyphosate on human health. But this most recent study, from the World Health Organization, may be the most incriminating of all. Yet, we have no indication from the U.S. government that it will heed this new warning and take action.
Second, Monsanto’s lobbyists are pushing Congress to pass a law that would kill states’ rights to pass GMO labeling laws. Word is that within weeks, if not sooner, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) will reintroduce what activists have labeled the DARK ACT—Deny Americans the Right to Know. The bill is an attempt to strip states’ of their constitutional right to pass GMO labeling laws.
If we pass GMO labeling laws in Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, in addition to the law already passed in Vermont, we’ll make it much more difficult for the Republican-dominated Congress to take on all four of these states. In what is a clear sign that Pompeo is about to reintroduce his bill, the House Agriculture Committee is holding a full committee hearing on the costs and impacts of GE food labeling, The Gene Giants and Big Food will pack that hearing with their lobbyists.
Third, it is absolutely essential that we not give up this fight—your fight—or we risk sending the wrong message to Monsanto, and state and federal lawmakers. We may have (very narrowly) lost several key state battles, but those battles launched a massive national public education campaign, and helped launch similar initiatives and legislative campaigns in more than 20 states.
Without the support of people like you—concerned consumers, voters, moms and dads, from every generation and every point across the political spectrum—most Americans still wouldn’t know what a GMO is or why it matters, much less that they are being denied this basic information on food packaging—information that consumers in more than 60 countries rightfully have.
Instead, thanks to you, more than 90 percent of Americans are now standing up to demand the right to know.
HOW MANY POLICE KILLINGS IN AMERICA? NOBODY KNOWS
An article in The Guardian discovers that we have no accounting of the number of people killed by police in this country. The NSA gathers information on all our communications. We keep track of how many men over 20 eat certain foods each day. We track all kinds of things. But police killings? No—that’s too difficult.
The police in this country are out of control. They kill unarmed citizens—especially black citizens–and pay no price. Hell, we don’t even know how often they do it. They are armed up with military weapons. There are bullies and murderers in their ranks. They protect each other behind the code of silence. New revelations of their emails show vicious racism and intolerance. I can vouch for that. The most virulent racism I’ve ever heard came from a couple of Irish cops in New York City. They were friends of my brother-in-law, an Irish-American guy who grew up on West 22nd Street in Manhattan. Their racism astonished and sickened me.
Now I discover that the number of people killed each year by police in America can’t be known—it’s too murky. The cops aren’t reporting. Or they’re reporting wrong. Or the FBI is covering up the numbers. Or there’s no reporting protocol. All while our government surveillance of its citizens compiles enormous amounts of precise data.
Are all cops killers? Of course not. Are some cops killers? For sure. And they routinely get away with it.
Here’s the Guardian story, reported by Tom McCarthy on March 18:
A year ago, in a bureaucratic shift that went unremarked in the somnolent days before Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, the US government admitted a disturbing failure. The top crime-data experts in Washington had determined that they could not properly count how many Americans die each year at the hands of police. So they stopped counting.
The move did not make headlines. Before Brown was killed, a major government effort to count people killed by police could be mothballed without anybody noticing. The program was never fully funded, and no one involved was accustomed to their technical daily work drawing a spotlight.
But it had been a major effort. For the better part of a decade, a specialized team of statisticians within the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)-– number-crunchers working several nesting dolls deep inside the Justice Department — had been collecting data on what they called arrest-related deaths. The ARD tally was more than a count of killings by police. It was meant to be the elusive key to a problem that seemed easy to understand but difficult to define. The program set out to track any death, of anyone, that happened in the presence of a local or state law enforcement officer.
A victim like Michael Brown, shot dead in the process of arrest, would make the count. A victim like Akai Gurley, shot dead in Brooklyn not in the process of arrest, would make the count. A victim like Eric Garner, choked and squeezed to death on Staten Island in the process of arrest, would make the count. A victim like Tamir Rice, shot dead in Cleveland at 12 years old with no arrest attempt made at all, would make the count, along with many other victims.
These people would make the US government’s authoritative count of people killed by police. If the count still existed. Which it does not.
With some states never participating, and major police departments such as the NYPD failing to report for some years, the Bureau of Justice (BJS) statisticians were never satisfied with their data pool. In March of last year, the bureau pulled the plug on the project, leaving the truth about the most high-profile year for police killings in US history to discarded spreadsheets, bad numbers, and acronymed taskforces with little to show.
The US government is a virtuoso counter. So why can’t it count people killed by police?
For some people, the government’s failure to track officer-involved homicides is especially painful because it seems part of the institutional racism visited on African Americans by the US criminal justice system. Of the many examples of racial disparity in criminal justice, the arrest-related deaths data points to extra risk for African Americans. Black people die in disproportionate numbers at the hands of police, they are more prone to “accidents” around police, and their deaths are more likely to manifest as holes in police records.
Finally, the question of how many people are killed by police leads to the door of the only people who really know: the police.
A New Kind of Economy
When you start looking for the reasons behind many of the problems in our society, you often find capitalism involved. It’s the economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit. Without firm regulations on greed and materialism, it can produce income inequality; poverty; making and selling products because they are profitable, whether they are harmful or not; the maximization of profit for shareholders as the first priority of the business, and that means the public be damned.
But is our choice only between an economy run by private individuals for profit, and an economy run by the state? We saw how well a state-run, planned economy worked out for the Soviet Union back in the day. And yet countries that practice Western Socialism—Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland—are some of the wealthiest and happiest countries on earth.
And yes, capitalism can lead to slums side by side with gated communities, extreme poverty and extreme wealth, bad conditions for the workers and excellent conditions for the fat cats. But as we saw in the years 1945-1975, when the wealthy were taxed up to 95 percent of their income, a middle class family making between $12,000 and $18,000 a year looked like this (and I know, because I grew up in such a family): Dad made the money. Mom was a homemaker. (That’s changed forever, thank goodness.) But a fine house could be built for $25,000. The family could have a new car every two or three years. There was not only a chicken in every pot, there was roast beef, lamb chops, veal cutlets, and pork roasts, too. There was enough money to send the kids to college. Tuition at my university was $1,700 a year in 1960. Now it’s $44,520 at the same school and that doesn’t include food, lodging, books, fees, or beer money. During those 30 years, capitalism worked well for most people in America.
But that ended 40 years ago. Now we’re in a pickle. Look again at the first paragraph and the social ills. How can we correct that?
If organic gardening and farming teach us anything, they teach us that we do best when we pattern our activities on nature. Nature’s ways are the ways of heaven, as Lao Tzu said. How can they not be? If you look at any healthy ecosystem, you see that health is predicated on biodiversity. So why can’t we have an economic system based on the way nature runs a climax ecosystem?
That would mean that private individuals would still own the means of production, but the profit motive would be supplanted as the prime mover and chief, unassailable goal by another motive: participation in the common good. In other words, go ahead and invent things, develop products, start businesses, but make sure they do no harm to people or the environment and the creatures that inhabit it.
Oh, who’s going to decide that, I can hear my conservative friends say. Shall we have a bureaucracy that takes away my right to produce toxic chemicals, for instance? Yes. We already have this bureaucracy in place. It’s called the Federal Government and agencies like the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and many more. The problem is they’ve been coopted by Big Business, infiltrated by people bought and paid for by Big Business, and operated by the revolving-door lackeys of Big Business. In other words, they don’t do their jobs.
Our capitalist system is sick. The fox is in charge of the henhouse. The inmates run the asylum. Corporate America has infected our government with lawyers, guns, and money—lots of money. It’s sick, folks. Our job in the future is to stop the virus and focus on making our economic system healthy again.
By following nature’s lead, we might conclude that new products and substances must be tested to see if they help or harm the economic ecosystem. If a new venture or product adds something useful, it gets okayed. If not, it’s not okayed. This is why Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Protection Bureau is so important. It’s the first new government panel in years that has as its purpose an increase in social good by halting rapacious companies from gouging citizens. It hasn’t been coopted or corrupted. Yet. But there will be those who will try.
Look at the National Organic Standards Board, created by law to keep organic standards tight and wholesome. Well, over the years, many camels have gotten their noses under this tent until now, many of its members represent Big Food—and you know what that means: a loosening of the restrictions until even GMOs will be okayed as organic.
So how do we get to an economic system that operates for the common good, both human and environmental? The answer is pretty clear:
1. Overturn Citizens United and get big money out of politics.
2. Give elected officials a salary. Pay each candidate for office a stipend for election
costs. No fund raising, no lobbying money, no quid pro quos, no bribery.
3. Tax corporations and the wealthy to level the playing field.
4. Allow no regulated industry to have positions on regulatory bodies.
5. Reach consensus on what constitutes the common good.
6. Make sure regulatory agencies do their jobs properly for the common good.
7. Insure that all goods, services, foods, and jobs support natural laws.
MIGHT NOT YOU BE TALKING ABOUT ORGANIC FARMING?
It’s infuriating when a reporter writes a story that completely misses the point. Erica Goode of The New York Times recently wrote an article about how farmers are changing their methods in order to improve the soil by ending tillage, which is plowing that tears open the soil and exposes it to erosion.
That’s good, but they do it by using Roundup to keep down the weeds that will eventually grow, and planting crops that are resistant to Roundup: GMOs.
She goes into some depth about how farmers are practicing soil conservation and soil improvement. The big point she misses is that organic farmers have been doing this for decades. Note to Ms. Goode—how can you do a story on soil conservation without acknowledging that organic farmers have been practicing and perfecting soil conservation both here and around the world for decades? Not a mention. Not a peep. But plenty of mention of conventional agricultural techniques. Shjeesh. I wish I were editor. I’d toss this story back in your lap and say, “What about the organic farmers. Isn’t soil improvement at the heart of what they do? Go do some more digging.” Pun intended.
‘SCHOOL NUTRITION ASSOCIATION’ PROMOTES JUNK FOOD LUNCHES
Sopeaking of The New York Times, Mark Bittman in a recent edition pointed out that the School Nutrition Association has become an ally of what you might call the “let them eat cake” forces.
“What matters,” he writes, “is that if, like the association, you’re taking a stand against the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act — from a food perspective, among the two or three most progressive pieces of legislation of the Obama administration — you are simply on the wrong side. You’ve pitted yourself not only against better nutrition for current school kids but, even more important, against better nutrition for future students and adults. The School Nutrition Association’s position may not be the equivalent of the American Diabetes Association insisting that, say, we serve Coke at all meals, but it’s in that ballpark.
“So why would the School Nutrition Association, which represents 55,000 cafeteria professionals, betray both its heritage and its name to work against the implementation of the Hunger-Free Kids Act, roll back many of its requirements, and call these standards ‘overly prescriptive’? If you read through the Federal Register summary, you’ll see that they are not, unless you’re someone who believes that cupcakes should be served at every meal. The basic idea is to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and less junk. That’s hardly a radical notion.
“The not-so-surprising answer: money.
“According to Helena Bottemiller Evich, who writes about food policy for Politico, about half of the School Nutrition Association’s $10 million operating budget ‘comes from food industry members,’ and those representatives of Big Food are scared to death that more fruits, vegetables and whole grains means less pizza, fries and, well, junk. Forcing kids to eat real fruits and vegetables, or at least to consider eating them, leaves less room for tater tots.”
In other words, the public be damned, even if they are our own children. Let the profits flow!
CHEMICAL INDUSTRY GETS A FREE PASS IN VITTER-UDALL BILL
A new bill that claims to update how chemicals are regulated in the United States, introduced by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM), is a sweet deal for the chemical industry that would keep exposing Americans to harmful chemicals while exposing the nation to billions in health care costs, a coalition of community, environmental and health groups say.
The groups pointed to a new study by New York University that documents over $100 billion a year in health care costs in the European Union for diseases associated with endocrine disrupting chemicals, including IQ loss, ADHD, infertility, diabetes and other disorders that have been rising in the U.S.
The Vitter-Udall bill purports to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, which was meant to protect the public from harmful chemicals, but which has allowed tens of thousands of chemicals – including chemicals that cause cancer and other serious health problems, into the marketplace with little or no health and safety testing.
“New research links toxic chemicals with a range of illnesses and billions of dollars in health care costs, yet Senators Udall and Vitter are proposing a bill that doesn’t address major problems with current policies and would give the chemical industry a free pass to keep exposing Americans to harmful chemicals for decades to come,” said Katie Huffling, RN, CNM, Director of Programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, a network of nurses across the U.S. who have been working to reform TSCA.
“The chemical industry should not be allowed to draft the very laws meant to regulate them,” said Richard Moore from Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is also with the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance. “We need serious chemical reform that protects the health of all people including those who are living in ‘hot spots’ or ‘sacrifice zones’ – typically communities of color — that are highly impacted by chemical factories. It seems that my own Senator, Senator Udall, has forgotten the needs of his constituents in favor of meeting the needs of his industry friends.”
The New York Times recently reported that Sen. Udall has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the chemical industry.
In other words, the public be damned. Let the money roll down into politics like the waters of clear springs!
SOY NOW TOLERATES ROUNDUP AND IS DEADLY TO INSECTS
Inserting the Bacillus thuringiensis insect-toxin into soybeans has received approval (“nonregulated status”) from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The deregulation paves the way for two Bt proteins that kill certain soybean pests to be included in soybeans through genetic engineering, and for the soybeans to be sold in the U.S.
Dow AgroSciences said the Bt toxin genes would join genetically engineered genes that make the soybeans resistant to applications of the company’s proprietary 2,4-D herbicide. Enlist soybeans are going through the USDA deregulation process at the moment.
“This integrated solution will provide much-needed insect control as well as tolerance to multiple herbicides for improved weed management, allowing crops to maximize yield in a highly efficient and sustainable manner,” Dow AgroSciences noted.
So now our soybeans will not only be double-dosed with Roundup and 2,4-D herbicides, but will also kill those insects that dare to feed on them. And what about if you feed on them? Well, you’re not allowed to know about GMOs in your food, so good luck with that.
In other words, the public be damned. Let the money flow down like oil down Aaron’s beard.
Organic Gardening Magazine Is Now Organic Life
Organic Gardening magazine had its heyday in the decade of the 1970s, during the back-to-the-land phase of the emerging environmental movement. The two magazines people kept, rather than throw out, were National Geographic and Organic Gardening. Our readers (I say “our” because I worked on the magazine for the entire decade) were an amazingly loyal bunch—so much so that the lobby of our building at Rodale Press usually had a few tourists milling about, wide-eyed at the idea they were in the place where their handbook for organic living was written.
I always had the feeling that the organic idea—that the way to organize human life in all its aspects is to follow nature’s lead—had application far beyond the farm or garden. I still think that. And now, with the urging and blessing of Maria Rodale, the current CEO of Rodale Press, the boundaries have been pushed out, the walls confining the organic idea to the farm and garden have tumbled, and good old OG has become Organic Life.
I hope the new magazine looks at how that simple organic idea of following nature rather than twisting her arm for human purposes can be applied widely in all areas of human endeavor. What would it mean, for instance, to have an economic system built on respect for nature and a humble willingness to seek out her laws and rules and follow them? Would it lead us to the kind of income inequality we have in our capitalist system today? Should our way of life be thought of as an ecology, where every job has a benign purpose and fits into the economy the way plants and animals create a healthy ecosystem?
I wish Organic Life well. Along with its articles on food that sustains our bodies, I hope it provides plenty of food for thought. The supernova-like expansion of the organic idea into every facet of human life will be a fitting testament to the genius of Jerome Irving Rodale, Maria’s grandfather, the founder of the organic movement in America, the creator of Organic Farming & Gardening magazine, and a man vilified as a crazy quack while alive, but who was truly a visionary who planted a seed that has grown into a mighty tree. That tree has now borne fruit, and the seeds in those fruits have fallen, sprouted, and are now creating a climax forest ecosystem built on nature’s plan.
SYNGENTA TELLS BALDFACED LIE ABOUT ITS ATRAZINE HERBICIDE
“Syngenta, a Swiss chemicals company, produces one of America’s most popular herbicides. It is called atrazine, and 73.7 million pounds of the chemical compound were applied in the United States in 2013. It was used on more than half of all corn crops, two-thirds of sorghum and up to 90 percent of sugar cane,” writes Danny Hakim in The New York Times..
The weed killer is banned as a pesticide in the European Union as well as in Switzerland over concerns that it is a groundwater contaminant. Syngenta, however, did not get the memo. Hakim reports that even though the EU banned atrazine over a decade ago, the company has long insisted that the pesticide is not banned. On one corporate website, Syngenta points to anti-atrazine activists who claim that “atrazine is banned in the European Union. This is patently false.”
Another Syngenta-backed site, “Saving the Oasis,” also blames “anti-atrazine activists.” And another such site, AGSense, says, “We’ve known it all along, and now you know it too: Atrazine is not banned in the European Union.” And the company has repeated its assertion to reporters. “It is not banned,” Ann Bryan, a spokeswoman for the company, told Hakim in an email. .
“The use of atrazine as an herbicide or pesticide is banned in the E.U.,” Mikko Vaananen, a spokesman for the European Chemicals Agency, stated in an email. European Union government documents, from formal filings to informal newsletters, also use the term “banned.”
Scores of chemicals that are banned or tightly restricted in the European Union are allowed in the United States. One recent analysis by the Center for International Environmental Law, a Washington-based advocacy group, found 82 instances of pesticides allowed in the United States but barred or restricted in Europe. This disparity can make selling products on one side of the Atlantic that are banned on the other uncomfortable, though few companies have tried a semantic maneuver quite like Syngenta’s.
GOODBYE NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY
A provision of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” deal called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) would allow Monsanto to sue any nation bound by the TPP contract (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam) for potential lost profits as a result of GMO or pesticide regulations. Have GMO labeling or cultivation bans within your borders? Get ready to go to court…Monsanto’s court, that is. With ISDS, Monsanto can take its case before an international corporate court where corporate lawyers are the judges. And its rulings can’t be challenged in the defending nation’s courts.
RHODE ISLAND GMO LABELING LAW MOVES FORWARD
Rhode Island moves forward with legislation for mandatory GMO labeling! Representatives Canario, Hull, Edwards, Bennett, and Abney have introduced H5197 that will label raw and packaged foods that have been genetically engineered.
BIG INCREASE IN INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE IN KIDS
Got GMO belly? Without GMO labeling, there is no traceability, no accountability, and no liability. In the largest study to date, researchers in Ohio found an alarming increase in children with inflammatory bowel disease during the last decade in the United States. This increasing trend was present in each age category and across all geographic regions (Northeast, Midwest, South and West). The peer reviewed study was published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine.
Interestingly, researchers studying farm animals fed GMO corn and soybeans have found a high incidence of inflamed stomachs and bowels in swine. A control group of pigs fed organic feed had no such inflammatory disease. Pigs are noted for having digestive systems remarkably like humans.
SCOTT’S SELLING ROUNDUP READY GMO GRASS
Scott’s has released Roundup Ready GMO Kentucky Bluegrass into our environment. Employees have started planting it at their homes. Like most other GMOs, this is just another way to sell more Roundup. Not only on our food but now in our yards where our children play and our pets run.
ARE BIG ORGANIC CORPORATIONS PROFITEERING?
Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Cornucopia Institute in Wisconsin sent us the following email:
With 80 percent of organic eggs coming from giant Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), factory farms with as many as 18,000 head of cattle producing an increasing percentage of the organic milk supply, and an estimated 50 percent of organic corn and 75-90 percent of organic soybeans being imported, it seems that the public corporations involved in organics have used this dynamic to profit very handsomely at the expense of U.S. family-scale farmers.
Due to the generosity of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation and a couple of our major individual donors, Cornucopia owns stock in all of the public companies that are heavily involved in organics so we can monitor them and participate in their governance, with others, as activist shareholders. We have to assume that privately held corporations, and the giant agribusinesses that own so many organic brands (Kellogg’s, General Mills, Smucker’s, etc.), are profiting as well.
There’s nothing wrong with profit. But why should the profit margins for organic brands be larger than margins for conventional food? They certainly need to cover their increased costs (and organic ingredients and handling are more expensive than conventional). But extra margins appear to be profiteering at the expense of consumer goodwill.
How many more consumers could afford organic food if margins, and corporate profits, were at industry averages?
And now, these companies, in the guise of the industry’s lobby group, the Organic Trade Association (OTA), want to institute a “check-off” (tax on industry participants, including family farmers).
The OTA in the past failed at fundraising to support their own research initiative, The Organic Center. Now they want a federally mandated tax that will generate an estimated $40 million a year.
Don’t you think the corporations themselves, awash in profits, could leave the family farmers, who have overwhelmingly rejected the scheme, out of this shakedown?
The Stench of Slavery Lingers in the Contemporary GOP
How is it that despite the fact that most Americans are peace-loving, hard-working, generous, tolerant people who believe in the ideals expressed in the Constitution, we have become a nation of almost constant warfare whose Congress is currently dominated by right-wing zealots, a nation that oppresses its minorities, devalues its women and LGTB communities, declares war on science, spies on its own citizens, fails to prosecute war criminals and bank fraud, destroys its environment by practicing ruthless agriculture and exploitative energy extraction, and gives enormous wealth to a handful of people while its middle class sinks beneath a tidal wave of debt and income inequality?
The answer, I think, is that our country’s original sin of slavery still corrupts us. Slavery in the antebellum South was anything but an expression of the American ideals of fair play, equality, and justice for all. It was a brutal system of repression where a handful of people had all the money and respect, while slaves did all the work and were treated like chattel.
Although the South lost the Civil War, it’s now come to pass that the ethos of the Old South has enjoyed a recrudescence and infected our society anew. The examples are everywhere. In Wisconsin, original home of American socialism, Republican Governor Scott Walker has effectively eliminated collective bargaining. Anti-science ignorance blooms within the so-called Christian community, where children are taught that the world was created 6,000 years ago and humans and dinosaurs lived together. Like ISIS in the Middle East, whose goal is to establish a caliphate across the Muslim world and pluralism is disallowed, fundamental Christian evangelicals believe that America is a Christian nation, despite the insistence of the Founding Fathers that it not only isn’t a sectarian nation, but church and state should remain forever separate. Our police forces have morphed into paramilitary and gun down unarmed minority children. There’s a war on women’s reproductive rights that’s essentially a re-establishment of male dominance over females. Ignorance reigns in the Republican legislator in Idaho would wondered at a hearing whether a woman could swallow a camera to facilitate a gynecological exam; in the Republican legislator who wanted to jail women who wear yoga pants; in the intolerance of those who would uproot families and deport them instead of offering them a way to citizenship. I could go on.
And how is all this attributable to slavery? I will now quote extensively from “How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America,” written by Sara Robinson on AlterNet about three years ago. It is as trenchant a piece of political and historical analysis into our current predicament as can be imagined. Here it is:
“It’s been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don’t know is that they’re also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.
“Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that’s corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here’s what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.
“Much of American history has been characterized by a struggle between two historical factions among the American elite — and that the election of George W. Bush was a definitive sign that the wrong side is winning.
“For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they’ve done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this. Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush — nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. The core impulse to improve the world is a good one — and one that’s been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.
“Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility — the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain ‘order,’ and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.
“The elites of the Deep South are descended mainly from the owners of sugar, rum and cotton plantations from Barbados — the younger sons of the British nobility who’d farmed up the Caribbean islands, and then came ashore to the southern coasts seeking more land. The culture they created in the crescent stretching from Charleston, SC, around to New Orleans was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity. From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.
“These elites have always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press. They have historically been profoundly anti-technology as well, far preferring solutions that involve finding more serfs and throwing them at a problem whenever possible. Why buy a bulldozer when 150 convicts on a chain gang can grade your road instead? Unlike the Puritan elites, who wore their wealth modestly and dedicated themselves to the common good, Southern elites sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and the pursuit of pleasure — including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.
“But perhaps the most destructive piece of the Southern elites’ worldview is the extremely anti-democratic way it defined the very idea of liberty. In Yankee Puritan culture, both liberty and authority resided mostly with the community, and not so much with individuals. Individuals were expected to make sacrifices for the betterment of everyone. In return, the community had an inescapable moral duty to care for its sick, educate its young and provide for its needy — the kind of support that maximizes each person’s liberty to live in dignity and achieve his or her potential. A Yankee community that failed to provide such support brought shame upon itself. To this day, our progressive politics are deeply informed by this Puritan view of ordered liberty.
“In the old South, on the other hand, nobody had the authority to tell a Southern gentleman what to do with resources under his control. In this model, that’s what liberty is. If you don’t have the freedom to rape, beat, torture, kill, enslave, or exploit your underlings (including your wife and children) with impunity — or abuse the land, or enforce rules on others that you will never have to answer to yourself — then you can’t really call yourself a free man.
“When a Southern conservative talks about ‘losing his liberty,’ the loss of this absolute domination over the people and property under his control — and, worse, the loss of status and the resulting risk of being held accountable for laws that he was once exempt from — is what he’s really talking about. In this view, freedom is a zero-sum game. Anything that gives more freedom and rights to lower-status people can’t help but put serious limits on the freedom of the upper classes to use those people as they please. It cannot be any other way. So they find Yankee-style rights expansions absolutely intolerable, to the point where they’re willing to fight and die to preserve their divine right to rule.
“Once we understand the two different definitions of ‘liberty’ at work here, a lot of other things suddenly make much more sense. We can understand the traditional Southern antipathy to education, progress, public investment, unionization, equal opportunity, and civil rights. The fervent belief among these elites that they should completely escape any legal or social accountability for any harm they cause. Their obsessive attention to where they fall in the status hierarchies. And, most of all — the unremitting and unapologetic brutality with which they’ve defended these ‘liberties’ across the length of their history.
“The current conservative culture war is the Civil War still being re-fought by other means. After the Civil War, the rise of Northern industrialists and the dominance of Northern universities and media ensured that subsequent generations of the American power elite continued to subscribe to the Northern worldview — even when the individual leaders came from other parts of the country.
“Ironically, it was that old Yankee commitment to national betterment that ultimately gave the Southern aristocracy its big chance to break out and go national. It was easy for the Northeast to hold onto cultural, political and economic power as long as all the country’s major banks, businesses, universities, and industries were headquartered there. But the New Deal — and, especially, the post-war interstate highways, dams, power grids, and other infrastructure investments that gave rise to the Sun Belt — fatally loosened the Yankees’ stranglehold on national power. The gleaming new cities of the South and West shifted the American population centers, unleashing new political and economic forces with real power to challenge the Yankee consensus. And because a vast number of westward migrants came out of the South, the elites that rose along with these cities tended to hew to the old Southern code, and either tacitly or openly resist the moral imperatives of the Yankee canon. The soaring postwar fortunes of cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta fed that ancient Barbadian slaveholder model of power with plenty of room and resources to launch a fresh and unexpected 20th-century revival.
“These post-WWII Southerners and Westerners drew their power from the new wealth provided by the defense, energy, real estate, and other economic booms in their regions. They also had a profound evangelical conviction, brought with them out of the South, that God wanted them to take America back from the Yankee liberals — a conviction that expressed itself simultaneously in both the formation of the vast post-war evangelical churches (which were major disseminators of Southern culture around the country); and in their takeover of the GOP, starting with Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964 and culminating with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980.
“They countered Yankee hegemony by building their own universities, grooming their own leaders and creating their own media. By the 1990s, they were staging the RINO hunts that drove the last Republican moderates (almost all of them Yankees, by either geography or cultural background) and the meritocratic order they represented to total extinction within the GOP. A decade later, the Tea Party became the voice of the unleashed id of the old Southern order, bringing it forward into the 21st century with its full measure of selfishness, racism, superstition, and brutality intact.
“From its origins in the fever swamps of the lowland south, the worldview of the old Southern aristocracy can now be found nationwide. Buttressed by the arguments of Ayn Rand — who updated the ancient slaveholder ethic for the modern age — it has been exported to every corner of the culture, infected most of our other elite communities and killed off all but the very last vestiges of noblesse oblige.
“It’s not an overstatement to say that we’re now living in Plantation America.
“To the horror of his Yankee father, George W. Bush proceeded to run the country exactly like a Barbadian slavelord. And Barack Obama has done almost nothing to roll this victory back. We’re now living in an America where rampant inequality is accepted, and even celebrated.
“Torture and extrajudicial killing have been reinstated, with no due process required.
The wealthy and powerful are free to abuse employees, break laws, destroy the commons, and crash the economy — without ever being held to account.
The rich flaunt their ostentatious wealth without even the pretense of humility, modesty, generosity, or gratitude.
“The military — always a Southern-dominated institution — sucks down 60 percent of our federal discretionary spending, and is undergoing a rapid evangelical takeover as well.
“Our police are being given paramilitary training and powers that are completely out of line with their duty to serve and protect, but much more in keeping with a mission to subdue and suppress. Even liberal cities like Seattle are now home to the kind of local justice that used to be the hallmark of small-town Alabama sheriffs.
“Segregation is increasing everywhere. The rights of women and people of color are under assault. Violence against leaders who agitate for progressive change is up. Racist organizations are undergoing a renaissance nationwide.
“We are withdrawing government investments in public education, libraries, infrastructure, health care, and technological innovation — in many areas, to the point where we are falling behind the standards that prevail in every other developed country.
“Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as not just silly and soft-headed, but also inviting underclass revolt. The Yankees thought that government’s job was to better the lot of the lower classes. The Southern aristocrats know that its real purpose is to deprive them of all possible means of rising up against their betters.
“The rich are different now because the elites who spent four centuries sucking the South dry and turning it into an economic and political backwater have now vanquished the more forward-thinking, democratic Northern elites. Their attitudes towards freedom, authority, community, government, and the social contract aren’t just confined to the country clubs of the Gulf Coast; they can now be found on the ground from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And because of that quiet coup, the entire US is now turning into the global equivalent of a Deep South state.
“As long as America runs according to the rules of Southern politics, economics and culture, we’re no longer free citizens exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we’ve always understood them. Instead, we’re being treated like serfs on Massa’s plantation — and increasingly, we’re being granted our liberties only at Massa’s pleasure.
“Welcome to Plantation America.”
I agree with Sara Robinson’s analysis, but remember we’re talking about elites and those Christian evangelical conservatives and Tea Party zealots who are married to the plantation worldview, not every person in the Sun Belt. I see much hope in the establishment of organic farms and gardens across this region. It’s hard to turn from protecting biodiversity and cherishing life on your organic farm or in your garden and then start de-valuing the lives of minorities, throwing up roadblocks to voting, and stripping women of their reproductive rights.
KRUGMAN ON CONQUERING INCOME INEQUALITY
Sara Robinson’s Plantation America piece does help illuminate current events. See how it throws light on what Paul Krugman wrote about income inequality in The New York Times on February 23, 2015: “As for wages and salaries, never mind college degrees — all the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance. Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge; it’s about who has the power.
“Now, there’s a lot we could do to redress this inequality of power. We could levy higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and invest the proceeds in programs that help working families. We could raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to organize. It’s not hard to imagine a truly serious effort to make America less unequal.”
Right—if the old Yankee values mean anything to you. But fat chance the right wing ideologues who run Congress will pass the laws that Krugman suggests.
CONSERVATIVE SCIENCE IS NOT REALLY SCIENCE AT ALL
For years, Republican politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.
One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.
But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.
He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.
Now, The New York Times reports, Democratic lawmakers in Washington are demanding information about funding for other scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change.
Prominent members of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate have sent letters to universities, companies and trade groups asking for information about funding to the scientists.
In letters sent to seven universities, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member of the House committee on natural resources, sent detailed requests focused on funding sources to the academic employers of scientists who had testified before Congress about climate change.
In the letters, Representative Grijalva wrote, “My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships.” He asked for each university’s policies on financial disclosure and the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, “communications regarding the funding” and “all drafts” of testimony.
Three Democratic members of the Senate sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy. The letters were signed by Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The senators asked for responses by April 3.
“Corporate special interests shouldn’t be able to secretly peddle the best junk science money can buy,” Senator Markey said, denouncing what he called “denial-for-hire operations.”
Buying junk science to support corporate chicanery is not confined to the issue of climate change. This is exactly how Big Ag, Big Chem, Big Biotech “prove” that conventional agriculture is harmless. Funding for those scientists who produce studies supporting the safety of pesticides and herbicides should also be examined. If the research is legitimate, and the findings are accurate—even if they support the safety of these chemicals—then all right. Nobody’s suggesting witch hunts. But if the funding comes from the companies like Monsanto that benefit from the sale of these chemicals, then there is obviously a conflict of interest. Academic freedom does not mean the right to game the pursuit of scientific truth in order to obtain funding for your research.
THE NETHERLANDS BANS SALE OF ROUNDUP
It’s official, the Netherlands beat Monsanto in a long-debated motion to ban the sale of glyphosate-based herbicides. The Dutch Parliament passed the law prohibiting private parties from buying Monsanto’s toxic herbicide, Roundup, and is expected to go into effect in late 2015. While the Dutch Lower House had initiated the law to ban glyphosate from non-agricultural use years ago, it seems Monsanto’s grip on the government was firm until just recently, when the evidence of the harm that Roundup causes became overwhelming.
HOUSE BILL PREVENTS EPA FROM GETTING EXPERT ADVICE
The GOP-dominated House has passed a bill that effectively prevents scientists who are peer-reviewed experts in their field from providing advice — directly or indirectly — to the EPA, while at the same time allowing industry representatives with financial interests in fossil fuels to have their say. Perversely, all this is being done in the name of “transparency.”
H.R. 1422, also known as the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, passed 229-191. It was sponsored by Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT). The bill changes the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Among many other things, it states: “Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.” This means that a scientist who had published a peer-reviewed paper on a particular topic would not be able to advise the EPA on the findings contained within that paper. That is, the very scientists who know the subject matter best would not be able to discuss it.
In response, the White House has issued a statement indicating it would veto the bill if it passed, noting: “H.R. 1422 would negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.” Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) was blunter, telling House Republicans on Tuesday: “I get it, you don’t like science. 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.”
Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Andrew A. Rosenberg wrote a letter to House Representatives stating: “This [bill] effectively turns the idea of conflict of interest on its head, with the bizarre presumption that corporate experts with direct financial interests are not conflicted while academics who work on these issues are. Of course, a scientist with expertise on topics the Science Advisory Board addresses likely will have done peer-reviewed studies on that topic. That makes the scientist’s evaluation more valuable, not less.”
Two more bills relating to the EPA are set to go for a vote, bills that opponents argue are part of an unrelenting partisan attack on the EPA and that demonstrate more support for industrial polluters than the public health concerns of the American people.
PEACEFUL BELLY FARM PLANT SALE VIDEO GOES VIRAL
Oh, them organic hippies! God bless ‘em: