Why Organic Farming Will Save the World
Very simple. Anyone can see that chemical-based agriculture using toxic compounds to kill weeds and insects and energy-intensive chemical fertilizers to grow crops is just not sustainable.
The world’s soils are eroding and in terrible shape. The air is a dump for carbon dioxide and other harmful gases that are causing climate change. Chemically-contaminated food is causing disease, and if that isn’t bad enough, the very nature of our food is being manipulated by genetic engineers. The whole set-up is designed to separate us from our money as we do what we must to feed ourselves and our families, despite the negative consequences on the plants, animals, people, and ecosystems. Conventional agribusiness has produced a confluence of unforeseen damages to the earth.
Here’s why organic agriculture will save the world: it is sustainable. It’s modeled on the natural processes of life that tend toward the development of wholesome ecosystems that have reached sustainability. It recycles. It takes, but it gives back. Organic farming actually improves the soil as it grows crops and animals. Because it uses nature’s systems, it sequesters carbon, keeping it in the soil and preventing it from forming greenhouse gases. It cherishes life and encourages biodiversity (the key to good health). It enables a deep understanding of the value of nature’s principles. It produces a confluence of unforeseen benefits to the earth.
What stands between us—the community of people who want our world to be clean, wholesome, and natural—and the businesses who use conventional, toxic farming methods?
The answer is our government and its entanglement with corporate agribusiness. The core problem is that bought-and-sold legislators and bureaucrats and their corporate cronies are running a huge scam and wallowing in money because of it.
You want your food to be labeled if it contains GMOs? No—you don’t get to know that. And what’s that you say? How many chemicals are in the environment and the food supply? Well, approximately 60,000, but the EPA and FDA have only tested a few thousand for safety. And that’s because those bureaus aren’t there to protect you, they’re there to protect agribusiness.
Big Ag, Big Chem, Big Pharma, and Big Biotech are running con games and we are all the marks. This is because those businesses thrive on profit as their top priority. There’s nothing wrong with making a profit, unless you do it by creating a confluence of damages to the earth and its inhabitants. You who think you can’t afford organic food because it’s too expensive, agribusiness makes you pay to be poisoned.
Study after study shows that organic farming produces yields essentially equal or even better than the yields of crops grown conventionally. So the criticism that half the world will starve if we go organic has long proven to be nonsense.
Far from it. Converting farming to organics will feed the world both through benign corporate organic farms, but also through small farms and gardeners; that is, restoring traditional farming to indigenous peoples, skills that have been taken away by scams like The Green Revolution, Golden Rice, and Monsanto’s schemes to control the world’s food supply.
To make an organic agriculture possible, all we need in America are legislators, bureaucrats, and businesspeople who have the best interest of the earth and its inhabitants as a first priority instead of the bottom line. Denmark and Germany are converting to 100 percent organic farming. They have legislators who back this.
Don’t forget to vote.
WHAT’S IN YOUR TOOTHPASTE?
The Cornucopia Institute is a national food and farm policy watchdog group working to uphold the integrity of organic, local, and other forms of alternative agriculture. Here is an executive summary from the Institute regarding problems with some of the major toothpastes. If you want more details, including a chart of safe vs. suspect toothpastes, visit their website at www.cornucopia.org. They write:
Carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, irritants, and other toxic chemicals do not belong in cosmetics or personal care products. Yet, they may all be found in toothpastes and other oral health products, even in those marketed as “natural.” The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), does not systematically assess the safety of personal care products. Rather, the $71 billion cosmetics industry reviews, assesses, and evaluates its own products—self-regulating in the absence of strong or meaningful federal regulatory oversight.
The U.S. lags behind many other countries in cosmetic safety, allowing the use of hazardous chemicals banned in Canada, Japan, and Europe. Just 11 of more than 12,000 ingredients used in cosmetics are restricted for use in the U.S., while more than 1,300 chemicals have been prohibited in cosmetics sold throughout Europe.
Every day the average man uses five to seven personal care products, containing 85 unique ingredients. The average woman uses nine to 12 products daily, containing 168 unique ingredients, while the average teenage girl will use up to 17 products each day, containing more than 200 unique ingredients. But outdated, obsolete, and overall toothless regulations, as well as a glaring lack of public information, imply that millions of Americans are kept in the dark about the safety of personal care products used on our bodies and in our mouths.
The law governing cosmetics was passed in 1938 and, despite the development of a plethora of synthetic compounds commonly used in personal care items, has not been significantly amended since it was enacted. In fact, compared to its authority to oversee pharmaceuticals and food products, the FDA is virtually powerless when it comes to regulating cosmetics.
The FDA has no power to review products before they go on the market. Companies do not have to list all of the ingredients in their products, nor are they required to register their manufacturing facilities with the government or report “adverse events,” making it difficult for regulators to identify potential problems. Essentially, the cosmetics industry regulates itself.
It’s impossible for the average consumer to evaluate all the chemical ingredients in, and potentially harmful effects of, cosmetics and personal care products. The Cornucopia Institute’s research on toothpaste uncovered some interesting information:
■ When potentially toxic chemical ingredients are present in toothpaste and mouthwash, they are likely to pass directly and quickly into the bloodstream, even if the product is not swallowed. This is because the membrane lining of the mouth (oral mucosa) has an absorption efficiency of more than 90 percent, according to the Physician’s Desk Reference Handbook.
■ A label containing the word “natural” does not necessarily mean a toothpaste is free of potentially harmful ingredients.
■ Some prominent “natural” brands are manufactured by companies that primarily sell mass-marketed brands. For example, Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, the company that also makes Colgate toothpastes.
■ Toothpastes sold in Europe have different, safer formulations than the same products made by the same companies and sold in the U.S., to accommodate stricter EU cosmetics laws.
■ The American Dental Association is heavily subsidized by the cosmetic industry, creating a conflict of interest. Its seal does not guarantee the safety of toothpastes, or other oral products, or the quality of the ingredients in these products.
■ The drive to maximize profit margins focuses investments in advertising and packaging, rather than safe and high quality ingredients.
■ Many ingredients in toothpastes are synthetics derived from petroleum or from heavily processed and synthesized natural ingredients. In their final formulation, they may differ greatly from the natural parent compound (e.g., coconut oil) or may even become potentially toxic.
■ Toothpaste ingredient labels are often unintelligible, with difficult-to-pronounce ingredients that only a cosmetics chemist could decipher or understand.
■ Some toothpastes may contain contaminated ingredients. In addition, toxic compounds may be formed by the interaction of ingredients under certain conditions or may be released slowly over time.
■ The average American will use approximately 20 gallons of toothpaste over his or her lifetime.
■ Children are at greater risk of exposure, because they tend to ingest more toothpaste than adults; in addition, their exposure will be greater than adults’ in terms of amount of toothpaste used per body weight.
■ Toothpastes specifically targeted to children often contain artificial colors (food dyes), which have been linked to hyperactivity and related behavioral problems in children. Some such ingredients also pose a risk of cancer and allergic reactions.
When it comes to cosmetics, especially the personal care products we put in our mouths, it would be easy to assume that the companies selling them, and the governments regulating them, would ensure their safety. However, the cosmetic industry, aided by a lack of government oversight, has become quite similar to the processed junk food industry—using cheap and potentially toxic ingredients to manufacture questionable products that are marketed under faddish and misleading health claims. Several third-party certifications do exist that help assure the quality of toothpaste ingredients and the safety of certified products.
The report available on the Institute’s website explains how the cosmetics industry is regulated and highlights specific toothpaste ingredients to avoid. It discusses organic brands and provides consumers with recipes to make your own safe and effective toothpastes.
In addition, The Cornucopia Institute has created a web-based scorecard, designed to help consumers determine the safest toothpastes with the least objectionable ingredients.
VERMONT DAIRIES USE LOTS OF CHEMICALS
Te following commentary is by Will Allen and Michael Colby, who are co-founders, along with Kate Duesterberg, of Regeneration Vermont, a new nonprofit educational and advocacy organization that is working to halt the catastrophic consequences of Vermont’s adoption of degenerative, toxic, and climate-threatening agricultural techniques. The Vermont Digger posted their report. Here’s an exerpt:
“The great divide between the well-marketed image of Vermont dairy farming and its stark and toxic realities is becoming harder and harder to ignore. The marketing shows healthy cows grazing on lush pastures. But the reality is cows on concrete, being fed a diet of GMO-corn and the toxic residues from the hundreds of thousands of pounds of herbicides sprayed annually on the corn and hay fields.
“Instead of addressing the toxic legacy of the very non-organic dairying that dominates our agriculture, Vermont’s two giant diary corporations, Cabot Creamery and Ben & Jerry’s, and the state’s agricultural agency that acts more as their protector than regulator, continue to hide behind the myth and the marketing. It’s a head-in-the-sand approach that is bankrupting farmers, poisoning our rivers and lakes, accelerating climate change, and producing dairy products that may contain those same toxic residues that are so abundantly fed to the cows.
“Vermont can do better, much better. And it has to start with addressing the cold, hard facts. Thankfully, Vermont farmers are required to report their pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer usage every year to the state’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (AAFM). And while some in the agency and within the agricultural community still try to spin the numbers to keep the myths alive, the reality can’t be ignored: Vermont is farming with more and more toxic chemicals.
“From 1999 to 2012, according to AAFM data, Vermont’s dairy farmers applied more than 2,533,329 pounds of metolachlor, atrazine and simazine to their cornfields. All three of these chemicals are probable human carcinogens, birth defect progenitors, endocrine disruptors and persistent water polluters. So, at a time when numerous Lake Champlain beaches are being closed because of dairy farm pollution from phosphorus and nitrogen, these toxic chemicals are being used more aggressively, thus contributing to the threatening mix that dominates the northern part of the lake and many of our other waterways.”
MONSANTO BUYS UP HEIRLOOM SEED SUPPLIERS
Maddy Harland, writing in Permaculture magazine, reports that Monsanto is buying up heirloom seed companies and trademarks.
The NM Tree and Garden Center located in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, for instance, has discovered that Monsanto is buying seed companies and the trademarks for a number of heirloom seeds. This means that you may think you are supporting an heirloom seed company but in reality the company is owned by Monsanto.
The good news is that the seeds themselves are still non-GMO, heirloom, and open-pollinated so they can be saved at the end of the harvest and sown next season, and they will come true to type. But it raises the question, why would Monsanto buy up seed companies that sell seeds that can be saved and planted out next season? Isn’t Monsanto all about GMO patented seeds, suing farmers why try to save seed, and cornering the market on the world’s farm seed supply?
Could the answer be that pretty soon you won’t find those heirloom seeds and trademarks anywhere? Monsanto’s a company that doesn’t like competition.
Beyond GMO Labeling
The following is from the Institute for Responsible Technology:
As you may know by now, Congress passed legislation (S.764) that wipes out Vermont’s excellent GMO labeling law and substitutes a fake national GMO labeling regime. President Obama signed the bill into law July 29th. This sham labeling bill excludes most processed foods from requiring a label; defines genetic engineering so narrowly, that most GMOs on the market don’t qualify, and gives the USDA two years to come up with additional criteria for labeling, which will likely contain even more loopholes.
For products that will require labeling, companies can avoid actually stating on the package that it contains GMOs. Rather, they can force consumers to go on a wild goose chase by calling a listed 800 number to find the answer, or using their smart phones—if they have one—to scan a QR code and then navigate a website.
And to make this law even more irrelevant, if companies decide to ignore the labeling requirements altogether, there is no enforcement or penalty.
Although this is clearly a defeat in our campaigns for getting mandatory labeling in the United States, we are still winning the bigger, more important effort to eliminate GMOs from the market altogether.
Labeling GMOs was never the end goal for us. It was a tactic. Labels make it easier for shoppers to make healthier non-GMO choices. When enough people avoid GMOs, food companies rush to eliminate them. Labeling can speed up that tipping point—but only if consumers are motivated to use labels to avoid GMOs. Therefore, if mandatory labels had been put into place, we would still be required to educate and motivate consumers.
The good news is that the tipping point is already underway based on the voluntary non-GMO labels being put on packages. Major food companies already realize that making non-GMO claims gives them a competitive edge. Why else would Nestles dedicate time during their extremely expensive TV commercials to brag that their coffee creamer is non-GMO? Why else would Dannon announce that their feed for dairy cows will be non-GMO within three years? And why else would Del Monte, Campbell’s, Hershey’s, Post, General Mills, Red Gold, Applegate, and so many others make similar non-GMO commitments? They are scrambling to get the non-GMO sales advantage before their competitors. The flood gates are opening. We are totally winning. Let that sink in.
This major shift in the marketplace has come about due to compelling, behavior-change messaging. And that’s IRT’s specialty. It involves accurately conveying the health dangers of GMOs in compelling ways, and exposing the lies, cover-ups, and outrageous behavior of the pro-GMO forces.
SUPERFOOD OF THE FUTURE: COCKROACH MILK?
An international team of scientists has just sequenced a protein crystal located in the midgut of cockroaches. The reason?
It’s more than four times as nutritious as cow’s milk and, the researchers think it could be the key to feeding our growing population in the future.
Although cockroaches don’t actually produce milk, Diploptera punctate, which is the only known cockroach to give birth to live young, has been shown to pump out a type of “milk” containing protein crystals to feed its babies.
The fact that an insect produces milk is pretty fascinating – but what fascinated researchers is the fact that a single one of these protein crystals contains more than three times the amount of energy found in an equivalent amount of buffalo milk (which is also higher in calories then dairy milk).
Clearly milking a cockroach isn’t the most feasible option, so an international team of scientists headed by researchers from the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India decided to sequence the genes responsible for producing the milk protein crystals to see if they could somehow replicate them in the lab.
“The crystals are like a complete food–they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” said Sanchari Banerjee, one of the team, in an interview with the Times of India.
Not only is the milk a dense source of calories and nutrients, it’s also time released. As the protein in the milk is digested, the crystal releases more protein at an equivalent rate to continue the digestion.
“It’s time-released food,” said Subramanian Ramaswamy, who led the project. “If you need food that is calorifically high, that is time released, and food that is complete, this is it.”
It’s important to point out that this dense protein source is definitely never going to be for those trying to lose weight, and probably isn’t even required for most western diets, where we are already eating too many calories per day.
But for those who struggle to get the amount of calories required per day, this could be a quick and easy way to get calories and nutrients.
“They’re very stable. They can be a fantastic protein supplement,” said Ramaswamy.
Now that the researchers have the sequence, they are hoping to get yeast to produce the crystal in much larger quantities–making it more efficient (and less gross) than extracting crystals from cockroach’s guts.
The research was published in IUCrJ, the journal of the International Union of Crystallography.
DO ORGANIC WINES TASTE BETTER?
W. Blake Gray, writing in Wine-Searcher, reports that California wines made from certified organic or biodynamic grapes taste better than wines made from conventionally farmed grapes, according to a major academic.
“To any people who are mocking organic or biodynamic wines, now we can say they are better and we can prove it,” Grgich Hills vice president of vineyards and production Ivo Jeramaz told Wine-Searcher.
To be exact, the study shows that ratings in three major publications-–Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast-–are four points higher on average for eco-certified wines compared to control group wines from the same regions and same vintages.
Four points on average is a huge difference: bigger than the standard deviation in two of the three publications. In less mathematical terms, it’s like saying the eco-certified wines were an entire grade higher.
So it will be interesting to see how the mainstream press and the public picks up on the study, which is titled: “Does Organic Wine Taste Better? An Analysis of Experts’ Ratings.”
“Consumers have still a negative view of organic wines,” Magali Delmas, one of three co-authors of the study, told Wine-Searcher. “The experts and the winemakers have a different opinion. It’s nice to be able to show that.”
The study analyzed a huge number of ratings of California wines: 74,000 total over the vintages between 1998 and 2009. Eco-certified wines were a tiny minority: just 1.1 percent of the total, because less than 2 percent of California’s vineyards are certified organic or biodynamic, according to the study.
Delmas, a professor of environmental economics at UCLA, said the publications did not want to cooperate, but their ratings were already published.
“If Wine Spectator had wanted to work with us, it would have helped,” Delmas said. “It was very, very time-consuming.”
Delmas and her co-authors were extremely thorough in investigating whether the reviewers at the publications liked eco-certified wines better, even counting the number of positive and negative words in each review. Eco-certified wines had more positive words and fewer negatives than conventional wines.
Six years ago, Delmas was one author of a study limited to Wine Spectator that determined that wines made from organically grown grapes got higher ratings and their prices were lower. Subsequent studies have shown that while consumers pay a premium for organically certified fruits and vegetables, they do not do so for wine.
A major reason is label confusion. “Organic wine,” in the US, must be made without added sulfites, and is thus susceptible to spoiling. Delmas did not consider “organic wines” as part of the eco-certified group for this year’s study, instead including only wines made from certified organically grown or biodynamically grown grapes that were not labeled as “organic wine.” But the study did include single-vineyard wines from certified organic or biodynamic vineyards that did not list “made from organically grown grapes” on the label.
Chappellet is a case in point for a winery that could use the designation on some of its wines, but chooses not to. Chappellet’s estate vineyard on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley is certified organic, but it buys grapes that are not for its non-estate wines.
“We’ve always felt that the grapes from organically grown vineyards were better,” winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus told Wine-Searcher. “We’ve really just done it for ourselves and the people who buy our wine. It’s been a belief that the Chappellets have that as stewards of the land, we should farm organically. We never really made a decision that it was something we needed to advertise. We do it for ourselves. We do it because we want to.”
None of the three magazines whose scores were surveyed can be called advocates of organic farming. And two of them, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, say they score their wines through blind tasting.
“I remember reading [Wine Advocate critic Robert] Parker and him saying: ‘I taste wine and I score. I don’t care how they farm,’” Jeramaz told Wine-Searcher. “If in a blind tasting, it’s confirmed, then people want to see more organic wine.”
In 1991, the TV show 60 Minutes did a segment on the so-called French paradox – that French people had lower rates of heart attacks than Americans – and concluded that drinking red wine was keeping French hearts healthy. Red wine sales in the US immediately rose. But that was a health issue, not one of taste.
Aron Weinkauf, winemaker at Spottswoode, which was one of the first Napa estate vineyards to be certified organic, told Wine-Searcher he doesn’t think the study will have much impact.
“There are plenty of non-organic 100-point wines,” Weinkauf said. “But a study like that is certainly great. I hope it does well for organics and biodynamics. Farming organically as long as we have, we believe it contributes to better quality of soil and better quality wine.”
GROWING FOOD ORGANICALLY SOLVES MANY PROBLEMS AT ONCE
A new report released by The Organic Center reviews almost 100 scientific studies demonstrating that the best choice consumers can make to combat antibiotic resistance and protect themselves from antibiotic-resistant bacteria is to choose organic food.
Antibiotic resistance has been described as one of the most pressing human health concerns today and contributes to thousands of deaths each year. While the use of antibiotics in conventional agricultural practices has been implicated as an important contributor to this growing crisis, research also demonstrates that livestock production without the use of antibiotics, such as in organic agriculture, is an important part of the solution.
This review paper takes an in-depth look at everything from mechanisms by which resistance develops in bacteria and the role that modern day agricultural practices play in exacerbating the problem, to how organic agriculture provides a simple and effective means to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and to protect the health of consumers.
The Organic Center also hosted a webinar in late July updating donors on their projects, including a guest presentation from Dr. John Quinn of Furman University about his collaborations with The Center.
Dr. Quinn discussed his research showing increased biodiversity on organic farms and his work developing a quick, straight-forward method for farmers to calculate on-farm biodiversity through the Healthy Farm Index. He is currently working with The Center on a companion tool specifically designed to help organic growers increase their on-farm biodiversity based on the new National Organic Program guidance on natural resources and biodiversity conservation.
The Organic Center will also be participating in a study trip to Germany on organic food production and trade, organized by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest to deepen transatlantic exchange. Site visits will include the FiBL Research Institute of Organic Agriculture; Hessian Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection, Agriculture and Consumer Protection; IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), and the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
SOME BREAKING RESEARCH ON ORGANICS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS
A new study published in Biological Control has found that beneficial predators and parasitoids are more effective at controlling agricultural pests on organic farms than they are on conventional farms. The results demonstrated that organic farms host higher levels of beneficial insects, which can be an effective form of pest control.
A large group of leading scientific experts, medical experts, and children’s health advocates has joined forces in a call to action to reduce common chemical exposures shown to interfere with the brain development of fetuses and children.
Newly released results from long-term field studies conducted by the Swiss Research Institute FiBL suggest that organic farming in tropical regions can be as productive as conventional farming while providing greater economic benefit.
A recently published article in the scientific journal Nature Communications has found that contaminated pollen from wild plants near land cultivated for corn and soy production is a source of pesticide exposure throughout the entire season. Researchers found that agricultural pesticides as well as insecticides used for the control of mosquitoes and other pests contaminated wild flower pollen.
Brits Say Americans Ignorant about GMOs
A British publication called FoodBev Media Ltd., recently spread this headline across the top of its front page: “Majority of US Consumers ‘Lack Understanding’ of GMOs.”
The article begins: “Almost 60 percent of American consumers have ‘a fair or poor understanding’ of GMO foods, despite generally supporting a recently approved bill to introduce mandatory labeling of GMOs in the US.”
I’d like to unpack this article to show you the “man behind the curtain” whose subtle and blatantly egregious lies impugn American intelligence. Let’s start with the next paragraph:
“That is the finding of a new piece of research, which has also shown that a majority of Americans are unaware of the scientific consensus that genetically modified foods are safe to consume. The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.”
Maybe the majority of Americans are unaware of the scientific consensus because it doesn’t exist. Big food, biotech, and agriculture keep claiming that there’s a consensus, but, as last week’s issue of organicfoodguy showed, it’s bogus. Scientists around the world warn of the dangers of GMOs. Farmers as well as governmental agencies through Europe and Russia, and now Africa, South America, Central America, and Asia are fighting back against Monsanto’s patented GMO seeds. But back to the article:
“The vast majority of Americans-–88 percent-–said they support the mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs, and 91 percent agreed that people have the right to know when they buy or eat products that contain genetically modified ingredients.”
That is true, but if the majority of American consumers lack understanding of GMOs, how come they overwhelmingly want to know which foods contain them? In order to select them to take home for the kids? To make sure the family gets its daily dose of GMOs? No. They want GMO food labeled so they can avoid it. And let’s go back and look at this article’s lead paragraph again. It says, “60 percent of American consumers have ‘a fair or poor understanding’ of GMO foods, despite generally supporting a recently approved bill to introduce mandatory labelling of GMOs in the US.” That bill sits on President Obama’s desk as I write this. Big food, biotech, and chemical ag have sold that bill as pro-labeling legislation, but it’s anything but. It is known as the Monsanto Dream Act because it gives Monsanto everything it dreams about, and it’s also called the DARK Act because DARK stands for “Deny Americans the Right to Know.” It does not require mandatory labeling. That’s a lie. It’s entirely voluntary. And instead of requiring that the food be labeled, it allows food manufacturers to hide the presence of GMOs behind QR codes, so that to find out if a food contains GMOs, you have to scan the code with your smartphone, then paw through a website to see if it contains GMOs—and again, it’s up to the manufacturer to decide whether it wants to put that info on the website. This scheme does everything except shout at consumers, “Shut the F*** Up!” But back to the article:
“Fewer than one in five respondents out of a total of more than 1,000 were aware of research that said there was ‘no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between currently commercialized genetically engineered crops and conventionally bred crops.’”
There is such research, but it’s a pack of lies produced by scientists paid by Monsanto and other like-minded corporations to reach that conclusion. Look, if I take a cat and insert fish genes into its DNA, it is not substantially equivalent to a plain cat. And there is no research, which I pointed out in last week’s blog, that has assessed the risk of ingesting GMOs on human health, because to do such research would violate international treaty against experimenting on human beings. There have been a lot of animal studies, however, and they are so horrifying that the World Health Organization has warned the world that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide that is used in conjunction with its GMO seeds, is very likely cancer-causing. And again, see last week’s blog that compared pigs fed GMO feed with pigs fed organic food, and note the inflamed and swollen internal organs researchers found in the GMO pigs. So the one-in-five respondents who said they were aware of research showing no risk from GMO foods are just telling the questioners what they think the questioners want to hear. Such research has never been done.
“Nearly half—48 percent–went so far as to say they disagreed that genetically modified foods posed no risk to human health. Only 39 percent of people agreed that GMO crops were safe to eat, while 27 percent disagreed.”
Wait. What? So 48 percent “went so far” as to disagree with the claim that GMOs are safe to eat; 39 percent agreed they were safe to eat; 27 percent disagreed with the claim that GMO are safe to eat. Why those numbers total 114 percent. Why, those ignorant Americans can’t even add up to 100 percent, and which is it—48 or 27 percent who disagreed with the claim that GMOs are safe?
“The labeling bill, approved by Congress earlier this month, calls for the use of on-pack text, a symbol designed by the US Department of Agriculture, or a digital QR code to designate foods containing GMOs.”
Again, this article doesn’t mention that these options are all voluntary. Food manufacturers don’t have to put any information of the wrapper or on a website to signal the inclusion of GMOs. Unless they want to. But as a Monsanto exec once said, “Putting a GMO label on a food would be like putting a skull and crossbones on it.” How many food manufacturers are going to say, “Step right up and getcha GMOs?” But back to the article:
“William Hallman, a visiting scholar at the Annenberg Public Policy Center and professor of human ecology at Rutgers University, said that the bill could help consumers to improve their understanding of genetically modified foods. ‘One potential advantage of using a QR code is that consumers could be linked to much more information about genetically modified ingredients, and how they are produced and regulated, than could ever be printed on a product label,’ he said.”
Really, Professor Hallman? Those consumers fortunate enough to have a smartphone, and with enough time on their hands to scan the QR codes of every item in their shopping cart, will then spend time boning up on industry propaganda about how wonderful and safe GMOs are? Do you really believe that?
The only boning going on around here is the one given to the American public by Big Food, Big Biotech, Big Chem, and Big Ag.
63 Senators Who Need to Get the Heave-Ho
The votes of 63 Senators who on July 7 passed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act effectively prevent the public from knowing whether our food contains genetically modified ingredients.
In other words, these Senators don’t represent the 92 percent of Americans who say they want foods made with GMOs to be labeled, they represent Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Big Biotech, Big Ag, and the agricultural chemical industry. Bernie Sanders, who opposed the DARK Act, estimates that lobbyists spent $400 million to get this bill passed.
Since these Senators don’t really represent the people who voted them into office, let me suggest that the people vote them out of office and replace them with Senators who will actually represent the will of the people. That’s how our system is supposed to work. But as we see all too plainly, that’s not how it works.
The Roberts-Stabenow bill will now go back to the U.S. House, which in July, 2015, passed its own version of the DARK Act. If the House and Senate reach an agreement on the final wording, which is almost certain, Congress will vote on legislation to keep you in the dark. That bill will then land on President Obama’s desk. I just spent the better part of an hour online, trying to find out which Senators voted for the DARK Act so I could give you a URL so you could see how your Senators voted. Guess what? I came up empty-handed. Senate votes are routinely listed on line. But not this one. What does that tell you? As Dylan said, “Look out kids, they keep it all hid.”
You might want to encourage the President to veto it, although news reports say he will sign it. And that after his campaign promises to label GMOs. Remember them? His email address is email@example.com.
WHAT MORE CAN YOU DO?
Well, it’s pretty much game over for labeling GMOs unless Obama casts a veto, but there is something all of us can do: make sure the food we purchase is GMO- free.
Genetic modifications are prohibited in organic food, so if a food is organically grown, you can be assured it has no GMOs. Unless someone is cheating. In this era of mistrust, mistrust is warranted. Whole Foods Market, Stonyfield Farms, Organic Valley—even Senator Al Franken—backed the Roberts-Stabenow DARK Act. All the more reason to buy your organic products from regional or local producers. They have to live with their customers and are less likely to cheat. The big guys like Whole Foods, Stonyfield, and Organic Valley are huge companies owned by corporate behemoths who don’t have to live with their customers and do make products with GMO ingredients. Stay within your foodshed and eat organic.
CDC EXEC RESIGNS OVER AID TO COCA-COLA ADVOCATE
Email evidence shows a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) executive aided a Coca-Cola representative in efforts to influence World Health Organization (WHO) officials to relax sugar limits.
Last year, WHO announced soda is a key contributor to child obesity, suggesting restrictions on sugary beverages.
Two days after Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP), was exposed for offering guidance to a leading Coca-Cola advocate, Bowman resigned from her post. Buh-bye Barbara.
USDA ORGANIC FARM ANIMAL WELFARE RULES CALLED A ‘GIVE-AWAY’
Organic industry watchdog The Cornucopia Institute, marking the July 14 close of a 90-day public comment period on proposed USDA rules for animal welfare on organic farms, criticized the USDA rules as a “giveaway” to factory farm interests masquerading as organic. The Institute advised consumers to reaffirm their support for authentic organic family-scale farmers by “taking the law into their own hands” and seeking out truly organic eggs, produced humanely.
To that end, Cornucopia relaunched its Scrambled Eggs report and organic egg brand scorecard. Based on six years of research, it rates various organic brands on how their eggs are produced in accordance with federal organic standards and consumer expectations. It profiles exemplary management practices employed by many family-scale organic farmers engaged in egg production, while spotlighting abuses at so-called “factory farms,” some of which confine hundreds of thousands of chickens in industrial buildings and market these eggs to consumers as “organic.”
The proposed USDA animal welfare rule has been one of the biggest controversies in the history of the organic movement, prompting comments from over 5,000 citizens, lobbyists, and organic stakeholders.
The USDA allows up to two million “organic” birds to be confined on giant concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Advocates say federal law clearly requires “access to the outdoors.” But analysis by Cornucopia finds the options presented in the USDA’s draft rule would confine birds to as little as one square foot indoors and only require farms to provide two square feet of “pasture” outdoors, half of which could be covered with concrete.
“At best, the USDA proposal delays enforcement for five to seven years allowing continued factory farm confinement production,” states Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for The Cornucopia Institute. “Families with growing children to feed can’t wait that long for nutritionally superior food, and more and more are seeking the guidance provided in our Scrambled Eggs report and scorecard, separating phony industrial production from truly exemplary organic eggs.”
The report, organic egg scorecard, and full version of this release are posted on www.cornucopia.org.
Antonio: He sow’d it with nettle seed. The Tempest, Act 1, sc. 2.
My four-year-old son was just trying to be helpful by picking up his naked, two-year-old sister and carrying her across a patch of stinging nettles on our isolated property in Pennsylvania. He stumbled and dropped her. She started to cry. I ran to her and carried her out of the nettles and down toward the springhouse where the jewelweed grew. I crushed the jewelweed’s stems to get the juice to run, and smeared it over that child’s body. The crying stopped. Old-time lore has it that the best remedies for hurts such as stinging nettles, bee stings, and mosquito bites can usually be found close to the source of the trouble. Old-time lore says that jewelweed is the remedy for stinging nettles, and the old lore is correct.
Shakespeare knew the stinging nettle, and his references to the plant (and hundreds more) are gathered in a wonderful old book entitled, “The Plant-Lore and Garden-Craft of Shakespeare,” by Rev. Henry N. Ellacombe, M.A., of Oxford College, published by Satchell & Co., London, in 1884. Google it and you can find it in its entirety online.
Ellacombe writes: “Stinging nettles are much used in the neighborhood of London to pack plums and other fruit with bloom on them, so that in some market gardens (nettles) are not only not destroyed, but encouraged and even cultivated. And this is an old practice; Lawson’s advice in 1683 was—‘For the gathering of all other stone fruit, as nectarines, apricocks, peaches, Pear-plums, Damsons, Bullis, and such like,…in the bottom of your large sieves where you put them, you shall lay nettles, and likewise in the top, for that will ripen those that are most unready. (“New Orchard,” p. 96)’”
PASTA FOR THAT SLIMMING DIET
Pasta, say Italian scientists, isn’t “fattening.” In fact, says a study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, pasta actually makes you thinner and less prone to obesity.
The study was carried out as a part of Italy’s Moli-Sani project, a long-term, large-scale study of 25,000 people in the Molise region of south-central Italy. The Moli-Sani project studies health as affected by both genetics and environment (the Molise region was chosen because it has a mix of diets, lifestyles, and terrains, from sea to mountain). Participants are contacted every three years to track their progress. Another source was the Italian Nurses’ Health Study.
“We have seen that consumption of pasta, contrary to what many think, is not associated with an increase in body weight, rather the opposite,” lead author George Pounis said in a press release.
The study consisted of 14,402 participants who recorded their own diets and a were given a series of telephone interviews to train the participants. Their reported diets were transformed into actual weights of various foods and raw ingredients, and then pasta consumption was calculated in grams per day.
Participants’ weight, height, waist, and hip circumference were also measured, or self-reported, and their level of physical activity assessed. The results showed that as a part of the traditional Mediterranean diet, eating pasta isn’t all that bad: “Our data show that enjoying pasta according to individuals’ needs contributes to a healthy body mass index, lower waist circumference and better waist-hip ratio.”
MONSANTO, BAYER, AND THE PUSH FOR CORPORATE CANNABIS
The following is by Ellen Brown, originally published on The Web of Debt Blog on
July 11, 2016. It’s a brilliant piece of investigative journalism. As our communities and social networks push for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational uses, and as money begins to flow through the cannabis business, the big corporations are taking notice, Brown writes, and developing strategies for taking over the industry, as they have done with conventional food-producing agriculture worldwide. The organic community has gathered strength and is pushing back on Big Ag, Big Biotech, and Big Pharma. Our community needs to be aware of the situation with cannabis and push back there, also.
She warns voters in California not to be fooled by the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” that will appear on the ballot, presumably in November. Here’s her article in its entirety:
California’s “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA) is a voter initiative characterized as legalizing marijuana use. But critics warn that it will actually make access more difficult and expensive, squeeze home growers and small farmers out of the market, heighten criminal sanctions for violations, and open the door to patented, genetically modified (GMO) versions that must be purchased year after year.
The health benefits of cannabis are now well established. It is a cheap, natural alternative effective for a broad range of conditions, and the non-psychoactive form known as hemp has thousands of industrial uses. At one time, cannabis was one of the world’s most important crops. There have been no recorded deaths from cannabis overdose in the US, compared to about 30,000 deaths annually from alcohol abuse (not counting auto accidents), and 100,000 deaths annually from prescription drugs taken as directed. Yet cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance (“a deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse”), illegal to be sold or grown in the US.
Powerful corporate interests no doubt had a hand in keeping cannabis off the market. The question now is why they have suddenly gotten on the bandwagon for its legalization. According to an April 2014 article in The Washington Times, the big money behind the recent push for legalization has come, not from a grassroots movement, but from a few very wealthy individuals with links to Big Ag and Big Pharma.
Leading the charge is George Soros, a major shareholder in Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and producer of genetically modified seeds. Monsanto is the biotech giant that brought you Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs, dioxin-based pesticides, aspartame, rBGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone), RoundUp (glyphosate) herbicides, and RoundUp Ready crops (seeds genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate).
Monsanto now appears to be developing genetically modified (GMO) forms of cannabis, with the intent of cornering the market with patented GMO seeds just as it did with GMO corn and GMO soybeans. For that, the plant would need to be legalized but still tightly enough controlled that it could be captured by big corporate interests. Competition could be suppressed by limiting access to homegrown marijuana; bringing production, sale and use within monitored and regulated industry guidelines; and legislating a definition of industrial hemp as a plant having such low psychoactivity that only GMO versions qualify. Those are the sorts of conditions that critics have found buried in the fine print of the latest initiatives for cannabis legalization.
Patients who use the cannabis plant in large quantities to heal serious diseases (e.g. by juicing it) find that the natural plant grown organically in sunlight is far more effective than hothouse plants or pharmaceutical cannabis derivatives. Letitia Pepper is a California attorney and activist who uses medical marijuana to control multiple sclerosis. As she puts it, if you don’t have an irrevocable right to grow a natural, therapeutic herb in your backyard that a corporation able to afford high license fees can grow and sell to you at premium prices, isn’t that still a war on people who use marijuana?
Monsanto has denied that it is working on GMO strains. But William Engdahl, author of Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, presents compelling circumstantial evidence to the contrary. In a March 2014 article titled “The Connection Between the Legalization of Marijuana in Uruguay, Monsanto and George Soros”, Engdahl observes that in 2014, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana. Soros is a major player in Uruguay and was instrumental in getting the law passed. He sits on the board of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the world’s most influential organization for cannabis legalization. The DPA is active not only in the US but in Uruguay and other Latin American countries. Engdahl writes:
Studies show that Monsanto without much fanfare conducts research projects on the active ingredient in marijuana, namely THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), in order to genetically manipulate the plant. David Watson of the Dutch company Hortapharm has since 1990 created the world’s largest collection of Cannabis seed varieties. In 1998, the British firm GW Pharmaceuticals signed an agreement with Hortapharm that gives GW Pharma the rights to use the Hortapharm cannabis for their research.
In 2003 the German Bayer AG then signed an agreement with GW Pharmaceuticals for joint research on a cannabis-based extract. In 2007, Bayer AG agreed to an exchange of technology with . . . Monsanto . . . . Thus Monsanto has discreet access to the work of the cannabis plant and its genetic modification. In 2009 GW Pharmaceuticals announced that it had succeeded in genetically altering a cannabis plant and patented a new breed of cannabis.
Monsanto could have even greater access to the Bayer/GW research soon. In March 2016, Monsanto approached the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer AG with a joint venture proposal concerning its crop science unit. In May, Bayer then made an unsolicited takeover bid for Monsanto. On May 24th, the $62 billion bid was rejected as too low; but negotiations are continuing.
The prospective merger would create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and chemicals. Environmentalists worry that the entire farming industry could soon be looking at sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides. Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers for simply saving seeds from year to year, something they have done for millennia. Organic farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to prevent contamination of their crops by Monsanto’s GMOs.
In Seeds of Destruction, Engdahl quotes Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State. Kissinger notoriously said, “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.” Engdahl asserts that the “Green Revolution” was part of the Rockefeller agenda to destroy seed diversity and push oil- and gas-based agricultural products in which Rockefeller had a major interest. Destruction of seed diversity and dependence on proprietary hybrids was the first step in food control. About 75% of the foodstuffs at the grocery store are now genetically manipulated, in what has been called the world’s largest biological experiment on humans.
Genetic engineering is now moving from foodstuffs to plant-based drugs and plant-based industrial fibers. Engdahl writes of Monsanto’s work in Uruguay:
Since the cultivation of cannabis plants in Uruguay is allowed, one can easily imagine that Monsanto sees a huge new market that the Group is able to control just with patented cannabis seeds such as today is happening on the market for soybeans. Uruguay’s President Mujica has made it clear he wants a unique genetic code for cannabis in his country in order to “keep the black market under control.”
Genetically modified cannabis seeds from Monsanto would grant such control. For decades Monsanto has been growing gene-soybean and GM maize in Uruguay too. George Soros is co-owner of agribusinesses Adecoagro, which planted genetically modified soybeans and sunflowers for biofuel.
Other commentators express similar concerns. Natural health writer Mike Adams warns:
[W]ith the cannabis industry predicted to generate over $13 billion by 2020, becoming one of the largest agricultural markets in the nation, there should be little doubt that companies like Monsanto are simply waiting for Uncle Sam to remove the herb from its current Schedule I classification before getting into the business.
In a 2010 article concerning Proposition 19, an earlier legalization initiative that was defeated by California voters, Conrad Justice Kiczenski noted that criminalization of cannabis as both industrial hemp and medical marijuana has served a multitude of industries, including the prison and military industry, the petroleum, timber, cotton, and pharmaceutical industries, and the banking industry. With the decriminalization of cannabis, he warned:
The next stage in continuing this control is in the regulation, licensing and taxation of Cannabis cultivation and use through the only practical means available to the corporate system, which is through genetic engineering and patenting of the Cannabis genome.
AUMA: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?
Suspicions like these are helping to fuel opposition to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), a 2016 initiative that would rewrite the medical marijuana laws in California. While AUMA purports to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the bill comes with so many restrictions that it actually makes acquisition more difficult and expensive than under existing law, and makes it a criminal offense for anyone under 21. Critics contend that the Act will simply throw access to this medicinal wonder plant into the waiting arms of the Monsanto/Bayer/petrochemical/pharmaceutical complex. They say AUMA is a covert attempt to preempt California’s Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215, which was passed in 1996 by voter initiative.
Prop 215 did not legalize the sale of marijuana, but it did give ill or disabled people of any age the right to grow and share the plant and its derivatives on a not-for-profit basis. They could see a doctor of their choice, who could approve medical marijuana for a vast panoply of conditions; and they were assured of safe and affordable access to the plant at a nearby cooperative not-for-profit dispensary, or in their own backyards. As clarified by the 2008 Attorney General’s Guidelines, Prop 215 allowed reimbursement for the labor, costs and skill necessary to grow and distribute medical marijuana; and it allowed distribution through a “storefront dispensing collective.” However, the sale of marijuana for corporate profit remained illegal. Big Pharma and affiliates were thus blocked from entering the field.
At the end of 2015 (effective 2016), the California state legislature over-rode Prop 215 with MMRSA – the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act of 2015/16 – which effectively rewrites the Health Code pertaining to medical marijuana. Opponents contend that MMRSA is unconstitutional, since a voter initiative cannot be changed by legislative action unless it so provides. And that is why its backers need AUMA, a voter initiative that validates MMRSA in its fine print. In combination with stricter California Medical Association rules for enforcement, MMRSA effectively moves medical marijuana therapy from the wholistic plant to a pharmaceutical derivative, one that must follow an AUMA or American Pharmaceutical Association mode of delivery. MMRSA turns the right to cultivate into a revocable privilege to grow, contingent on local rules. The right to choose one’s own doctor is also eliminated.
Critics note that of the hundreds of millions in tax revenues that AUMA is expected to generate from marijuana and marijuana-related products, not a penny will go to the California general fund. That means no money for California’s public schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure. Instead, it will go into a giant slush fund controlled by AUMA’s “Marijuana Control Board,” to be spent first for its own administration, then for its own law enforcement, then for penal and judicial program expenditures.
Law enforcement and penalties will continue to be big business, since AUMA legalizes marijuana use only for people over 21 and makes access so difficult and expensive that even adults could be tempted to turn to the black market. “Legalization” through AUMA will chiefly serve a petrochemical/pharmaceutical complex bent on controlling all farming and plant life globally.
109 Nobel Prize Winners Are a Bunch of Ninnies
Genetically modified organisms and foods are a safe way to meet the demands of a ballooning global population, 109 Nobel laureates wrote in a letter posted online and officially unveiled at a news conference on June 30 in Washington, D.C.
Opponents, they say, are standing in the way of getting nutritious food to those who need it.
“Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production,” the group of laureates wrote. “There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.”
Gee—a hundred and nine laureates coincidentally came out with this piece of propaganda just before the Senate was getting ready to vote on GMO labeling. Not only that, but these statements prove you can win a Nobel Prize and still be a dummy. Anyone who’s halfway familiar with Big Biotech and its genetically modified seeds knows that the above statements are nonsense.
Let’s look at the statements sentence by sentence.
#1: “Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than, those derived from any other method of production.”
If this statement were true, it would mean that scientific experiments have been conducted to test the safety of genetically modified foods on human beings. But not one such test has ever been conducted, because doing so would violate the Nuremberg Code, set up after World War II when Nazi doctors who experimented on prisoners were prosecuted. Here’s the Code:
o Required is the voluntary, well-informed, understanding consent of the human subject in a full legal capacity.
o The experiment should aim at positive results for society that cannot be procured in some other way.
o It should be based on previous knowledge (like, an expectation derived from animal experiments) that justifies the experiment.
o The experiment should be set up in a way that avoids unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injuries.
o It should not be conducted when there is any reason to believe that it implies a risk of death or disabling injury.
o The risks of the experiment should be in proportion to (that is, not exceed) the expected humanitarian benefits.
o Preparations and facilities must be provided that adequately protect the subjects against the experiment’s risks.
o The staff who conduct or take part in the experiment must be fully trained and scientifically qualified.
o The human subjects must be free to immediately quit the experiment at any point when they feel physically or mentally unable to go on.
o Likewise, the medical staff must stop the experiment at any point when they observe that continuation would be dangerous.
That’s right—there are no scientific studies showing GMO foods are “safe, or safer than” those derived from any other method of production. The statement is false and those 109 laureates should hang their heads in shame.
#2: “There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption.”
As we’ve just seen, there have been no scientific studies of negative health outcomes on humans who have eaten GMO foods—but there is a ton of anecdotal evidence. As for animals, here’s a summary of a scientific study done by Dr. Judy Carman, an Australian researcher, on two groups of pigs (chosen because their digestive systems are similar to humans), one group fed non-GMO feed, and the other fed GMO feed. She writes:
“We found that, on average, the weight of the uterus of pigs fed the GM diet, as a proportion of the weight of the pig, was 25 percent higher than the control pigs. We found that this biologically significant finding was also statistically significant. We list some of the pathologies that could be occurring in these uteri in the paper.
“Some of the investigators had also previously seen higher rates of intestinal problems in pigs fed a GM diet, including inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, stomach ulcers, a thinning of intestinal walls and an increase in haemorrhagic bowel disease, where a pig can rapidly ‘bleed-out’ from their bowel and die.
“We weren’t able to look inside the intestines, due to the amount of food in them, but we were able to look inside the stomach. We found that the level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed the GM diet. Pigs on the GM diet were 2.6 times more likely to get severe stomach inflammation than control pigs. Males were more strongly affected. While female pigs were 2.2 times more likely to get severe
stomach inflammation when on the GM diet, males were 4 times more likely. These findings are both biologically significant and statistically significant.
“We found that these key findings were not reflected in the standard biochemistry tests that are done in GM feeding studies, probably because standard biochemistry tests provide a poor measure of inflammation and matters associated with uterus size.”
Additionally, there is a book entitled, “Genetic Roulette,” that details other studies on the health effects of GMO feed on animals. A summary in the book states, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.”
So statement #2 from the Nobel laureates is just another lie.
#3: “Their environmental impacts (of GMOs) have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.”
Where to begin with this one? How about we go back to why genetic engineering was applied to human food crops to begin with. The initial research and development came from Monsanto, when the company found herbicide-resistant microbes on its property living in a toxic wastewater pond contaminated with glyphosate herbicide, the chief ingredient in Roundup. Genetic tinkering was in its infancy, but Monsanto managed to get the gene for herbicide resistance into corn seed—and GMOs were on their way. Why? Because now fields of corn could be flooded with Roundup without harming the corn crop and Monsanto could sell much, much more of its profitable herbicide than before.
Today, Newsweek magazine reports, “the world is awash in glyphosate. It has now become the most heavily-used agricultural chemical in the history of the world, and many argue that’s a problem, since the substance comes with concerning albeit incompletely-determined health effects.
“A study published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe reveals that Americans have applied 1.8 million tons of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974. Worldwide, 9.4 million tons of the chemical have been sprayed onto fields. That’s enough to spray nearly half a pound of Roundup on every cultivated acre of land in the world.
“It’s troubling, considering that in March 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer unanimously determined that glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans.’”
So the laureates’ statement is laughable. “Less damaging to the environment” than what? An organic farm field? Really?
“A boon to global biodiversity?” What are these 109 laureates talking about? Herbicides do not contribute to biodiversity. By their very nature, they contribute to the opposite—they kill weeds, and weeds are part of the biological diversity of the world. They also provide beneficial insects with food, nectar, and habitat. So not only do herbicides kill off weeds, they reduce the number of beneficial insects. Roundup is being banned in European countries now because of its negative effects on the environment. So statement #3 is just another lie—and a whopper at that.
Most of the laureates got the Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics—not biology. They have been sold a bill of goods and they truly don’t know what they’re talking about. Not only should they hang their heads in shame, they should do some independent research and apologize to the world for their ignorance.
A CALL FOR ACTION ON TOXIC CHEMICALS
Every day, children and adults are exposed to a variety of chemicals found in common household items. Now a growing body of research suggests that many of these chemicals — which are used to make plastic more flexible, to protect fruits and vegetables from insect damage, and upholstery less flammable — may also pose a threat to the developing brain, according to Roni Caryn Rabin, writing in The New York Times on July 1.
“While the link between early chemical exposure and neurodevelopment disorders in children remains a matter of scientific debate,” she writes, “a unique coalition of top doctors, scientists and health advocates is calling for more aggressive regulation. The goal is to protect expectant mothers, infants and children from neurotoxic chemicals by stepping up efforts to curb air pollution, remediate old lead pipes, phase out certain pesticides, ban endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in food packaging and plastics, and come up with a plan for getting rid of furniture laden with fire retardants.
“Most chemicals in use today were not adequately tested for safety before being allowed on the market, said Dr. Jeanne Conry, an obstetrician-gynecologist and a past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is part of the coalition.
“’Before we can prescribe medicine, we have to prove it’s safe,’ she said. ‘So how come with the chemical industry, we assume everything is safe and have to prove there’s harm?’
“The coalition recently endorsed a first-of-its-kind consensus statement called Project Tendr, which stands for Targeting Environmental NeuroDevelopmental Risks. The statement was published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and related articles are being published over the next few months in endocrinology, nursing, pediatrics and epidemiology journals.
“’We as a society should be able to take protective action when scientific evidence indicates a chemical is of concern, and not wait for unequivocal proof that a chemical is causing harm to our children,’ the statement says.”
You can read the entire statement on the Environmental Health Perspectives site by visiting: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ehp358/
ORGANIC FAST FOOD WITH EVERYTHING UNDER $5
Kimbal Musk, entrepreneur and younger brother of tech guru Elon Musk, has revealed that he will be opening a healthy fast food restaurant where everything will cost less than $5.
The restaurant, called The Kitchenette, will open in Memphis, Tennessee, in August, 2016, at Shelby Farms Park, a 4,500-acre urban park and conservancy.
Musk made millions with his brother in Silicon Valley before going to culinary school. He currently helps run two other restaurant chains, The Kitchen and Next Door. Musk plans to work with local organic farmers to keep the costs low. He plans to serve sandwiches, soups, and salads that are ready to go.
“People are overweight and starving at the same time. It’s a tragedy for both the individual and society,” Musk told Tech Insider. Musk joins a growing number of restaurateurs that are focused on delivering a healthy product for cheap.
Big Organic Food Firms Back Monsanto Dream Act
You’ll never guess who’s selling out your right to mandatory GMO labeling.
According to Food Democracy Now! we’re being betrayed in Washington D.C. by a group of donation-hungry Senators and a handful of corrupt organic corporations that have just brokered an outrageous deal behind our backs in an effort to kill mandatory GMO labeling and make sure that Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling bill never takes effect this Friday.
Monsanto and Whole Foods’ new fake labeling bill (sometimes called the Monsanto Dream Act or the DARK Act) would not only preempt Vermont’s bill from taking effect this week, but all provisions of the bill are optional. The language is so poorly written that it would not include 85 percent of the current GMOs on the market. Additionally, the deal brokered by Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Roberts (R-KS) would not provide any penalties for non-compliance, so cannot even be inforced if these companies refuse to label!
Besides Monsanto and Whole Foods, other companies behind the bill include DuPont, Stonyfield Farms, General Mills, Organic Valley, and Smucker’s.
In the past week, the American GMO labeling movement has been rocked by the most outrageous betrayal imaginable. While you and your friends have been fighting for mandatory GMO labeling, the giant corporate organic companies that are owned by parent conventional food companies have climbed into bed with Monsanto. According to a Politico story that came out last week, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb joined his friends at Stonyfield, Smucker’s, and Organic Valley in selling out the American food movement.
Robb says it’s an “incredible thing” that senators came together and compromised during a dysfunctional time. He said he hopes that lawmakers can soon move on to other things. Incredulously, he went on to claim that “we need to…talk about much bigger issues.”
Stonyfield Yogurt chairman Gary Hirshberg and founder of the bogus corporate organic front group Just Label It, who’s been working behind the scenes with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, former biotech Governor of the year, is now telling the press:
“We are pleased this proposal will finally create a national, mandatory GMO disclosure system, protect organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law.”
In reality, it’s easy to recognize that this deal brokered last week in DC is a “non-labeling” bill and does nothing to secure your right to know, as we’ve fought so hard for over many years. Sadly, a handful of corporate organic lobbyists at the Organic Trade Association (OTA) helped broker this deal and are now peddling the lie that it represents what our national GMO labeling movement actually wants your Senators to vote for. Over 90 percent of the American public wants mandatory and positive GMO labeling. In other words, labeling that flat out says, “Contains Genetically Modified Ingredients.” Only then will shoppers know exactly which foods to avoid.
Maybe it’s time to avoid shopping at Whole Foods and letting them know why.
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
Dear President Obama—If Congress passes the Monsanto Dream Act, which is the Stabenow-Roberts compromise bill that gives Monsanto control over GMO labeling in this country, please don’t sign it.
We the People
MORE ABOUT THE STABENOW-ROBERTS BILL
Leaders in the U.S. Senate have announced that they’ve “reached a deal” on a federal GMO labeling bill. No matter how they spin it—and they will spin it—this “compromise” is nothing more than a handout to Monsanto, an industry-brokered deal intended to legally sanction the right of corporations to deceive you, the consumer.
The bill, if passed and signed, will overturn Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, and replace it with an anti-consumer bill that allows food corporations to hide GMOs behind QR codes and toll-free phone numbers—and gives them another two years before they even have to pretend they are labeling.
What does this news mean for Vermont’s mandatory labeling law? Vermont’s law will still take effect on July 1, because Congress has run out of time to get the bill passed by both the House and Senate, and plop it down on President Obama’s desk.
But once Congress returns after the July 4 recess, you can bet your life that Monsanto’s minions in Congress will make it their highest priority to seal the deal on an industry-friendly, anti-consumer, anti-states’ rights federal law that will overturn Vermont’s law and leave U.S. consumers in the dark.
With your help, we will once again throw ourselves into the battle to save Vermont’s law. To demand the right to truth and transparency in labeling. To remind our members of Congress that they were elected to serve us, not their corporate masters.
We will work to keep the Senate from getting the 60 votes it needs to pass the bill. We will recruit pro-labeling Senators to filibuster, if we have to. We will take our—your—fight to the oval office, and if necessary, we will launch a massive boycott of any food product that isn’t labeled organic, grass-fed, or non-GMO.
AND NOW FOR A TRUE JOURNALIST’S PERSPECTIVE
Phillip Brasher, writing in Agri-Pulse, writes a non-partisan, dispassionate news story about the Stabenow-Roberts compromise, and by Jove, he gets it right:
“A landmark Senate agreement on national disclosure standards for genetically engineered foods would allow companies to disclose GMO ingredients through digital codes rather than on-package language or symbols.
“The agreement, reached between Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, also would use a narrow definition of genetic engineering that would exempt the newest biotech methods such as gene editing from the national disclosure standards.
“Both the definition and the option for digital codes rather than on-package labeling represent major victories for farm interests, biotech developers, and food companies that have long resisted mandatory GMO labeling out of fear that it would stigmatize the technology.
“The legislation, which will need 60 votes to pass the Senate, would nullify Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law, which takes effect July 1, and would bar any other state from enacting labeling requirements that differ from the federal standards.”
THREE HAWAII COUNTIES TRY TO PROTECT CITIZENS FROM AGRICHEMICALS. CAN THEY?
Here’s a condensation of testimony before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Hawaii. Monsanto and others argue that they have no right to protect their citizens. See what you think. https://vimeo.com/172170031
3 U.S. SMALL BUSINESSES IN NY, MA, AND OH RECOGNIZED FOR ORGANIC PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Three small businesses in New York, Massachusetts and Ohio offering organic products were announced today as the winners of Green America’s quarterly “People & Planet Award.” The three winners of the $5,000 prizes are: Fruition Seeds of Canandaigua, NY; Neptune’s Harvest of Gloucester, MA; and Village Bakery & Café of Athens, OH. The three winners were selected by the public during a month-long online voting period.
The quarterly People & Planet Award recognizes innovative U.S. small businesses that integrate environmental and social considerations into their strategies and operations.
Fran Teplitz, Green America’s executive co-director, said: “Organic small businesses play an increasingly important role as more and more consumers seek food and other products that have not been spoiled by GMOs and pesticides. Organic companies keep real consumer choice alive and often play a central role in the supporting their local communities. The companies that won the awards really exemplify what the spirit of ‘Green America’ is all about.”
The winning companies are:
* Fruition Seeds, Canandaigua, NY. http://www.greenamerica.org/green-business-people-and-planet-award/Spring2016/Fruition.cfm. Fruition Seeds grows more than 300 varieties of certified organic, non-GMO seeds regionally adapted to thrive in short Northeast U.S. seasons. Fruition has also been invited to adapt their model of collaboration for a seed-saving project in the Dominican Republic. They will be using part of the People & Planet Award prize money to expand their library of how-to videos for seed savers in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.
* Neptune’s Harvest, Gloucester, MA. http://www.greenamerica.org/green-business-people-and-planet-award/Spring2016/Neptune.cfm. Neptune’s Harvest produces 100 percent organic fertilizer from the “waste” of its parent company, Ocean Crest Seafood. With part of the People & Planet winnings, Neptune’s Harvest will be enhancing their raised beds project at their home office, where they test their organic products and share the resulting produce with the community.
* Village Bakery & Cafe, Athens, OH. http://www.greenamerica.org/green-business-people-and-planet-award/Spring2016/Village.cfm. Village Bakery & Cafe supports farms in the foothills of Appalachian Ohio by nourishing its neighbors and inspiring a culture of interdependence. Its progress is measured by how much they can “invest” purchasing power in organic, fair trade, and renewable systems, and how little they can contribute to destructive systems.
SCIENTIST EXPLAINS AUTISM-GLYPHOSATE LINK
Autism is one of humanity’s most mysterious afflictions. The disorder, which can hinder communication, empathy and other social skills on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe, now affects as many as 1 in 68 children born in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, up from 1 in 150 at the turn of the century. No one knows exactly what has caused the increase, but one researcher is pointing her finger at a chemical called glyphosate, more widely known as the active ingredient in the ubiquitous weed killer Roundup.
Agribusiness giant Monsanto introduced Roundup Ready soybeans to the United States in 1994, which are genetically modified to resist glyphosate so farmers can spray their fields with the weed killer without damaging their crops. Today, some 90 percent of soy and corn grown in the country are Roundup Ready.
Now Dr. Stephanie Seneff, senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is sounding the alarm bell. Seneff claims that as many as half of all children born in the United States by 2025 will be on the autism spectrum, and Roundup is the reason why.
“The way glyphosate works is that it interrupts the shikimate pathway, a metabolic function in plants that allows them to create essential amino acids,” Seneff explained at a recent Autism conference. “When this path is interrupted, the plants die. Human cells don’t have a shikimate pathway so scientists and researchers believed that exposure to glyphosate would be harmless.”
However, she claims that the chemical still effects humans even if it doesn’t act on our bodies directly.
“The problem is that bacteria DO have a shikimate pathway and we have millions of good bacteria in our guts — our ‘gut flora,’” Seneff continued. “These bacteria are essential to our health. Our gut isn’t just responsible for digestion, but also for our immune system. When glyphosate gets in our systems, it wrecks our gut and as a result our immune system.”
Seneff also says that her research has shown that glyphosate can inhibit liver function, which could be an explanation for high rates of vitamin D deficiency. She further claims that the chemical could be implicated in diminished kidney function, celiac disease and other gastrointestinal problems.
“[The autism rate] has come up from 1 in 10,000 in 1970 — so that is already an incredibly alarming change,” Seneff said to Next News Network. “I got worried eight years ago when I was seeing it rising, and people were saying, ‘Oh, it’s just more reporting, more diagnosis’ — that’s a way to hide the evidence.”
That’s not the only alarming data that has come to light recently about Roundup. Earlier this spring, the World Health Organization came to a consensus that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans after an extensive review of the evidence and scientific record. Other studies suggest that pesticide exposure in pregnant women can put children at risk of birth defects leading to learning and behavioral impairments.
While some industry-touted studies claim that Roundup is safe for humans, Seneff says that there simply hasn’t been enough research. “The glyphosate is being soaked up by the plants and getting into the food system,” she said, “and the U.S. government is doing very little monitoring to even see if that’s true.”
PESTICIDE CONTAMINATION PROHIBITED FROM ORGANIC PRODUCTION
Synthetic pesticides are once again prohibited in compost used for organic production, thanks to a federal court in the Northern District of California.
The court issued a decision in litigation brought by several nonprofits challenging the United States Department of Agriculture’s allowance of pesticide contamination in compost used in organic food production, whether the contamination is accidental or occurs because compostables are conventionally grown and already contaminated before the composting process..
Center for Food Safety, Center for Environmental Health, and Beyond Pesticides filed the case in April, 2015, arguing that USDA had unlawfully changed organic regulations to create a new pesticide loophole without first undertaking a formal rulemaking and allowing the public to participate in any such decision.
Judge Corley of the U.S. Federal Court for the Northern District of California has just agreed, ruling that USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) violated the law when it issued what it called a “guidance” that weakened the long-standing prohibition on synthetic pesticides in organic compost, and striking it down.
“The court’s decision upholds the integrity of the organic standard and is an incredible victory for organic consumers, organic farmers and the environment. On the flipside, the decision is a resounding defeat of industrial food actors trying to sell out organic integrity to pad their own pocketbooks,” said senior CFS attorney George Kimbrell, counsel for the plaintiffs.
“Organic consumers expect the products they buy to be safe and not harmful to the earth. Citizens brought this suit to force the government to abide by the laws designed to ensure the integrity of our nation’s organic production and certification system,” said Ralph Bloemers, staff attorney for the Crag Law Center and counsel for the plaintiffs.
“We applaud the Court’s decision to protect the integrity of the organic program. We will continue to watchdog the USDA to ensure that the program meets consumers’ expectations for meaningful organic standards,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director of Center for Environmental Health.
“The court decision upholds an organic industry that has been built on a foundation of consumer and farmer investment in ecologically sound practices, principles and values to protect health and the environment. USDA has violated a basic requirement of public accountability in the standard setting process, which is fundamental to public trust in the organic label and continued growth in organic production,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.
New Organic Rules for Treating Farm Animals Humanely
Organic farmers, consumer protection activists, and animal welfare advocates have been working to get stricter regulations on how organic farmers treat the animals in their care.
The requirements got big support from the Obama administration a month ago when it proposed new requirements for how animals are to be treated when their meat is sold with the certified organic label.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture rule clarifies how organic producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry throughout the animals’ lives, including when they are transported and slaughtered.
The rules set maximum indoor and outdoor living space requirements. Barns, pens, coops and other shelters, for example, have to be big enough for the animals to lie down, stand up and fully stretch their limbs without touching other animals or the sides of the shelter. They must also be designed to allow the animals to express normal patterns of behavior.
One of the Obama administration’s new requirements was less vague parameters about what constitutes “cage-free farming” and “organic farming.”
Big Agriculture noticed long ago that a lot of money could be made with the organic label and dived right in. What makes organic eggs any different than, say, “cage-free”? Right now, because of vague regulations, the only real difference is generally that organic hens are raised with USDA-certified feed and no antibiotics. While current laws require that these hens have access to the outdoors, and consumers often believe that they do, many never step foot outside. That’s because some organic egg producers provide access only to a screened-in porch, often on pavement, a practice taken up by large-scale industrial farming operations producing a disproportionate amount of the organic eggs on the market.
BAYER WANTS TO BUY MONSANTO FOR $62 BILLION
In a move resembling the marriage of Satan and Beelzebub, the German firm of Bayer AG is offering $62 billion to merge with Monsanto. Bayer is the world’s largest maker of insecticides, including the neonicotinoids that are implicated in the die-off of bees around the world, while Monsanto exercises tight control over seeds, GMOs, and herbicides.
Bayer’s market capitalization is about $90 billion while Monsanto’s is $42 billion. The merger would make the combined company an agricultural behemoth and would put world agriculture in a chemical headlock.
The merger is far from a done deal, however, as it will face a number of hurdles, including American anti-trust laws. But it brings a lot of firepower (money and influence) to the table.
PEOPLE ACROSS AMERICA CONTAMINATED BY GLYPHOSATE
Glyphosate, the most used herbicide in the World, has been found in the urine of 93 percent of the American public during a unique testing project at the University of California San Francisco that started in 2015.
Glyphosate, labeled a ‘probable human carcinogen’ by the World Health Organization’s cancer agency IARC in 2015, has now been revealed to be ubiquitous in the first ever comprehensive and validated testing project to be carried out across America.
The European Union is currently in the process of putting restrictions on the use of glyphosate due to health concerns, with member countries so far unable to agree on the re-approval of the chemical beyond June, 2016.
Glyphosate-containing herbicides are sold under trademarks such as Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’.
Ninety three percent of the urine tested by the UCSF lab tested positive for glyphosate residues. No glyphosate was found in the tap water samples. These results are only from a small percentage of the total samples collected-–more data will be released later in 2016.
The results of this bio-survey come from the first in-lab validated testing method used for glyphosate testing of the general public in America.
Glyphosate has never been studied by regulators or the chemical industry at levels that the human population in the U.S. is being exposed to (under 3 mg/kg body weight/day). This is a huge hole in the global risk assessment of glyphosate, as there is evidence suggesting that low levels of the chemical may hack hormones even more than at mid and high levels, according to independent science – a higher dose does not necessarily make a more toxic, hormone disruptive effect.
The urine and water testing was organized by The Detox Project and commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association.
The unique project, which has already provided more urine samples for testing than any other glyphosate bio-monitoring urine study ever in America, was supported by members of the public, who themselves paid for their urine and water samples to be analyzed for glyphosate residues by the UCSF lab.
The data released in a presentation by the UCSF lab only covers the first 131 people tested. Further data from this public bio-monitoring study, which is now completed, will be released later in 2016.
The Detox Project will be working alongside a new larger lab later this year to enable the public to once again test their urine for glyphosate residues.
The regions with the highest levels were the West and the Midwest with an average of 3.053 PPB and 3.050 PPB respectively.
Glyphosate residues were not observed in any tap water samples during the early phase of the project, most likely due to phosphorus removal during water treatment.
The results from the UCSF urine testing in America showed a much higher frequency and average glyphosate level than those observed in urine samples in the European Union in 2013. The average level in Europe was around 1 PPB with a frequency of detection of 43.9 percent.
JURY AWARDS PLAINTIFFS $46.5 MILLION IN PCB SUIT
A St. Louis jury has awarded three plaintiffs a total of $46.5 million in damages in a lawsuit alleging that Monsanto and three other companies were negligent in its handling of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a highly toxic and carcinogenic group of chemicals.
The trial involved only three of nearly 100 plaintiffs claiming that exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The 10-2 verdict in St. Louis Circuit Court awarded $17.5 million in damages to the three plaintiffs and assessed an additional $29 million in punitive damages against Monsanto, Solutia, Pharmacia and Pfizer, the St. Louis Dispatch reported.
PCBs were used to insulate electronics decades ago. Before switching operations to agriculture, Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of the compound from 1935 until 1977. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned PCBs in 1979, due to its link to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. PCBs can also have adverse skin and liver effects in humans. PCBs linger in the environment for many decades.
The lawsuit claims that Monsanto continued to sell the compounds even after it learned about its dangers and falsely told the public they were safe. Indeed, internal documents have surfaced showing that Monsanto knew about the health risks of PCBs long before they were banned. A document, dated Sept. 20, 1955, stated: “We know Aroclors [PCBs] are toxic but the actual limit has not been precisely defined.”
The verdict is the first such victory in the city of St. Louis and a seemingly rare win overall. Monsanto has historically prevailed in similar lawsuits filed against the company over deaths and illnesses related to PCBs.
“This is the future,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Kherkher of Houston told EcoWatch. “The only reason why this victory is rare is because no one has had the money to fight
SAVINO SYSTEM KEEPS YOUR WINE FROM OXIDIZING
The Savino wine saving system is a true advance in keeping wine fresh. As you may know, air oxidizes wine, giving it a sour flavor. An opened bottle of wine—especially an older wine—won’t last more than a day or two before it goes off. The Savino system is simple: you pour the leftover wine into a tube and a float puts a barrier between the wine and the air. I tried it and a bottle of six-year-old red wine was as fresh and sweet-tasting six days later as it was the night I opened it. Check it out at http://www.savinowine.com/
TRY THREE LITTLE PIGS FOR FINE CHARCUTERIE
As long as we’re talking products, check out the charcuterie made by Trois Petit Cochons, a Greenwich Village operation just down the street from my old West Village apartment. It produces wild boar pate, truffled mousse, terrines, duck confit, chicken sausage, and much more of the first quality online or at many markets. Visit them online at http://3pigs.com/ where you’ll find a “Where to Buy” button, or simply order online. You won’t be disappointed.
GMO Study Compromised by Industry Ties
The final push is on by Monsanto and the biotech industry to get the DARK Act passed before Vermont’s GMO labeling law goes into effect. One major tactic is to trot out biotech supporters in the sciences and industry shills to say how harmless GMOs are. To wit, here’s Wenonah Hauter’s report, written for EcoWatch and published on May 19:
Food & Water Watch has released an issue brief detailing the far-reaching conflicts of interest at the National Research Council and its parent organization, the National Academy of Sciences. The NRC has just released a brief claiming that GMOs are perfectly safe.
The National Research Council accepts millions of dollars in donations from biotech companies like Monsanto, enlists one-sided panels of scientists to carry out its GMO studies, and pushes the revolving door of NRC staff directors who shuffle in and out of agriculture and biotech industry groups. The NRC routinely arrives at watered-down scientific conclusions on agricultural issues based on industry science.
While companies like Monsanto and its academic partners are heavily involved in the NRC’s work on GMOs, critics have long been marginalized. Many groups have called on the NRC many times to reduce industry influence, noting how conflicts of interest clearly diminish its independence and scientific integrity.
More than half of the invited authors of the new NRC study are involved in GMO development or promotion or have ties to the biotechnology industry—some have consulted for or have received research funding from biotech companies. NRC has not publicly disclosed these conflicts.
In response to the industry influence at the NRC, Food & Water Watch calls for the following changes:
•Congress should expand and enforce the Federal Advisory Committee Act to ensure that the scientific advice the NRC produces for the government is free of conflicts of interest and bias.
•Congress should immediately halt all taxpayer funding for agricultural projects at the NRC until meaningful conflicts-of-interest policies are enforced.
•The NRC should no longer engage funders, directors, authors or reviewers that have a financial interest in the outcome of any of the NRC’s work.
•The NRC should prohibit the citation of science funded or authored by industry, given the obvious potential for bias.
PRENATAL PESTICIDE EXPOSURE MAY CONTRIBUTE TO OBESITY
A recent study published in Environmental Research has found that pre-birth exposure to organophosphate pesticides and persistent organic pollutants may be linked to the development of obesity and metabolic disorders, particularly in girls. The study results provide a link between early prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides via the mother and observable changes at birth that may alter how the body breaks down sugars, potentially contributing to obesity later in life.
USDA GIVES GO-AHEAD TO GMO MUSHROOM
The U.S. Department of Agriculture just gave the green light to a genetically modified mushroom that … stays whiter? This is a foolish use of GMO technology and yet another example of how high-minded GMO rhetoric falls flat in light of more common vanity applications.
Now the product is headed to the FDA for review. As the agency dedicated to protecting citizens from potentially unhealthy or even dangerous products, the FDA has a responsibility to fully test these mushrooms before they go to market.
JESSICA ALBA’S ‘ORGANIC’ INFANT FORMULA QUESTIONED
The Organic Consumers Association is suing Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company, claiming 11 of the listed 40 ingredients in its organic infant formula are synthetic substances that are not permitted in organic products
ESSAY OF THE WEEK FROM ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION
Humans have been “processing” food through traditional methods for thousands of years. But there’s a vast difference between the processing of old—for instance, the ancient Egyptian practice of using salt to extend the shelf life of food—and the modern version of “ultra processing.”
Close to 5,000 additives are now allowed to be used in food products. Factor in the additives found in the packaging (which can also leach into your food), and the number rises to 10,000.
Most of these food additives have not undergone any safety testing. Few have been tested according to the way that they are ingested-–meaning in combination with other additives.
Many are downright dangerous, including, for starters, Diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione (PD), both of which are added to microwave popcorn to give it a buttery aroma, and both of which are linked to brain health, Alzheimer’s disease and respiratory toxicity.
Processed and “ultra-processed” foods have been marketed to consumers as “convenience” foods. But there’s nothing convenient about the hazards they pose to your health.
THE PLOT TO PASS THE DARK ACT
Politico reports that Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is working on “new language” for a federal GMO labeling bill to keep Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law from taking effect July 1. And that Sen Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), architect of the Senate version of the DARK Act, a voluntary federal labeling bill intended to preempt Vermont, is waiting to see that language before the two engage in another round of negotiations.
Stabenow and Roberts both have dug in their heels. Under relentless pressure from constituents, Stabenow is calling for a compromise of some sort that would include mandatory QR codes or toll-free numbers or some such technological fix. Roberts wants nothing short of a voluntary scheme.
Both Senators are determined to preempt Vermont, no doubt thanks to the lavish spending by biotech and food industry lobbyists. One of those lobbyists, Randy Russell, president and CEO of The Russell Group, told Bloomberg: “As we get closer to July 1, the reality and chaos in the marketplace looms, and I think it’s going to drive people to the table to get a deal.”
“Reality and chaos” in the market? If Russell and his fellow lobbyists succeed in knocking down Vermont’s law, consumers will unleash our own brand of “chaos” in the market—and it won’t be pretty.
We’ve all had our sights set on July 1, thinking if that date comes and goes, we’ve won. But let’s not forget that while the law takes effect July 1, Vermont’s attorney general has given food companies until January 1, 2017, before the law will actually be enforced.
That could mean another six months of battling the preemptors in Washington D.C.
It is absolutely critical that we all continue to call, email and visit our Representatives and Senators. The minute we slow down, the minute things get quiet on our end, the more opportunity for Roberts, Stabenow and others to ram a bill through Congress during the lull.
When the owners of a farm in South Africa’s Bela Bela region found their farm was too small and their land was too degraded to raise cattle, they turned to a new model: raising pigs and chickens together.
Turns out, pigs and chickens are quite happy together. And, when raised using holistic, regenerative practices, they not only provide a good economic model for farmers, they also regenerate the soil and restore biodiversity.
Precious Phiri, Regeneration International’s Africa coordinator, based in Zimbabwe, visited the farm in Bela Bela and reported back on how the project has been a success for the farmers, but also for the entire community and beyond.
Regeneration International is an arm of the Organic Consumers Association.
KIDS ON THE FRONTLINE
If you’re a parent—even if you don’t live in a rural area—you’ll want to read the report from Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). Visit http://www.panna.org/ and click on Kids on the Frontline.
According to the report, each year, more than 680 million pounds of pesticides are applied to agricultural fields across the country. This 2007 figure—the most recent government estimates available—climbs to more than a billion when common non-agricultural pesticide uses are included.
That’s a lot of poison. And in rural agricultural communities, kids are right on the frontline of exposure. Which means that these kids are bombarded not only with all the pesticides kids normally are exposed to—from residue on foods, and pesticides sprayed in parks, and on school playgrounds, but they’re getting more than their fair share. All because our industrial agriculture system insists on supporting companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and DuPont.
From the report: Scientists have understood for decades that children are particularly vulnerable to the harms of pesticide exposure. Quickly growing bodies take in more of everything; they eat, breathe and drink more, pound for pound, than adults. As physiological systems undergo rapid changes from the womb through adolescence, interference from pesticides and industrial chemicals—even at very low levels—can derail the process in ways that lead to significant health harms. For children, the timing of these exposures is often particularly important. At critical moments of development, even very low levels of pesticide exposure can derail biological processes in ways that have harmful, potentially lifelong effects.
PESTICIDES MAY INCREASE RISK OF A.L.S.
Exposure to pesticides may increase the risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a new study has found, writes Nicolas Bakalar in The New York Times.
The study, in JAMA Neurology, included 156 patients with A.L.S. and 128 controls. All participants completed questionnaires providing information on age, sex, ethnicity, education, marital status, residential history, occupational history, smoking, and military service. The researchers used the information on residence and occupation to estimate long-term exposure to pesticides, and then took blood samples to determine serum levels of 122 persistent environmental pollutants.
The scientists divided exposure into four time periods: ever exposed, exposed in the last 10 years, exposed 10 to 30 years ago, and exposed more than 30 years ago.
Exposure to pesticides at any time was associated with a fivefold increased relative risk for A.L.S. compared to no exposure. Even exposure more than 30 years ago tripled the risk. Military service was associated with double the risk, confirming findings of previous studies.
“This is an association, not causality,” cautioned the senior author, Dr. Eva L. Feldman, a professor of neurology at the University of Michigan. “We found that people with A.L.S. were five times more likely to have been exposed to pesticides, but we don’t want people to conclude that pesticides cause A.L.S.”
Frozen Food Recall Affects 42 Brands
Do you have frozen fruits or vegetables—either organic or conventional–in your freezer? Take note: CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington, is expanding a voluntary recall of frozen organic and conventional fruits and vegetables in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because these products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
Since both conventional and organic frozen foods are potentially contaminated, that suggests the contamination happened not on the farms, but in the processing, packaging, and freezing operations post-harvest. There also has been little illness so far, which means that the FDA and CDC were doing their jobs properly and caught the listeria contamination before a wholesale wave of illness occurred.
This expanded recall of frozen vegetables includes all of the frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed in CRF Frozen Foods’ Pasco facility since May 1, 2014. All affected products have the best by dates or sell by dates between April 26, 2016 and April 26, 2018. These include approximately 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands.
To see all the products and brands, and to see if any are in your freezer, follow this link:
Products include organic and non-organic broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, corn, edamame, green beans, Italian beans, kale, leeks, lima beans, onions, peas, pepper strips, potatoes, potato medley, root medley, spinach, sweet potatoes, various vegetable medleys, blends, and stir fry packages, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries.
CRF issued the recall to alert consumers not to eat these products. Consumers who purchased these products may return them to the store where they were purchased for a refund, or simply discard them. Consumers with questions may call CRF’s consumer hotline at (844) 483-3866, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern.
CALIFORNIA’S EPA TO LIST ROUNDUP AS CARCINOGENIC
California just dealt Monsanto a blow as the state’s Environmental Protection Agency will now list glyphosate—the toxic main ingredient in the U.S.’s best-selling weedkiller, Roundup—as a known cause of cancer.
Under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 — usually referred to as Proposition 65, its original name — chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm are required to be listed and published by the state. Chemicals also end up on the list if found to be carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — a branch of the World Health Organization.
In March, the IARC released a report that found glyphosate to be a “probable carcinogen.”
Besides the “convincing evidence” the herbicide can cause cancer in lab animals, the report also found:
“Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the U.S.A., Canada, and Sweden reported increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustments to other pesticides.”
California’s decision to place glyphosate on the toxic chemicals list is the first of its kind in the U.S. As Dr. Nathan Donley of the Center for Biological Diversity said in an email to Ecowatch, “As far as I’m aware, this is the first regulatory agency within the U.S. to determine that glyphosate is a carcinogen. So this is a very big deal.”
Now that California EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has filed its “notice of intent to list” glyphosate as a known cancer agent, the public will have until October 5th to comment. There are no restrictions on sale or use associated with the listing.
Monsanto was seemingly baffled by the decision to place cancer-causing glyphosate on the state’s list of nearly 800 toxic chemicals. Spokesperson for the massive company, Charla Lord, told Agri-Pulse that “glyphosate is an effective and valuable tool for farmers and other users, including many in the state of California. During the upcoming comment period, we will provide detailed scientific information to OEHHA about the safety of glyphosate and work to ensure that any potential listing will not affect glyphosate use or sales in California.”
Roundup is sprayed on crops around the world, particularly on Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready varieties which are genetically engineered to tolerate large doses of the herbicide to facilitate blanket application without harming crops. Controversy has surrounded this practice for years, especially since it was found GMO crops increase farmers’ use of Roundup, rather than lessen it, as Monsanto had claimed.
Less than a week after the WHO issued its report naming glyphosate carcinogenic, Monsanto called for a retraction — and still maintains that Roundup is safe when used as directed.
On Thursday, an appeals court in Lyon, France, upheld a 2012 ruling in favor of farmer Paul Francois, who claimed he had been chemically poisoned and suffered neurological damage after inhaling Monsanto’s weedkiller, Lasso. Not surprisingly, the agrichemical giant plans to take its appeal to the highest court in France.
It’s still too early to tell whether other states will follow California’s lead.
GARDENING WITH BIOCHAR FOR BETTER YIELDS, CARBON SEQUESTRATION
Along with potting soil, azalea and gardenia mix, and bags of compost for growing vegetables and fruits, you soon may be seeing bags of biochar for sale at your local plant nursery.
To explain what biochar is, we need to return to the Amazon basin circa 450 CE. Indigenous people didn’t practice slash and burn farming as they do now. They practiced a slash and char agriculture, where wood and leafy greens were roasted in smothered fires to make biochar instead of burned to make fire, smoke, ash, and heat. This biochar was buried in fields where crops were grown.
But then, with the arrival of Europeans and their diseases, pestilence struck and the Amazon civilizations, some with cities of over 100,000 people, disappeared. Slash and char agriculture was forgotten. The fields of buried biochar were forgotten. But they weren’t gone. In the 20th Century, huge expanses of black soil were rediscovered, although no one had a good idea at first about what they were.
Then, in the 1990s, scientists determined that these soils were man-made. They were dubbed “terra preta” (dark earth). And they were enormously extensive. Some estimates put the total acreage covered by the charcoal-enriched soil at twice the size of the land mass of Great Britain.
Most amazingly, they extended up to six feet deep in many places. That’s when scientists realized that the dark soils had grown to great depths since they were first made. They were self-propagating.
The biochar, acting a lot like humus, had been colonized by myriad microbes, fungi, earthworms, and other creatures that produced carbon-based molecules that stuck to the charcoal. Instead of the carbon in decomposing surface plants escaping into the air as greenhouse gas, it was sequestered by the biologically-active char in the soil (hence “biochar”).
But that was just the beginning of the benefits of this strange soil. It appears that the carbon will be sequestered for a thousand—possibly thousands—of years. Every kilogram of biochar is capable of sequestering 3.5 kilograms of carbon. The more of these soils there are in the world, the more greenhouse gases will be stored, unable to contribute to global warming.
Biochar also stimulates mycorrhizal fungi—those fungal symbionts that live on a sweet, sticky substance exuded by plant roots, and in return produce widespread mats of slender, threadlike structures called hyphae that scour surrounding soil for hard-to-find phosphorus and other minerals, as well as scarce water, and deliver them back to their host plants. The mycorrhizal fungi are so efficient at doing this that 90 percent of the soil nutrients and water absorbed by the plants roots are delivered to them not by their own action in the soil, but by delivery from the fungus.
According to scientists studying the soils, microbial growth of all kinds is substantially improved. And so is the soil’s cation exchange capacity, an organically-rich soil’s ability to hold nutrients tightly until plants need them, then dole them out to plants at the optimum rate for plant health—as opposed to soluble chemical fertilizers that quickly and easily wash out of ordinary soil during rains.
Scientists planted rice and cowpeas on unfertilized terra preta soils and on poor soil fertilized with chemical fertilizers. The total biomass of rice and cowpeas was up to 45 percent greater on the biochar soil than the fertilized soil. They also found that the absorption of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, zinc, and copper by the plants increased as the amount of biochar in the soil increased, making the plants more nutritious.
Investigating why biochar soils self-propagate and grow over time, they found that bacteria, fungi, and a host of other critters live and die within the pores of the biochar. Since the wood and plant matter is not burnt up but rather roasted into char, the original pores of the plant matter—the phloem and xylem tubes—persist and provide place for the beneficial soil microorganisms to live and hide from predators that prowl the soil, looking to eat them.
It’s also probable, they found, that the biochar was originally laid down in thin layers, and that earthworms chewed through the layers and mixed them deeply into the soil. Scientists theorized that pieces of the biochar were ground finely in the guts of the earthworms and expelled mixed with their castings, making an even richer soil.
Research on biochar is underway at universities and agricultural research institutions around the world. Conventional agriculture will probably want to make biochar by cutting down forests and planting field crops, the way corn is planted to make ethanol today—and that requires lots of agricultural chemicals like fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, and ammonia fertilizers.
From the organic perspective, however, there are millions of tons of organic waste that now go into landfills to pollute groundwater and release carbon dioxide into the air. Yet it would be perfect raw material for making biochar. I know at my local landfill, there is a mountain of wood waste at one end of the dumping yard at least 40 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter. And think of the wood chips produced in abundance across the nation by tree service companies and energy companies keeping power lines free from interference by trees and shrubs. All that “waste” could be made into life-giving, carbon-sequestering biochar.
Biochar is destined to become an integral part of good organic practice, both on farms and in our gardens. For more information on this topic, visit
www.biochar-international.org/, an organization of academic, commercial, banking, NGO, and government representatives aiming to further the use of biochar in sustainable agriculture.
Parents Prioritize Organic Food for Their Kids
Buying organic is a top priority for many Americans, especially parents when it comes to the food they feed their children, according to new research form the Organic Trade Association, Elizabeth Crawford reports in OTA’s newsletter.
The trade group’s 2016 U.S. Families Organic Attitudes and Beliefs study revealed that 35 percent of American families “make a great deal of effort” to choose organic foods and products-–a figure that jumps to 74 percent when families who make at least a minor effort are added.
In addition, one-third of parents say buying organic is among their top three priorities when buying food. This is notably less than the 57 percent of parents who listed price, 52 percent who listed taste, and 43 percent who said buying healthy and nutritious products was a top priority.
But still, it edged out convenience factors, such as availability at my preferred store, and having an easy to understand ingredient list, both of which were a top priority for 18 percent of parents, said Angela Jagiello, associate director of conference and product development for OTA.
HOUSE VOTES $3 MILLION TO FUND PRO-GMO PROPAGANDA
It’s not enough that many of our Congress members are fighting alongside Monsanto to keep GMO labels off of food products. Now some of our federal lawmakers want to use your tax dollars—$3 million of it—on propaganda to promote Monsanto under the guise of “educating” consumers about the “benefits” of GMOs.
In mid-April, the House Appropriations Committee decided that Monsanto needs some of your hard-earned money.
The committee passed an agriculture spending bill that includes $3 million “to promote understanding and acceptance of agricultural biotechnology and biotechnology-derived food products and animal feed.”
This new “Monsanto Promotion Act” was championed by Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) who said, “We need to avoid consumer confusion.”
Not everyone agreed. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said, “The jury is still out on genetically modified organisms. Some may be safe. Some may be of concern. It’s not the responsibility of FDA to mount a government-controlled propaganda campaign, particularly when the science is far from certain.”
Unfortunately, her amendment to strike the Monsanto Promotion Act from the agriculture spending bill failed 29 to 20.
IS A GMO LABELING LAW IMMINENT?
Oh, to be a fly on the wall inside the offices of the top lobbyists for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, write Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association.
It’s getting so close to the July 1 deadline for complying with Vermont’s GMO labeling law, and still no court ruling to overturn Vermont’s law. Still no federal legislation to preempt Vermont’s law.
Hundreds of millions of dollars spent to keep labels off GMO ingredients. Lawsuits, dirty tricks, shady schemes—all, so far, for naught. Meanwhile, food corporations are labeling, or announcing plans to label, and preparing to implement those plans. Others, including Dannon, will remove GMO ingredients from their products.
Is victory really within our grasp this time?
The closer we get to July 1, the closer we are to winning the battle of all labeling battles. Which is all the more reason to keep up the pressure, on all fronts.
Can U.S. Senate put together a deal before July 1?
So far, efforts by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to pass a federal law which would preempt Vermont’s mandatory labeling law have failed.
But we haven’t heard the end of the DARK—Deny Americans the Right to Know—Act. At least not yet.
Politico reports that Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on April 26, told a gathering of the North American Agricultural Journalists, “There could be a deal” before July 1. According to Politico, Stabenow said: “We’ve offered some very specific language and there is a lot of support for it.”
Stabenow didn’t divulge what that “very specific language” was, or who among those who have so far voted against the DARK Act might go for this new language. But our sources tell us Stabenow is pushing for the same old QR code and/or 1-800 telephone numbers that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has proposed—but with one difference. Stabenow wants those QR codes to be mandatory, not voluntary.
Will Roberts, who so far has adamantly opposed any option that actually requires labels, cave? If Stabenow’s version also includes a plan that would delay implementation of Vermont’s law?
Stabenow is in a tight spot. Nine out of 10 of her constituents want labels on GMOs, and they’ve been relentlessly vocal about that. But she’s under tremendous pressure from industry—including Michigan’s GMO sugar beet growers who fear food companies will switch to sugar cane rather than label—to stop Vermont’s law in its tracks.
The clock is ticking. But it hasn’t run out. The worst thing we can do now is be silent. It’s more critical than ever that we keep the pressure on.
What happens in Vermont doesn’t stay in Vermont.
Meanwhile, back in Vermont, things heated up last week as the food industry looked for ways to stall and weaken Vermont’s Act 120.
In a nutshell, here’s what happened, as explained by Nancy Remsen in this April 25 report. The Vermont Retail & Grocers Association wanted to tweak the Vermont law, to the advantage of food companies (not consumers, of course). Specifically, the industry group wanted: 1) to prevent consumers from suing if they find non-labeled products on store shelves during the 18 months immediately after the law takes effect on July 1; and 2) to exempt food prepared in stores (think potato salad, sandwiches and baked goods).
How did industry plan to make changes to a law passed two years ago, and set to take effect in two months? By attaching them to the state’s budget bill—a bill lawmakers want wrapped up and passed by May 6, when the legislative session is due to end.
OCA and other groups called on our networks to let Vermont lawmakers know we expect them to stand strong against any attempts to weaken or delay Vermont’s law. We generated more than 500 calls to the Vermont State House because the future of the GMO labeling movement now comes down to upholding Vermont’s Act 120—a bill the national movement fought for and helped pass.
In the end, the Vermont Senate’s appropriations bill included a provision to delay the possibility of consumer lawsuits, by one year (January 1, 2018) instead of the 18 months industry requested. (The state’s attorney general retains the power to enforce the law beginning January 1, 2017, as specified in Act 120, and has said he will do so). Because the House version of the budget didn’t include the provision delaying consumer lawsuits, the final decision will have to be made when the House and Senate meet to negotiate a final bill.
While Big Food has been trying to tinker with the Vermont law, the state’s attorney general has been trying to pry incriminating evidence out of the hands of Monsanto and other biotech and food corporations. And that move may just work to the benefit of consumers who want labels.
According to Food Dive, Attorney General William Sorrell wants “major seed and food companies” to hand over internal research on GMO crops. The request comes as part of the GMA’s lawsuit, filed nearly two years ago. Food Dive reports that requested research includes that related to “potential health or environmental impacts” of GMO crops and the pesticides used on them (from Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta). It also includes “consumer survey research” from the past decade about GMO foods and the use of the term “natural” on their product labels (from ConAgra, Kellogg, and Frito-Lay North America).
We think it’s a safe bet that the GMA and Monsanto probably realize that they are better off labeling their products in compliance with Vermont’s law, than risking the public release of their own potentially incriminating research on the health impacts of GMO crops and the pesticides used to grow them.
It’s one thing for the World Health Organization to come out with the determination that glyphosate and Monsanto’s Roundup are probably carcinogenic. It’s quite another if word gets out that Monsanto has known this all along—but kept the information to itself. The latter is clear grounds for legal action.
Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association and
Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.